I went to see the film I, Daniel Blake at the weekend – an awesome but devastating story of a man, who has paid his stamp his whole working life, has a massive heart attack & is judged unable to work by his doctors. He is judged fit for work by the DWP & then is forced to look for work and denied the benefits he is entitled to. He befriends a single mother with two children who has had to move from London to the North East to get out of single room B&B accommodation & unable to find work to feed her kids. Based in fact, this Ken Loach film shows both characters being treated appallingly in a dehumanised system in which a faceless ‘Decision maker’ that they never get to see makes all the key decisions. Both experience ongoing humiliation, hunger and deprivation.
This in a week where I heard a Radio 4 program estimating 110,000 children are without a home in the U.K. and this is before the housing benefit cap, which is estimated to make even more families homeless before Christmas. Now I am on the train to Manchester on the coldest day of the year so far, expecting to walk past numerous homeless people on my way to work.
I feel helpless to do anything about it. I always vote and I am a member of both the Labour & Green parties, who both seem unable to form an effective opposition.
In this Post Brexit and US election atmosphere of xenophobia & misogyny, it feels like we are going back to Victorian times.
All people seem to care about is who is going to win Strictly and that Bake Off is moving to Channel 4. And who can blame them when the reality seems so bleak – why not seek solace in a few glasses of wine & the TV – both of which are so excellent and so cheap these days – Bread and Circuses!
Lama Rinchen, who was a French radical in her youth, once gave a teaching to our MSc Mindfulness students on Holy Isle. She was very heartened that people from so many different Professions were coming to learn and practice Mindfulness and Compassion together to take it back and share it in their workplace. She expressed her view that practicing Mindfulness was a political act and the only hope for the future of our society. I was not so sure at that time, but I hope it is true.
What I do know is that practicing Mindfulness can wake us up to our societal conditioning & enable us to question the truths our media and government would like us to buy into that makes us scared and compliant.
I also know that practicing Compassion can enable us to empathize with those who hold opposing views, so as to enable effective communication rather than deepening the divide through anger. A great example of this can be seen in the TV program of Michael Moore in Trumpland. To watch: please click here
Also, see Rick Hanson’s latest blog in the face of the US elections: please click here
So I will carry on the MA’s work of teaching Mindfulness & Compassion and training Mindfulness teachers, hoping that Mindfulness can help us to liberate ourselves and others. We must just keep going, without getting too downhearted, each doing our best to change our part of the world and hoping to effect greater change together.
Now the walk to work!
-Heather Regan Addis