Re: Compassion Drives Shelter Decision (July 26 Observer)
On July 24, our mayor and council, facing a full chamber of concerned citizens, approved a shelter for those among us who lack a home.
This was a daunting task – but one created entirely out of how we have come to shape relationships, here and everywhere on the planet.
We have created a set of systems, around the world, that generate and tolerate astonishing imbalances in wealth and privilege; some few can amass billions, while many can barely access food, clothing and shelter.
We grant almost unlimited powers to citizens based solely on purchasing power, with no reference to character, or to need, while we systematically marginalize those who lack the capacity to pay for even their most basic needs.
The result can be cruel – often unintentionally – as we turn away from those who can, for one reason or another, no longer be “productive” in narrow material terms. We often let a “fight or flight” reaction frame our response to their presence among us.
I believe we have two tools with which to remedy these imbalances.
One is an unshakeable endorsement of community – a core understanding that we all, without exception, merit a place in society.
The other is a sense of love – not romantic or pollyannish love, but calm, grounded and clear-eyed kindness. It’s a power that, like gravity, brings us together, rather than moves us apart.
We must rid ourselves of old prejudicial institutions and rules. We must replace them with new ones that grant all among us due respect, unfettered access to the necessities of life and an opportunity to achieve our full creative potential.
Our Indigenous forebearers understood this well within their communities. Now we must extend these principles to all humanity – and to the natural world.
We have a lot of work to do.