In this ground-breaking book the...
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In this ground-breaking book the author looks at our underlying feelings of unease and confusion over today's ongoing world events. This is reality-check time.
Healing the Hurts of Nations
The human side of globalisation
HHN website: www.palden.co.uk/hhn/
In this timely, ground-breaking book, the author looks at our underlying feelings of unease and confusion over today's world events. This is reality-check time.
With non-stop global coverage of conflict, terrorism and multiple atrocities and injustices, we are witnesses to endless nightmare scenarios, with new crises coming ever thicker and faster. We carry on our lives as normal, knowing on a deeper intuitive level that the post-9-11 world must change its ways.
Healing the Hurts of Nations addresses humanity's unconscious, bottom-line feelings and their conflict with the 'official line'. Delving into the history and analysing the ghosts and ghouls of nations, this book provides a helpful overview to clarify how we might turn a global quagmire into fertile ground. To give specific examples, the histories of Afghanistan, Iraq, Britain and Yugoslavia are examined.
Equal parts historical analysis, psychology of nations and positive suggestions for world change, this book is for:
Palden Jenkins is a 1960s veteran living in Glastonbury. He has worked with Tibetans, Arabs and Israelis, and in the fields of childbirth, psychotherapy, web and community projects, founding three educational initiatives. Previous books include Living in Time, The Only Planet of Choice (with Phyllis Schlemmer) and The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. He is respected for his insights in history, geopolitics and spiritual issues. His website is at >www.palden.co.uk
Welcome to the World
The power of events. Defining moments.
With today's global media coverage, we're all tuned into the defining moments of today's news very quickly, all together. One day, I was working in my office, and the phone rang. A friend says: "Stop what you're doing and switch on the TV immediately. Something's happening. Just do it, right now!". I watched those planes crashing into the Twin Towers and, like everyone, I was flabbergasted. Immediately I saw implications replicating from that point in time. New connections formed as my understanding slowly caught up with this unexpected yet strangely inevitable event.
A large rent appeared across reality as most people saw it. A new map had suddenly been placed on top of the old one. A defining moment had taken place. New possibilities wriggled through the cracks. We saw New Yorkers acting out the most intensely human of feelings and, around the world, a spontaneous outpouring of empathy cutting across all previous divides. That is, at first. Soon new divides came up, as a case for war against the perpetrators and sundry others started being built, as if in revenge. Two soulquakes intersected, the second partially overriding the first. But the full effects of the first might well outlast the second.
In moments such as these, the centre of gravity of history shifts and we are presented with gaping choices. 9-11, as a soulquake, registered six-to-seven on the psychological Richter scale of the collective unconscious. The media, pundits and politicians got on the case and gradually restored their hold. Folks were encouraged to return to normal, and the poignant magic of the moment subsided. Yet something had shifted, down underneath. Something had been seen.
Do you remember those young East Germans on the Berlin Wall, with their picks and hammers, hacking it down in 1989? Freiheit und Demokrati! Everyone cheered. Do you remember that fizzing feeling? Perhaps things might change at last - perhaps The Nightmare is beginning to end. This was hardly thought, hardly heard, but it was nevertheless felt - an outburst of global public togetherness. These strangers, these Commies, they seem to be just like us. Indistinct feelings rumbled deep down. We're all in this together. The world looks different, as from today.
In the 1990s turgid social tragedies swept like epidemics through Kurdistan and Iraq, Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Somalia, Kosovo, Kashmir, East Timor and Sierra Leone. As each horror presented itself, the public's tolerance levels shifted an inch each time. Events prodded and scratched at the sensitivities of a busily indifferent world, seeking a response. Something in the collective psyche was saying this has to stop - it's gone far enough. When the aftershocks of each quake had died down, people reclaimed their daily normality, yet bottom-line values were shifting, year by year, beyond and beneath all considered opinions, ideological preferences or the customary earnest media debates. Events were hitting sensitive spots. A tectonic public stratum of undercurrents and values was shifting, surreptitiously.
This process is interesting. We're in it, right now. It suggests that two rather dissonant realities are playing themselves out within us. One is the 'official line' - the statements, opinions, judgements and explanations we hear on the news, the lines given us by People Who Know, and the body of conventional ideas and beliefs we all variously subscribe to. The second is a distinctly personal, intuitive sense of reality which busies itself evaluating and responding to events with surprisingly little judgement. It sees things as they are, bearing witness, perceiving symbolism, reading off background significance and threading together the emergent connections that are implicit in charged world situations.
It sees through things too, even if its observations might be illogical, counter-conventional and, in the view of some, treacherous: the Russians love their children too, or these terrorists do have a point, or perhaps we ought to learn from this. The intuitive, instinctive part of our psyche remembers that 1989 picture of a young man in Beijing, pointing his umbrella at a line of tanks and commanding them to stop - and they did! The camera pans to an Afghan child with mucky cheeks and clear, penetrating eyes, who has just watched her father being killed. Then it pans to the eerie funeral of Princess Diana, with its haunting music and silent crowds, an event which brought out the tears of millions of people. Such images speak volumes. The agonising, touching poignancy of these shared experiences sinks in deeply and ferments down there, composting heaps of obsolete notions and old behaviour-patterns into a mush which is to feed next season's new growth. This worm-like data-processing goes on in recesses where we care not to look. We've been hit and eroded where our defences are weak. Being civilised and well-trained, we restore normality again, but human evolution keeps edging an inch forward each time. It keeps on doing this. Something is going on.
Today a tension is escalating between our conventional reality and this deeper, emergent soup of shifting images, feelings and values. Something more than this is shifting too. Global media connectivity, the glaring intensity and drama of events, the effects of globalisation, of modernity, education, medicine and travel - and something else too - reshape our frame of reference without our fully knowing it. One week it is ice-shelves breaking away from Antarctica, and the next it is Pakistan and India threatening nuclear war. Then it is employers who take on two people for one job, in the knowledge that one of them will probably die of AIDS soon. Then we come to young Iraqi yobbos, ventilating their pent-up frustrations for the life they have had on the treasures from Baghdad's museums. Then we hear of an executive who gets a million dollar bonus for firing ten thousand workers and halving company profits. We could be entering a time when poignant issues and crises come in multiples, to keep us on our toes, to keep us facing a heap of unaddressed questions piled up from the Twentieth Century.
The issues facing the world today are large-scale and global, and they must be tackled globally. As this book was written, the Iraq war appeared as a possibility, was argued over at great length, broke out and then ended: this book risks going out of date before it hits the shops. If something in this book requires revision or further comment, you'll find it on the accompanying website - and you can leave your ideas there too.
No one is exempt from this global ferment, even if they seek exemption or take pre-emptive action against it, or even if they live in the most isolated corners of planet Earth. Amongst the highest global priorities are the natural environment, world climate, food and resources, population, disease, inequity, violence and injustice, yet progress in these rests on people - people in groups, as nations and as masses. You and me. The official geopolitical mechanisms through which global issues are thrashed out are nations, transnational organisations such as the UN and corporations, some of which are mightier than nations. Dragged into all this are we, the people, all of us struggling to find an identity, a niche in the expanding matrix of global society. Questions of power therefore come up: who decides? Who names the game? Where are the boundaries? Who are we, and who are they? Who benefits, who suffers? When and how do we hit the bottom line?
Like it or not, we all are subjects of nations - and if you're stateless, you've had it. We are all identified with one or a few nations. He's German, she's Thai, and the guy over there is Brazilian. We belong to other identity-groupings as well: Sunni, Anglican or Shinto, indigenous or immigrant, privileged or poor, female or male, young or old, football-crazy or politically left-wing. It's us or them. This business of identification constitutes an enormous issue in our day. With pressing global issues to sort out, we need to find our common ground, agree on the basics and collaborate - sufficiently, at least, to make significant progress. Yet we bicker and fight like never before, in startlingly innovative ways. The need to agree and the capacity to agree seem to be pulling in different directions. We're desperately addicted to individuality and distinction.
Healing the Hurts of Nations looks at nations, social, ethnic and cultural collectivities, communities of belief and their critical role in the Twenty-First Century. Agreement is perhaps the most crucial issue of our time, on which all else hangs. Paradoxically, to join the global community, nations need to feel they can make their own decisions. How nations feel about their place in the world community is influenced by their history. Some nations carry their past with them wherever they go - people in Northern Ireland refer back to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, Israelis to 1967, 1948 or as far back as King David or Abraham. These historic anchors affect their politics today. USA, with its revered constitution, anchors back officially to the 1770s, or unofficially to the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620. Most nations don't think very consciously in historic terms except at patriotic moments or on weekends but, nevertheless, their history walks with them and sometimes stands between them and the future. The Iraq conflict of 2003 goes back to unfinished business from the First World War - or does it go back to Sumer?
Nations are affected by the after-effects of definitive national events - victories and defeats, culture-peaks, troughs of hardship, influxes, emigrations, famines, civil wars or social triumphs. They are shaped by emotionally-rooted memories of foregoing collective experience, passed down through national values and myths, cultural conditioning and successive generations. They can skip generations too - many threads unfolding in today's Russia go back to pre-revolutionary days a century and more ago. They crop up through the teleprompting medium of poignant current events, which have a way of reactivating old memories, associations and anxieties.
Why are the English touchy about getting too close to their European neighbours? Because several defining moments in England's history involved military invasion from Europe. Yet the Irish are friendly toward Europe and wary of England because, in their case, their problem came from England and Europe provided their solutions. Theoretically, such past happenings are gone and forgotten, yet they lurk there in national memory, suddenly burping, farting and even dirtying pants when prompted by circumstance.
Looking at history serves us well if it sheds light on the present and the future, and on what we can do about them. This book addresses the future, brings in the past and suggests that the present-time choices are wider than they are customarily taken to be. It sifts through human issues we must sort out if we are to crack the massive global issues facing us, to cede a decent enough world for our descendants to live in. What is the point of warring over territory, resources or who calls the shots, when climatic extremes, toxicity, famine, disease or economic chaos could remove all benefits gained from war? Why aren't we prioritising other means of working things out than war? The answer hovers around our tendency to disagree. This is The Big One. We're all in it.
News programmes love presenting situations in terms of conflicts of interest and opposing views. It gives us clean-cut straws to grasp when all is so complicated and intractable. We seem to be passive recipients of current history: what can I, little me, do anyway? There is much we can do, if we so choose. Our influence is greater than we believe, and growing, even though, at the same time, Earth's population is increasing, making each of us less individually significant. To understand this evolving process, how it works and where we stand in it, we must look at human groupings and, in particular, nations.
A position statement
Let me introduce myself. I am white, male, British and educated: this challenges me to do something toward redeeming the actions of other white, male, educated Brits of recent centuries. I feel very much part of the world. My personal progress and that of my family and friends is affected by the way that things unfold today. How can I be happy if someone goes hungry, or if their life-chances are spoiled for my benefit?
I have studied history, geopolitics, people and life for some time, to try to get a grip on what is really happening. I am a student and close observer of life and the world, with a background in inner growth, community-building and holistic thinking. Like many of the innovative scholars of the Age of Reason and Victorian times, I have no formal post, status or grants, just a dedicated and self-motivated drive to enquire and investigate. I gobble up heavy tomes, though not too many, and then go inside myself, stilling my clattering brains and noting what comes out of the space between thoughts. This left- and right-brained approach, taught by both professors and Tibetan lamas, confers certain advantages, one being a capacity to see and think 'outside the box'.
What concerns me is how we might create a safer and happier world. This quest started right at the beginning: I was born in a maternity home that had been the World War Two American Generals' HQ in Sussex, England, where D-Day had been planned. In my teens in the 1960s I grew up in Liverpool, a cultural hothouse, and progressed to being a flower child and radical student at the London School of Economics, a socio-political hothouse. So at an early age I participated in a chunk of history-making. It became blitzingly clear that the world could and should be a happier place, and I decided to give my life to doing something about that. I could have dedicated my life to performance bonuses, property, investments, insurances and expanding waistlines. For some crazy reason, and at some cost, I followed my path and didn't give up.
Dropping out of LSE, I decided to create my own qualifications, set my own curriculum and draw my own conclusions. I soon realised that social-political change would not succeed without inner change, so, 'selfishly', I headed for the mountains of Wales to examine my navel. I'm glad I did that - it really woke me up. It seemed to me, in the early 1970s, that world change would be a long haul, but it could start in the 1980s. After a transformative near-death experience, I came out of hiding and spent years standing before thousands of people like a reincarnate evangelist, giving them the rap and introducing them to new experiences, watching them light up and change. I worked as a counsellor, teacher, event organiser and community activist, and in the book trade and on Internet. The path continued along avenues that were wasteful, frightening, exciting or rich in experience and achievement, depending on your viewpoint.
By the end of the 1990s I was spent, sinking into a trough of despair and illness, wondering whether it had all been in vain. It seemed nothing had significantly changed: arguably, the world was heading backwards. Down there, in the pit, one night I met and fought with my ghouls and dragons and found them to be friends, not enemies. Offering myself up, for a second time death chose not to take me. The great thing about handshaking with death is that it highlights the simple essentials and sends the rest to the background. Next morning my young son came upstairs, yattering excitedly about steam engines, bless him. I saw him with new eyes: he and his generation hadn't come here to watch the world going down the tube. It's funny how our juniors become our teachers. I started again in life.
I don't sit easily in either a conventional or a conventionally anti-conventional viewpoint. At times this is awkward - it's neater to sit in a box or get stuffed into one. I had written a precursor to this book in 1995, and it wasn't published - it crossed too many marketing categories and sat happily in none of them. Osama bin Laden changed all that, and Frances Howard-Gordon at Gothic Image spotted the opening and invited me to write a new version. Bless you, Frances! This might sound a little controversial, but thanks to you, Osama, for opening up a new area of discussion.
I offer this book for your rumination, like a spoonful of yeast to add to your fermentation process. You're in charge, and I hope the book helps. If there is anything to add to or that you disagree with, you can drop messages on the book's accompanying website. Some parts of the book might soon prove out of date: while it was being written, thanks to the Iraq war, the scenery was changing fast, and this is unlikely to slow down. You can point out such instances and find updates and afterthoughts on the site. Today we're in a strange situation in which conventionally-acceptable ideas might turn out to be as way-out as the kind of ideas ventilated here. We're faced with bigger unknowns than we know.
World conflicts have their genuine reasons and roots which cannot simply be overlooked. With the world as it is, we cannot afford to indulge in conflict, neither allow its causes to develop too far. We must find other ways: conflict obstructs and delays resolution of vital world issues, diverting attention and resources from greater and wider needs. There is more to life than this.
Healing the Hurts of Nations addresses humanity's unconscious, basic, bottom-line feelings, from which conflict and its resolution arise. It rummages around in the heaving globs of fermenting gunk hidden underneath. Please find enclosed some suggestions and contextual perspectives to help clarify how, realistically, we might turn a quagmire into fertile ground, and what we ourselves can do toward this.
To figure this out or sharpen it up, it helps to survey the big picture and place ourselves somewhere in it. I hope this book helps you find your location. Once you've found it, keep it moving, for reality is not a fixed thing, and nowadays it's quite good at backflips and side-swipes.