Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Signs of the Times

Have you ever taken time to reflect on how society and attitudes have changed in the last 30 years? Now that I am approaching 40, I can begin to look back with a certain perspective on many changes evident particularly in my own country, but I feel sure that similar changes have taken place in the US and the UK.

Attitudes have undergone a complete revolution since the early 1980s. One area in particular is in the realm of the nuclear threat. This has not of course completely gone away, but I remember growing up feeling like it could happen at any time. Russia, which was then much larger and known as the U.S.S.R., was seen as the great enemy of the West. And they, of course, saw us as the great enemy! For a period of over 50 years, from 1947 to 1989, the tension between these two great power blocs was at a dangerously heightened level. Students in American schools in the 50s and 60s were actually trained what to do in the event of a nuclear strike – basically to crouch under their desks and brace for impact (and a fat lot of good that would have done). Hence the 1985 song “Russians”, by Sting, in which he directly confronts the issue, questioning the insanity of the powers, with their fingers poised over their respective buttons, and asking – don’t the Russians love their children too?

Strange as it may seem to today’s Gen Y, this truly was the situation in the early 80s. I can remember asking myself the same question – if the Russians are people like us (and the media strove to convince us that indeed they were not!), wouldn’t they want a peaceful solution for the sake of their children?

This all culminated in the “false-alarm” incident of 1983, which was itself part of a larger pattern of events that convinced Russia that America was preparing for an actual strike. If it were not for one man working within the Russian nuclear installation who correctly surmised that their missile detection instruments were malfunctioning, the unthinkable may have actually occurred at that time. Of course now, we are much closer to Russia, with tourism a growing industry whereas once it would have been unthinkable to travel to the Soviet bloc country. Certain tensions, unfortunately, still exist, especially over the Middle East.

This is one example of how things have changed over the years. Another example, in Australia at least, is so-called multiculturalism. The divisions between Anglo-Australian culture and the various other immigrant cultures are much less evident these days, particularly in metropolitan areas. It used to be that the main sources of non-Anglo immigration to Australia were from Greece and Italy. Despite the historical kinship that exists between those nations, most “Aussies” were pretty hard on these immigrants. This despite the fact that most of the people were beautiful, peaceful and law-abiding citizens! But Aussies had come up doing the hard yards of establishing a nation out of the raw rock and desert soil of this nation, and as a result of this experience they had perhaps become hardened. Also, as a new nation forging a new path away from the mother continent of Europe, most “Aussies” were probably sceptical of anything European. Still, the treatment of those waves of immigrants was thoroughly undeserved. Today, we see immigrants from all over the world – from places as far afield as Croatia, the Sudan, Lebanon, Iran, etc. This has become normal. And miraculously, all these cultures are somehow (for the most part) living side by side in relative peace (knock on wood!).

Naturally there is of course a regrettable element of conservative, intolerant “Aussies” – but I for one never really hear much about them, and they certainly don’t get much (if any) press.

Yet another area of change is in the status of women. Now this is a curious area of social study – after the feminist wave of the 70s and 80s, many women would say things have not improved but in fact have perhaps backslid. (Is that a word?) Certainly there are a much higher proportion of women in positions of management, especially in the public service where I work. Women no longer have to prove they belong in the workforce as they once did. Yet there are still men who feel the need to over-control their women – and regrettably, I have discovered that this tendency still obtains within me.

This has been a rather rambling blog so I hope you will bear with me, but lately I have heard stories of women who have left their partners because they insist on trying to control. I myself had a meltdown recently when I felt my partner was becoming too independent (gasp!) and some inner, wounded part of me – inaccessible to my powers of reason! – was convinced I was being left. It wasn’t as if she was even doing anything that threatening – it was more that I could just sense a pattern emerging and this was reinforced by things she had been saying lately.

Now in my right mind this would not have been a problem. But I had let myself and my self-care slide in recent times, and as a result the inner wounded-self was festering. The abandonment complex I had carried since before conscious memory was really acting up – and acting out. Fortunately we have been able to smooth things over together but I am still disturbed by what happened.

Without trying to sound too righteous about it, I really feel that the whole world’s problems stem from men trying to control. I am sure many women reading this would agree. All the things I have mentioned – the nuclear threat, intolerance of other peoples – are not perpetrated by women, but by angry men. As the Goddess returns, balance is restored among the sexes and women rise to new levels of empowerment and independence, men are possibly feeling a little hurt and confused. We aren’t sure what our place is anymore – having been in control for so long, having been the ruling paradigm for several thousand years, and having soothed our savage beasts by keeping women at our beck and call, we are possibly entering this new age feeling a little shaken and shaky.

For myself, the answer is to take time out for me. Many men have possibly already cottoned on to this solution! But for me certainly, taking time out for myself at the end of each day, to pause, to reflect, and just to let my inner voice be heard, is one small step to allowing myself to self-nurture. Burning out my brain with distraction after distraction is not the way to go. And after all, I do have a contemplative and spiritual side, I am interested in positive change for the world. I guess it’s a matter of acting in accord with what I want to see in the world!

Or as the Mahatma once said, Be the change you want to see in the world. But to the blokes out there – take heart, gentlemen. We all want a safer, more peaceful world to live in, and that is what is trying to come to birth. The old ways are no longer working for us, guys. Time to relax and let the changes in!

Be well

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