Sunday, 1 April 2018

Let's Stick Together

I think we’d all agree that we are living in chaotic times. Be it Donald Trump’s tweets, poisoned spies or images of sea life being wiped out by plastic, it’s easy to feel as if we are teetering on the edge of an apocalypse.

Strangely though I’ve never felt more energised and optimistic which has forced me to the conclusion that times of chaos can actually bring out the best in us. It takes me back to the 80s when despite mass unemployment, a cold war and Margaret Thatcher, it actually felt like the actions of ordinary people were important and could make a difference. Somewhere along the way we lost our sense of empowerment amidst the illusion of those halcyon days which have now come back to bite us in the jacksie.

I feel hopeful that we are all beginning to wake up finally after burying our heads in the sand for far too long. Be it on a personal or global level it seems to me that when times are tough we see the best in people and the human race lives up to the wonderful species that it actually is. Obviously there will always be anomalies, the ones who slither their way into positions of power but I don’t care about them. I’m talking about the common man, the average Joe or Josephine who I happen to think are anything but average.

It’s a shame that it takes our world being shaken to the foundation to bring out the best in us but look around and you will see amazing interactions taking place every day. Look at homelessness, we are seeing unprecedented numbers of rough sleepers and I have definitely seen a shift in people’s response to them. For too long they were seen as pariahs who had somehow brought their situation upon themselves. Working with young people I despaired at some of the comments I heard, which let’s be honest reflected their parents’ attitudes, but not anymore. Homeless people are now viewed as human beings and, especially during the recent bad weather, my heart was warmed by the initiatives that ordinary people got involved in to help. Here in Sheffield, the fire service opened up the fire houses for people to sleep in and they found themselves inundated with donated food, clothes and blankets etc. Kindness it seems is contagious and as the people running our government ignore the plight of our most vulnerable citizens, ordinary people step up to fill the vacuum.

There surely can’t be anybody whose heart didn’t soar at the recent mass protest by young people in the US, demanding reform in gun laws. Young people are changing, becoming more politicised, galvanised by the fact that we are fast approaching a point of no-return. Talking to young people, it’s heartbreaking how many of them live in fear of violence on a daily basis. Communities, starved of resources are becoming like the Wild West. Statistics tell us that last year knife crimes in the UK were up by 21% and 15% of young people questioned admitted that they carry knives. At the same time funding to youth services has gone down by 35% so it’s little wonder that in some areas the situation feels like a state of emergency. However, hope could be on the horizon as once again ordinary people are looking for answers. Last summer hundreds of people joined a rally in London demanding action against knife crime and communities are coming together to form their own prevention groups, recognising that youth clubs and sports’ clubs are what’s needed to get young people off the streets and away from the gang culture. More and more of us are recognising that waiting for the ones who should be addressing these problems, the ones with their hands on the purse strings, is pointless and people power is the only way to get things done.

I’m not a particularly emotional person but stories involving human kindness can have me bawling like a baby and surely it’s not just me who is finding them everywhere. Volunteers in Mumbai cleaning up a beach to enable a turtle hatchery to thrive, people pushing an ambulance for miles through blizzarding snow in order to get a woman who’d given birth in a garage forecourt to hospital, human chains being formed to save a drowning dog and its hapless owner. I simply can’t get enough. Truth be told all these stories make me want to be a better person, the person I was when I was young and knew I had the power to change the world. Marching for jobs for all and collecting food for striking miners whilst campaigning to ban the bomb made me feel worthwhile. Somehow we all became complacent, protest fell out of fashion and ultimately we’ve sleepwalked into the nightmare we now find ourselves in.

The world is a terrifying place at the moment and sometimes I find myself thinking how lucky I am to be in my 50s and hopefully dead by the time the shit really hits the fan. We are fast approaching the point of no-return where the environment, social welfare and world peace is concerned but I don’t think all is lost. I believe in people and that makes me believe in the future. More and more people are saying enough is enough and eventually this means the powers that be will really have something to worry about.

They know it too, which is why they are so desperate to distract us with their own agendas. We can debate Brexit and Facebook until the cows come home but ultimately people are still starving and the planet is disappearing. If we stick together with our human agenda, the politicians and the puppet masters standing behind them will simply become irrelevant. The world is becoming smaller every day and we are all part of the human race despite the fact that it serves the world’s powers’ interests to keep us all at odds.

The quote, “What unites us is greater than what divides us,” has been bandied about quite a lot lately but that doesn’t make it any less true. The main reason I like chaos is it strips away the luxury of focusing on things that don’t really matter and forces us to face the truth. We only have one world and it’s down to us to make it a better place for everybody.

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