For the last few days I’ve been wondering what I can do, if anything, to make things better in this mad, mad, post-truth, us-and-them world.
And I think I have a solution.
That’s quite a claim to make, I know. And I might, of course, be lying.
But aren’t you the tiniest bit intrigued?
It’s become a bit of a preoccupation, pondering how to make a difference.
So many people, so perturbed by the world around us, gasping, hopelessly, online.
Because it does grind you down, all the online obsessing over Trump, Brexit, Syria, refugees, terrorism … et cetera.
And it’s hard to tear free.
One more meme, one more blog post. Just one little editorial – and a peek at a US satirical show.
I find myself wanting to see Trump fail – but also feeling a frisson at each bold, new departure from previously accepted norms of American presidential behaviour.
‘Ooh, look what he’s gone and done now!’
The world-wide protests, at first, felt reassuring.
Articles have been proliferating, penned by people who seem to know, saying protest doesn’t work. Each outburst is a flame, singeing the big man’s sensitive ego.
More dangerous still, it distracts attention from other worrying things.
Decisions sneaked through. Obscured by slapstick Tweets, or signed-with-a-flourish-executive-orders.
‘The Origins of Totalitarianism,’ by Hannah Arendt – a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany – is the new must-have tome for the worrying class.
Might it really be happening?
An end to enlightenment?
A forced march to totalitarianism?
And if it is, how do we stop it?
Well, let’s assume hostile protest is not the way. What then?
If you haven’t seen this heart-melting video from a Danish TV station watch it now:
Add to that sentiment my in-house academic’s frequent references to hunter gatherer societies. Groups where there was no hiding from shame – or from shaming. Behaviour regulated by peer group pressure.
And that Hawaiian Huna philosophy I discovered when blogging about the Women’s Rally.
Can’t we start to make things better, simply, by being differently?
I can’t do this thing alone. I need friends.
In fact, I don’t just need friends I need enemies.
I need apathists.
I need old people and young people.
I need men and women, black, white, purple – whatever the hue.
I need gays and straights and transgender people.
I need Jews and Christians, Muslims and humanists, Quakers, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and atheists …
I need everyone in the whole wide world.
I need we not me.
And we need a bigly idea 😉
That’s when a song started playing in my head. From the summer of love. 1967. Two, actually:
I thought of flower power. Of love, peace, harmony – and dope.
Sorry. I meant grass.
Which brings me back to flowers.
It was the poet Allen Ginsberg who coined the term ‘flower power’ and, man, that dude wrote some heavy sh-t. This, for example, about Plutonium, our ‘radioactive Nemesis’:
My oratory advances on your vaunted Mystery! This
breath dispels your braggart fears! I sing your
form at last
behind your concrete & iron walls inside your fortress
of rubber & translucent silicon shields…
I’m no aficionado. I looked him up for this post and read his Plutonian Ode.
But it struck me he created, in the concept of flower power, a similarly invincible, fragile – and thereby extremely powerful – antidote to seemingly un-fightable power.
Google ‘flower power guns’ and you can track down images that should make you believe you can do anything.
A young American man feeding a flower into the barrel of a gun. (My husband’s economics professor was there.)
A young woman in Prague holding a flower before the bayonets of invading Russian soldiers in 1968 (scroll through, it’s worth it):
The flower power movement’s strength was in its very fragility.
OK so it didn’t, ultimately, work. Or last. Nice idea, lousy implementation – especially for women.
But now is different.
Now we have the World Wide Web.
Now we are all part spider.
Every time a finger swipes a screen or pounds a keyboard, our sensitive limbs can feel the trembling of the virtual world.
And I’m not saying that flower power is the solution, but it could be a start.
I said I had THE solution?
No, you said that, I said A solution.
But I do feel there’s a crack in the wall, where the light gets in.
That Danish video shows our boundaries are far weaker than our common humanity.
So how do we break them down?
Talk to other people. Don’t assume they’re wrong. They may be, but understand why they may feel the way they do – and remember we’re all human. All weak.
Instead of anger, wonder why. Instead of swearing, admit you just don’t understand why that prat overtook you in a 30 mile-an-hour zone.
Begin to feel differently yourself and it will have a knock-on reaction.
Trust me, I’ve been trying it. It (mostly) works.
You’re probably thinking, huh, what a let-down. A wishy-washy stupid solution.
But humour me. Watch this beautiful video. Feel the love and optimism. (And envy the fab clothes!)
[Edited – this video is no longer available – here instead, for as long as it exists is a short clip of it – you can still see the clothes and feel the optimism]
John Lennon urged peace and non-violence – and some will say, yeah, and look what happened to him.
We do need to argue. Respond constructively, when freedoms and rights are threatened.
And so I write in hope.
I also write as someone who, as a pre-teenage child, was terrified of nuclear war. The doctor prescribed a tranquilising medicine. I still remember its milky colour and grainy texture.
And I still fear what happens when we don’t learn.
Please, watch this video of Marlene Dietrich. I defy you not to be moved.
And as you wipe away the tears, ask yourself, can we learn, this time, not to pick all the flowers?