Like most people, as I sit and watch the coverage of how COVID-19 is ravaging most countries of the world and killing hundreds of thousands, especially those my own age, life becomes a focus, or perhaps I should say, death enters the picture as a correlative to life.
One aspect of human reaction that causes me consternation and concern is the widespread disbelief in the validity of this plague and the utmost disregard for the advice of the scientists and experts on its causes who suggest ways to mitigate its impact. Some people appear hardwired to not believe the truth, even when it is staring them in the face.
Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. Through the ages people have suffered tremendously because of their doubts and beliefs. The main reason for that is that both have been sown in their minds like seeds that are continually nourished with verbal, and written commentary.
My thinking reaches back to previous contemplations about some of my work in Community Development over the years, and the skepticism and doubts I often faced towards this process, as a way forward, to address whatever challenges people were facing. This was especially true for communities in decline, facing a crisis, and some of whom were dealing with annihilation. Most could only see the end, not the beginning.
I had learned over time that the first casualty of a pending disaster is truth, because truth is always fragile. The second casualty is life, whether understood as a way of life, or as human life itself as we see people give up hope, while some sink into the despair surrounding them, unable to accept the inevitable and create a new future.
My work helped me understand that truth is life, and to have, experience, and live life in any form, suggests that we have to draw upon the spiritual strand that runs through and connects all of humanity. Truth, though nebulous, is perhaps the most important element of life itself, but it is the most fragile.
Life without truth is not life at all only a mere sham of existence that makes life itself much more fragile. The truth is that throughout history, whenever life was tough, disasters hit, or plagues appeared, people survived by coming together and helping and supporting each other to endure and overcome the challenges being faced (excerpts from Truth, Life’s fragility_ May 2002 – William)
This fragility of life was brought home to me quite vividly only a few weeks ago with two deaths only one week apart. Deaths that should not have happened in a modern world with medical capabilities beyond a dream years ago. Unfortunately, truth be told, it is only available to the minority, not the majority. I was involved in both deaths as both people involved had been part of the group who came to my house for food and support.
A 28-year-old woman awoke early with extreme pain and was dead within twelve hours as a result of hesitancy to seek immediate medical assistance and local clinics and hospitals that are basic at best. I had encouraged her to go to a medical clinic that I use, which she did eventually, but alas too late and succumbed to a hereditary blood disorder triggered by malaria, which necessitated immediate medical attention.
This was followed a week later by the drowning of a baby in a pool that was not secured, and the lack of knowledge of basic resuscitation techniques by her mother who found her floating in the pool and called me. She was dead upon arrival at the clinic and the body was sent to a morgue in the capital city for further examination and a police investigation.
The challenge of retrieving the body from the morgue in a complex bureaucratic system and then watching them prepare the tiny body for burial and personally carrying her to the car that would take us to the mosque for burial was an experience that will haunt me forever.
The reality of human fragility, in a world with so much advancement in proper health care and systems management speaks for itself. One has to question, why are we as humans are so careless and disrespectful of human life? It is the basis of our existence, and perhaps, one of the few truths of which we can be certain.
But we are even more thoughtless about another obvious truth, which is the environment that we live in, as the very basis for human survival. Worse, we currently live in a world where truth itself is suspect, and there are large numbers who believe there are no truths, only created truths to suit ones needs.
Both human society and our natural environment have been eroded gradually over time, laying to waste much of our natural environment and diminishing our ability to protect ourselves from such tragedies as we are currently facing.
This pandemic is not the only danger confronting humanity, but it compliments global warming as an existential threat to human life. This out of control plague was only the trigger that created this current crisis. Both have their roots in human folly, mismanagement of our resources and a growing disbelief in scientific fact and genuine knowledge. We have arrived at a place in time where a few people, who now control most of the wealth in the world, think they can exist in and by themselves.
The greatest advancements in knowledge and technology in the history of humanity, intended for improving society and curtailing waste have been used instead to create a new economic model based, not on need but on greed. This has created a social, economic. and environmental imbalance that is unsustainable.
The destruction of the environment has brought pestilence and plague to augment the twisted psychopaths that have taken over a many of the governments and economies in the world.
All this and more has led to the diminishment, dissolution, and destruction of the basis of human society as a whole. It has endangered the very fabric of human life itself, along with the truths that have evolved as human knowledge expanded and developed throughout the ages.
As people rush to open and rebuild existing economies, they are placing millions more at risk. The rush to salvage totally flawed economies, which has polarized both wealth and power and spawned the greatest environmental catastrophe in history, has endangered human life and its existence.
There is much commentary and study of what has gone wrong in the world, and even more criticism based on who is to blame. Thus far all this has created and exposed the fissures between people of power, cultural difference, and many others in the societies to which they belong on a scale not seen in generations. This has resulted in societal divisions, strife, and human brutality among people in almost every country.
Often lost are the calming voices of people who care, understand, and who could help. Those who would ferment unrest and violence have taken control with the support of the governments in many countries; the most prominent of which is the United States, perhaps more divided than ever before in its history.
Instead, what is necessary is for everyone to step back and look around at the world and the societies that have been created. Then consider the resulting catastrophes that surround almost everyone and contemplate a whole new way of human existence that has a semblance of balance. This should include the building of societies that respect all of humanity, and which create environmental measures that protect and preserve the natural environment – a fundamental necessity that we depend on for human life.
We need to find the means and mechanisms to create a solid base for constructive discussion to bridge the divides that currently exist. This will be a challenge and not easy in a world filled with fear, and blatant untruths. It will be made more complex by the self-righteous beliefs that people have bought into and the abundant hardened attitudes that multiple autocratic leaders have generated.
The amount of energy, effort and compromise that will be required is daunting and not for the faint-of-heart. It can’t be accomplished by dialogue or collaboration of the few who now control the wealth, governments, and minds of so many. This has to be a new global initiative with awareness and involvement that starts from the bottom and includes everyone who is willing whether they are wealthy, powerful, poor, or different.
This process must include and involve as many people as possible, no matter their place or position in society. There are many now beginning to offer their ideas, suggestions, and concepts for change, many of which are still rooted in recreating the old ways. They genuinely believe this will be easier, or that it suits them and their agendas.
Before solutions are initiated there has be lots of thought given to how humanity has arrived at this tragic juncture. People must give honest thought to historically similar disasters and contemplate real human need which, I would suggest, is more spiritual than economic.
We are seeing mass rallies all over the world, which are being resisted and stymied by all and sundry governments and authorities with abuse and brutality. The protests only raise the question of how these people and all others with interest can give voice to their concerns and ideas for positive change.
This will require a broad understanding and recognition of the human thread, inbuilt into human nature, which connects each, and every one of us. While it may be currently stretched, yet it cannot be broken. This spiritual thread is why humans have such a communal need to connect, engage and support each other in times of greatest need, and is evident even in the most broken of places.
There is a process as old as time called community building or community development that has most often been used in times of chaos and despair as a means to bring people together and, begin the process of renewal.
It has been used as the medium of retrenchment during periods of dramatic or rapid change, mainly by grassroots movements that have grown out of the margins in similar disasters as we now face.
What needs to be recognized is that community and its foundations are a continuum, a fundamental existential human need for people to coexist. Continual awareness, engagement and involvement is a necessity to maintain balance in any society.
The real and unanswered question, even at this point in human progress, is whether it is even possible for humans who gain perceived advantage to share their accumulated benefits with others.
The real challenge in a world where humanity is facing multiple crises; economic devastation, a plague and environmental collapse, along with polarized societies the world over, is providing an acceptable, agreeable context and concept for such a process.
A true community development process has not only people at its heart, but respect as its guide. This begins from a basic and fundamental foundation related to human values and evolves from a process that ensures respect for oneself and true respect for others, and their traditions, culture, and most of all, for their differences including their reality and conditions in which people often find themselves.
Most of all, the basis of a locally created community development process will require dedicated leadership, willing people and a belief that people themselves have all the answers they need to solve the seemingly insoluble problems they now encounter.
That is why there is need for a community process founded in compassion, built on kindness, and sustained through sharing with of “people at its heart”. The basis of a true community development process is rich in all three and encompasses the social, economic, and spiritual wrapped in the sanctity of our environment. Without these fundamentals there can be no community, no development and, most of all, little by way of sustainability.
Written by William (Bill) Pardy
August 10th, 2020