Moral Compass

My daughter lent me a book a year or so ago. I started it then put it down. It lay. She asked about its return and I said, ‘Oh, but I haven’t read it yet. Can I hang onto it a bit longer?’

She queried why I hadn’t finished it, given how quickly I can normally go through a book. It was hard to explain.

From what I had already read of it, I was going to enjoy it. It was going to be enlightening. She had already assured me of the fact that it had opened her eyes to a better understanding of the world. So, why the delay on my part?

Maybe I thought it was going to be heavy-going and I wasn’t in the mood for that.

Maybe I was already in the middle of another book or there was one enticing me more.

Maybe I was reading so many tweets and links and becoming lost in the maze of verification of links that I just didn’t have the time or inclination to delve into something that needed concentration and commitment to read.

And it certainly wasn’t going to be a book to become lost in just before sleeping, when you can’t put an exciting story down until you finally fall asleep with the book on your chest only to wake later, remove the book, extinguish lights and succumb to sleep.

It didn’t feel like it was that kind of book.

Then she asked me again. ‘Mum, I’d quite like to read that book again. Any chance you’ve finished it yet?’

I pleaded for a bit more time.

And began to read the book. From the beginning. So much time had elapsed since I had initially begun it that I’d lost the thread.

Lockdown seemed the ideal time to satisfy her urging to read the book so that we could discuss it.

And she was right.

It is an enlightening book. A perception-changing book.

I still have just under a hundred pages to go.

And, even now, I want to finish it then go back to the beginning to start again. To take in more of the information. To etch it into my mind and remember the history of mankind in a new way.

That, by the way, is the title of the book.

‘Sapiens. A Brief History of Mankind’, by Yuval Noah Harari.

Now, it might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea but I would urge you to invest in the book – you’ll want to keep it – and read it. Then read it again.

I am in awe at how much I did not know of the history of our own species. About how much of what I did know was half-baked or missing essential clarification.

Harari, a Doctor of History and university lecturer, has a talent for turning history into meaningful context. He uses anecdotes to enhance the information he delivers. I want to be in his class. I want him to bring history alive for me, in person, in exactly the way he does in his book. I want to ask him questions.

I want to know more.

He begins 13.5 billion years ago and brings us right up to the present. Yup, history with a bang.

The book is divided into four parts:- The Cognitive Revolution; The Agricultural revolution; The Unification of Humankind and The Scientific Revolution.

The book is further sub-divided into chapters, covering everything one could wish to know and understand about our evolution and why we believe the things we believe. He deconstructs the constructs we have created and opens our eyes to our living stories or the lies we have told ourselves to make it possible for societies to function.

He has studied and explored history and presented it in a way that delivers it to the reader in much the same way as the best teacher you’ve ever had.

Now, I can’t begin to go into all of what is covered.

Suffice to say that as soon as I have finished writing this I’ll read some more. Then I’ll put it down and think about what I’ve read, maybe phone my daughter to have a chat about it, discuss how it is so relevant for today amid all of the clamour that is asking for our attention.

And that brings me to why I decided to write about it at all.

I was checking through my emails and noticed that Beth had posted something. I read it and, as usual, thought, ‘Yup. Spot on.’

Then I got to thinking that I would love to have a chat with Beth about the book. She, like Harari, has a PhD in history, was a lecturer and thinks about the way history and constructs impact the way our world operates. Beth would expand on areas that I want to explore further.

That, by the way, is what Beth’s post is about.

Listening and learning from the experiences of people who are tired of asking and waiting for recognition as full members of the one and only race that exists upon this planet – the human race.

I retweeted a thread yesterday on Twitter about much the same thing. A white author, beseeching readers to educate themselves on what it means to be black in this world. Not to ignore what is going on. Not to patronise with platitudes of support but to listen and learn and, hopefully, understand.

I also retweeted this yesterday. The simple question had me close to tears. We owe it to our black brothers and sisters, our brethren of every nation, colour and creed, to answer the question. We owe it to ourselves. To our species. We owe.

White privilege exists. Do we answer the question? Do we educate ourselves and listen and learn? Do we find out why we believe the things we do? Or do we just go on as before and ignore history and the lessons it ought to teach us?

The final chapter of Harari’s book is entitled, ‘The End of Homo Sapiens’.

Now, I never peek at endings but I’m kind of filled with trepidation at how this book will finish.

There is sufficient evidence, within the book, of the impact Sapiens have had on each and every place we have explored; of our decimation of other life forms as we passed through or settled; of the exploitation, principally by perceived white superiority, of people of colour; of ethnic and religious divisions, cultivated to maintain power; of economic and social injustice within nations; of humankind losing its way, to cause me to fear the journey ahead.

There is sufficient evidence today, all over, of where the direction of travel for our race will lead us. And I don’t fancy our chances.

We need to ask the questions and take the actions that will allow for alternate ways, both in our dealings with our fellow Sapiens and the actions we take that affect our chances of survival.

You bet your bottom dollar that those in positions of power are thinking and planning for the journey ahead and investing and capitalising on human misery. That has always been the way.

It can’t be any different. Or can it?

One person at a time, one human being at a time, one Sapiens at a time, I believe it can. And I commit to doing what I can to help make it so.

By first challenging myself to listen more and learn more.

Pivotal times afford opportunities for change. We are in those times. We need to change. We need to challenge ourselves.

As one race, won’t we reset our moral compass and prepare for a new direction of travel?


11 thoughts on “Moral Compass”

  1. This is a wonderful examination, A-M. It remains staggering to me how few people acknowledge the constructs from which they benefit ARE constructs, and can, as such be deconstructed in favour of those that are equitable and reflective of the things we know to be true. I can’t wait to have a conversation with you about this – and everything. I have put my current project on hold to really listen to what the voices of BIPOC are saying right now – and have been saying for longer than too many of us care to admit. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m ashamed, Beth, at how much I have not listened even while hearing. Or listened without acting. We become complicit when we do nothing.
      There are so many fronts to fight on and we become absorbed in the one that most affects us.
      I’m with you on the listening.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wonder, sometimes, if I’ve listened as well as I could/should – regardless, it’s time to pay closer attention to how we must best apply ourselves to effect change. The result of this worldwide change to the ways in which our societies function MUST take on board the experiential and lived input of those who gone unheard for too long. The rest of us need to amplify those voices as best we can – and act together to correct our complicity. xo

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hiya, hope you are ok. I was fascinated by your post – I must get a copy of the book – but also read your comment, and yes, we do naturally get absorbed by what touches us most closely. I’m not sure whether that makes us complicit in other evils, rather a case of the desire being there but the energy, and the wish to protect and nurture our own, takes all that we have. Whatever the End is (and it will surely come) I do think that it will be the result of us not evolving to be the best that humanity can be: the current situation seems to echo that with confused messages and many people (in England) not given a toss and returning to ‘normal’.
    Talking of which my rota has me in on the 15th, then off again for a fortnight (assuming Boris doesn’t change his mind). I know that your holidays fall differently but I understand that you won’t reopen until August 11th. Makes sense, particulary as our parent uptake for places is around 30percent.
    Anyway, take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chris, do, the book is truly excellent. Available on Amazon. (No commission on sales here!)
      I know what you mean. Life and our own concerns take up so much of our time and energy that there’s often little room for anything else. It just seems to be the case that there is so much systemic injustice all over. A while ago, my Twitter feed was full of the Dakota pipeline that was trampling over indigenous people’s lands and rights. Then it’s always something else – some other act of wanton manipulation and control.
      Woke up around 5 this morning, checked my phone and my daughter (who read the book) was messaging me about Trump and martial law. My head was going wtf so I tuned into his address and I listened to that eejit encourage second amendment rights, looked at Australian media being attacked by police at the protest and just wonder how much further we can sink.
      Meanwhile, here, the trumpets in WM are doing away with virtual votes so that other numpty can have his audience. If our MPs follow ScotGov guidelines and don’t go, we’re disenfranchised. If they do, they’re going against the guidelines. Nobody would believe the plots if they were part of a book!

      We officially finish school pm 24th June and due back on 11th August with kids in 2 days later. teachers have been called back in from next week but it’s to be a rota basis. I don’t know yet what mine will be.
      On another note, I’m retiring on 14th January next year – 60! – shit, how’d that happen? Given all that’s going on, I decided to wait till then rather than going this summer. Hope I’ve not made a mistake!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’ll beat me to the ‘golden handshake’ (which really means ‘thank god the bugger’s gone, now we can get someone cheaper) by six months – I’m seeing it out til the close of play next July. I do feel abit for our head who announced her retirement this July in February – probably not the way she had envisioned going.
        You’re right re the political situation – you wouldn’t believe it in a novel. Mind you, we shouldn’t be surprised.
        Off for a lie down now and a bit of social distancing from the nonsense!
        All the best!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey momus, you have been doing a bit of time travel I see. It is an interesting journey to find where we came from and the attitudes that it creates. And in that understanding it asks us to change, and there’s the rub. Gradually we ‘open’ and understand, to begin that movement within but like any ‘unknown’ it is a slow process.
    But here is where it can get a wobbly boot on. All of our civilizations gradually reached their peak but then went into decline, wars, disease etc. The Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Incan, Maya, Chinese civilizations all touched their peak and then took a dive, and usually through war. Where are ‘we’ headed now? Remarkably our technology has the ability to get help from around the world if any particular country gets into trouble…but…what of the decline morally. There is no medicine for that but change, the ability to stand in our inner truth individually so that it then becomes ‘us’ culturally. So where is the moral disease that is killing us.
    Of course it comes from those we follow, those leaders that we are all becoming quite disgusted with to the point that a reaction takes place. If America, and anywhere else for that matter, does not ‘change’, this will become the norm until that collapse occurs.
    But maybe that is natures way of clearing the board. If any animal in nature over breeds and brings about an imbalance it usually triggers a war with its neighbors or overuses its range and starves out or a disease kills off the many…to slowly begin again while nature restores herself.
    It is interesting that all those big empires have been deserted and left in rubble. Just like riots, unrest or disease eventually do.
    Yes, we can vote ‘out’ idiots, but the problem is the system, it just creates more of the same. Even if we vote in some great guy, the ‘party’ soon has them dancing the same old tune.
    Until we can begin to regularly vote on current issues and become that change instead of the corruption that is endemic in all of our ‘systems’ at the moment, it will just stay the same…and down we will go.
    History is screaming out to us…but the greed has earmuffs on. All we can do is turn our music up a little louder…it is all we have left.


  4. Interesting comment, Mark. I recall watching a documentary some years ago about the fall of the Egyptian empire and was fascinated that the principal reason cited was how self-obsessed the people had become – preoccupation with self-aggrandisement, cosmetic beauty and pursuit of eternal life. We’re pretty much on the same bandwagon.
    I get why people want simpler times. I want life to be simpler too but there’s no going back. Only forwards. Hopefully, as one.
    My musical tastes have grown rebellious. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankfully I can hear your music momus. Because of the ‘control’ those in power have (and that is in fear of losing it), the only option is for that someone to stand up with a like minded group and get voted in. Then add one thing by putting it out as a referendum (and trust me, the public will be so glad to be rid of this very undemocratic system), to have the ability for the public to have a actual vote on anything that they are not happy with. And I mean that there has to be an ability to electronically vote on something and if it reaches over say 250,000 votes it must go to a full vote by the public. And yes, we can’t go screaming about everything wanting something better and not putting any effort into it. And the 250,000 is to just stop the whinge factor from triggering something every time something comes up to be voted on. Safety factor would be the usual registered voters allowed to vote (by logging into a site which will give a security code) and verified by a 24 hr later email to be accepted.
      There is no control factor with the current system so they keep making rules and regulations that suit the fat cats, it just encourages more self-aggrandisement as you said and the slippery slope gets faster and faster.
      And the one thing that I’m watching very closely is that until the internet all of our ‘news’ was supplied by those very fat cats who owned all the newspapers, we didn’t know anything but what they told us in them. But I’m watching the government starting to clamp down on that same internet, telling us it is full of lies (yes, their’s), and need to ‘control’ it. Blind Freddy can tell you where that will end up.
      Anyway, that’s me for today. Give me a yell when you want to get voted in Anne-Marie, I’ll come over to live and vote you in, you’ve got my backing 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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