We know what’s coming……as when you are walking along the narrow country lane and you hear the unmissable sound of a gargantuan four-wheel drive motoring along at a speed that is totally inappropriate to the conditions, and it’s coming towards you but the steep banks afford no hand or toe hold.
‘I must confess at once that I do not see any solution to the intricate evils of disharmonious relationship between nations, nor can I point out any path which may lead us immediately to the levels of sanity. Like yourself, I find much that is deeply distressing in modern conditions, I am in complete agreement with you again in believing that at no other period of history has mankind, as a whole, been more alive to the need of human cooperation, more conscious of the inevitable and inescapable moral links which hold together the fabric of human civilisation. I cannot afford to lose my faith in this inner spirit of Man, nor in the sureness of human progress which following the upward path of struggle and travail is constantly achieving, through cyclic darkness and doubt, its ever-widening ranges of fulfilment.’ Rabindranath Tagore - letter to Gilbert Murray, 16th September 1934.
The 1930s: a time of global danger, demonization of certain races, increasing militarisation and nationalism. 2017: a time of global danger, demonization of certain races and religions, authoritarian nationalism, leaders who want to increase the number of nuclear arms and would consider their deployment, rapid climate change and environmental degradation.
‘The whole world waits to see what this great Eastern nation [Japan] is going to do with the opportunities and responsibilities she has accepted from the hands of modern time. If a mere reproduction of the West, then the great expectation she has raised will remain unfulfilled. For there are grave questions that Western civilisation has put before the world but not completely answered. The conflict between the individual and the state, labour and capital, man and woman; the conflict between the greed of material gain and the spiritual life of man, the organised selfishness of nations and the higher ideals of humanity; the conflict between all the ugly complexities inseparable from giant organisations of commerce and state and the natural instincts of man crying for simplicity and beauty and fulness of leisure – all these have to be brought to a harmony not yet dreamt of…’
Rabindranath Tagore ‘Nationalism in Japan’ 1917
Here in the UK we are being cynically exploited by the forces of ‘greed’, ‘organised selfishness’ and ‘all the ugly complexities…’ as we reel away from a referendum dominated by lies and the language of division, only to be met with an election that is dominated by misinformation, deception and arrogance. Western democracy has lurched into a form of personality authoritarian culture that truly echoes the state of Europe between the wars; I do not consider myself to be any more intelligent than the vast majority of my fellow humans, but I look, listen and read with increasing incredulity. I am finding that my jaw is beginning to ache with its reaction to what comes out of politicians’ mouths.
‘But politics is not a mere abstraction, it has its personality and it does intrude into my life where I am human. It kills and maims individuals, it tells lies, it uses its sacred sword of justice for the purpose of massacre, it spreads misery broadcast over centuries of exploitation, and I cannot say to myself, ‘Poet you have nothing to do with these facts, for they belong to politics.’ This politics assumes its fullest diabolical aspect when I find all its hideous acts of injustice find moral support from a whole nation only because it wants to enjoy in comfort and safety the golden fruits reaped from the abject degradation of human races.’ Rabindranath Tagore to William Rothenstein 1920
Fundamentally, it is what drives us as individuals, our basic motivation, that dictates the trajectory of our lives and creates the environment within which we live. And, generally, we adopt ideas and world views that reflect the way we live, being defensive and rigid in our justification of this way of life. For if we were to question our own lives then we threaten our fragile psychological existence – what we think makes up ourselves. To question yourself requires courage, honesty and care; it is easy to question others. To what extent are we able to think for ourselves? Or do we really need leaders to tell us what to do; who know best?
‘So, our brain, which is the centre of our consciousness, with all the nervous responses, sensory responses, the centre of all our knowledge, all our experience, all our memory (your memory may be from another, but it is still memory; you may be highly educated, the other may have no education at all, may not even know how to read and write, but it is still part of the whole) - so your consciousness is shared by every human being on this earth. Therefore you are entire humanity. Do you understand, sirs? You are in actuality, not theoretically or theologically, or in the eyes of God - probably gods have no eyes! - but in actuality there is this strange irrevocable fact that we all go through the same mould, the same anxiety, hope, fear, death, loneliness that brings such desperation. So we are mankind. And when one realizes that deeply, conflict with another ceases because you are like me.’ Jiddu Krishnamurti Talks at Saanen 1985
In times of danger we human beings tend to take up our defence in what we know, or what we think we know. We retreat into the safety of and comfort of the familiar. But the sound of the vehicle approaching is getting nearer; the machine is accelerating fast as the driver feels the power of the engine. What are you going to do? What am I going to do?