Altruism and the British way of Life?

I have been thinking about Jo Cox: what if anything will be her legacy?

Jo Cox – the Labour MP who was brutally murdered on 16th June this year – I hadn’t heard of her until her death by murder in the street was announced on the BBC one o’clock News. The media went all of a flutter. We learned many remarkable facts about this woman, emphasising how much she had a heart for the poor and underprivileged of the world.

As one of her friends wrote (Change.UK website) ‘Jo’s life was one of service. Not lip-service, but true service. She was a humanitarian who campaigned for human rights in Darfur and Syria and a strategist who rethought child protection, world trade and education.’

Her mistake seems to’ve been her universalism, her inclusiveness.  A quote from her maiden speech in the House of Commons included these words: While we celebrate our diversity … we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” 

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Remember this? Where can we go from war, violence, rape, persecution?

The motivation for her killing appears to have been that fear which takes hold of a person, or people, or a country, when threatened, or rather when they think they are threatened. When it appears to them, or they are persuaded, that their livelihood, familiar culture, homes, will be stolen by aliens, their familiar culture smothered, they will become increasingly ignored and deprived.

Isn’t this just what is motivating refugees and migrants who are fleeing from homelands where they face persecution, rape, death by war or terrorism? Or at the least, starvation and poverty?

Ironies of June 2016

Just a week after Jo Cox’s violent death, our country voted whether or not to leave the European Union. I checked the dates: June 16th – June 23rd, 7 days. Her family had behaved with a quiet dignity towards the media hype. Various of our politicians meanwhile continued behaving with arrogance and extreme unpleasantness as they fought their media campaigns.

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1,000,000 men killed or wounded

Then the next irony: just a week later (July 1st), we held public memorials to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme (July to November, 1916), which killed many thousands of young British men. And churned up miles of the French countryside, and was one of the worst occurrences of Europe being at war with itself. Indeed the numbers of soldiers killed and wounded, on both sides, is around a million. There surely should be a lesson here.

And, if the EU needs revising – which it does – and if the refugees streaming into the Eastern corners of it are going to survive with lives worth living – then this country will have no say.

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Ancestors … we can’t ‘turn the clock back’ and find security …

You can’t walk out of the family and then expect to influence its decisions.

They are, maybe, people like  us …

After the 1939-45 War, Europe was awash with refugees. Britain’s positive aid response was brought into being and organised by new charities Oxfam and Christian Aid. Both still exist, today working in countries such as South Sudan and Syria, often in partnership with the country’s own help agencies. It’s the kind of work Jo Cox was involved with. Today people are on the move in huge numbers … it has happened before … An article I read today, (by Paul Valentin, International director of Christian Aid) gave these figures about refugees within settled populations:

In Jordan, 1 in 3 people is a refugee

In Lebanon, it is 1 in 4

In Britain, it is 1 in 525

Fear and media hype make people fear being over-run. Fear of otherness may make people unable to accept those whose culture is not their own.

Expressing my thoughts about the motivation of Jo’s murderer, a violent acting out of his fears, another member of our family pointed out that ‘Maybe it did make some people think, maybe it made the vote closer. We shall never know, but maybe some people regret …’

Maybe it did.

But with the divisions of our country clearly delineated, the pound down, the hate crimes up, the government in turmoil … this is a sad, ironic, summer … in which we now hunt for hope … I hope for generosity to develop as the whole country looks back on ‘Brexit’ and the other events of June 2016 … and remembers Jo Cox and what she believed in …

Books and boots .. the next Mullins story willcentre on the teenagers ..

And I go on writing … trying to bring to life life the challenges of living today …   

Upcoming Event:

Monday 25th July 2.00pm (NOTE: this our recording time – I suspect it may be going out later in the day, after 5.00pm and will post on here to confirm)

I’m talking about my books and Indie Publishing, with Debbie Young of the Alliance of Independent Authors and presenter Eve Ahmed, on

That’s Oxfordshire

our local TV station … if you are in the UK – even as far away at Cumbria – try to catch us!

Perfectionism: the enemy of contentment

Perfectionism, according to writer Anne Lamott in her Bird by Bird (a book beloved of many writers) is ‘the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people … a mean, frozen form of idealism … while messes are the artist’s true friend …’

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Perfect Day: in a green and pleasant land?  

 

Lamott’s idea is very close to Anthony Storr’s, in his book The Dynamics of Creation, (published in the 1970s) which I read in the mid-1980s and it became a ‘bible’ to me for a while.  Storr explains how the artist, encountering the messiness of human life, sorts it into making sense, and a useful statement, by pattern-making. Non-creatives, he claims, merely hate mess. They want only to clear it up, and tidy it away. Some non-creatives will even solve their angst and desire to clear it up by ‘acting out …’, usually destructively, sometimes violently.  Creatives look at, or into, mess, consider it, begin playing around with ideas about how to make something out of it, and end up with a piece of art …

Makes sense?

Though it’s hard to explain the process … writing, painting … creation is a process, and the raw materials are our experiences of the world … experts in neurology or psychology might try to analyse it, but when taken to pieces, that’s what anything becomes – pieces. The jigsaw must be put together to make sense. The artist is sorting, then putting stuff together.

The most obvious in my experience is the poetry I made from the painful end of a relationship – some of it even humorous. I don’t write poetry often – hardly at all – but at that time, poetry began to flow, and the flow was a path to – or perhaps more like a river of – healing. I’d never claim to be alone here – it’s a common experience.

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Crosses in the sky ….

   Which is a long way round to looking briefly at this week’s News. Perfectionism is an enemy when it suggests that life can be perfect. This is by nature an imperfect world, but it can be a balanced world. Where although there is suffering there is also joy, although there is betrayal there is also faithfulness, although there is drought and flood both the rain and the heat of the sun are necessary for life.

Perfectionism, pulled out of shape, becomes obsession. The temptation to believe  that if this or that were not so, our lives would be easier, we’d more more wealthy, have more leisure, the country would run smoothly, the trains run to time, the doctor have next-day appointments, the school system would be fairer to everyone. As Lamott says, ‘a mean, frozen form of idealism…’ with the emphasis on mean idealism. Obsessed, the perfectionist idealist loses the concept of moderation, and embraces an impatient inability tolerate the views of others.

newlyn fidsing boats

Here is the irony: patterns are made from the messes of life, and it is even possible that perfect hate can be overcome when we come together, first in shock and sorrow, but then to think … to examine ourselves … to rebuild a community determined to make the mess into a meaningful pattern of better things.

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Togetherness. 

Which could become  the stuff of realistic hope… ?

RIP Jo Cox … can we hope this act against a generous spirit is not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning …? Latest stories here.  And here.

(Link stories from the BBC News (Oxford) Website and BBC News Website)

So why do I write about day to day life and  crises among contemporary families … rather than crime, mystery, or fantasy …?

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Perfect Days: in a green and pleasant land?