I’ve often wondered at the way the world is set up and the conflicts inherent in it. History, power, colonialism, they have all had a part to play in the dominance of nations and nation states in the current construct. Stemming from the idea of the balance of power following the gradual collapse of the empires that dominated Europe before the eighteenth century and formally embodied in the concept of the United Nations post WW2, we live in a world where control is dictated by and between Nations. And what we see is how power is everything, and when it is out of balance, we see bullying.
Sometimes there is a breaking down of the barrier put up by nations – in the EU for instance – but the more some barriers shrink the greater the call for a new set of powers and controls, just with a wider set of boundaries. You can look at, say, the collapse of Yugoslavia or, more recently, the absorption of Crimea into Russia and see what happens when one piece of land, one group of people want to distance themselves from another group and either float free or attach themselves to another piece or group – and the violence and conflict that then ensues.
And then again, we see and hear tales of violence and hurt levelled at one group by another but about which no one can do anything for fear of ‘interfering in the internal affairs of a nation’. And even when, sometimes, something is done to address a level of egregious behaviour the consequences can be dire – the dismantling of Iraq and the rise of IS comes to mind.
This is bullying on a international scale. This is bullying of vast numbers of people and about which we stand by, powerless to intervene. It may be carried out by those we believe corrupt and evil, or by those who we naturally assume are democratic and caring. Those who saw globalisation as a new dawn, a future where a common standard would be accepted, or maybe imposed, when some supranational body might take on the role of the World’s policeman – they have been sorely tried and tested and found short of ideas. The UN was never fit for that purpose – arguably never fit for any purpose. There have been some successes in chasing out the exploitative but for every Tunisia there is a Libya – any successes are often fragile and few and far between. Still better something than nothing.
As an individual it is possible to look on and despair at the narrow view expressed by the world’s political leaders – who necessarily reflect the thinking of their peoples. Those destined to keep or lose power at the ballot box cannot spend precious hours on ‘bigger pictures’ when there’s enough at home to keep them engaged. Why would anyone worry about a small group of beleaguered people many miles away and over whom one never has any control? Politic is the art of the possible after all.
But globalisation has done one big thing; it has shown us the damage caused in other nations, in other parts of the world. Moreover, it has shown us how our indifferent bullying of our own planet has created a potential time bomb that, while perhaps miles away is capable of exploding on all of us. We know of the danger so climate change even if we fail yet to know, and can still argue about, what the consequences will be. Somewhere, in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, a land of plastic floats together, grinding itself into a granular soup of unnatural polymers. This is our fault, all of us who use plastic. The sea population is gradually being infested with the residues that are a necessary spin off from this churning gurning world. And one day that will come back to haunt us. But will anyone do anything about it? Is there anyone with the time, energy, money and capacity to care? While the world is dominated by nations and nations states the clear answer is no.
On the 27th January 1859 Frederick Wilhelm Victor Albert of Prussia was born. He was destined for greatness, the grandson of Queen Victoria, the second in line to the German Empire. But he suffered at birth and that suffering led to an unhappy childhood. By all accounts he blamed his mother and, by extension, the British. For many such an antipathy would mean nothing but for a man who would lead such a powerful group that was never going to be the case.
If you read about Wilhelm’s young life he was clearly bullied in ways unlikely to be tolerated today. He was, despite a severely withered arm forced to learn to ride. It appears to have been a cruel lonely youth. It clearly traumatised him and led to certain personality traits developing. This young man would eventually lead his nation into a bloody conflict that killed millions and shaped the world of the twentieth century.
Am I making too big a link between the self-centric world that crystallised post WW1 with, first, the League of Nations and then the UN as a supra national body reinforcing the dominance of the nation state and some cruel behaviour inflicted on a young man that was probably pretty common in the nineteenth century? Perhaps. Probably. The point is though that thoughtless behaviour, bullying behaviour especially directed at the young can have long term devastating consequences on not just the individual bullied but on a wider group that the individual concerned. And when those consequences impact not just at a domestic level, as bad as that is, the results may be truly horrific.
But it doesn’t have to be thus. It doesn’t have to always end badly. In this group – 1000 Voices of Compassion – we have a tentative network of like minded people who circle the globe. Today we are looking to Build from Bullying and most of the focus will, rightly and understandably be on the individuals who suffer.
But within that, please, let us not forget the group, the corporate, the national, the international bullying that is all around us and, often, conducted in our names. We are one of many groups. And we know one thing. Things that, in years past, would remain hidden are now exposed to the harsh cold light of the web’s all seeing eye. It may be the case – given recent history of random and thoughtless interventions it is probably right – that no one nation or group can dictate behaviour to other nations. But as individuals, as small groups we have an eye and a voice. We are the drip of soothing rain on the stony harsh granite of unyielding power; slowly but insidiously and inevitably our voices aggregate to wear away resistance.
It takes time. Sadly. The flap of the butterfly’s wing is a fragile beat, easily defeated. But butterflies keep beating and eventually the result is a zephyr of hope.
The biggest bullies in all this are ourselves; we indifferent many who stand by and watch. Since Homo Sapiens became the dominant species on this little lump of rock, we have bullied our environment and each other. But bullies thrive in the dark corners, in the secret places. Shine a torch light on them and they begin to whither. In this new century we have that torch: the web. We, the engaged, are the batteries that power it, we are the hands that direct the beam. Others would seek to control that tool – after all it is free to use and there as many minds seeking a twisted construct as seek good outcomes. But do not be seduced by voices saying we need to control it. Do not let the misuses limit it effectiveness. To do so would set the clock on hope back decades.
When the London Olympics opened, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, sat at a computer and typed.
All round the stadium the message ran:
THIS IS FOR EVERYONE
and I say
LET’S USE IT