2016 has been a horrific year for planet Earth. Regardless of your political views, personal position in life or your attitude towards others, we’ve all read some horrific storylines in the media – from the deaths of much loved actors to an unparalleled refugee crisis.
But wait, I hear you say, what about our own homeless? What about Kim Kardashian? When I first started writing, I always told myself I’d avoid putting my personal opinions out on a soapbox. Instead, I’d stick to sports journalism and fiction with some inspiration from our own reality. But sadly, it’s time I spoke some truth to anyone who reads the things I pen: It’s time to stop focusing on emptiness and start having some compassion.
We live in a world where more people care about themselves than they do others. This is understandable. We all want to go home to our families and see our own lives progress. We all want a nice, comfortable life. Unfortunately, the reality is so unbelievably far removed from that ideal that we must all now confront some of the crisis erupting around us.
But what is compassion, really? I’ve recently turned vegetarian after learning about the plight of animals in slaughterhouses, yet any time I tell people about it I get the same reaction: “I don’t want to know about the slaughterhouses. I just want to eat meat.” To me, that’s the symptom of our entire worldview and how we lack compassion. We watch the news, shake our heads, then we switch it off. But really, that’s not good enough. We need empathy.
Syrian Migrants ARE NOT taking your job
This year has witnessed one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time unfold on the news. The refugee and migrant situation across Europe has spiralled out of control. And yet, a quick glance at the comment section of any national newspaper and you’ll see people furiously attacking these so called ‘economic migrants’ for wanting, how dare they, the free healthcare and good standard of living we have in the UK. The same free healthcare we are all entitled too, and didn’t pay a penny towards until we were 18+
These people are human beings. They come from a country that is involved in a complex power struggle, but they themselves only want the same thing as all of us. Food, shelter, warmth and a chance to succeed at life. Whatever country they flee too, who are we to judge while we sit in our homes and sip tea and coffee. Have we lost our ability to empathise? Imagine you and your children suddenly had bombs falling on your home, a war on your doorstep and killers in your neighbourhood. What would you do?
It is not ‘Us vs Them’ – it doesn’t matter if they’re children, male or female. We are human beings. They are human beings. Nobody chooses where they are born – so why feel you’re entitled to more than they are?
People on benefits are not the enemy
I’m lucky. I’ve got a university education, thousands of pounds of debt and a rental flat that costs way more than it should because I can’t get anywhere near affording a mortgage. Despite this, I am healthy, happy and live in relative peace. The worst threat of violence in my life is getting chinned at the chip shop if I’m out drinking.
Some people are not so lucky – and the media is beginning to demonise the lower working class and those on benefits in a sickening fashion. Whether they’re immigrants, those who have fallen through the gaps or even voluntarily on benefits, the fault lies with the system. We live in a world where the 1% have more than the 99% – and yet somehow we focus on the poor? Open your eyes.
Be kinder to others (and yourself)
In this world, you’re branded a ‘leftie’ or a hippy if you preach compassion. However, even the most flagrant racists I’ve met have some good in them. I strongly believe that people are, against all media portrayals to the contrary, inherently good. Almost all of us have kindness in us, excluding a few complete bad eggs. Whether this kindness manifests as holding the door for someone, making someone a cup of tea or just being polite – it’s there.
This has all been spurred by watching Ken Loach’s incredible film: I, Daniel Blake. In it, a good man makes a big impact in a struggling family’s life – but finds himself a victim of our merciless benefit system. Despite that, the film for me was a strong reminder of the kindness of the human spirit. The sense that, if people try, we can really change things for people.
I’m writing this, unlike the stories and poetry I produce, for no real reason. I may be shouting into the darkness – preaching my ‘leftie’ views to people who won’t even consider this message. But, like a ship in a storm, I’m pressing on with it. Human beings, each and every one of us, has a story or a struggle. Whether it’s mental health, poverty, homelessness, seeking refuge or just feeling down – we all have our cross to bear. But it’s time to stop burying our heads in the sand, or placing our fingers in our ears. Each and every person can make an impact – whether it’s buying some food for a food bank, volunteering in some way or just being kinder to people.
If just one person reading this watches a news story about migrants, or beggars, or people on benefits and rather than instantly condemn them, thinks a little harder about the situation – then I’ve done a good job.
We are all human beings. We all come from our mothers. We all share this planet, for better or worse.
Think a little harder, care a little more, hate a lot less.