The ancient poem the Epic of Gilgamesh from Mesopotamia contained at its heart human themes of friendship and courage, which are today still needed in abundance by each and every one of us. Centuries later we are still searching, taking a few steps forward and one back as we continue to surmount hatred and fear while gradually gaining the skills necessary to deal with the finality of death while learning about, and searching for, the meaning of life.
‘All the world’s a stage‘, until that last scene of all, the one ‘that ends this strange eventful history’*
Courage in the face of pain or grief requires an enormous amount of inner strength. There is no doubt we all feel helpless when terrorist and murderous acts are committed by radical elements in our society at will. However, we must do our best to face any ordeal and engender patience and love so that we can triumph throughout time, continuing to fall back on the hope ‘that if it is not ok yet, then it’s not yet the end’.
Illuminating iconic monuments or flying flags in rainbow colours around the world this century is a striking global symbol of solidarity between both people and nations and an important expression of an appreciation for our diversity and cultural development. It is all about sharing a capacity for trust, caring and co-operation and valuing freedom.
When establishing long term relationships between people and nations, we always have to keep working on them and adjusting the way they work in a contemporary context. If and when it is time to call it a day, surely it is better to engage in a measured debate and leave with grace, knowing you’ll be better equipped to find a surer footing next time around?
Certainly it is in no one’s interest to play the blame game in the wake of landmark events in Britain. It is hard for people on the outside looking in to understand why this polarized debate came to a head at this time, meaning the English people as a majority voted democratically to exit the European Union a politico- economic union of 28 member states, when belonging to it seemed to have so many positive aspects.
Calm and common sense is required while they immediately deal with the Brexit backlash and the initial political and economic uncertainty that abounds. The ideology behind the establishment of the EU was seen as a positive step forward last century after European countries had been involved in two horrendous wars. When nations share a common currency and actively trade with each other, then they are far less likely to go to war with each other.
Peace and sharing benefits are regarded as good for all.
Done and dusted with divisions now running deep following the monumental decision, many cool heads will be required if each of the member nations of EU and Britain are to prevail in the wake of the after shock and as the rest of us take stock of the consequences of their decision on a global and national scale.
There will be pluses, minuses and opportunities for many to be sure.
Britain historically means jointly just England and Wales and calling the process of voting about the EU relationship Brexit in the first place, seemed to me to be an error – by using the prefix BR Britain symbolically left Scotland and Northern Ireland integral to the United Kingdom out their equation, which seems from the outside looking in, less than conciliatory.
In Brexit’s wake, apart from the huge trade and financial implications and the social and moral dilemma the decision has posed for many, instead of debating the rights and wrongs of what Britain has done, perhaps the rest of us should take time out to come to terms with our own prejudices and attitudes towards our neighbours as well.
England’s giant genius of literature William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was a master of the written word, a man of his own time who played many parts and left a rich legacy of both words and wisdom that continues to be admired world-wide today. His understanding of the human condition exceeds the passage of time.
He reminds us that opening a door on a brand new world is an option available to us all, but we need to choose it first and then stand up for what we believe in, often in the face of difficult and almost impossible odds.
You see, we’re not alone in our unhappiness…this wide, universal theatre has more sad plays than our own little scene*
For a culture to have the best chance possible of enjoy its success each time there is significant generational change the older generation needs to continually re-develop its intercultural communication skills so that it can create, co-operate and collaborate with the younger generation effectively.
It is also the responsibility of mature adults to mentor the generations that follow by ensuring that they continue to keep abreast of change and embrace it. Never in all human experience has anything ever remained static.
By nature humans are very social; we enjoy meeting and gathering in groups as well as establishing standards of behaviour and core values special to our group. They founded for many reasons based on notions of nationhood, of religion, of ethnicity, of knowledge and of society. However they must never become inward looking or so self focused so that they exclude the majority.
Culture is about inspiring members of any group to seek cooperation and bring about harmony within their group; it’s also about communicating well so that we can endeavour to understand each other in order to become a good member.
What we do know is that it is individual character that is the inducement to great actions and the spur to great achievements and we are all called upon to make our voices heard. Not one among us will be in a position to pursue his livelihood unless he becomes part of an enlightened majority – one that is animated by the spirit of our age.
Folly, failure and freedom have been part and parcel of ideas of how we should govern ourselves since the days of ancient Athens when democracy was first proved a failed system. While in theory it was a wonderful idea, in practice the ancient Greeks found it was not perfect.
In England the political force in office after George 1 came to the throne in 1714, sought to further reduce the monarch’s power. They wanted to ensure that government was full representative of the people and the role of the King as they saw it, apolitical.
They devised a system of checks and balances between the people, their elected and nominated representatives, the officers of justice, the executive leadership and the sovereign power at the top of the pyramid.
All were subject to responsible public criticism, which is a model of Government in theory that is almost impossible to improve. This is called the ‘Westminster system’, which as it emerged in nineteenth century would become the most envied political system in the world.
As an original idea The Westminster System of Government was considered perfect, although in the first forty years of its practice there was difficulties. However this is often the way when theories are brought into practice for the very first time.
Provided everyone is prudent though, usually most obstacles can be surmounted through negotiation and discussion to produce a satisfactory result for all.
Citizens of all modern societies believe they are living in time of change. ‘We must all hang together’ Benjamin Franklin once said about Britain and America, ‘or assuredly we will all hang separately’.
Franklin conveyed to those in his circle a suggestion of solidity and shrewd good sense. He moderated his counsel while being prophetic in his warnings. ‘Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every New Year find you a better man’.
In light of continuing events as humans continue to ‘… preside over the formation of beings and things’ we should all remember ‘… power is a trust and we are all accountable for its exercise’.
By encouraging communication and intercultural conversations we help each other to better understand the nature of cultural difference by growing an appreciation and respect for the positive benefits a multi-cultural society can offer.
Although in order to continue to progress we must all learn first how to deal with difference, with each other, and the things that hurt. We need to be co-operative global citizens with an ever increasing sense of social responsibility.
American born English playwright TS Eliot (1888 – 1965) said ‘we shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’… for, ‘the purpose of re-ascending to origins is so that we should be able to return, with greater spiritual knowledge, to our own situation’.
…today we owe it to our children and their children’s future to never give up trying for better.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
*William Shakespeare, As You Like It: Act 2, Scene 7