We are becoming more concerned with our avatars and online communities at the expense of our interpersonal relationships and physical communities. In order to truly thrive we need compassion for and a connection to all living things.
I don’t believe that we can save the world. Nor do I believe that the world needs saving. The planet has been around for more than four billion years, during which time it has experienced several cycles of extinctions and has gone on to create incredibly diverse and beautiful forms of life – time and time again. What I do believe is that humanity needs saving, and to do that we need to wake up to the fragility of the ecosystems of our finite world. These are ecosystems of which we are an inescapable part, and by allowing their demise we place ourselves, as a species, at extraordinary risk.
Tolstoy wrote: “As long as there are slaughter houses there will always be battlefields.” There are still slaughter houses. There are still battlefields.
But the number of people dying in violent human conflict is at its lowest level since World War II. We are becoming more conscious humans. We are evolving. Our technological innovations have opened up incredible opportunities and could be tools for global prosperity, in harmony with nature. But we need to start healing. We need to start dreaming into existence the world we want and make active strides in our own lives to turn it into a reality. We need to stretch and challenge ourselves to grow in ways that may seem uncomfortable. We need to be more curious about how our actions affect the world around us. We need to take responsibility for our actions, whether they result in success or failure. We also need to remember that Twitter and Facebook are not the means to effect change. We need to get out there at ground level to really contribute to narrowing the inequalities in our relationships with each other and the natural world. Hubris has brought us here, and I believe we need tocome to the realisation that many of our accomplishments have been achieved by exploiting people and degrading environments. We’re in an age of change and it’s up to us to decide how we want to live in this country. There is a profusion of critical challenges waiting to be dealt with in South Africa. It seems unlikely – and probably impossible – that we will be able to manage climate change, mass extinction, global (and local) overpopulation, energy crises and drastically diminishing resources until we work out how to solve the problems in our own back yard. Time and history will not wait for us. One way or another, these beasts are going to find us, and we’re far from ready. Along with humility we need to focus on sympathy. The more compassion we can allow ourselves to feel, the more
integrity we can attach to every decision we make around how (and what) we consume and how we engage with our world. And, perhaps most importantly, we need to end cynicism in interpersonal relationships, because the sooner we remove the notion of “the other” as a tool for exploitation and embrace the ideals of Ubuntu the sooner we can become brothers, sisters and neighbours in the unified nation we have the capability to be. I believe this country can be great not just for the privileged, but for all of us. Individually and collectively, let us acknowledge privilege and ask ourselves what we should be giving back to this country so we can narrow the yawning gap of inequality and start thriving together. We don’t have to be perfect citizens, but we do need to be active citizens.
Yes, change is often messy and unpredictable. It’s also entirely inevitable. Whether we like it or not, the global ecosystem will eventually self-correct for the better. We can be a protagonist in that correction or we can watch it happen. It’s still our choice. But maybe not for long.
By Misha Teasdale