Like many people who live in London and the UK, this week I’ve been horrified to see the events that unfolded across the capital and then across the country. These seemingly senseless acts of criminality and violence, of a magnitude that you wouldn’t expect in a relatively free and peaceful society, seemed to erupt everywhere like spot fires in a dry patch of Forrest.
Our Desire for Meaning and Blame
Since it all started I’ve had many an interesting conversation with people about how this could happen – what would drive supposedly intelligent human beings to behave in a way worse than animals? As humans it’s a natural desire for us to want to attach meaning to that which doesn’t appear to make sense. And what’s more, we seem to want to find someone to blame! Whether it is the government, the education system, private industry, or the parents of those involved, we just want someone to point the finger at. And with blame attributed, we can then get back to our lives feeling like we’ve attached sufficient meaning to these events that have not made sense.
As I reflect on the conversations that I’ve had and what I’ve read I find myself asking those very same questions as everyone else: How could this happen? What drives human beings to behave like senseless criminals? However, taking a leaf from some great mentors of mine, rather than dwell on these questions in this blog I thought I‘d focus on ideas about how we should do move forward.
The Power of Collective Energy
When thinking how we should move forward the hypothesis I’ve formed is based on energy and purpose. For a moment, let’s ignore the destructive impact of riots and look differently at what was happening. When looking at the footage and hearing the reports, you could see there was a huge explosion of collective energy all directed at a single source or purpose. This energy swept up those around it, causing people to become consumed in the events unfolded. This focused source of collective energy source, much like a laser rather than a light bulb, created results that we could never have comprehended. And, while still suspending our views about actual destructive impact, this collective energy could be seen to be an incredibly powerful force!
The challenge with the collective energy that was created however was that it was directed in the wrong way. For whatever reason, the purpose those individuals were pursuing or attaching themselves to was negative. They had focused their efforts on the simpler ‘selfish’ side of the paradox of happiness, rather than recognizing that true happiness can only come from holding in tension being selfish and selfless at once. The reasons for attaching themselves to a selfish, materialistic and violent purpose, as discussed above, I’m sure are many. However, from my hypothesis, this gives us an opportunity to move forward; an Opportunity through Purpose.
Opportunity through Purpose
Within any community of people there is always a flow of energy. For the rioters, this flow of energy was incredibly powerful and focused. However, it was also attached to a selfish, materialistic and violent purpose. To create change in any community rather than fight against the flow of energy that already exists, we should seek get within it and then ‘nudge’ it toward a more positive and selfless purpose that’s focused on contributing to making the world a better place. The question that I’m left with is therefore:
How do we get within the flow of energy and engage it to rebuild and develop the communities that it once tried to destroy?
The answer to this I’ve no doubt is tough, but I also believe it’s simple. I believe it is tough because it requires all of us to pull together and suspend some of our beliefs about the events that have unfolded. It is also tough because it requires us to engage more meaningfully with those involved, and seek to work with them to shift the beliefs attached to the flow energy created. However, to do this requires us to avoid perpetuating the blame game. Instead we must suspend our desire for meaning and retribution and engage these people as truly compassionate humans, who like ourselves are just seeking for meaning and purpose in our lives.
Through engaging those who were involved in the riots in this way – through working with them to shift the collective energy toward a positive and more altruistic purpose – I believe that we can not only ‘make the world a better place’, but we can also help them and ourselves gain greater meaning, purpose and happiness in life. After all, despite all the violence and negativity that occurred, there was a ‘Ying’ to the ‘Yang’ with all the people who selflessly took to the streets to clean up the day after. I would hazard a guess that these people, who gave their time to help their fellow man, gained a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness through sweeping the streets than did those trying to steal some new trainers or a TV!