In memory of a colleague who gave all for those least considered
September 11, 2001 was a memorable day for several reasons. The attack on the WTC, a birthday and a day spent helping a friend with the draft of a book on writer and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge. It was an article about Leo Tolstoy and the legend of the Green Stick which would later become far more relevant. In ‘ The Law of Love and The Law of Violence ‘ we learn of an unaltered vision based on a childhood experience.
“The ideal of Ant Brothers clinging lovingly to one another, only not under two armchairs curtained by shawls, but of all the people of the world under the wide dome of heaven, has remained unaltered for me. As I then believed that there was a little green stick whereon was written something which would destroy all evil in men and give them great blessings, so I now believe that such truth exists among people and will be revealed to them and will give them what it promises.”
The influence of Tolstoy on Gandhi and in turn on Martin Luther King illustrates that perhaps there is such a thing as a green stick, which may be within ourselves.
Writing recently about the tragedy at Newtown, CT Carlos Santana said:
“We are a violent country; that is our history & our present. It is internalized in all of us. We kill for money, for power, for influence & for attention. I say “we” because I am a taxpayer & my money supports wars abroad as well as mass incarceration at home. Time to stop acting surprised when Americans kill children on our own lands; we do it abroad in the name of “anti terrorism” “foreign aid” & “democracy” everyday. On every continent. Indigenous children are most often the ones under attack, simply because their existence challenges America’s reign of superiority. Until our culture learns to value human life over currency & power, this will be our reality.”
The reaction from some is that he’s being anti-American, not holding US values of freedom and bravery.
Conversely, in to ‘Kill a Mockingbird’ we learn through the character of Atticus Finch of how Harper Lee envisions courage.
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do”
Friends of Beslan was a response to an emergency. There was already a fundraising initiative going on, but there was a greater need it seemed, to reach out in in friendship and compassion that anonymous charity would not yield.
For those 100 or so who got involved, it was indeed a leap of faith. Tatyana, a woman unknown from Moscow went immediately to see what she could do to help. This soon linked up with volunteers on the ground who were able to translate letters. They had the addresses of families affected and with the help of a simple database, it was possible to ensure as far as possible that none were excluded.
A trickle of donations were able to fund small comforts – toiletries and clothing for families whose children had been rushed to Moscow hospitals. It would later provide funding for outings and entertainment for the victims.
Trust then grew through the feedback of photos. letters and drawings from the children. Some were able to encourage school children to engage with their Beslan peers. Eventually it was tp become a formal charity based in Canada.
Trust is the currency of an economics for humanity
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a changing perception of the way in which goverment conducts international policy, with the increasing understanding that winning hearts and minds is more productive. Some describe this as Soft Power and Smart Aid
I draw attention to a particular paragraph which ends a letter to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. In February 2008, when it was written both Obama and Biden were members. It was a call for supporting a social enterprise initiative described as a ‘Marshall Plan’ with a particular focus on vulnerable children.
“Thank you for your time and attention to this. I and others will look forward to hearing from you. I hope we continue to realize ever more fully that outside the box and inside the box have only a box in the way. We outside the box know quite a bit of what’s going on, many times in exquisite detail, perhaps in ways that those inside the box can’t quite as easily access if at all. We are grossly underfunded in favor of missiles, bombs, and ordnance, which is about 100% backwards. Now, with even the US Pentagon stating that they’ve learned their lesson in Iraq and realize (so says top US general in Iraq ten days or so ago) that winning hearts and minds is the best option, I and others shall continue to think positive and look for aid budgets and funding spigots to be opened much more for people and NGOs in silos, foxholes and trenches, insisting on better than ordnance, and who understand things and how to fix them. We can do that. We can even do it cost-effectively and with far better efficiency than the ordnance route. Welcome to our brave new world. Except it’s not so new: learn to love and respect each other first, especially the weakest, most defenseless, most voiceless among us, then figure out the rest. There aren’t other more important things to do first. This message has been around for at least two thousand years. How difficult is it for us to understand?”
Wirhin 9 months, as president elect, Barack Obama had announced plans for social innovation in the US, paid for by ending the war in Iraq.
16 years ago, it had been inconcievable to consider that business had any greater responsibility than returning a profit to shareholders. Doing things differently by making other people the central focus was a concept first pitched to President Clinton during the campaign for his re-election.
Part of the story of putting this into practice is ‘Every Child Deserves a Loving Family‘, which relates how it was deployed for the benefit of those in Ukraine’s institutionalised childcare system, costing the author his life.
Looking back through the influences on which the concept of doing business for social benefit was based, we see a consistent theme of love and compassion. For example the influence of Erich Fromm in the Art of Loving:
“Love of the helpless, the poor and the stranger, are the beginning of brotherly love. To love ones flesh and blood is no achievement. The animal loves its young and cares for them. Only in the love of those who do not serve a purpose, does love begin to unfold. Compassion implies the element of knowledge and identification. “
More than ever today, we need the kind of reciprocity that is described in the Charter for Compassion and it goes hand in hand with the moral courage of Atticus. Seeing each other as a threat to be defended against is the greatest obstacle.
‘Growing numbers of people are coming to understand that “them” might equal “me.” Call it compassion, or call it enlightened and increasingly impassioned self-interest. Either way, we are all in this together, and we will each have to decide for ourselves what it means to ignore someone to death, or not.’ ( Terry Hallman – What is Social Enterprise?)