This time of year traditionally, and for a whole variety of reasons, is known as being a season of goodwill. I have to be honest and say that this year, more than most, has left me with more a feeling of nausea than goodwill.
The senselessness of it all came to a head with a video clip that was sent to me two weeks ago. It was one I had seen before but given that North Korea has spent so much of this year in the news, I thought it worth sharing once again. As if you ever needed reminding, it does in fact highlight the situation faced by ordinary North Koreans and which for as long as the current regime is in piace will not change. But it makes one very telling remark - which says concentrate on the plight of North Koreans and focus less on the leadership. If you have time - click on the link. Even if you’ve seen it before I think it merits a re-watch.
Season of Goodwill? Fat chance ... or not?
This has turned into a “season of contrasts”. In many places Christmas is celebrated by hanging up all sorts of ornaments and encouraging consumers to go out and spend, spend, spend. Quite probably NOT what Jesus would have intended. Christmas is above all a Christian festival, although some cities in Britain, which is supposed to be a predominantly Christian country, have banned the celebration in deference to the feelings of “other religions”. Not that in the countries where those other religions are practised would generally think of reciprocating.
Of course there are many suggestions and counter arguments as to whether the Winter Solstice festivals of the Pagans that pre-date Christianity is not in fact the reason why 25 December was chosen as being a suitable day for celebration. But let’s be honest, if you want to end up having a heated, tending to acrimonious, debate - even with close friends - choose a topic like religion. Because of all the issues surrounding Da’esh or ISIS, Islam is a favoured topic these days and more often than not results in derogatory comments about Islam in general as there is no distinction made between Da’esh and Islam proper. Given DA’esh seem hell bent on blowing up anyone who does not believe in the same as they believe, and particularly at this time of year ... it’s not surprising where the talk goes.
These days I really do not profess to be a religious practicioner of anything - Christian or whatever. My own faith and belief in Christianity has been dented by what appears to be an enormous hypocrisy. Churches that have hidden rampant paedophilia, and practitioners who seem to prefer glitz and glamour in their churches to the more austere version of how I think Christianity should be practiced. But doesn’t interpretation stretch to all beliefs? Spreaders of rhetoric - compulsive, believable people who attract their own brand of followers who can do either good or evil. But even though I personally think as I do, does not mean that I have the right to be critical of people who believe otherwise - or in the broader sense, critical of other religions or beliefs. There is something in the world today that is seriously lacking - and that is respect.
You know that I spend quite a lot of time in the Middle East. I am lucky enough to count many people of differing beliefs as people who extend an arm of friendship. It came therefore as no surprise to me to receive messages in the last week or two wishing me a Happy Christmas from people in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but elsewhere in the region. Not westerners, you will understand, but local people of the Muslim faith. I was also sent a book by one of the correspondents written by an eminent Muslim scholar about the true interpretations of the Koran - not those snippets taken out of context by Da’esh et al. And you will have heard that Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, wants Saudi to return to being the moderate face of Islam. Some people laughed at that suggestion ... but having first lived in Saudi almost 50 years ago I can tell you first hand that it’s a lot different now from what it was.
When I lived in Malaysia years ago and when it was Ramadan the majority of people - be they Hindu or Christian respected the behaviour of their Muslim colleagues and in most cases became a part of the month. At Diwali the celebrations were joined in by everyone and it was the same with Christmas. What has happened to our world? Why have we become more isolationist in our beliefs, and in our geographies and in our trade. You name it - we are becoming insular,
If you live in someone else’s country - respect their beliefs or don’t go live in it in the first place. If you accept someone into your country, don’t shut them out but encourage their integration. Can it really be so hard to put aside ones differences - if you have the right mindset?
We enter 2018 in a state of nervousness. Belligerent rhetoric, an “it’s actually all about me” mindset, senses of “entitlement” - a growing wealth gap where the rich get obscenely richer and the poor do a little better, a world where water will become a commodity far more precious than oil or anything else - and over which wars will likely start. And the thing is, as we become apparently more civilised, we behave in a less civilised manner.
It’s not a pretty picture in this “season of goodwill”. And why should goodwill be for just a season anyway - why can’t it always be like that - but there I go, being naive again!!
Happy New Year.