UK General Election 2015: Breakthrough for the common good – Dare to imagine that
- Kamran Mofid
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2015: The Year of Values
- when we begin to contribute our energies and our insights to our always-emerging common good.
YOURS IS THE RIGHT AND THE POWER TO IMAGINE A NEW COUNTRY
In the country we wish to see, we value ourselves, and we value each other. In this new country, it is an honour to serve, where the highest good is the common good.
With the General Election fast approaching, 2015 is a year of decision, and most hopefully, the year that our country will discover its true spirit and will connect itself with the common good. The UK, despite many good works, deeds and actions by so many individuals, organisations, civil societies and more, is facing a number of major socio-economic, political, ecological, moral, ethical and spiritual crises. We see all around us rising levels of abject poverty, inequality and austerity, food banks and crisis centres, housing, education, welfare and healthcare crises, challenges facing children, young people and senior citizens and the prospect of a climate crisis, to name but a few.
Today, in many parts of the world, including our own country, the so-called “free” market, the consumerist culture, and “Black Friday” sales, have become increasingly dominant, and are now seriously threatening our global future, both in terms of our care of the planet, ourselves and our neighbours, and in increasing societal rivalry and conflict.
Thus, no wonder that, in the process we have lost trust in everything: politics, economics, politicians, business, CEOs, governments, the media, and dare I say, even in mainstream religions. Time is of the essence. We must build cultures of trust, being prepared to take risks for the common good. We must begin today, with this election.
Trust surely comes from the experience of a relationship - an in-depth experience - which by its nature is rooted in values that are not necessarily economic or monetary.
At the basis of such trust is an understanding that, in spite of our differences, we have our humanity in common. Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks of “that African thing, Ubuntu” – the notion that a person is only a person through other persons. A person with “Ubuntu” is open and available to others, all others, for we are incomplete without each other. Ubuntu echoes the insight of John Donne that “No man is an island ..... I am involved in mankind.” What was true for John Donne in the 17th Century is even more so today.
Therefore, let us work in cooperation for the benefit of all - instead of competition that has been so deeply entrenched in our psyche - that has turned people against one another and has destroyed every ounce of our true spiritual essence that flows through our veins as living, breathing human beings.
Despite how sincere we might be, echoing Einstein, we cannot solve our problems with the same kind of thinking that created them - and neither can we solve our economic crisis by using the same tools that created the financial mayhem. We have to find a whole new system and a new way of thinking. A core essential truth, in which I firmly believe, is that a more hopeful story of change, based upon principles of the ‘common good’, is needed to address many of the big challenges confronting our country and world.
The practice of the common good is beginning to emerge as a transformative, inspirational and aspirational alternative way to approach our polarised socio-political/economic, spiritual and cultural existence. It is at the heart of a profound generational shift that has the potential to strengthen civil society and place human dignity at the heart of economic and political decision-making.
How can we become agents of change for the common good? How can we spark a new public conversation framed around human dignity and the common good?
In seeking to answer these and other relevant pertinent questions, and to understand the world better, we need to discover the world not just as it is, but also how it ought to be. Indeed, the deepest and most difficult questions with which we wrestle are problems of value — right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, just and unjust, worthy or unworthy, dignified or abhorrent, love or hatred, cooperation or competition, selflessness or selfishness, progress and poverty, profit and loss.
Human beings have explored these many questions of value through religion, philosophy, the creation of art and literature, and more. Indeed, questions of value have inaugurated many disciplines within the humanities and continue to drive them today. Questions and conversations about values and valuing are fundamental to what it means to be human, but rarely become the subject of explicit public reflection.
In short, if we want to realise anything good in life, including any goals we may set for ourselves, we must begin, first and foremost, by focusing on some fundamental and enduring questions of human meaning and value. Questions such as:
1. What does it mean to be human?
2. What does it mean to live a life of meaning and purpose?
3. What does it mean to understand and appreciate the natural world?
4. What does it mean to forge a more just society for the common good?
By their very nature, these questions involve thought and discussion around spirituality, ethics, morals and values.
This means that our lives are connected not only to knowledge, power and money, but also to faith, love and wisdom. Unless the questions we ask encompass the full spectrum of these emotions and experiences, we are unlikely to find the answers we are looking for, or to understand them in any depth, let alone solving problems and attaining goals.
The current economic model - employed by all political parties who have governed our country since the late 1970s - has brought us a very bitter harvest. This bitter harvest is the result of the quintessential ignorance and narrowness of these models and their utter inability to accept that our life journey is not merely about economics, money and finance. We need to understand and acknowledge that our crises are not merely economic but, to an even greater degree, deeply spiritual.
This is why I firmly believe that we must begin by discussing values to highlight why they matter.
The benefits of the current economic/money globalisation are limited and are based on individualism, greed, self-interest and economics (regarding human societies primarily as economic systems in which financial considerations alone govern choices and decisions). Other fundamental values such as faith, spirituality, justice, love, compassion, sympathy, empathy, co-operation, co-creation, and the common good are neglected.
To answer the call for inclusion of moral, ethical and spiritual values in all we do, we in the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI) have developed a model of what it would look like to put values such as love, generosity, integrity, honesty, cooperation, friendship and caring for the common good into socio-political and economic practice, suggesting possibilities for healing and transforming our world.
To focus our minds, assisting us to see the big picture, I very much wish to offer for consideration and reflection the deeply held values of the GCGI.
I firmly believe that if these or similar ennobling values are adopted by ALL, and then are seriously adhered to in practice, then the attainment of our vision for a better world becomes much more possible indeed.
We value caring and kindness
We value passion and positive energy
We value service and volunteerism
We value simplicity and humility
We value trust, openness, and transparency
We value values-led education
We value harmony with nature
We value non-violent conflict resolution
We value interfaith, inter-civilisational and inter-generational dialogue
We value teamwork and collaboration
We value challenge and excellence
We value fun and play
We value curiosity and innovation
We value health and wellbeing
We value a sense of adventure
We value people, communities and cultures
We value friendship, cooperation and responsibility
The future is full of risk and perils for our planet and all peoples. If we are to survive we must surely build cultures of peace, justice, kindness, and trust, and we must walk together to face the future. The journey, for sure, will be much more secure and fruitful if we begin to walk the walk together for the common good.
Imagine a political system that puts the public first. Imagine the economy and markets serving people rather than the other way round. Imagine us placing values of respect, fairness, interdependence, and mutuality at the heart of our economy. Imagine an economy that gives everyone their fair share, at least an appropriate living wage, and no zero-hour contracts. Imagine where jobs are accessible and fulfilling, producing useful things rather than games of speculation. Imagine where wages support lives rather than an ever expanding chasm between the top 1% and the rest. Imagine a society capable of supporting everyone’s needs, and which says no to greed. Imagine unrestricted access to an excellent education and healthcare. Imagine hunger being eliminated, no more food banks and soup kitchens. Imagine each person having a place he/she can call home. Imagine all senior citizens living a dignified and secure life. Imagine all the youth leading their lives with ever-present hope for a better world. Imagine a planet protected from the threat of climate change now and for the generations to come. That’s the country I wish to see and I believe we have the means to do it, if we all vote in the interest of the common good.
Imagine voting with our conscience for the common good on Thursday 7 May 2015.
As far back as the 6th century BC, the Greek poet Theognis of Megara said: “Hope is the one good god remaining.”
As the poet Theo Dorgan reminds us, hope is a profound act of imagination, the most important and the most neglected of the civic virtues. In the face of the present societal and global crises we can lie down in despair, or we can choose hope — which means placing all our faith in each other and in the boundless capacity of the imagination to reinvent circumstance, to establish new truths.
We are no mean people. We have hearts and minds, we care for each other still, we have our dreams — and in dreams, as the poet Delmore Schwartz once said, “in dreams begin responsibilities”. It falls to us, voting in May, to assume the responsibility of dreaming a new country.
I exhort you to imagine what we can achieve together if we allow such a vision of values to guide our choices this election and to vote accordingly.
Founder, Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative