What Will It Take?

by Simon Goland, April 28, 2009

Today’s Reflection is about taking action. Or not.

Margaret Wheatley tells the story that happened sometime in the 70ies in Gdansk, Poland. There, about a dozen workers started a conversation about the tough and inhumane working conditions in the shipyards, and about what might it look like if things were different. The conversation spread, and within a month, about One Million people were engaged. They closed the shipyards and effectively shut down the country. The Solidarity movement was born. It is important to note that this was time before the internet, cell pones, and text messages. Yes, there was such a time.

In a way, the story of this Reflection is telling of the topic itself. I have been sitting on it for a week, planning and thinking and wanting to write and complete it. And it somehow didn’t happen. Flu. Unexpected meetings. A fireplace that needs to be replaced. Another something. And then one more. Somehow, something managed to get in the way, squeeze itself ahead of the to-do line, and grab my attention. Not that it was that important, when I think of the things I really wanted to do.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however a small way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” – Howard Zinn

For instance, the elections in British Columbia are coming up. I love this province and care about it; I also care about the fact that the current government and Gordon Campbell are planning things that will unequivocally ruin the future here. For instance, by selling all our rivers and the power they will generate to private companies, mostly from the US, which (based on NAFTA) once we do, we will never be able to get back; the following clip portrays the specifics of this so-called plan. While the solution proposed there is not much better (the BC Greens are the only ones with any long-term viable alternative), but at least we will still have BC Hydro and our Canadian control over our natural resources. So I wanted to do something about it.

Another thing I care about is my health and wellness, and the ability to have easy access to alternative and natural medicine. Well, there is Bill C-6, which is the old Bill C-51 and C-52 – with a new name. While it has a fancy name of Consumer Protection Act, one should not be misled by the name. There is a beautiful and very informative clip which explains what it can really do – and it is Bad. Really Bad. Here too, I wanted to do something, because, hey, I care and I can.

Yet, somehow, everything else was urgent. Or felt as such.

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Einstein

I keep thinking about a simple little matrix of categories, of urgent/important/non-urgent/non-important categories, in all its variations. It seems that my attention often floats towards the the urgent & non-important, at the expense of the things I really need to be focusing on – the non-urgent & important. And I wonder about how, and when, will I learn the difference, and how will I make it work in my life. I don’t think I know it yet…

A sunny week to you all, inside and out.