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Whether we like it or not; we are all in this together.

However unpopular, there are issues that we, as a society, need to grapple with and address. Some of these issues, such as global warming, pollution, population are important and urgent, but others, while not appearing urgent, are equally important.

Back in the day, there were all sorts of taboos that were utterly ridiculous and have quite rightly been debunked, and civilisation has or is trying to move on, though progress can be frustratingly slow. But this has left us with a precarious structure in our society. In short, an intolerance, a refusal to take responsibility and assume accountability.

Marriage, for instance, was traditionally only between a man and a woman. Now there is a more relaxed and open view and same-sex marriage, even if not accepted by all, is commonplace. Gay couples can adopt children, and racism is slowly, perhaps far too slowly, being erased from our sport, civil and armed services. We have female Bishops and openly gay politicians. Remember, up until the summer of 1967, homosexuality was illegal in the UK. So we can always argue about the pace of change, but we are making progress.

Less than a hundred years ago, if a young girl became pregnant outside marriage, it was a shaming state of affairs. She would invariably be sent away to have her baby elsewhere and the baby would either be aborted at significant risk to life or found an adopted home. The stigma on the family was nothing to be made light of and could affect their social standing; such was the backward thinking of the time.

Remember that four hundred years ago, you could be burnt at the stake for having a different religion or being considered a heretic. Society has had in the past, the mentality of a lynch mob. But the voices that shout from the darkest corners of despair for reason and change are heard - eventually - mostly?

Think of slavery and all the dreadful and shameful acts that human beings perpetrated on other human beings. When you get into the detail of it, it makes you shudder with the shame of humankind. How can civilised people look at other humans as less, subhuman? Yet in truth, whether we care to recognise this or not, it still happens today. On the spectrum of guilt for that, we probably all appear somewhere. It is easy to judge and look down on our fellow humans for all sorts of different reasons. The keyword here is 'Difference". People are not always very accepting of "difference". We all have preconceived ideas around what is acceptable; with what we are comfortable. Any behaviour falling outside that is likely to be condemned by the more intolerant mind.

We can be so quick to pass judgement on others. Any behaviour or act that falls outside of our comfort zone, we might deem as intolerable.

But that said, a functioning society does require an accepted framework in which to operate effectively. We need a few rules - the guidelines that allow us all to get on with each other. Most of us growing up learn and understand what these rules are - these rules, along with good manners, are like oil on the chain. They simply allow us to move and operate around each other with less friction. 

Imagine a game of football with no rule book. Even with the rulebook, it can get quite heated at times. With no rule book, pandemonium would rule. It would cease to be a game and revert to a more gladiatorial contest.

So basically it went like this; Our stone-age ancestors were trying to survive. Most of their time was taken up with trying to get enough food and have shelter from the elements. Then humankind became a little more organised in a frenetic way and spent much of their time fighting each other, either attacking or defending.

During this time civilisation moved forward very slowly because the populations were low and they were so busy and distracted with squabbling, fighting and trying to get enough to eat and survive - most of the time.

But any time there was relative peace and enough food, a questioning mind was able to come up with solutions to humanity's trials and discover new science - civilisation jumped forward a few steps.

We learned how to divide responsibilities up between us: some would grow food, some would fight, some would pray, etc. and a dictatorial hierarchy came into being. Whenever peace reigned, civilisation jumped forward. This pattern of life, in one form or another, kept going for several centuries and is still operating today in many countries.

From around 600BC, when Solon in ancient Greece, credited with the birth of Democracy, began taking account of what the masses thought and wanted - the idea of Democracy had blossomed. But, of course, not everywhere. 

Power is corrosively seductive as is today, manifested in individual leaders around the world. As Sir John Dalberg-Acton, later Lord Acton famously pronounced in the late 19th century in a letter to a friendly Bishop; "Power tends to corrupt, and Absolue power tends to corrupt absolutely." and if the old adage "possession is nine-tenths of the law" is to be believed, it explains why it is pretty hard to be rid of these tyrannical leaders once they become ensconced.

The fight for Democracy is alive and well - but the struggles continue. Even at the time of writing this, Trump, less than two weeks from an election where he is predicted to lose heavily is threatening to hold on the presidential office. Nikolai Lukashenko in Belarus is fighting to maintain his authoritarian grip on power, as is Nicholas Maduro in Venezuela and Emmerson Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe and many other despotic leaders besides. 

Eventually, Democracy surfaces; Democracy is like bubbles in champagne or gas in water; it just can't stop coming to the surface. No-one can suppress Democracy indefinitely because it speaks of freedom. And the human soul searches and craves for the fundamental right of freedom, choice and liberty like a thirsty man craves water. So no matter how much Putin, Xi Jinping, Erdogan or Mohammed bin Salman and their like try and suppress their populations, eventually, Democracy will break free and the dictators will perish.

As civilisation scrambles to get a foot-hold in so many countries, we must not be complacent. We must continue to fight for the rights of others. Democracy is an idea; a light that refuses to be extinguished, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people with tyrannical minds trying to put the light out.

Herein lies the danger; apathy and indifference sets in when we have enough - when we are comfortable. So it is entirely possible to develop an attitude where not only do we not have concern for others, but we begin to believe that what we think doesn't matter or make any difference.

It is the height of irony that so many people in the west, who have the right to vote don't exercise that right. And yet in some countries, people will fight with their lives for the right to vote and often forfeit their lives in the process. Democracy should never be taken for granted; it is precious beyond price and, like a child needs constant nourishing and nurturing. 

I am not sure that historians would agree that we British declared war on Hitlers Nazi Third Reich because we wanted to defend Democracy - but effectively, that is what happened and is the reason why we went to war. Yes, we had a treaty with Poland. Yes - many were disturbed by Adolf Hitler's purge on Jews, Homosexuals, Gypsies and people of colour. But in essence, we went to war to defend Democracy. Our freedom to rule ourselves, and thank God, with the help of so many other nations from all around the world - we won.

There are, and I am loath to say, probably always will be more wars to fight, both now and in the future. We may not acknowledge it in our everyday lives, but in our hearts, we know this battle for freedom rages on, just as it is depicted in movies like the star wars collection. The "Dark Side" against "The Force" - the "Goodies versus the Baddies." These battles are as old as humanity, and it is still happening today all around us; it is just that we choose not to see it - until it affects us personally.

Of course, there is a price for Democracy beyond that of winning it. It is that of the "Majority Rule." That is to say that we have to accept the decision of the majority whether we agree or disagree. But Pareto's law usually kicks in, and the majority rule and the rest can live with it. The reason that happens is that any leader worth their salt recognises that they are the leader of everyone. They will do their utmost to be inclusive and to bring both supporters and non-supporters along with them on their leadership journey.

Competent leadership is all too scarce, and outstanding leadership seems to be very rare indeed.

The majority of people, if they are honest with themselves, want their cake and eat it. But history is continually repeating itself in different guises. Humanity has an unfortunate habit of learning harsh and costly lessons and then forgetting them - and having to re-learn that same lesson, often with a repeated, very high human cost.

The lesson I believe is to acknowledge that we are all component parts in the living history of our planet and try to understand that everything we do and don't do will and does make a difference. Being accountable for our words, for our actions or lack of action is our responsibility. Blame is futile and serves no real purpose. The only achievement of blaming others when our plans go wrong is to disenfranchise ourselves.

For all of humanity to step up and take on the issues that we are all affected by, it will take determined and robust leadership. So, perhaps the first item on the human agenda should be to choose good leaders. Leaders who understand that there are issues that should not be politicised. These issues are common to all of us, no matter who holds power, no matter who we may support or vote into office. 

When we have done that, if we ever could, we then need to be prepared to take a bit of "tough love" - just as a child may form good habits from a caring parent.

Now, perhaps more than ever before, we need to come together. We will have to put our petty differences aside and each of us in our own way, do our bit for everyone else. And that means including all those people who we have never met and don't even know exist. 

The start is to chose the right leader and to play our full part in the change of attitude. Not unlike a Doctor - a good Doctor who gives us some unpleasant advice and nasty medicine. If we want to get better, we have to be prepared to take the tough love.

If we chuck out all the rules and laws that allow us to get along with each other, it creates uncertainty and leads to fear. Too many regulations and laws generate oppression and can lead to tyranny. If we want to keep moving civilisation forward, we must find, keep and maintain the balance of justice and freedom. 

This means we have to take responsibility for our own existence and be tolerant and accepting of other people's existence also. It means being accountable for ourselves and helping others where ever we can, no matter who they are or from where they have come.

Rick - Suffolk - UK - 24th October - 2020


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