Our world is a wonderful, inspiring, horrible disaster.
In any one moment, we can see both the best and the worst of humanity. And the past week has given us all plenty to look at.
World politics has never been pleasant, and right at the moment it seems particularly nasty. Brexit is the prime example of this.
People voted for the UK to break away from the EU largely because they either thought they would get a terrifically well funded health system (a promise that was called a “mistake” the next day) or because they believed that they would be able to end immigration to England (which is both incorrect, and terribly inward-looking).
The very day after the referendum, people who voted ‘leave’ were quoted broadly across the media as regretting their choice and saying they didn’t think it would actually happen. So financial markets are in chaos, the EU is faced with a huge mess, and the UK is likely to suffer for many years to come – but a good number of people responsible didn’t actually mean it. Oops.
Politics in the US is more toxic than anyone can remember (a statement that nobody thought could be uttered again, given the Tea Party backlash against Obama a few years ago). And Australians appear to be on the verge of voting for the incumbent party despite it opposing any real measure at dealing with climate change or giving marriage equality to all people, and also despite the most tone-deaf campaign imaginable (if you’re not Australian, go to Twitter and look up #faketradie. And yes, I know that #faketradie turned out to be #realtradie, but that only made things worse, didn’t it?)
And this list is entirely anglo-centric. I’m not mentioning the children being killed in Syria, decades of extermination of humanity in North Korea, conflict in the East Sea…
It’s a pretty depressing list – if you let it be.
But here’s what I would prefer to think about.
On Friday, while Britain was waking up to an “Oh sh— what have we done?” morning, it was evening in Vietnam and 25 kids were gathering in the Blue Dragon centre.
Among them were girls and boys of all ages. Some were homeless until we met them and took them in. Some have no known family at all; and some have no family able or willing to look after them. Many have been labelled trouble makers, and yes a few may have seen the inside of a prison cell.
They came together of their own volition, for something they organised themselves: a martial arts class. It started with the teacher – a young man they found and approached themselves – grabbing everyone’s attention with his silence, dropping his voice to a near whisper, and telling the kids: “All we have in this life is our body, and it’s up to us to care for it.”
While entire political systems behave like untamed goats, the kids of Blue Dragon chose to organise, focus, and learn something new.
It would be easy at this time to feel despair about our future. There’s plenty going wrong. But there’s plenty going right, too; and if we take a moment to reflect, much of the hope for our world rests in our young.
I don’t know if Britain will be able to turn things around any time soon; and I don’t know if the people of countries like the US or Australia will find a way to register their discontent without trashing their great nations. I don’t believe there’s any end to the wars around the world.
However, I do know that whatever happens, there is real hope for humanity in the people around us. Political systems won’t save us; that power is entirely within ourselves.