Happy New Year…and something much, much more
I would like to wish you a happy new year – to you, your family, friends and loved ones; but I would also like to wish you and ask of you something much more. It is important to live your life to your full potential. To laugh, to love, to sing, to dance, to breathe, to make mistakes, to admit mistakes, to say thank you, to say sorry, to fall, and get back up again. It’s important to be happy. What I want to ask of you is something still more than that too. I want to ask you to realise that your life matters. That it matters, and it matters more than just finding personal happiness or the happiness of your friends, your children, your family. That is important, yes, but it is not – contrary to what we so often promote and hear – everything. It is important, and so is remembering that we live on and in the world…a world of extraordinary, breathtaking and sensual beauty and wonder…and a world in need. Harvey Milk used to begin each of his speeches with the line “I want to recruit you”. And yes: I want to recruit you. I want us to recruit each other. I want to ask you to do more than celebrate this new year and make personal resolutions that you wish to follow, pursue, achieve to make your life better. I want to ask you to organise, to engage, to take part, to actively make yourself aware, to care. I want to ask you to breathe…to breathe deeply…to taste, cherish and experience the life that fills your lungs…and to choose to do something that actually matters with that life. To say yes – I am alive, I am on this world, and I’m going to do something about it – something that matters. I will not stand by while injustice, exploitation, war, violence, and discrimination continue. I will not stand by while this year as in so many past years millions of people around the world live in refugee camps. I will not stand by or simply drink my champagne to welcome in the new year while there are human being living on the streets or in shanty towns. I will not simply toast, kiss or smile at beautiful firework displays while billions are in poverty while some can drink champagne. I will choose to be more than that. To do more than that.
We have a global economic system that brings tremendous achievements in many ways and is fundamentally perverse, dysfunctional and destructive in far more. We have autocrats, oligarchs and in many cases systemically dysfunctional governance – or misgovernance – systems that do not create the basic parameters and foundations of opportunity and well-being for all..and often sustain tremendous barriers to that well-being and opportunity for most. Systems which fundamentally do not support the extraordinary potential of our species, or respect the extraordinary beauty and sanctity of life of other species.
We live in perhaps the greatest age ever (so far) of creative, innovative, technological and productive capabilities…while billions of human beings live with little – or without – basic dignity, security and necessities of life. We live in a world where (to paraphrase former President and commander-in-chief Dwight D. Eisenhower) we are spending not only the genius of our scientists and wealth and capacity of our societies investing trillions of dollars a year in weapons and war, but we are hanging humanity by an iron cross.
You should be happy. We all should. We should relish in the greater freedom we have than any previous period on earth to choose our paths, dreams and preferences in life. That happiness should itself be part of a life truly lived, and a life AWARE that we cannot take, celebrate or pursue our own personal pleasure, joy, nirvana, bliss and serenity if we are in a world where billions live without, and where war and violence are all too rampant…and in some cases escalating.
No president, no parent, no priest, guru or leader is more important than you, or than any of us. Experts don’t always have the answer. Decisions are not always taken or made in our best interests or the best interests of those around us. That’s why it matters that we take part, get involved, and make certain that the decisions made are those we believe in and want to see – for ourselves, our communities, for the world.
Your life matters. This moment in the world matters. You matter. For much, much more. You…we…can do something to make a difference. Not a small difference. Not helping one or two people – which is absolutely important – but the difference of helping and changing the lives of billions, and protecting this magnificent earth and world we live on.
So yes…this ‘new year’ I want to do something more than to wish you a happy new year. I want to ask you to rise – to become active (or if we already are, to become much, much more active), to discuss, to train, to learn, to get involved and stand up – to take a stand – to say ‘pasta’, no, to what you know is wrong and unacceptable, and to open your lives, our lives, to the incredible number of yeses there are in this amazing world.
In the coming years, there will be a growing movement of millions…of hundreds of millions…working in many diverse ways, but uniting to assist us to realise our potential, and to throw away, discard and overcome outdated, dysfunctional, destructive systems. There will be a movement that will build on the history of past movements – of civil rights, women’s rights, human rights, anti-colonialism, environmental, and so many more movements. It will be a movement of diversity and pluriversity. Of celebrating difference, and connection. That movement is already here, but it…we…will grow.
Arundhati Roy once said “Another world is coming, and, if you listen closely, you can hear her breathing.” If you listen even more closely, you can discover…she is already here, living inside of you…and the choices you make.
Your life, this moment, the year and the moments ahead…matter. So what I wish, what I ask of you, what I ask of myself, is that you rise, we rise, and we continue to rise, until another world…is here.