Friday, 23 July 2010

Compassion in Society

This last week I went to 2 different meetings and both wanted to see a fairer, more just world. the first was the excellent National Justice and Peace conference: Our Daily Bread - Food Security, People and Planet where the main speakers were Vandana Shiva and Alastair McIntosh. Click here for a short write-up and for a more comprehensive one see The Tablet, although the article can only be downloaded if you are a subscriber.

The second meeting was the Labour Party meeting in Bristol, the first since the election. I went along to see how Lour will re-adjust its position and lay out its vision for the future.

Both meetings were full of people who were not obviously well-off or influential, but shared a desire to see a fairer society that took the poor and vulnerable along with the rich and powerful. What I want to know is what drives people to do good? What motivates ordinary people to act for others? How do we generate a society where people are compassionate and caring as the norm?

For Labour maybe the desire to help others comes from deeply held values rooted in democratic socialism - creating a culture that brings a sense of community and purpose - a desire to see a fair wage and justice in society. For the Catholic conference I believe it is a desire to do what is at the heart of true Christianity - work for the Common Good, the poor, the disadvantaged and to do the work of Christ on earth today.

But there were big differences. The Labour party meeting was all about stopping cuts and being against the unfairness of the "Con-Dems" approach to the economy - but I was desperate for a vision of what the fairer society would look like and how it would work. I was clear what Labour were against, but not sure what they were for.

The NJP Conference was far less accusatory (apart from against Monsanto!) but ran the danger of dissipating so much positive energy that was created over the weekend because back home people simply feel powerless in the face of huge problems. "What to do on Monday morning" was not totally clear - but there were ideas.

I have so many sympathies with those who feel disheartened about the state of humanity and the state of the environment - I hope we are not too late to change things. But the sight of so many good people wanting a better world helps keep the track open and passable.

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