“No one will do it for you. Whilst people are there to support, love and inspire, the inner workings of the spirit can only be accessed by the owner for true transformation”. Addie Thomas
This week, I received a message from my good friend in the Western Cape. What do I love about his messages? They are raw, honest and whilst they sometimes don’t arrive until a month after I have sent mine (good friends don’t care about tardy messaging), they are full of honesty. The last message reminded me about the challenges that people in the outside world continue to face, especially mentally.
Fear, despondency, disbelief, anger, etc. All emotions that many will be feeling. Some will have invested huge sums of money into businesses, only to see them crash into the abyss of uncertainty. Some will have invested huge amounts of time into relationships or personal growth, only to see the investment challenged by further suffering. The last two years has seen humanity challenged like that of the ‘Black Death’ although intelligence, conformance and financial stimulus has ensured the devastation has not been on the same scale as the bubonic plague.
My friend spoke about people’s sensitivity being inflated, more road rage, more violence etc. It reminds me that we cannot control the responses of others but we can manage how we respond to a growing trend. If everyone responded the same, humanity would be further challenged. Those of us who can be the light in these troubled times need to be, must be.
It is easy to blame and make excuses. Some will have used adverse situations to further their own financial gain and rhetoric. Domestic violence has increased where assailants can now use Covid as an excuse. This is where we see true courage. Little lights are burning all over this world from people who have said, “just because I can, I won’t”.
When we make blanket statements, it shows that no thought, no research, no proper questioning has gone into that statement. I’ve often coined the term, “the gap between rich and poor is increasing”, with no further explanation as to why I have said this. I have often said, “things are getting worst on the island of St Helena”, without doing my research.
Over the last year, I have listened, I have read, I have watched. People with views and expertise have garnished me with a variety of scenarios. What I remember in all of this research is that human beings are flawed and most importantly, conditioned by our past. A person working within the judicial system may be deemed as ‘right’ and good because of the institution they represent. However, some of the stories that I have heard have reminded me, no matter what institution or ideology we represent, we all have a knack for allowing our conditioning to influence our words and deeds. No title prompts me to think that a person will be just in their real time lived. In the dark recesses of our private lives, we see other scenarios come about which we hide from the world, but we cannot hide from ourselves.
When I meet a person for the first time, I expect nothing. I expect only what I have learnt to expect, people to be human beings, flawed. I expect that we don’t like the truth, we like ‘our’ truth that we can be comfortable in. I also expect not to understand why people do and say what they do because I have not walked in their shoes. As I get to know people better, I see their gifts, their aptitude and their fears which hold them back.
We’ve stopped trying to get to know the detail, the individual, the real story because we would prefer just to wield judgement and moans and gripes to give us reason to continue living in the way we want to. If we are the knowing, maybe it will throw our generalisations into disarray. This week I also heard some disturbing comments made about people who have come to this island to help. Not for one minute am I suggesting that this is the sentiments of all islanders but like someone said, “maybe the individual is getting traction from somewhere to purvey such gross remarks and think it is acceptable”.
There are people who have come to this island and have not fared well. St Helena isn’t a dumping ground for the rest of the world’s challenges but then turn the mirror around and we can say the same about other countries ‘inheriting’ challenging human behaviour. If you have come out here to help, do. Intoxication every night of the week isn’t going to help. Half-hearted attempts isn’t going to help. Large egos isn’t going to help. The truth is that no society has been built and enriched by one specific kind of people. This is not about physical attributes, privilege, poverty etc. Every reason why we can’t is another barrier to why we can.
I stood with my brother in law and looked back at the rental cottages that he has built as he puts a little sundeck on the end. He tells me about the challenges faced in embarking on this venture but I can see pride in his eyes when he looks at all that has been accomplished. He did not come from vast sums of money or genius intelligence. Everything he and his family have, they have had to work very hard for. Pure graft. If he can do this, what is stopping others? Quite simply themselves, their own life choices.
Here on the island some of us have a mindset of the welfare state. We have been an aid state for as long as I can remember. Subsidies and funding. There was never any incentive to rise out of this by some. When Basil Read came to build the airport, some people made huge sums of money and reinvested it and now have thriving businesses. Some invested it into knowledge. Some people made huge sums of money and invested it into social and materialistic pleasures with nothing to show for it now. I have wasted copious amounts of money in my lifetime but one of the biggest investments I have made is to invest money into my human capital. As a result, I am now trying to be of greater service to whatever society I live in.
The person who is able-bodied and picks up benefits on a Thursday will snide at the person who has a thriving business. Yet, since we all started out as ‘Aid Babies’ why snide at the person who has risen above aid? Why snide at the individual who is working flat out to find their place in the corporate world? Why snide at the person who may get it wrong on a number occasions but at least is trying and getting some wins too? When we say ‘The Government’ who are we referring to? The Civil Service? The Ministers? The Planning Department? The Health Directorate? There are people in every institution on this island who are doing incredible work. Yet, when we slate ‘The Government’ we tar everyone with the same brush. What about the person who is working till 11 pm at night but we don’t see it? What about the farmer or fishermen who is working 6 days a week but some of us don’t see it?
Some of us can be lazy, we don’t want to get out and do our research, discuss, disagree, learn. Blanket statements are good enough for the person who wants to sit back and complain.
The well of aid is running dry. Do we wait until it has run dry to come together, to work together, to educate together to seize opportunities? Do we fall at the first hurdle when someone criticises us? Or do we enjoy the journey, the lumps and the bumps and still push on to fulfil our dreams. What is for example the American Dream for those Mexicans, Jewish, Irish etc? Sitting on their behinds and taking handouts? I think not. What was the dream for the St Helenian going to the UK to work or study? Handouts? I think not.
A man falls down the steps by the Castle in a drunken state and causes injury to his head and face, he cannot work for a while. He gets lubricated every week. When he is sober he blames the Government for all of his problems. This is not an isolated incident. There are too many people who feel entitled to be taken care of. Try not to keep pace with these people and listen to their excuses anymore. They must be prepared to help themselves. Honesty allows us to know where we are at, so we know where we can go. They have ample opportunity, even at ‘this late hour’ to be the knowing and the healing in their lives. It won’t be easy, they will probably fall off the wagon along the way but whoever said life should be easy?
Our society is getting older. Those who should have their feet up are still trying to help with some of our workforce simply not interested in working hard. Why are we not rallying the battle call for islanders to step up and take possession of their destiny? Instead, focusing on inequalities which will only go some way to address the change that we need within ourselves. This is a pivotal point in the island’s history.
There is an old adage, ‘take the island with us’. Be careful that we don’t wait too long at various points for those who would have us believe that their welfare mindsets are everyone’s fault and thus undermine the change that is desperately needed now. Rather perhaps encourage people to find healing (and for systems to be in place for this healing to be tapped in to) and keep up. Otherwise, we are simply facilitating and endorsing victim behaviour which has an impact on all societies.