A Prayer for 2020

In your own language

Eduardo del Buey
Photo: Afp
La Jornada Maya

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

A few days ago, I came across a Franciscan Benediction that concludes by saying.

“And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world so that you can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor”.

As we enter the last year of this decade, we can conclude that the last ten years have been full of radical and positive changes as well as disappointment for many and, even, despair for some.

While many around the world have been lifted out of poverty, many remain trapped in systems that don’t provide them with the tools to change their lot in life.

While many are obtaining a better education than their parents ever had, many others are drowning in debt because of their determination to become better educated.

While we have much legislation on the books governing human rights, millions are denied those rights by leaders whom we directly or indirectly support through our patterns of consumption or our own indifference.

And, at the end of the day, many wonder why some things still don’t change or even that, in some ways, they appear to get worse.

But is the glass half empty or half full?

Like many analysts, many of my articles denounce the decline of liberal democratic values in a world that appears to be increasingly polarized. Where populist leaders pit one group against another in order to gain and consolidate power.

But reality is a two-edged sword.

On the one hand the ongoing challenges faced by many around the world.

On the other, the positive changes that are occurring that are often ignored by the media and the public in favor of negative stories.

As a collective, the overall standard of living most everywhere is better than it has ever been.

We as individuals are also connected as never before.

Teenage leaders like Malala Yousufzai and Greta Thunberg have connected with and mobilized millions of people around the world for excellent causes.

The power of billions can be brought together through the power of one, any one of us who puts their mind and creativity at the service of others can make a difference.

Communities of common interest are springing up around the world with communications technology connecting us in real time and at low cost.

Farmers in Africa and Asia can monitor agricultural prices in real time and take their produce to market at the best time when prices are high and returns are good.

Latin American indigenous people can sell their handicrafts and other products on a global scale, enabling them to obtain the economic growth needed to provide better housing, health care, and education for their children.

Victims of unscrupulous mining and other extractive industry excesses are increasingly determining the fate of these companies through their strategic use of communications technology and the creation of global lobbying networks.

Indigenous peoples around the world are networking to address the possible extinction of their cultures. Unity of purpose may not only ensure their survival but also allow them to thrive in our globalized world.

And Diasporas in North America and Europe continue to create stronger economic classes at home through their remittances. Money can be transferred by individuals at home at the click of a mouse, beyond the control of government or others who would like to get their hands on it.

In many communities, remittances are allowing people to build the homes, schools, hospitals, and roads that governments don’t seem to be able to produce at a rate that can benefit growing numbers of citizens.

In many countries, remittances are a key source of necessary foreign currency and a major source of national wealth. Indeed, in 2018, India received US$69 billion in remittances, while China received US$67 billion, Mexico and the Philippines US$34 billion each, and Egypt US$26 billion. In Mexico, remittances account for more national income than do revenues from tourism or petroleum exports.

Migration has caused many problems and resulted in much polarization in many countries. Many populist parties base their political platforms on the dangers that native populations face from legal and illegal migrants.

Nevertheless, the international community is working at creating international legal frameworks to govern the treatment of migrants to ensure that human rights aren’t compromised as we help people forced to leave their homelands due to poor economic conditions or direct threats to their lives.

While some are binding together in fear and prejudice, many others are creating the networks required to receive refugees and provide them with the tools with which to integrate and pursue their lives in dignity and safety.

Medical science is reducing or eliminating many diseases and illnesses that once claimed millions annually.

Many more are living longer and more productive lives thanks to medical breakthroughs and the efforts of many governments to make these remedies affordable to more people.

Infant mortality is down almost everywhere, and many of us will live much longer that our forbearers.

So, dare we dream that things can get better?

I believe that we can, and the Franciscan Benediction makes me feel that we can each make it better.

No matter how disconnected our leaders may appear to be from the rest of us, it does not have to be exclusively up to them to move us ahead.

It is up to each of us to be foolish enough to believe that we can make a difference.

It is up to each of us to recognize that we may be the answer to someone else’s prayer by the actions we take.

Like Malala and Greta, it is up to each of us to realize that we as individuals can bring hope to those around us regardless of the relative honesty or competence of those who govern us.

It is up to each of us to do what we once believed to be impossible, to be the change in the lives of others that they so desperately need.

And finally, if we bring justice and kindness to one person in our lifetime, we shall have made an impact.

Imagine, as John Lennon would say, the “brotherhood of man”.

Imagine 7.5 billion acts of kindness each and every day. – with each act of kindness being the product of one of each of the world’s 7.5 billion inhabitants.

One small step for one person, but 7.5 billion such steps are a giant leap for humankind, to paraphrase astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Pretty soon, we could well be drowning in the type of kindness that the world so desperately needs.

If we allowed this kindness to permeate everything that we do, pretty soon we would be rejecting leaders who preach fear and division and hatred, and electing those who bring us together based on common interests and our very humanity.

So, each and every one of us can choose to become that difference that the world needs.

It is up to each of us to live up to the aspirations of whatever religious or spiritual creeds that we follow.

So, what the benediction calls “foolishness” is my dream.

Rabindranath Tagore once wrote, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy”.

And as my brother Philip often says, “if you want your dreams to come true, wake up!”

So, my wish for all as 2020 begins is that we all wake up to the dreams that we can make happen, and, through those dreams and our service, become a difference in the lives of others.

Happy 2020.

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