In These Troubling Times

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I wrote an action plan (below) shortly before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 – but not solely in response to the election of that particular misogynistic, narcissistic, amoral sociopath.  I thought at the time that resistance to the values (or absence of them) that he personifies was vital in the face of the inequality and division that led to his rise and to other backward steps such as the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU and the rise of authoritarianism and extremism in other countries in Europe, India, China, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Over a year later, watching Trump and other leaders continue to undermine the institutions (a free and diverse press, independent academia, law enforcement organisations, etc) that would hold them to account for the graft, the nepotism, the laziness, the ignorance they demonstrate and promote – I wouldn’t remove anything from my personal action plan set out below.

However, in the context of the recent exposure of serious errors by some organisations in the voluntary sector, for those of us working in the sector points 1 and 14 seem to me to be more important than ever.  To resist what Trump personifies and to protect what I believe the voluntary sector stands for, I recognise I need to be clearer about my own values – better at thinking about how to enact them – and a lot better at monitoring how consistently I do so.

In These Troubling Times – January 2017

In these troubling times people of good heart need to read and heed the words of the thoughtful, the compassionate and the wise – like Hannah Arendt, Mohandas Gandhi, and Desmond Tutu.  And then act.

My own plan (a work in progress):

  1. Keep in mind – these times are a test of you.
  2. Subscribe to a good news outlet (like theguardian.com). You don’t have to read it but it’s your insurance policy – you must invest in it now because you may very well need the protection it provides later.
  3. Read this: un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights  Then keep using it as a checklist to assess what the powerful are doing or failing to do.
  4. Save your outrage and don’t allow yourself to be provoked – but do harness your concern and your anger.
  5. Protest – but protesting isn’t enough. Join or donate to at least one organisation that will challenge the powerful and support the powerless (like amnesty.org.uk or www.icrc.org).
  6. Read everything critically – even the views of people you agree with.
  7. Read and listen to things you don’t agree with. It’s important to know rather than presume.
  8. Notice the conjuring tricks: when your attention is being directed to the outrageous, look around to find the really bad thing they don’t want you to see.
  9. Don’t assume everything will be fine. Don’t assume someone else will stop the wrong.  Do good things because you can and you should.
  10. Find solidarity with people “on the other side” – because confrontation isn’t enough.
  11. Remember – there’s no such thing as ‘far away’ anymore.
  12. And also remember that progress (justice and freedom for everyone equally) is neither inevitable nor necessarily linear.  It happens because people make it happen.
  13. Prevention is better than cure: reacting isn’t enough.  Ask your representatives what they are doing to make everyone’s lives better in order to remove the space for extremism to grow (in England parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps)
  14. Think about what you value – act to preserve and extend it.
  15. When your test gets marked – what score would you like to deserve?

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