Monday, 22 December 2008

Hope, Ethics and Character

When the last old year slipped into the new, even the most keen-eyed soothsayer could hardly have predicted that 2008 would bring such tumult.

As this year comes to an end and I reflect on the events that shaped it, I have been struck by the fact that so many people's lives are now affected by fear. Some are losing or have lost jobs, superannuation or businesses. Some are losing their homes.

An African friend wrote to say how fortunate the phrase "downsizing" is when contracted with the reality that increasing numbers where she lives have nothing to downsize from or to. That sharp reality doesn't always make our own fate easier to face, yet it is significant because this has been a year of quite momentous and surprising gains.

We now can't help but see the underbelly of ruthlessly speculative investing. Getting rich by such trading never did have the same social value as making real things or offering needed services. When money and ethics are divorced, we all suffer.

How wonderful it will be if, even five years from now, we can look back on 2008 as the year in which ethics returned to centre stage, determining the big decisions and benefiting people's lives in relation to the issues that matter most.

Certainly, there are signs this is what people want. In Australia we began wonderfully with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's public apology to indigenous people. More remains to be done, and the needs of the environment are no less urgent just because money worries have eclipsed them. But the call to more ethical living does not end there.

On a global scale, the year's most significant public event has been the election of Barack Obama, a man who doesn't belong to any traditional ruling elite and who was surely elected not because he is African-American but because he is exceptionally ethical as well as exceptionally intelligent. That he is also African-American, however, makes his victory so much sweeter.

Hope can only flourish in an ethical environment. The hopes that drove Obama and gave him victory were those expressed by one of my greatest heroes, Martin Luther King jnr: that his "children" might one day be judged not by the colour of their skin but on the strength of their character. Hope, ethics and character create a formidable trinity.

For me, it has also been a year of hope and inspiration. Some of that has come from books I have read or music I have listened to, as well as from invaluable personal encounters.

The novel I most enjoyed was the thought-provoking "Tuesdays with Morrie", "a beautifully written book of great clarity and wisdom that lovingly captures the simplicity beyond life's complexities".

The outstanding concert was Philip Glass's musical interpretation of Leonard Cohen's poems , Book of Longing, and my favourite movie was The Black Balloon, a story about fitting in, discovering love and accepting your family.

Read, see or listen if you can.

Jessen (whom I travelled with to Rwanda in Nov 2006) and Amiee at the photo exhibition we organised to exhibit the children's photos.


McMGrad89 said...

I am not too sure how I feel about Barack Obama at this point to be able to say he is an ethical man. He hasn't done enough on public record to make such a claim. I will have to take a wait and see attitude with him and pray that the American people made a good choice. In the meantime, it will all have to be left in God's hands because only he knows the grand picture.

Sherer said...

I think this post is very interesting. I often wonder: Would successfulness and happiness be as sweet without tumult? Would hope and ethics need to exist at all?

Lilly's Life said...

This is a wonderful post. It is also full of hope despite the current issues the world is facing. It is the way I feel.

It is rather unfortunate that so much hope has been place on Obama's shoulders. To be given Time's person of the year is a little alarming. It is a long way to fall off a tall pedestal. I hope he fulfils the dream but he is a human being and has a tough journey to make.

I think many in the world have nowhere to downsize to and I also think that things will get worse in 2009. We all need to watch out for each other and I honestly think that will happen. I would really like to hear more about your travels to Rwanda. I have done some reading and would like to hear of your experiences there.

I enjoyed Tuesdays with Morrie too - my daughter gave the book to me and for many family and friends because she loved it so much.

I just watched a documentary about Leonard Cohen - interesting man. I used to collect his music years ago. I must check out his poetry and the film as well. I have to say I have enjoyed your musical selection too.

Hope you enjoy the holidays.

Monica said...

I definitely agree that so many people live in fear. That is not how I want to live. I have my moments, but thankfully not very often.

avtcoach said...

"How wonderful it will be if, even five years from now, we can look back on 2008 as the year in which ethics returned to centre stage, determining the big decisions and benefiting people's lives in relation to the issues that matter most."
This has to be the hope..that we learn from what has happened. (whoever We are) I am choosing optimism. I am choosing to be a part of that inspiration that Obama has exuded. I have been on the campaign email list and I continue to get emails about his plans. Michelle Obama sent an email out today encouraging everyone to give to a charity of their choice or if they did not have one gave links to find a local food bank or to send a package to a soldier. They have also invited supporters all over the country to gather in homes in groups for discussions that will help them with policy and plans. That is already more than any other politician has ever done. That is some evidence of "thinking of others", "high follow through" and "encouraging the people". I hope that the Obama's can be inspirers of hope and character around the world. I am hoping for some positive diplomacy from them. I think we have to keep believing and have hope. What else is there? Great post as always!!

Lance said...

Hi Peggy,
I find much hope in our future, and really a big part of that is because of the many wonderful people I have come in contact with through this world of blogging. So, while we've experienced much negativity this past year, I look to our new year, seeing much light coming amidst the darkness we've experienced.

I love "Tuesdays with Morrie" - and re-read it this past year. Morrie really touches me with his outlook on life.

May you have a Christmas filled with much joy and happiness Peggy!

Meow said...

Namaste Peggy,

Great Post!

Looking at 2008, I'd probably only say that there is bound to be a crest after any trough & so, there can only be better times waiting ahead for all of us.

I & my mom read "Tuesdays with Morrie" and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It really forces one to sit down & think, simply loved it..

All my Love & Blessings to you, this Christmas!!


Caroline said...

2008 was quite a year. I am looking forward to 2009 and re-newed hope. I am thankful for meeting you this year...that was good :)

Have a wonderful Christmas down under :)

Many Blessings to you!


Fly Girl said...


I have a quick minute, which is surely not enough to respond to your insightful post. I do hope that the economy and other areas of concern rebound in the next year. I hope Obama lives up to the many expectations he is shouldering... or at least that the public realizes one man can't do it all (good or bad) by himself. That's why he has advisers and also an active Congress that makes many of the decisions.

Although I hope for much better days for the world, I feel that times might get worse before they get better. People of the age of my in-laws have lived through tough times (World War II, the Depression). They know what it means to live in tough times. They sacrificed to help with the war effort and to just get by. And although that "greatest" generation would manage on their own, I hope the economy doesn't take too much more of a hit, so people of this "great" generation don't have to relive hard times just as they are in their golden years.

Well, I seem to have been longwinded after all!

I do wish you a very Merry Christmas! I am so happy to have met you and feel that it is a friendship worth celebrating!