It is that time of year again. Even in a year like no other, there’s familiarity at least to be found in the passage of time.
The Solstice arrives at the mid-point in the year. Its arrival tends to prompt a particular response in me. I find myself reflecting and thinking ahead. What do I want to leave behind? What do I want to keep? What would I like to grow?
Two events have defined this year for me. This year, unusually, the same two events seem to have defined the year for the majority of the world’s citizens. Such truly global uniformity is a rare occurrence.
Such has been the impact of these events that it seems pretty unnecessary to name them, but just to make absolutely sure we’re on the same page here; I’m referring to the coronavirus pandemic, and the killing of George Floyd.
As a health professional, it is only possible to be truly effective in my work and to remain ethical in my approach through maintaining a discipline of approaching all people seeking my help as equals.
This involves being careful not to judge, not to respond according to bias, putting aside any opinions, theories and perceptions I have, or am aware of others having, and instead remaining open minded, accepting and collaborative.
Choosing to believe in everyone’s capacity to achieve their deepest hopes, and using that belief as the basis of my communication style with and about them is crucial. It’s not always easy. It’s easy to get distracted by doubts, fears, conflicting beliefs and competing agendas, but to fulfil my remit to the best of my ability, that’s what I must constantly strive to do.
Scaling up that discipline and perspective towards others, so that it applies when thinking about and communicating with groups of people, and further to communities, and ultimately, potentially, even to the entire global population, inevitably leads to taking a stance which is in line with the promotion of worldwide social justice.
Reflecting on the events of the past year, and with reference to history, it is clear that slavery might have been abolished (at least according to law, and in the form we generally associate with the term), but inequality wasn’t. Slaves and their descendants demonstrably remained the least privileged, most exploited and most abused members of society.
The Coronavirus may have united everyone in facing a common threat, but it has also starkly exposed divisions in access to the necessary resources and opportunities to stay safe. As a result, the statistics regarding those who have lost their lives has been found to be disproportionately weighted towards people from BAME communities, as the communities enduring the highest exposure to under-privileged living and working conditions.
As if that wasn’t already appalling enough, yet another black man has died through the misguided actions of police in America, and the circumstances under which this has happened have been exposed as having echoes in other countries. The timing and context of this terrible and obvious consequence of inequality and lack of social justice has apparently served as ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’, sparking public protests and urgent discourse around the world.
The phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ could hardly have any more resonance than it does right now.
So, having reached this point, what do we all want? What are our best hopes as a species?
At the most basic level, I would say it’s fair to say that we want to survive, and the evidence in front of us from looking at our history suggests that inequality, competition and in-fighting has steered us away from that eventuality, whilst fairness, collaboration and peace have engendered recovery from catastrophic events and movement towards prosperity for all.
The first signs of such a recovery and positive movement forwards are recognisable. Here’s a few examples from the UK (there are many more of course, and not just in the UK but all around the world, these are just a few things I’ve noticed that spring to mind in this moment):
All Premier League football players have been taking the knee and wearing shirts displaying the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’. Police and soldiers have also been seen joining peaceful protesters in taking the knee.
Even though the direct action by protesters to remove a public statue of a slave trader was initially met with criticism of a lack of observance of public order, it was then recognised that there were sound and progressive motivations behind the actions, leading to a review of statues on public display throughout the country.
A disadvantaging policy over free school meals was reversed by politicians in response to public support for the dismay expressed by Marcus Rashford, a black footballer with personal experience of growing up in poverty and a stated intention to use his elevated position to campaign for greater equality.
The Solution Focused Collective is a group of practitioners around the world (of which I am one), who share a belief in the potential of the solution focused approach to help in the creation of social change, towards greater social justice.
We are holding an online Action Space event on July 4th 2020, 13:30 – 15:30 BST (see graphic below for other time zones). Our hope is that through dialogue on social issues which participants are passionate about, strong collective actions will emerge and make their way into the world.
Anyone reading this blog is welcome to join the event. More information and sign-up details can be found here