So, it’s all on. 2017, year of dreams.
If I was 2017, I’d be feeling a bit of pressure right now. Amidst the general agreement that 2016 was a bit of a shitter, there are high expectations that 2017 can be (should be? must be? could not possibly be anything other than?) better. Just by virtue of being another year, apparently.
And don’t get me wrong, 2016 has been a rough one for lots of people. It feels like most people I know have had hard stuff to deal with this year, not least me. Tough, personal, life changing stuff. Stuff that has made them see their lives differently or that has hardened them or changed them in quite fundamental ways. Some truly beautiful people have died this year. Yes, celebrities, but also ordinary, much loved people who have left gaps in the hearts of people that I know and love. Jobs have been lost this year. The Black Dog’s been hanging around. Children have been sick. Lots of rough stuff.
And while I know (I know, I know) that these hard things are all about learning and changing and getting to a place of better understanding and more authentic being, hell some things are hard to live. Some things just suck, no matter how much eventual learning or understanding might result at the other end. So in that respect, I know a lot of people are happy to see 2016 done and dusted.
On a world stage, so much has happened that has seemed calamitous. Throughout the year I’ve been reminded and made mention of Margaret Atwood’s ‘Oryx and Crake’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ with their (once comfortingly distant) visions of a world controlled by corporations, where money is synonymous with power and minority groups are actively and openly disparaged and abused. This is where we’re at. It’s terrifying.
I find myself anxious about the fact that I’ve brought children into this mess. I look at the news (rarely enough so that I can cope with the disaster unfolding everywhere) and wonder about how I can explain what is happening in the world to the three of them. While the kids don’t have much access to the news, my eldest has seen images of Syria, of Istanbul, of people in desperate poverty here in New Zealand where we like to think we’ve got things pretty well handled. When she asks questions about what she sees, I am usually at a loss as to what to say. Because what can you say about why people hurt one another? Why DO people hurt one another? I tend to brush her off, unsure how best to answer. So far, she’s only had fleeting glances at pictures on newspapers or the odd news headline so I haven’t had to enter into a deep and meaningful about the state of the world and humanity in general. (She is only five, so thank God for that). But I know her well enough to know that she won’t put up with brush offs or half answers for long.
This is the child, after all, who insisted on knowing exactly how her brother was going to make his entrance into the world when my general information about the midwife helping Mummy to get the baby out was met with derision. Incidentally, her response to my eventual explanation was several moments of stunned silence followed by a declaration that she never wants to have a baby. (Job well done, according to her father).
Anyway, what I think I’ll say is that some people don’t understand that everyone is just as important as everyone else. That everyone’s life has value. That everyone’s child deserves to be safe and happy and educated and have a future that they want. Some people think that their lives are more important than other people’s. And so they hurt other people because they want their life to be better than everyone else’s.
I refuse to believe that people are just bad. I don’t believe it. People get well and truly screwed up by whatever comes along and has half a chance. I know this much to be absolutely true. I work with young people who have lived through situations and people that they never should have had to and it’s no wonder that they end up in trouble/sad/anxious/angry. It’s the same story everywhere. But you’ll never convince me that people are born bad.
I know, I sound like I should be weaving flowers into my hair and dancing barefoot under the full moon or something. Well, so be it. I want my children to grow up thinking that people do bad things because they are lacking in understanding or haven’t had enough love and support, not because people are just plain bad. Because what sort of world would it be if that were true? And if my children know that people are basically good, then there is reason for them to be kind. To be compassionate. To be honest. To value each and every person that they meet. To be good.
If our children go out into the world thinking that people are good, then things will change. At the very least, the circles of people that they create for themselves will be filled with goodness and love and joy and hope and faith and all of the other things that I hope they have in their lives.
2016. It’s just a number. 2016 wasn’t some cursed and unusual year of misery sent by the powers above to test us. If anything, it was a wake-up call that we should be looking at what’s going on in the world and trying our best to make things better. That might mean making things somehow better in our own wee worlds, rather than in that wide world out there. I think I’ve probably written it before. It’s not a new idea. But it could be world changing.