My agenda for 2019

A new year seems always full of promise, and often filled with promises. Here I’d like to focus on promise – pro-mise, forth-put, forward-sent https://www.etymonline.com/word/promise. Promise singular carries overtones of budding, boding, burgeoning, blooming, blossoming (have just discovered burjon means bud https://www.etymonline.com/word/burgeon). Promises plural often carries undertones of burdens, burdening myself with commitments, obligations, expectations to be managed if not fulfilled.

So with my focus on burgeoning promise rather than burdening promises, I would like to review insights from recent immersion in self-understanding literature, including Stoic and Buddhist mindfulness, resilience and inquiry, value and virtue ethics, epistemology, developmental self-profiling and ACT.

Understanding my experiences – all of them literally embodied in me as me, as my metabolism, via my ingestion and activities, as my meta-metabolism of emotion and empathy, via my feeling and thinking – and understanding also ‘my’ explanations of them, also literally embedded in me as me, as my principles and precepts, my proscriptions and prescriptions, my ‘never do’s and ‘always do’s – frees realisation of how my experiences and explanations might provide explications as expressions of my values, and expediences as my virtues, as my contributions to eudaemonia, people’s flourishing.

So a variety of environmental primings, promptings and precipitants over recent months have helped me recognise that encounters that produce discomfort, disturbance or distress indicate issues requiring resolution to which I would like to contribute, without presently seeing how to do this.

One issue is identifying viable local and national solutions to rough-sleeping and homelessness, that would enable people both to be and be known to be able to sleep dry, warm and safe each night, also to stay dry, warm and safe each day (so not required to stay out of night shelters, hostels and B&Bs each morning). Going along with this is enabling people to earn something every day, by providing opportunities for paid work, whether cleaning the hostel and its facilities, growing, preparing, serving food for residents, and cleaning up afterwards, or fund-raising, perhaps with community work.

Another issue is imprisonment: prisons and prisoners, reparation and rehabilitation. Old forms of prison entrain deprivation of liberty, dignity and humanity with punitive retribution, suspicion and surveillance. How can lack of liberty, dignity and humanity develop acceptance of constraints and contentment in community required by rehabilitation for community life? Surely deprivation of liberty in a prison community is useful only if a containing community enables experience of contentment in community. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18121914

A third issue is provision of social care for any- and everyone who needs it: elderly people frail through insult, illness or injury, mental and physical, including neuropsychophysical diseases like dementia and Parkinson’s, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, and depression and loneliness; people with mental or physical constraints, children, youth and adults with learning difficulties, people recovering from illness, surgery, or cancer treatment; people with life-shortening or terminal illnesses; carers needing respite. Current care provision seems to see carees, carers and the care situation as somehow peripheral, not central to social life, although societies around the world recognise an increasing need for a model of a seamless care service that integrates provision of care for people with various support needs in various situations and settings by people with various needs in various relationship situations and domiciliary settings – which all of us will need.

A fourth issue is education in effective epistemology and affective empathy, as recognition of what elements in any authoritative or authorial account might at first seem or feel authentic or true to me, and how, and why, in distinction from what elements on reflection really are and are not true for me, as realisation of how and by what I experience authenticity or lack of it. A consistent, coherent integration of information and experience requires a hermeneutic fabric and a heuristic rubric for recognising and reviewing how an experience reverberates or resonates with me, in terms of its truth to and for me, and of my trust in that truth. People can be enabled to realise that assertedly authoritative accounts may be neither actually authentic nor factually true, so not in fact authoritative, and authorial accounts similarly. Then the issue becomes, what about it invited or impelled my initial assent, what changed on reflection, and what can I learn about trusting my truth?

A fifth and for now final issue is the place of governance and governments. What on earth is governance for? What in the world do governments do? Mostly governance sets social courses to desired destinations for national and supra-national entities, then governments set out to steer those entities toward those destinations as speedily as possible, usually avoiding or averting collisions with other entities, but sometimes attempting collision courses or asserting collisions. Given one earth to govern and one world around which governments are setting course for and steering to a small set of desirable destinations, crowded courses and consequent collisions seem inevitable – unless the desired destinations, or the social goods to be found there are attainable via another course. So what exactly is desirable about the social destinations set by governance? Mostly, it’s the promise of ‘the good life’ for everyone: good births, good deaths, and good everything in between, in a good environment for a good life for all life on earth. How can a good life for all life on earth be achieved? The sun provides enough energy to sustain all earth’s life cycles, so the single social issue is attaining desirable distribution of desired components of a good life for all earth life.

Ecology indicates required components for a good life are clean air, water, shelter, food, activity, in ecosystems consisting of accidental assemblages functioning as communities, common service, in mutualism, co-operation, competition, symbiosis, parasitism, obligate, opportunistic or facultative. Emergent community life in ecosystem assemblages resembles human life: homes and homelessness, liberty and lack of liberty, communal coexistence, social management of young, old, ill, incapacitated. So the issue is simply, how could all life on earth enjoy a good life, birth to death, cradle to grave?

Around the world, people undertaking several sorts of social management are reconsidering models of care of the people for the people by the people. This is the issue in front of us all: how shall we care for the people we love in ways that will enable the people who love us to be able to care for us? The desired destination is ultimately the means to ensure good lives for all, no matter what accident of assemblage or insult, injury or illness may have incapacitated anyone, since ensuring a good life for all is the simplest and best way to ensure earthwide worldwide community safety and security, care of all for all by all. This is the promise of new insights this new year.

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