Change Starts With Me

DawnMatthew Parris writing in The Times (a couple of years back) said:

“We have been paying ourselves more than our efforts were earning. We sought political leaders who would assure us that the good times would never end and we voted for those who offered that assurance. We sought credit for which we had no security and we gave our business to the banks that advertised it. We wanted free and better health care and demanded chancellors who paid for it without putting up our taxes. We wanted salacious stories in our newspapers and bought the papers that broke the rules to provide them. And now we whimper and snarl at MPs, bankers and journalists. Fair enough, my friends, but, you know, we really are all in this together.”

Mr Parris is suggesting we put up, shut up, accept our share of the blame and get on with it. And I must say I am inclined to agree with him. It’s an unfashionable point of view as it’s easier to blame others rather than accept responsibility for what we chose to believe and how we all played our part, either actively or passively.

I do think this is a 50/50 thing. Someone offered me money and I borrowed it. I voted for somebody (I didn’t, actually) and they behaved like that. I bought a newspaper (I didn’t, actually) and they broke the rules. And now that it’s all out in the open, we have forgotten that we were complicit, that we played our individual role in each morally bankrupt and selfish decision, as a society I mean.

I’m not much of a one for dwelling in the past as there’s nothing I can do about that now except learn from it, and I am an optimist of criminal proportion so always my question is “Well, what are we going to do about it now that we are in this position?” In fact I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this question since reading Mr Parris.

It seems to me I have two options. I can struggle on independently, turning a blind eye, not engaging with the news, tut-tutting with the rest of ‘em and trying to find my own way out of the global mess and maze. I can pull on my Pollyanna pinafore and hoe my own row, like I always do, and opt out of what everyone else is up to, choosing instead to believe it’s nothing to do with me and that I wasn’t part of the problem. And yet secretly I know that as one individual I felt powerless, and I conspired – even by default – to allow it to happen all around me.

Or I can be part of the solution, which looks like something we are going to have to do together, as a team. Historically I haven’t been much of a team player. Could this my chance to redeem myself? Perhaps 2014 and beyond is a time in which we need to start looking for new solutions together and collaborating in the fix. As the old adage goes “If you’re not here with the solution, you’re part of the problem”.

A lot of people I know are becoming enlightened, they describe themselves as “waking up”. To me this means taking the reins of responsibility for our own lives, beginning to stick up for ourselves and not putting up with any nonsense of any description, standing up and being counted. And here’s what I wonder too…. how old are you? What if the first part of your life so far was – oh, I don’t know, let’s say 35 years – well, what if the next 35 years was your chance to put right what hasn’t worked in the first three and a half decades of your life? What would you do differently?

Maybe entrepreneurship is a way of saying “a job didn’t work for me”. Perhaps divorce denotes that marriage wasn’t working for you. Ill health can sometimes be a sign that something’s not right in our lives. How else can you measure what’s wrong? More importantly, what’s right and how can we build on that?

What one simple thing could you do today and tomorrow and tomorrow to start things moving in a better direction? And without polemicising or throwing the baby out with the bathwater so we’d be obliged to start from scratch, what tiny little thing can each of us do to begin to move the mountain the opposite way? Let’s keep it simple, do-able, personal.

One of my mentors, Michael Neill, asks “What one thing can I do to improve every environment with which I come into contact?” Think selflessly first, selfishly second. And that’s it, isn’t it? Change starts with me. Not me, Judith Morgan, me Everywoman.

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