The Benefits of Everything You Don’t Want.

The Benefits of Everything You Don’t Want.

Donald Trump – liar, racist, misogynist, several-times bankrupt: President of the United States of America.

A lot of people are angry. A lot more are justifiably afraid. It’s the UK’s “Brexit” vote all over again – times at least a hundred.

Yesterday saw the day a lot of people rose up against what they’d never wanted, what they’d vociferously stood and shouted against from the beginning.

In the coming days, weeks, months, a lot more people may well come to realise that the thing they thought they wanted, or thought they weren’t bothered about one way or the other, is something they really  don’t want.

And yet, yesterday, the poet Andrea Gibson said “Today, I will go to sleep. And tomorrow I will wake up 1oo times more queer than I am now. And I will keep doing that, every day, for the next four years.”

Yesterday, the streets of Washington D.C., and the servers supporting those computers hosting “virtual marches” for the geographically isolated, the disabled, those with care responsibilities, those without the resources to get to Washington in person, were thronged with people who, though afraid, were not intimidated.

The thing about our nightmares is, they clarify what our dreams are.

If our nightmares centre around monsters, what we want, desire, and should be working towards is safety. If they centre around running out of resources, what we want, desire, and should be working towards is material plenty, and the proper stewardship of such resources as come our way. If they centre around isolation, what we want, desire, and should be working towards is community. If they centre around running away, what we want, desire, and should be working towards is a future where our personhood, space, and time are respected, and others keep their distance without being asked, and approach us openly, and with respect, rather than pursuing us in desperate need. If they centre around being falsely accused, we should ensure that our words and deeds are always open, honest, upright, and true.

And if our nightmare is an egotistical, rich white man given ultimate power – we need to start working towards a world where the quiet, the humble, the poor, the ethnic minorities, the women, are welcomed and enabled to share power as equals. Not “instead of” wealthy white men who are also compassionate and respectful, not to “take” power from the current majority. But to genuinely share it, the way a couple who are deeply in love will share a meal out at a restaurant: each will get what they want, food and drink suited to their tastes, dietary requirements, and preferences, but they will also feed each other titbits from their meals. There will be requests to “try a little bit of yours, please?” that are joyfully and willingly granted. And they will talk – while they wait for their meals, during the meal, afterwards, and once they’re home, tucked up together in bed, or, if they don’t yet live together, in their own separate homes, perhaps on the phone, or online. They won’t always agree – sometimes they will have truly terrifying arguments, blazing rows that seem almost certain to end the relationship – but they will always seek to reconcile, rebuild, and find a place where they, and their differences, can live harmoniously together.

And yet the same people who claim to dislike “globalisation” and “multiculturalism”, who fear the loss of their own identity to the rising tide of diversity, often talk eloquently about the beauty and the “rightness” of marriage, even if their definition is very traditional. But a marriage is a kind of multiculturalism, a kind of diversity. Even if someone marries the boy-or-girl next door, someone who shares their views and upbringing and outlook, two distinct personalities are still being brought together, and forged into a stronger, single unit. When we fall in love, explore that love, commit to that love, and unite that love in a marriage, we clash, collide, derail and explode. We lose parts of ourselves, and gain traits that were never ours. And we always, inevitably, emerge as greater than the sum of the parts that were thrown together when we decided “You’re the one.”

Multiculturalism, diversity, love, marriage. They’re all a process, and, like all processes, they’ll have teething problems. Some of them will fail, as some processes do. Others will be messy, but enduring. And some will stand out as bright beacons of hope for the future, lighthouses for those who will come after them.

My wife and I often joke about how we’re “actually the same person” – and it’s true, we’re scarily alike in so many ways. And yet even with us, a seemingly perfect match, there are little bits of grit. These bits of grit may become blisters, or pearls  – but they cannot, and should not, be ignored.

Marriage, and multiculturalism, goes wrong when the bits of grit, the edges that keep slamming into one another, are ignored, or covered over with something bright and cheerful.

We need to acknowledge the pain associated with any kind of change, especially change for the better. We need to talk about those rough edges, those bits of grit. And we need to allow them to exist.

One day, soon, go to a beach that is mostly pebble, or look up images of pebble beaches. Notice how there are many different sizes, shapes, and colours of pebbles, but it’s all the same beach, running down to the same sea.

And yes; some of the pebbles are lost in the overall scene. You can’t see them clearly. But that doesn’t mean they’re not there. It doesn’t mean they haven’t travelled to arrive on that beach, at that moment. And almost all the pebbles you see will have signs of wear. Places where the current was too strong, or they were knocked one too many times. Yet here they all still are, existing, together.

As human beings, our sleep holds both dreams and nightmares. We need to accept and listen to them both – because our nightmares will tell us what our waking dreams should be.

The Decline of Risk

The Decline of Risk

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings,

And risk it all on one turn of pitch and toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about the loss…”

(Rudyard Kipling, “If”.)

Risk has always been big business. Risk drove the housing market into the stratosphere. Risk is what fuels consumer credit. Risk built an entire sector – the financial sector. Risk is what makes sports exciting, why we play the lottery, why kids love arcade games.

Risk is what keeps us alive, and, ultimately, what kills us. We live because we take risks – the risk of being excluded from a group we want to join, the risk of being turned down for our dream job, the risk of being mocked by the person we fancy, the risk of a pregnancy not working out, the risk of going bankrupt buying a house or starting a business, the risk of regretting the decision to jack in our job a few years early and go travelling – and we die when the “turn of pitch and toss” doesn’t go our way. When risk bites back.

We will die because of risk, but we will also die if we don’t take risks.

Society has been slaughtered by risk run amok, risk that was released from any kind of supervision or control. Risk made without judgement.

But now, we stand in real danger of society dying because of an increasing unwillingness to take any kind of risk.

High Street book shops are stagnating because mainstream publishers refuse to take risks on unknown, exciting, genre-free authors, and haven’t caught up with the fact that the book buying public isn’t going to buy another 400 pages of the same story in a different place, with different people.

The arts are dying because governments aren’t funding them, and artists have become too used to being funded by the Establishment, and won’t risk trying something new, trying other ways to get the show on the road.

The economy is dying, because employers are unwilling to risk accepting the paradigm shift that’s needed, to embrace ways of working that don’t involve expensive offices and close supervision.

Intelligence is dying, because teachers daren’t risk standing up against a rising tide of government meddling, and actually exposing children and young people to the lessons they need to learn, the sources that will light the individual sparks in all those children, and set a blazing love of learning, and of knowledge.

Manners and compassion are dying, because no one will risk disciplining people when they fall short.

Society is dying, because no one will risk a “Hello” to a stranger.

People are dying, because no one will risk radical care, medicine that is more than medication, support that is more than just keeping difficult people out of sight.

The decline in risk is a fear-fuelled response to the death toll of ungoverned risk, which came in the form of mortgage defaults and corporate collapse, evictions and dismissals.

But the thing is, that risk was only culling the old and the sick. Those institutions, lifestyles, and people were already dying.

The reaction to it, the decline in risk taking across the board, is attacking the healthy, the vital, the necessary. It is killing everything that keeps us alive.

The world needs you to take a risk – now, today, forever.

What will your risk be?