29 November 2008

Think of the children

By Rupert Read


It is less than a month now to Christmas. Metaphorically-speaking, that's the time of year when we hope that a child of hope will be born into this world, and the days will start to become lighter again, and the future brighter...

My biggest memory of 2008 will be this: that, back when the days were still long, in July of this year, in Norwich Quaker Meeting House, I got married.

It was of course lovely to see lots of my family and friends there: old people, young people, babes in arms. It was especially good to see those who will still be here after I am gone.

Everyone wants their kids to be OK. And their kids. And their kids too… Think about this. You never want this to stop. Would it be OK if after you were gone your great-great-grandchildren all lived short miserable lives and died excruciating or terrifying deaths? Of course it wouldn't.

And so now I have to mention, what we don't tend to like to think about… The way we as a species live right now, the size of our ecological and carbon footprint, stamping down on the Earth… We are living off the future. Off our childrens' inheritances.

When corporations rape and pillage the Earth's natural treasures; when we as a species play Russian Roulette with our very atmosphere; when our governments leave nuclear waste for our children's children to have to deal with (under conditions that may be far trickier than our's)… then collectively we aren't showing care for our own descendants. We aren't showing enough care for our own.

The dash for (highly-polluting) coal; the resistance to meaningful restrictions now on greenhouse-gas emissions; the mining of fish, hoovering them up until there are none left; the extinction of one or more species every single day… We aren't showing enough care for our own…

Now, it's easy enough to fool oneself. To go into denial. To pretend that our impacts aren't really harming anyone (much…). To think that one is behaving entirely decently – when one isn't.

Because you can't see their faces. You can’t see the faces of the kids-yet-to-come. If you could, then you would surely do more, now, to save them. To help them. To love them.

We can't see their faces: So we need to think of these children.

George Orwell, in 1984, wrote of the future of the human race as likely to be: a boot stamping on a face, endlessly. Sometimes, I worry that that is in effect what our children may have to suffer. For we are in denial about what we as a civilisation are doing to our children and our children's children. We don't want to believe that we are hurting them – so we stop ourselves from even thinking deeply of them – and we instead get angry with those who keep what we think we deserve / need / must have from being our's.

Now, what kind of behaviour is that? Childish behaviour. How ironic that we act childishly, demanding the right to go on having more stuff now, when it is that attitude that is – right now – harming the children of the future…

At this time in human history, we need to grow up as a species. We need maturity. If we are to take care of those who are utterly powerless, those who are in our hands. Our children’s children, and their children… Let's take care of our own.

When I saw the children scattered around the Meeting House on the day of my wedding, I was happy. But that isn't enough. They need to be happy, too. They and all their children. They need to be able to live, and not be in terror for themselves or their children, in terror of a human-induced collapse in the fabric of civilisation, the kind of collapse that isolated places such as Easter Island suffered in the past, and that the whole Earth might suffer in the future, if we don’t start taking care of this one world of our’s, our one and only planetary home…

We can make a better quality of life - a safe and secure world, a liveable planet for our children’s children, a secure and fulfilling society. We can also make it impossible…

We can really think about them; or we can be the kind of people who just didn't think enough.

Now think: which of these things would Jesus do?

Or again: which of those things would you like the children to think, of you?

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