My parents celebrate their eightieth birthday at 21 Park Road.
The year was 1963, and we were caravanning from the Midlands to East Anglia, the caravan consisting of a removal van with all our furniture, and the entire family with both our cars. If I recall rightly, by that point we had a green Austin Cambridge mainly distinguished by a propensity to break down and a white Ford Anglia. Our family comprised four children, three adults and two cats, one of whom temporarily escaped when we stopped at a layby. Several of us were in tears, unhappy at leaving our old life in the beautiful market town of Melton Mowbray. We had been half-dragged out of empty rooms, weeping hysterically.
After the momentous journey, we pulled into the drive of a red brick house built in 1901, formerly a boarding house for schoolgirls. Boxes began to be unloaded, cats were let out in a closed room and the neighbours came over with lemonade and snacks to welcome us to Park Road. A new life was beginning in Ipswich, Suffolk--and for my parents it would last more than fifty years.
Both my parents were born in London, Mum in Southwark, near the Elephant and Castle and Dad in Muswell Hill. After their marriage they moved to rural Leicestershire. And now we had come to the county town of East Suffolk, where Mum would be working in the public health service. Mum claimed that as a cockney, she only knew two bird species, sparrows and pigeons. Nevertheless, my parents were to indigenize themselves in Suffolk, with its saltmarshes and rich bird life. They watched Ipswich, once the greatest port between the Humber and the Thames, be superseded by the roll-on roll-off container port at Felixstowe. They saw a mainly white provincial town of 75,000 become a multicultural city, home to 300,000.
There are many ways to make a place your own. My parents tended a beautiful garden with magnificent old roses and a small greenhouse for Dad's tomatoes. They also grew vegetables in their allotment (community garden plot), at one point insisting on being self-sufficient in vegetables during garden season. They made key contributions to many aspects of community and parish life and formed close bonds with neighbours on Park Road. They took the time to know and appreciate Suffolk's unique ecology, walking the seawalls and footpaths and spending many a weekend on their yacht, the Wild Rose, moored on Shotley Peninsula. They reached out in their own ways to the disadvantaged, Dad by being a reliable source of odd jobs for men in need of a little cash to get by, Mum by helping start a counselling centre and, after her retirement, serving as counsellor.
Dad also made Ipswich his own in the same way that Van Gogh claimed Arles, a place far from his native Holland. Dad's urban landscapes of snowy days and rainy nights on humble street corners illumine the quiet beauty of a provincial East Anglian town. He saw the Ipswich people walk past every day and never really notice, capturing the radiance of a traffic light on a wet street or the cheerful colour of a garage door on a snowy day. It's because my parents made this place their own that it continues to reflect them, even after both of them have passed on.
Today we completed the process of taking care of Mum's earthly remains. Since the funeral and cremation, her ashes have been in the living room of our close family friends, Sue and Murray. Her wish had been to have her ashes interred in the churchyard of St Mary le Tower Church, where she worshipped from 1963 until her death. In a simple ceremony, attended by the close friends who supported Mum in her final years, we fulfilled that wish.
We are on a journey of remembrance, following the same vacation plan we've followed every year in order to visit my mother--except that this year, my mother is no more. I promised to give you a chance to 'walk with me', so here it is.
One feature of any journey of remembrance is that life keeps flowing on, current events impinging upon the time set aside for remembering the departed. This became clear at the end of 2009, when we travelled to Wales for the anniversary of my father's death and to scatter his ashes in the Aeron River. A big crisis erupted in the village, replete with lies, adultery and betrayal, sweeping up a lot of the energy we planned to devote to mourning Dad.
This time, the eruption is being far more intense. We flew into Heathrow Airport on the morning of the referendum. Of course, we were utterly exhausted from the journey and there was no prospect of staying up all night to follow the results--only Gibraltar had declared by the time we tumbled into bed. I peeled my eyes open at eight next morning and turned on the computer only to get a horrible shock--Britain had voted Leave. My mind was spinning with the insanity of quitting the single market, turning our backs on Europe, crashing the economy, degrading the pound, splitting the UK, losing Scotland, jeopardising the Good Friday accord and giving up our ability to live, work and travel freely in twenty-seven countries. Facebook immediately revealed that my siblings, cousins and nieces were just as upset.
In the two days that have followed, the horror has only deepened. Both major parties are falling apart. Scotland is calling for a second referendum on independence. The Prime Minister is resigning, leaving us to be governed by the extreme right of the Tory party. A Polish cultural centre was vandalized. British Muslims and Sikhs are being attacked with cries of, "Get out, we voted Leave!" (Leave the Commonwealth? The World?). The Remainers are calling the Leavers Fascists and the Leavers are calling the Remainers whiny millennials who make poor losers. But the millennials grew up as Europeans and have never known any other reality. The other EU countries are telling us to hurry up with the divorce and yet we seem to have no leadership at all, no plan B, no way forward.
For me, so many emotions are mingling together. It was enough to be dealing with the death of my mother--now my motherland is in crisis. I'm losing my identity as a European. I love my family very much and don't want them to be stuck in an impoverished and divided country with a right wing government. And as my cousin and 'big brother' Garry said, my parents would be really sad. They would be sad not just because they would care what kind of a country and world their grandchildren will live in, but also because they were Francophile, widely travelled, global in perspective and raised us to have broad minds and wide horizons. They did not expect us to live in a Little England where foreigners are unwelcome.
With all these emotions tumbling within me, we went for a walk in Christchurch Park and the arboretum and visited the Lebanon cedars Mum was so proud of. The greenery, flowers, fragrant roses and honeysuckle, bumblebees and birdsong soothed my soul and epitomized the England I love and that my parents loved too.
We are on a journey of remembrance, following the same vacation plan we've followed every year in order to visit my mother--except that this year, my mother is no more. I promised to give you a chance to 'walk with me' , so here it is.
Saturday today, and we walk to the town centre to do a little shopping at Sainsbury's and Boots. Meanwhile, I experience a flood of reminiscences of Saturdays forty-five or fifty years ago, back in the Sixties. Reminiscence, although perhaps frowned upon by many spiritual and meditative disciplines, seems to be an intrinsic part of the grief process. After Dad died, Mum and I would reminisce together, not only about Dad, but also about her childhood, the War, and long-dead relatives, kept alive by the passing on of memories. So here are my reminiscences of those long-ago Saturday mornings.
I remember Mum working on her menus and shopping list on Friday evening. She had a card index of recipes, things she had learnt in Cordon Bleu classes (I used to believe there was a chef named Gordon Blue!), recipes she had cut out of Woman's Weekly and so on. Mum leafed through recipes, created a menu for the week and made the shopping list accordingly. Fifty years later, I prepare Alandi Ashram's weekly shopping list in very similar way, leafing through Ayurvedic cookbooks and scrolling my own recipe blogs as I create the menu and list.
Next morning, we all set off to the town centre, parking in Mum's parking space at County Hall. The exciting day began with a visit to the County Library. Unlike other Ipswichians, who could only use the town library on Northgate Street, we had County Library privileges because Mum worked for the county. After stocking up on books for the week, we went shopping. Sometimes I accompanied Mum to the butcher, baker, fishmonger, greengrocer, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury's, helping to carry the heavy shopping bags (we brought cloth bags from home, plastic shopping bags lay in the future). At other times I would make my own way to our magnificent Ancient House Bookstore to get the latest assigned reading for History or English Lit, or visit Woolworths to look for sundry items. Without mobile phones, the meet-ups were tricky and might involve quite a bit of waiting. Sometimes we might stop for tea or for a Danish in Marks and Spencer--each shopping day had its unique features and each expressed our family energy in its own way, according to the season and the needs of the group. But they were always happy and exciting expeditions, full of the promise of delicious cheeses, fresh vegetables and new books to read.
Today, Ipswich town centre is not what it was in those days. Pound shops (similar to dollar shops) and charity shops full of secondhand wares have filled much of the once-bustling streets. Yet not all the changes have been for the worse. The last twenty years have brought a tremendous influx of diversity, enriching our provincial town with many cultures, languages, ethnic food stores and cuisines. Today, amid all the darkness and gloom of Brexit, we wandered by chance into the tail end of Ipswich library's Multicultural Day. Vibrant African fabrics and glittering belly dancers filled the hall with life and colour, and world music got us clapping. Surely my parents would have loved it and found hope in the spirit of diversity and friendship that prevailed.
As I wrote in a previous blog, we are on a journey of remembrance, following the same vacation plan we've followed every year in order to visit my mother--except that this year, my mother is no more. I promised to give you a chance to 'walk with me', so here it is.
A glimpse of Christchurch Park, mapio.net
Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Ipswich, very tired. Aside from the usual jet lag, I had also developed stomach 'flu on the plane journey. And things were so different! On every other visit since 1991, we had arrived to the loving welcome of my parents, or in recent years, of Mum. Now we had to face that empty space. How would we feel? Our Airbnb hosts, Gertrude, Steve and little Angelina, are from Malawi, and offered the kind of warmth and welcome I associate with East African culture. Their genuine human kindness and friendliness went a long way to assuage the initial grief. They made certain that our needs were met and then took off for London, leaving us our own space, peace and quiet.
We had chosen our location carefully, to be in the part of Ipswich where I grew up. In recent years Mum had moved from Ipswich proper to a retirement community in Kesgrave. Now we are back in the old haunts of the family. The bells peal from the churches, thrushes and blackbirds sing and seagulls cry, just as they did when I was a girl. Two minutes from the house where we are staying, we found Bolton Stores. Now part of a chain, the store was started in I973 by a Ugandan Asian, after Idi Amin expelled the Asians. Dad loved to pop over to Bolton Stores for sundry items and chat with the proprietor, who in Uganda had been a philosophy professor. The two men had a natural kinship and Dad spoke enthusiastically about his visits to the store. Another minute away and you get to The Woolpack, Dad's 'local' where he liked to go for 'a swift half' before lunch.
Cross the street and you're in Christchurch Park. I was so blessed to grow up right by this beautiful park, which was like an extension of our own back yard. Here are the lawns where Magnus, my parents' beloved Sheltie, used to romp, the pond where little Nick used to feed the ducks (an activity strictly forbidden in these more ecologically enlightened times), the gently-sloping path where I used to go roller skating, the mighty oaks which Dad portrayed in a powerful and unsettling expressionistic style. Today I saw that my parent's death did not have to mean the loss to me of Ipswich and Suffolk--and that in ways great and small, Ipswich contains my parents and always will. There is a sweet and cherished memory on every corner. In the magic of place, I find my parents still.
In three weeks, I'll be arriving in Suffolk--visiting my motherland for the first time since my mother's death. What will I find? Will the church bells be loud with her absence or resonant with her presence? Will the oaks in Christchurch Park, the Lebanon cedars, the arboretum, whisper to me of loss or of enduring connexion?
I travel there knowing that my mother is gone. I miss everything about her--the humour, the cheerfulness, the wisdom, the occasional acerbic comments, the dementia wackiness. Her departure leaves a gap that can never be filled. You only have one Mum. Yet I know that, though their physical presence is gone, neither she nor my father can truly be dead, for they live in me. They have given me so much more than chromosomes, for they nurtured my gifts and sowed the seeds of the neuroses that bring me growth.
When I stand by the estuary to watch the ships come in, my father is there, teaching me how to predict the wind and weather. When I hike in the mountains, he is there, reminding me to look back and take a mental photo, so I will find my way on the return journey. When I look at the forest, he is there, showing me that trees are not just green but also indigo, turquoise, silver, red, gold and black. What paint colours must I select to capture this view?
And Mum--she is there in every pot of soup I make, every batch of chutney I stir, every story I tell. She inspires my life as a doctor, reminding me every day to offer my gifts to the world, but she also permeates my most private and intimate life--she, the woman who defined for me what a woman is. When I look in the mirror, I see her eyes; when I breathe, I feel her breath.
In the person I am today, I see my father, the quiet, introverted artist and also my mother, the lively, outgoing doctor and public speaker. Though I miss my parents deeply and feel the loss of them every day, I know that they live on--in me, in my siblings, in their grandchildren, in all whose lives they have touched.
My parents loved Boulder, the Flatirons, Eldorado Canyon, Peaceful Valley and Wild Basin. The places I know and cherish are their special places too. But soon I'll be traveling from the home I've found in the Western United States to the place they brought me to as an eleven year old, the provincial town where they made a home for us and where they lived, worked and loved for over fifty years. What will I experience, how will it be? Will the journey bring tears, joy or both? Walk with me and we shall see.
If you want your dream to be Take your time, go slowly Do few things but do them well Heartfelt work grows purely If you want to live life free Take your time, go slowly Do few things but do them well Heartfelt work grows purely
Day by day, stone by stone Build your secret slowly Day by day, you'll grow too You'll know heaven's glory
If you want to live life free Take your time, go slowly Do few things but do them well Heartfelt work grows purely If you want to live life free Take your, time go slowly Do few things but do them well Heartfelt work grows purely
Day by day, stone by stone Build your secret slowly Day by day, you'll grow too You'll know heaven's glory.
(By Donovan, in Brother Sun, Sister Moon)
"If you want your dream to be, take your time go slowly." Honoured guests, staff, graduates and students, each of you in your own way a part of our Alandi family--today's graduation is truly a story of patience and perseverance.
First of all, perseverance on the part of the candidates, each of whom had initially hoped to graduate much earlier than today. Heather Marie, despite being evacuated during the 2013 flood disaster, was on track to graduate in 2014 when challenging life circumstances intervened. After a long interruption, she has resumed her studies and brought to completion what she started in 2012. Heather, thank you for persevering!
Akacia--Tessa--was accepted for the 2013 academic year--and we were eagerly awaiting her arrival. But again, life circumstances intervened, preventing her moving here when she had planned. Remarkably, she held firm to her vision and intention and has now graduated as a practitioner and been accepted into our ground-breaking doctoral program. As for David-- he should have graduated in December. Somewhere along the way, David realized the benefits he could gain from taking extra time and accruing additional experience. If you want your dream to be/Take your time, go slowly. David too has been accepted into our doctoral program, so we look forward to graduating two outstanding Ayurvedic Doctors in 2018.
Let us look next at the patience and perseverance it took to arrive at this moment--this well-loved garden filled with students and their family and friends--a garden, be it said, that has literally been build step by step, stone by stone. When Sadananda and I arrived in America in 1985, dressed in white cotton robes, with sandals on our feet in the winter snow and eighty dollars in our pockets, who could have predicted this day? From a tipi in a friend's back yard to a tiny apartment in a Tucson back street, from there to the basement here on Twentieth street, the journey has been slow and full of pitfalls, with many highs and lows along the way. The black pearls and shimmering white pearls of this journey of co-creation are strung on the unbreakable thread of patience.
As an eighteen-year-old medical student at St Barts in London, grappling with calculus, titration and cadaver dissection, never for a single moment did I imagine where I would be, what I would be doing today. I had no idea that such a place as Alandi Ashram could exist anywhere in the world--still less that I would be living, teaching and practicing Ayurveda in this humble yet all-embracing space.
The creation of a profession is another aspect of today's celebration that has called for great patience and perseverance. Alandi has been involved with NAMA, the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, since its first public meeting in Berkeley California in 2000. Over the years we have worked, slowly, carefully and by consensus, to bring the profession together and create educational standards and a National Exam, crucial steps along the way to becoming a licensed healthcare profession.
And Ayurveda itself, as an outgrowth of the perennial wisdom, embodies millennia of patience and faithfulness. As Doctor Ram Manohar has said, Ayurveda is the result of a vast clinical trial involving countless people and stretching across thousands of years. Behind every sutra, every axiom, every verse of the texts lie generations of trial and error, stretching back to our earliest origins as a species; honed through deep thought and reflection by the finest minds of the era. Why do we fall sick? What is the cause of imbalance? What is the relationship between external phenomena such as weather and our internal state? What is the relationship between plants and people--which ones kill, which ones nourish, which ones heal? What are the elements of life? What is life itself? What is the soul? The sages of yore pondered these questions, discussed them in conference and wove their conclusions into easily memorable verses that were learned by heart before they were ever written down. We are the fortunate ones who inherit this vast body of knowledge.
We are the fortunate ones, the immensely rich heirs of all that has gone before us. Heather, David, Akacia--you have worked hard and demonstrated loyalty and commitment. Today we celebrate your achievements. We honour your families and ancestors and all they have contributed to making you the people we know and love today. Yet also, let's take a moment to think of all the spiritual ancestors who stand behind you today--your teachers, staff and chefs here at Alandi, the NAMA community, our colleagues in Colorama; Doctor Lad, Doctor Frawley and and Doctor Svoboda, who worked so hard and gave of themselves so freely to bring Ayurveda to America--their teachers, Vimalananda and Māma Gokhale. Behind them stands a vast assembly of people whose names are unknown, whose lives have slipped past unnoticed, yet who contributed in ways great and small to the vast corpus of knowledge, philosophical, practical, herbal, botanical and culinary, which is your inheritance. On this auspicious day, let us take a moment to thank them and count our blessings.
Count your blessings one by one When dawn appears and day has just begun They will light your heart with happiness Make each hour bright and bring you gladness.
Count your blessings one by one When twilight falls and toil of day is done And in sweet dreams they'll come again to you If you will count your blessings each day through.
Count your blessings while you may For we are here but little time to stay All around are hearts sincere and true Lovely things abound just waiting for you.
Count your blessings while you may The big or small, whichever comes your way For then you'll find this world a place of love If you will count your blessings from above.
Song by Reginald Morgan, lyrics by Edith Temple, 1946
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
We are all refugees. At first, as Francis Thompson so eloquently describes, we are refugees from the Hound of Heaven, fleeing into the duality of hopes and fears from the ruthless compassion of the light of truth, from "those strong Feet that follow, follow after."
Later, when we realize what a cruel dictator our 'I illusion' is, we become another kind of refugee, taking refuge in the truth, as Trungpa Rinpoche, himself a Tibetan refugee, describes.
By taking refuge, in some sense we become homeless refugees. Taking refuge does not mean saying that we are helpless and then handing all our problems over to somebody or something else. There will be no refugee rations, nor all kinds of security and dedicated help. The point of becoming a refugee is to give up our attachment to basic security. We have to give up our sense of home ground, which is illusory anyway. We might have a sense of home ground as where we were born and the way we look, but we don't actually have any home, fundamentally speaking. There is actually no solid basis of security in one's life. And because we don't have any home ground, we are lost souls, so to speak. Basically we are completely lost and confused.
Yet even though we are refugees--whether refugees from truth or refugees from illusion, we live in some kind of comfort and convenience. We take it for granted that we will have food, shelter, light, heat, transportation--even internet. Six years ago, the people of Syria also took these things for granted. In fact, they enjoyed some of the best cuisine in the Arab world. Today, middle class Syrians are crossing the Aegean in rubber dinghies, sleeping in flimsy tents in Idomeni on the Greek-Macedonian border, or living without jobs, education, dignity or hope in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
We are all refugees. And if we live secure today, who can tell what will happen tomorrow? We are all refugees. Some of us, myself included, have parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who themselves fled persecution for the safety of a distant and unknown land. There, they had to start life over again in a foreign language and with different customs.
We are all refugees, yet today some of us have more than others--more comfort, more safety, more security, more rights. If our rights and freedoms have meaning to us, how can we deny them to others, the desperate refugees from a war-torn land? If our spirituality means anything to us, how can we ignore those who are cold and hungry? The refugees come to challenge us to live up to the ideals of liberty and equality that we profess as the basis of Western society. To turn our backs on them is to betray our deepest-held ideals. To close our borders, our doors, our hearts to them is to refuse the challenge they bring--a call on our compassion, a cry for our human caring, a reminder of the transitory nature of our life as pilgrims and strangers in this world--for truly, we are all refugees.
You shall neither mistreat a stranger, nor oppress him: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 22:21
Refugees wait to cross into Macedonia at the Greek border station of Idomeni. Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP
The year is 1932.The up-and-coming leader, Adolph Hitler, is drawing crowds, inflaming passions and inciting violence with his demagoguery and anti-Semitism. In the streets and meeting halls of the Weimar Republic, Hitler's Brownshirts clash with Communists and Socialists. Soon the republic will collapse into a totalitarian dicatatorship, a war-machine will be built, and European Jewry will be destroyed as war engulfs the world.
Twenty years later, I was born into a country of postwar austerity, bombsites and burgeoning hope for a brighter future. I was also born into an extended family who had lost many members in the Holocaust. My parents and grandparents lived though cataclysmic events fuelled by hatred and division. In so many ways, their story is my own. My ancestors are alive in me. Events of recent days have stirred this generational trauma that lies always just beneath the surface of my psyche. As I wrote on my Facebook page--my fascism alarm has sounded. It seems I was not alone in this, for the post got more likes, shares and comments than even the cute photo of baby deer in our backyard.
Writing for me is certainly an act of service, a form of activism, a way to awaken hearts--but it is also a journey to innate wisdom. When the events of the world I live in leave me frightened, devastated or frustrated, I turn to my blog. I know I'm not the only one feeling this way, and hope readers will journey with me from fear to courage, from despair to hope, from darkness to light.
As we consider Trump's demagoguery and incitement, his Islamophobia and denigration of Mexicans, African-Americans, women, people with disabilities and so on; as we grapple with the hatred and prejudice expressed within the group mind at Trump rallies, we can best approach the challenge by by applying the principles of prajna and upaya.
Applying prajna refers to the way we work with our own minds. If we hate and detest Donald Trump, we're really activating our inner Trump. If we despise and look down upon those who support Trump, we are becoming the very thing we dislike in others. "I cannot tolerate intolerance," as the famous saying goes. As Trump goads us, the Bernie people, the moveon.org people, the Black Lives Matter people, the 'liberals' or (astonishingly enough), the 'far Left', claiming that we are 'bad people', let's not fall into the trap of deciding 'Trump people' are 'bad people.'
Hitler and his Brownshirts became what they were due to causes and conditions. While some of these causes arose from their own childhood experiences, there were many systemic causes and conditions rooted in the unjust Treaty of Versailles and the hunger and humiliation the German people were experiencing. Meanwhile,the doctrine of anti-Semitism provided a conveniently vulnerable and defenceless scapegoat for the anger of a defeated nation.
In the same way, karmic conditions gave Trump, the rich kid raised to be 'a king and a killer,' an insatiable thirst for fame, wealth and power. And the anger he rouses in his largely working class following arises from many causes embedded in our society. Trump's message of 'making America great again' (whatever that means), making America 'win' again, may appeal to people who lack a sense of worth and significance because they are always at the bottom of the pile. His bigotry gives voice to feelings many have not dared to express until now. Finally there is a target for life's dissatisfactions--undocumented immigrants, Muslims, Leftists, African-Americans, President Obama and so on. These 'bad people' should be taken from our midst to keep us safe, just as the Jews were taken from the midst of German society.
When I hear Trump speak or watch clips of the way protestors are treated at his rallies, naturally feelings of horror, disgust and aversion arise. Still, I don't want to hate Trump or despise his supporters, for given the right set of circumstances--that could be me. So I gently repeat, "May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you have ease of wellbeing", sending the energy of loving-kindness to these fellow sentient beings.
First we apply prajna and work with our own minds, so that when we come to bring upaya, skilful means, into our work in the world, we don't approach the challenge full of our own fear and aversion. Now we must meet the challenge with courage and integrity. Complacency, acquiescence, the collusion of silence--these behaviours will allow bigotry to go unchecked and our society to be divided. At first many thought Hitler was just a funny little man. Why bother to stand up to such a preposterous demagogue? And initially many of us hoped that if we ignored Trump, refusing to give him the attention he sought, the problem would go away--but it hasn't. When Pope Francis took the extraordinary step of interfering in our country's internal affairs by speaking out against Trump, he was offering us a powerful lesson. The man or woman of spirit is a voice for the voiceless.
Who will speak for our undocumented immigrants, who have no vote and no official voice, if I don't? Who will speak for the beleaguered Muslim minority? Who will speak for us, the so called Far Left, if we don't speak out for ourselves? While Mitt Romney, Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton have all raised their voices to condemn Trump's bigotry and "political arson,' we can't leave this to politicians. Each one of us needs to rise our voices loudly and insistently and make it clear that the politics of hate and division has no place in our society.
In the political ferment of student life in Seventies Britain, a Socialist was someone who quoted Das Kapital like a Baptist quoted the Bible. The rest of us were a bit scared of both, Socialists and Evangelicals. At the time, it scarcely occurred to me that the caring society I was so proud of, the NHS I was training to work in, were major Socialist achievements.
Then the Eighties rolled around, bringing Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Compassion became countercultural and the mandate for selfishness replaced the call to caring. New words began to enter our vocabulary--'trickle down economics' for example. But as an immigrant to the US during the Reagan era, I never noticed anything trickling down to me.
America was full of surprises, not all of them good. For example, apparently there were only two political parties, and as far as I could see, both of them would fit into Britain's Conservative party. Liberal was a term of insult rather than the political party my parents supported, and Socialism was apparently synonymous with Communism. Universal healthcare was regarded with suspicion by those who most would benefit from it and 'Welfare' was a despised term rather than the proud achievement of health and housing for all.
It was while I was working to start a food Coop in Boulder that someone called me a lefty for the first time--and they didn't mean it kindly. I had never been called a lefty before for any other reason than being left handed! Meanwhile, I had begun to appreciate that everything I respected in a society-- 'each for all and all for each,' compassion and care for all, the Welfare State, was encompassed in the term Democratic Socialism.
As I watch Britain's Conservative Party dismantle all I admired and loved about my homeland--the place where my family lives--as I listen to America's right wing rhetoric growing increasingly strident, I've realized that, even though I'm very different from those orthodox Marxists I found so funny years ago, I am actually a Socialist. The Neoliberal economics of continuous growth on a finite planet are leading us towards a devastating endpoint. Already sixty-two billionaires own more that 3.5 billion poor people. The economics of caring and sharing may be a left turn--but they represent a turn away from certain destruction.
Thanks to Social media, people of compassion and integrity are getting an opportunity to be heard as never before within the political arena. Of course, the corporate media don't like them, giving them the smear treatment or worse still, the silent treatment. But Jeremy Corbyn is now leader of Britain's Labour Party and Bernie Sanders has become, despite all odds, a realistic candidate for President of the United States. Let's give all the support we can to those who stand up for a Caring Society.