Be Kind.

I woke up to the news of the attacks in Paris. It’s so hard to get any kind of perspective on this sort of tragedy, especially since these sorts of tragedies seem to happen all the time. Just a few days ago, Beirut was also rocked by suicide bombings, killing dozens and wounding hundreds.

Nobody close to me is affected by these tragedies, so I have the luxury of a more detached, general sadness, rather than the acute grief at losing someone I love. I know that this is the case for many people–there is no direct link with the attacks, and yet, the sense of loss and our empathy for others caught up in all this is overwhelming. In light of that, it’s hard to know how to cope with all that information. How does one process such terrible scenes? As I pondered that, while doing the washing up, I came up with some thoughts:

  1. Do the washing up. Sweep the floor. Make the beds. Do something mindless which gives you a sense of achievement and makes your immediate environment more pleasant.
  2. Donate to the Red Cross, or to Médecins Sans Frontières, or to the WorldWide Fund for Nature, or to the Malala Fund, or to 350.org. These organisations are working to help people and the natural environment which is being affected by every kind of harm.
  3. Ring a friend/parent/child/relative. Or write an email/Skype/send a text. Connect with people you love. Talk about things which are important to both of you. Listen to each other.
  4. Turn off the news. Unless the attacks are taking place near you, you don’t need all that information. Come back to it in an hour. Or a day.
  5. Plant a flower, a tree, a vegetable seedling and take care of it.
  6. Cook a really good meal, or help someone else do it, if you’re not a fan of cooking.
  7. Be kind.

Be kind.

There is so much anger. Those people who blow themselves up, or who go on shooting rampages, or who hit out with weapons or fists: they’re so angry. And you know, some of the time, this anger is justified. Just think back over even the last 100 years. There has been such a lot of wrongdoing, from so many sides. People have been massacred, their rights completely abused, families have been torn apart. Those coordinating any of these attacks, whether it’s a well-organised terrorist group or an individual with a grudge, or just some person who’s had too much to drink… they probably have a right to be angry. Everyone does, don’t they? If we feel slighted, we have a right to be upset about it.

We don’t have a right to kill or hurt other people for it. That’s not OK.

This general sense of being able to get nasty when you’re offended is not limited to terrorists, though. All you have to do is look at what happens when someone says ‘the wrong thing’ on Facebook or Twitter, and how nasty the internet can be. What righteous indignation, what ridicule at the utter ignorance/rudeness/racism/whatever else! How justified we feel, at taking someone to task for their idiocy! Most of the time, this doesn’t result in violence, but the sentiment is the same.

I’m right, you’re wrong.

You’re stupid. I’m superior. 

So this is what I take away from all of this tragedy: those people who are perpetrating such violence, they have a right to be angry, to be offended. They don’t have a right to kill or injure people. But what can I do, personally, about what’s happening in so many other parts of the world? I think of it all as a ripple effect. I can’t change the anger of someone in an ISIS camp who’s preparing to kill as many people as possible, or someone who’s stockpiling weapons to carry out a mass shooting, or someone who’s brewing over a feud and wants to go out and hit anyone they meet. I can’t stop domestic violence; I can’t prevent pub brawls; I can’t curtail gang warfare.

But I can be kind. I can be kind to those around me, regardless of what they look like or how they speak. I can be welcoming. I can be charitable. I can listen. I can be fair. And it won’t stop that mass shooting or that suicide bombing. Not this time, not next time either. The tiny ripples of kindness from me might take forever to do anything, but they will have have an effect. Whether it’s big enough to make a difference, I just don’t know. But I have to try, because the alternative is despair, and that won’t do anybody any good.

Speak Up.

‘Where are you from, then? Originally, I mean,’ asked the woman behind the counter in the cafe, where the Handsome Sidekick and I regularly go to draw and write.

I mentioned the town where I grew up, and then said I’d been in Perth for several years.

‘But your accent…’

‘Ah, but he–‘ I gestured to the Handsome Sidekick, ‘–is from the UK. And I am an accent chameleon!’

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Won’t Someone Think of the Children?

The other night I was reading The Dark by Lemony Snickett to our Offspring. We bought it a couple of years ago for First Offspring, in the hopes that reading it might help conquer his fear of the dark. (It didn’t.) It’s really not a scary book, even though parts of it do seem a bit scary to me. I have a sense of foreboding when I read it, but I don’t think that’s the book’s fault. I think it’s my own experiences with films and books which leads me to think that something bad is going to happen (even when I’ve read the book before and know that everything is going to be fine. It’s a children’s book, after all).

In any case, I don’t read it in a scary voice, and I asked, when we got to the part when the boy stands at the top of the stairs, and looks down into the dark, ‘Do you think it’s scary?’ to Second, Third and Fourth Offspring. ‘No,’ they replied, shrugging off the very idea.

So. Just me, then.

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Promises, Promises.

A few years ago, I did a Masters thesis on German Greens politician, Petra Kelly. I was inspired by her energy and commitment to green issues, but also how she and her colleagues made the move from activist to politician. As someone who certainly railed against the idea of the establishment, I was interested in how they made this transition, and realised that the trade-off was not as simple as I might have thought. Working at a grassroots level, Kelly and her colleagues were easily able to get involved in protests, or participate in acts of civil disobedience. They had a fluidity of movement which came from their widespread connections with other activist groups, and were motivated by the need to speak out about changing the status quo.

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Guest Post: Celebrity Justice.

In order to inject some new ideas into the blog, and hopefully relieve your boredom of always reading what I have to say, I’ve been asking some friends if they would like to contribute to path: ethic via guest posts. This is going to be an ongoing feature, and I hope you enjoy reading some new ideas and voices.

Today’s guest post is from Ray, who has been a practicing lawyer in Western New York state since 1985, a blogger since 2004, and married to the love of his life since 1987. He’s done other good stuff in this decade, too.

Enjoy!

Where would you rather be than right here, right now?”- NFL Hall of Famer and former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy, uttering his pre-game mantra to a generation of players and fans

Celebrity justice. It’s not what it is for you and me.

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Stealing Stories.

Sometimes, when there is a particularly emotive issue making the rounds in the news and social media, I find it hard to write about it. Last night, I reblogged my post from last year, because I thought it was relevant, but also because I wanted to say something about the flood of refugees and their treatment, and I didn’t think I had the ability to write coherently, given how difficult I found it to see some of these pictures, and how easily I could imagine myself in the same situation.

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The Week Links: in which our blogger takes the weekend off and has a good time.

Of course, my idea of ‘a good time’ is getting to hang out with a friend on Skype, finish all the washing up (even the pots and pans), play scrabble with the Handsome Sidekick., and eat dark chocolate and drink tea with my parents. So, as they say on the internet, ymmv.

Also, after what seems like WEEKS (literally only a few weeks, though), winter abated this weekend, and we had some very spring-y weather. It lifted my spirits considerably!

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Not All Mothers.

It’s Mother’s Day this week, which means that for the past month, we’ve been getting flyers and advertising material in our letterbox, as well as shopfront displays, telling us that we need to spoil out mothers, and showing us just what we need to buy for them, to do the spoiling.

I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day. Of course, presents are lovely, and I’m all for encouraging my children to consider all the many tasks their mother does for them. Mother’s Day could be one means of not taking that parent for granted.

What amuses me most about the ads is just what mothers are supposed to want. I know, most of this is for the sake of the businesses who are selling the goods and services. It’s an sales opportunity. But all the same, if you look through any of the catalogues, it’s clear what we would like:

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While You Weren’t Looking.

I’ll admit that I’ve only been half-following the riots in Baltimore this past week, in part because life has been busy, but also because it is very easy, as with shootings in the US, to sigh and wonder when things will ever change.

Of course, change does come, albeit slowly, and the fact that police officers have now been charged with Freddie Gray’s murder is a huge step in this direction. I suppose we will see what happens in court, and whether they will be held accountable for their actions. And I suppose, it’s only a matter of time before the entrenched attitudes begin to shift.

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