The Human Test

The UK has on its streets, in every town and city, Big Issue sellers. The Big Issue offers people who are homeless the opportunity to earn their own money; a livelihood.  The Big Issue Foundation offers vendors the opportunity of a life. They work tirelessly alongside the vendors to help them deal with the issues that have caused their homelessness or have developed as a result of hitting the streets.

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The way we can experience the feeling of shame (if buying clothes from Primark hasn’t ignited a conscience) is to realise that those people selling that Big Issue, as mentioned in another post, could very, very easily be your mum, dad, brother, sister, son, daughter, grandchild or of course even you – and the way the world is going currently, that is a possibility. Knowing that and then walking past a seller should, if of course you are human ignite that spark of shame and prove you are not an alien. What reasons do people possibly delude themselves with to justify walking past?

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“Never look down on someone unless you are helping them up. As you go about your daily life please do stop and say hello to a vendor, buy a magazine” ~The Big Issue Foundation.  – besides, it’s a bloody good *weekly* read!

Margaret Thatcher – teacher of Compassion

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Margaret Thatcher is dead.

The resulting vitriol that has welcomed and celebrated her death is jaw dropping, and even for me, unexpected. The ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead’ song from the Wizard of Oz is at number three in the UK music charts and there are parties, and some say riots, planned for this Wednesday when the biggest funeral in UK history takes place. Even Princess Di didn’t get such state attention but Princess Di was loved by most unlike Thatcher who has been called the ‘marmite politician’ by a member of the church but like Diana she has also left behind children. Children that are having to witness the hatred directed towards their mum from what seems like half of England and most of Wales and Scotland.

I wasn’t a fan, I never voted for her but that’s the point –  the people of the UK did vote for her, in our established democracy, and three times! She wasn’t a dictator, she was elected and probably by one or two members of each family burning her effigy. So why are the people of the UK now in such a hateful frame of mind directed at a dead woman who their fellow country folk voted for on three occasions?  Apart from how she was at the forefront of policies, supported by parliament mind, I think there was lot of people who just couldn’t stand the pursed lips, the terrible hair and the fact that she reminded just about everybody of their mother-in-law.

Margaret Thatcher's death divides opinion across the UK

One of the best life lessons I’ve ever been given was, whenever possible,  to see every person, depending on their age and sex, as if they are your mum or your dad or brother, sister, son or daughter or grandkids or maybe the weird uncle or the batty aunt or your best mate. If people, when walking past a Big Issue seller spared this thought – that the person stood there in all weathers, could easily be, with a change of circumstances, one of your relatives – it could of course even be you (and it’s only conceited thinking that banishes that possibility – especially as our economies teeter) then maybe not so many would walk past that Big Issue seller.

The same goes for Thatcher. She may once have been a leader with an iron will that the rich applauded and the workers threw eggs at but for a vast amount of years she’s been an old lady, a grandma who became frail and died. It was someone’s mum. One didn’t have to like her but to dance in the streets? Even Bin Laden wasn’t given so much attention.

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Surely we need to understand, and with teeth gritted if need be, to be able at least to attempt to practice compassion and it seems to me that the British public have never been give such a national opportunity to do both.

Compassion is our friend.

The opposite of compassion is cruelty and to a lesser degree, pity. Pity being when we’re sorry for someone whereas compassion is to be sorry with someone. It’s feeling the suffering as if you are that person. Of course I’m not  referring to Thatcher herself as she’s gone but I am referring to those she left behind – her children and grandchildren.

We can, albeit at the risk of heart wrenching brevity, become the grandchild who has not only lost it’s grandma but then witnesses the folk of this country that she governed morphing into over-sized munchkins, spitting malevolence as if that’s to be applauded and respected, although possibly feared and therefore ignored.

To be able to shape shift into each mind and body of those affected in a quantum leap sort of way will likely and involuntarily ignite our compassion immediately and if it doesn’t at least you’ll be blessed with the shocking knowledge, if you say that Thatcher had no compassion herself, of what that feels like.

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