One day, I received a copy of this beautiful e-mail that a friend had sent to somebody who is a stranger to me. Since this issue of DIVA will be the last one for 2007, I take the liberty of sharing this striking message with you all and wishing you all a wonderful New Year in 2008.
"Are we nuts?" was not my question but the closing of Michael Winship’s article. However, I have a friend here in Geneva, named Geneva, half native American, born in Okemah, Oklahoma (birth place of Woody Guthrie!), and married to an Iraqi, who repeatedly asks that question when confronted with the stark reality of what is happening in the world and in the Hew Hess Hay (as some say it here = USA).
Yes, the situation looks grim at times. However, I firmly believe that one must live out what one believes in and that the more evil seems to get the upper hand, the more important it is to bear witness to something else. That is what I have always tried to do. Don’t expect others to do good, nor may they even want to just because you are trying to. Just do it. Act out your own principles, otherwise you’ll never be at peace with yourself, and, without that sort of peace, you’re of little use to anybody, including yourself.
There is also what Jefferson would have called "public affairs" — what we have now down-graded to the status of "politics", with the negative connotation that that carries. Jefferson would have said that the only proper activity of the citizen is public affairs and that the role of public education is to prepare citizens and civic leaders for participation in the life of the RES PVBLICA. Instead, we now have education that is intended to do the work of the corporations in training people according to the needs of the corporate world, while the intellectual baggage they need in order to function as citizens is neglected, when it is not denigrated outright.
We have become a nation of consumers, and the "job", instead of being a source of personal fulfilment and intellectual and cultural enrichment, has become the means of participation in the crass consumer society.
So you find chocolate a source of euphoria in such times? Forget about the chocolate. Save it for special occasions or it will lose its euphoric effect. Get out and do some sort of volunteer work or something that puts you in contact with the members of your immediate community, something that needs to be done but would not be done if you didn’t do it.
Stay informed, even — especially — when it means confronting the ugly truths about our corrupt, materialistic, violent, war-based society.
And don’t forget the culture, in its highest and lowest instances. The French have the all-time record for Nobel Prize winners in literature, with thirteen to their credit. The only country that can come close to rivaling that has twelve — the United States!
How many of them can you name? What have you read by them? What are your favourites among their work? How many of their works have you seen performed?
When the axe falls, the thoughts and ideas needed to confront disaster will not be found at the shopping mall but in the great literature we have produced. If the proper role of the Christian — as Jesus is said to have taught it, NOT what a doctrine-obsessed church teaches — is the pursuit of spirituality in a world where our basic human needs automatically drive us toward material considerations, then this great literature will nurture and inspire that pursuit, not the material clap-trap we are encouraged to run after as if our identity, indeed, our very life, depended on it.
Beyond that, all I can add is, "Don’t be dismayed!" And if you’re trying to make a difference, even in your own modest way, you won’t be.