My wonderful father Frank Price left New Zealand as a young man seeking to progress his career as a journalist. In those days when you were involved in a newspaper you did everything; you were the reporter, the type setter, the printer and more. So dad left Napier, travelled to Sydney (where he met a young Zena Faust studying at the University of Sydney), then on to Melbourne, Johannesburg and finally Munich – all places where journalism and printing were held in high regard. At the end of the Second World War dad made his way from London to Toronto to begin his formal studies in journalism. Here he came under the influence of Marshall McLuhan. Marshall lectured dad in journalism. McLuhan is famous for his insights – way back in the 1940’s and 1950’s that we truly were becoming a global village. McLuhan coined that term and his book, “The medium is the message” was one of the first works that pointed to the power of the media and its effect on this ‘global village’.
McLuhan, my father and my older brother Simon who too was a journalist would all decry the power of the Rupert Murdoch’s of this world – arguing that the role of journalism is to tell the story and to seek the truth regardless of power and prestige – the power of the pen! The World according to CNN or the World according to FOX is not always truth nor justice.
This global village is a beautiful place. Nelson Mandela used to often speak of Ubuntu; I am because WE are! Mandela would tell the story that in his youth growing up in the village, when a stranger came to the village they were afforded welcome, hospitality, and sustenance and when needed, protection. the stranger experienced Ubuntu! It is a beautiful term Ubuntu; it names the deep interconnection and interdependence we all share and our responsibility to care for each-other and for the whole.
A famous African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child!” This wisdom speaks of the responsibility all members of the village share to care for and nurture the young – the future of the village. In my blogs I have spoken constantly about innate dignity, of coming as guest and being present. I have constantly come back to the theme of ‘story’ and the power of story.
At this time of global pandemic we have never been so aware that we truly live in a global village. The danger of this time is that as the lion reaches the edges of the village we all retreat back into our huts, lock the doors and hope someone else will take care of it. Other villages could build higher and higher walls to keep the lions of this world OUTSIDE while others dig a moat and withdraw the bridge. This mentality of building higher walls or hiding inside our castle has beneath it a belief that somehow we are superior to ‘them’ and that ‘them’ are a danger to ‘us’. When we truly are village we will sense that there are no ‘us’ and ‘them’ only brothers and sisters on life’s journey.
Always beware of those who label. Labels limit! Labels never tell the true and beautiful and holistic story. Labelling is too easy, too shallow, too divisive. The statesman does not label. The true leader does not cling to nor hide behind labels. The leader (and we are all called to be leaders – each in our own way) steps out and calls the village forth to be its best self. We seek the higher good.
“The place where people meet to seek the highest – this is holy ground”. From the movie – Scent of a woman.
Small children have special eyes. Small children just love to play and wander and they don’t SEE black and white, Asian and African, rich and poor – they just see the other that will play with them. These eyes are the eyes of the village. These are the eyes that see the person regardless of the labels those living with and by fear place upon the ‘other’.
I always love that scene in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel where Muriel Donnelly (played by Maggie Smith) wants to see a ‘real English doctor’ when seen to by an Indian doctor only to be seen by a West Indian doctor with the broadest English accent; her prejudice has blinded her!
Challenge & Why
Whenever the village is confronted with challenge – whether it be exclusion, prejudice, fear, violence, sickness, poverty or more – the true village person, the true leader has the courage to ask, “Why?” What is really going on here? Why are the crops dying? Why is the reef dying? Why do people fear the police whose very role is to protect the village? Why do some cling to ‘power over’ – and not power with? Why are some powerless and voiceless? Why do the voices of white men appear to be stronger and more important than all other voices?
In the true village we do not fear the ‘why’! The process and journey of asking the ‘why’ leads to a wiser, more whole, more complete village. This village will know more laughter, more sustained life and the security of belonging to a tribe beyond exclusion.
Eckhart Tolle the author of ‘the Power of Now’ would suggest that the greater the depth of an issue, the deeper the pain or hurt – the deeper the quality of our presence needs to be to engage positively with it. One of the great dangers of this time is that we – with little or no awareness – can take a holier than thou attitude to ‘them’. Nightly as I look at what is happening on the streets of America I can assume an arrogance that ‘we’ are better than ‘them!’ Certainly, we all deplore the systemic injustice at play within American society that results in the colour of your skin dictating the quality of your health care, access to education, job opportunity and protection under the law.
Yet, there are few societies on the planet where racism, sexism and other forms of injustice are not rampant. My own nation Australia had a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody back in 1991 and yet few, if any, of its recommendations have been implemented. Despite being a signatory to the United Nations charter on human rights Australia has locked up and excluded people seeking asylum in this country despite them having every legal right to seek this asylum. We have locked away for years on end refugees and asylum seekers despite them having committed no crime – unless seeking quality of life for self and your family is a crime!
In a true village all share responsibility for one another. Ubuntu; I am because WE are! In a true village all contribute to the life of the village from their gifts and talents. In a true village all have their role to play whether they be the elder story teller, the teacher of the young, the healer, the farmer, the artist or the dancer of ritual and celebration. In our global village the colour of our skin, the content of our character, the name one attributes to a deity, the size of our bank account or land holding do not matter. What matters is our shared dignity as members of the village; the human family.
And what people in any true village know – and our Indigenous brothers and sisters have known for millennia is that for quality of life for ALL we need to be stewards of the forests and rivers, the grasslands and the reefs, the soil and the air that surround our family and our village for they too are kin.
Difference is Gift
The great invitation and the great paradox is that difference is gift. Difference complements and draws out – completes and makes whole. Difference should not divide. There is no need to fear difference. Difference is simply the mask the ‘other’ wears until we know we share the same journey, the same dreams, the same fears and the same birthright. Then, when we see and when we know, they don’t need their mask and we don’t either.
So as we – brothers and sisters of the same tribe on life’s journey – encounter great struggle – whether it be a pandemic or drought, forest fire or war, the death of an unarmed black man or the child born in a refugee detention centre – we are called to look inward for support and strength – to an ever deeper presence. Then as we find these – we look outward in global sisterhood and brotherhood for the good of all – not least – for our children and grandchildren who will come after us.
One of the greatest things a person can do is to plant a seed that will grow to be a great tree that will one day give share to people they have never known.
All of this can sound so idealistic! Mock not the dreamer – rather – get up each day and in the small and ordinary, the simple and the humble – do your little bit to make your village a home; your home, my home – OUR home. What more nobler a task can we do for the children!