I spent this morning reading the newspapers and listening to music. Let’s face it the news at present is not good. There are plenty of reasons for us to be frightened at this time in our history. And while I was getting increasingly upset and angry the following snippet of music caught my attention. It is from Don McLean’s classic American Pie and the verse goes like this :
Oh and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
I know McLean’s song is a melancholy reflection on the death of Buddy Holly and that the many themes and lyrics in the song have never been properly explained by him. The jester is probably Bob Dylan and musicians like him who succeeded Holly. But I couldn’t help thinking whether the above verse could also be a reference to Donald Trump? Is he the jester who stole the crown and now leads the Western world. After all what better qualification for the Presidency does one need but to be a host of The Apprentice?
And then I returned to the papers and read about Trump’s Independence Day address which included statements such as
“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children….Angry mobs are trying to tear down statutes of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crimes in our cities”
There was no mention of the pandemic.
We all know the world is facing many threats. There is a growing tension between the US and China, not unlike the tension between England/France and Germany that preceded the second World War.
Economies are collapsing as the pandemic brings economic activity and production to a standstill. We will be paying for this pandemic for many years to come.
There is a growing unrest among oppressed minority groups. We have known for quite some time about the oppression, the discrimination and growing gap but we have been content to carry on and ignore the suffering and misery, in a number of instances to perpetuate such suffering.
In Australia our treatment of the indigenous people is appalling. Our refusal to accept, if not embrace, their timeless history, traditions and culture is astounding. Our denial of their place in the nation’s story has seen them, discriminated against, neglected and abused. How else can we explain the recent destruction of a 46,000 year old indigenous site and its relics? What were governments and corporations thinking when they committed this act of vandalism? And still the number of deaths in custody among our indigenous population remains alarmingly high.
But above all these issues, there remains the pending crisis created by the despoiling of our environment. How long can we continue to pollute and damage our planet? Each year we are reminded of the ferocity of nature when the delicate balance is upset. We have bushfires in Australia, hurricanes in the US, mudslides in Asia, droughts in Africa, blizzards, tornadoes and the list continues. When will we pay attention?
This brings me to my message. Let us never forget that we are all connected to one another and together we are inextricably bound up with our environment. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are joined to each other regardless of our distance from one another and we are a vulnerable and fragile species.
Yet we continue to treat the environment and other human beings as disposable and forgettable. I don’t have any ready answers. We are either ignorant or apathetic or selfish. We can only address these evils if we acquire some wisdom from self-examination and deep reflection. What has happened to compassion, understanding and love?
We need leaders who understand the interconnectedness between people and between people and their planet. We cannot continue to live with the view that we are somehow separate and alone. We cannot continue to believe that our actions and omissions will not affect others. We cannot continue to live as if we were pre-ordained to be superior or comfortable or privileged. We cannot continue to presume that the planet will yield its resources indefinitely.
One of my favourite quotes from Einstein is:
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.”
Einstein believed that religion was intended to explore and nurture our oneness with each other and with our environment. He would have been disappointed then and more so now, with the religions of the world. Religions across the spectrum have become politicised. No longer are they about myth, mystery and wonder. No longer are they about the sacred and awesomeness of life and creation. Today they are about rules and dogma. Today they are about self-preservation and self-promotion. Maybe they always were.
In times of division, disruption and disputes we need a counteracting force reminding us that we depend on and need each other. We need to remember that a “Me First” attitude results in the community, the state, the country and ultimately the world coming last. We cannot afford that view from ourselves but particularly from our leaders.
Let us take some time to examine ourselves and our effect on those around us and the environment. Let us think about how we can help others by listening to them. What change can we make to assist those in need? Let us steer away from an apocalypse. Returning to Don McLean
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died