It is a sad and disturbing time in Queensland as we see the defunding of many community sector services and programs. The majority of my work as a consultant and trainer is with workers in the NGO sector, many of whom have lost not only their jobs but have lost something potentially more significant. For many of us who do this work, it is not just about ‘a job’ – it is a passionate belief that through committing ourselves to doing this work, we can make a positive difference to the way we live and to the lives of those most in need. It is the way that many of us express our deeply held values and principles about the way we would like the world to be – caring, compassionate and focused more on our collective well being than the accumulation of indivdiual wealth. I’m reminded of a wonderful quote
from Daragh McManus of the Guardian Weekly “Surely there is more to the only self-aware creature in existence than jobs and money…”
It seems that our social priorities now are much more aligned to this neoconservative agenda of individual rights and freedoms, i.e. small state / government with little interference in the rights of individuals to accumulate wealth, without having to contribute to the social good. This is, of course, a very simplisitc view of the way the world works though. Some people have fewer rights just by virtue of circumstance and the role of the state in a more reasonable world, acknowledges this and attempts to ameliorate the worst effects of the capitalist system. But not so much now.
My other fear at the moment, as the pendulum swings in this conservative direction, is that traditional ways that we have agitated for change in the past seem to be no longer effective. Would it be too strong to say that the government in Queensland appears unmoved by our protests over the defundings? An article on the ABC web site this morning suggested that the LNP’s opinion polls are unmoved so maybe this is the case not just for the government but also for our community.
Unless we are talking about a complete totalitarian regime, surely the government is some sort of reflection of the community and community attitudes. I know that my friends and colleagues and I joke that someone must have voted for the LNP, we just dont know who!! However, the reality is that many in the community seem to have lost the art of compassion and empathy for others, and for the community as a whole. This focus on the supremacy of the individual appears rampant.
And yet we are such social beings that I cant help but believe that on some level it hurts our collective hearts to treat others with such disrepsect and unkindness – to not be aware even that there is more to life than whitegoods and plasma screen TVs, to not be aware that some people in Australia have nowhere to sleep tonight, no food to eat, few possesions and a terrible aching feeling inside that they are worthless and matter to noone.
I have always argued that feeling good about ourselves is the first step in creating a world where we can be kind and compassionate to others. I also believe that until we can wake up to the reality of life for everyone in our community (locally and globally) we will not feel the urgency for change. Clearly I dont know what the answer is but I do know that we must not be silent about our feelings and our knowings about these things. The greatest tragedies in the history of the world have all escalated because we stopped noticing and caring and shouting from the rooftops about them. We can at least do this in hope that others will listen and become aware too.