I’ve been reading a few articles and watching a couple of videos and a TV series which I’d like to weave together to honour the spirit in everyone, and encourage our need to look below the surface and not take people on face value.
The first one I’d like to mention is a TV series from the UK called “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” which is about some building workers who volunteered for a project to build a replica Roman villa using the tools and methods employed by the Romans who built the original villa in Wroxeter. They had six months to build the villa, not just putting up the structure but also replicating artwork on the walls and tilework in a mosaic on the floor of the entry hall. It is not just fascinating in what it reveals about the Romans and their building techniques.
It is eye-opening to see the hopes, dreams and creativity of a bunch of workmen who would normally only be seen as bricklayers, plasterers, carpenters, and so on. All of these men joined the project to explore their creativity, to feel part of a larger project where they could expand their gifts and talents in different ways, and to feel that they could explain to their kids and grand-kids their passion and pleasure at being involved in the construction of a Roman villa, right down to all the tiniest details. It’s been heartwarming to see these blokes open up and also see their self-confidence grow as they embraced skills they might otherwise not have realised they had and see their feeling that in this project their life had some meaning, instead of a day of grinding, boring work and going home to flop tired in their chairs at night.
I make this point because I get well and truly pissed off with the characterisation of people, mainly less well-off, as bogans, ferals, chavs or trailer trash. All human beings have hopes and fears and longings for a worthwhile life and we ignore these aspirations at our peril, as could be seen in the riots in the UK. Research since these riots has shown that the overwhelming majority who took part in the riots were of low socio-economic status, had special educational needs and weren’t involved in gangs, the first easy moniker the British government tried to slap on the riot participants.
In each country where you see kids being interviewed, all of them – regardless of the country – have the same longing for education, a good job and a happy life. Apart, of course, from those children and babies dying of hunger in drought-stricken areas and where the death of Steve Jobs inspires more tweets per second than the hundreds, thousands of children dying daily from the lack of basics such as food, water and shelter. Makes you wonder about our priorities, doesn’t it?
Our priority should be to honour all sections of society, regardless of their material well-being, because there is so much untapped talent and creativity which would create a much richer, more fulfilled world if the wealth of longing for creativity and inspiration could be unleashed. I mention in this respect the video I just watched on TED of a person talking about computer hackers who possess amazing computer and technological talents but who, because so often their gifts aren’t recognised and because of their life circumstances, get drawn into a life of cyber-crime and end up in prison. It’s now been discovered that many of these amazingly talented hackers have Asperger’s Syndrome and wish desperately to be part of mainstream society where their creativity can be harnessed for the good of society. Here’s the link to the TED talk on cyber-criminals:
Today also I watched another video which is an advertising feature but which, I feel, is a message not to take people on face value because they are wearing certain clothing or have a certain way of dressing which may not be mainstream:
In fact, this shows that if you face your fears you may find rewards you never expected!
The last piece I want to mention is an article I read in our Saturday paper about a young couple with cerebral palsy. They are both of Greek heritage, met at school, lost touch, but reconnected a few years later. They fell in love but faced opposition from disability support authorities, their church and their parents. But they persevered. They got married in a registry office, finally got support from disability support authorities for married accommodation, eventually got a Greek Orthodox priest to marry them, and finally ended up with their parents’ support because they were so happily married. Both were frustrated by the inability of the community and the bureaucracy to recognise them as being capable of far more than their disability, but their struggle to get married and make a go of their relationship has of course caused attitudinal changes. And they are very, very happy.
Yes, I know, in the words of John Lennon, “you may call me a dreamer”, but I also love to recall the words of Steve Jobs which, I feel, are the future of community building and the way to a different, more compassionate, more tolerant and – yes – more just society:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”