Traditionally a greeting in India, this phrase has found popularity in an increasing number of countries across the world. Translated, it means “I bow to the divine in you” – it is the respect given upon acknowledgement that the person in front of you is a unique and worthwhile individual.
In many cases, perhaps, the term has become a ‘cutesy’ or ‘ethnic-y’ pop-culture greeting, but the meaning goes deep. Because either we all have something unique and worthwhile within us, or none of us do. We cannot pick and choose.
I believe that each human on this planet, however they came into being – whatever their status or social standing; wherever they live; whoever they live with; whatever their cultural traditions, their physicality, language or preferences – holds sufficient intrinsic value that they would be afforded the greeting ‘Namaste’, for precisely the reason that in an all-or-nothing gig, I would prefer to err on the side of cautious optimism, and hope that we are all somehow worthwhile.
That said, I don’t believe that the greeting pertains to behaviour. I can acknowledge that a person is an individual with unique characteristics and the same intrinsic value as the next person, whilst utterly abhorring their behaviour and willing it sanction to the highest level.
You see, poor behaviour is a different matter altogether, and people often behave in ways which invite legitimate criticism or punishment, for good and just reason. If someone murders or rapes or steals or breaks trust, then their action should be called out, and they should face the consequences under law and common sense.
We make choices. What we choose to do has an impact, and this impact has repercussions, whether they are for better or worse – our behaviour can either build The Village, or it can tear it down.
In a culture where fear is prevalent, it is easy to act divisively; gathering ourselves into packs and declaring our separate-ness from those we find less palatable, and to an extent this is based on a survival tactic because it brings together a group who can help to protect one another, should the need arise.
But when we decry other people for their characteristics rather than their poor behaviour; when we use shame, humiliation or holding someone up for others to point and laugh at, it’s unkind, and it contributes to the bully culture by generating a power-pyramid. At the top, there are the stronger people, who decide which person is next in line to be condemned. At the bottom are the weaker, who must either participate, or remain silent hoping that their abstinence will be sufficient to mark their distaste.
When it occurs amongst children we sanction the bullies (where possible) and support the victims. In an ideal world, the bullying behaviour is understood as a symptom of some deep unhappiness or difficulty faced by the individual, and this is also attended to. We do our best to play Happy Villagers and encourage community and friendship amongst the younger generation.
It seems this attitude sometimes gets lost in translation to the adult world, particularly with the current trend of shaming – the Medieval times and their stocks and public jeers are not so far away, it seems.
We all fail at things – whether it’s our dress sense, our attitude, our behaviour – and we all need grace, and the support of a community around us who will offer sound encouragement, help us through the consequences of our actions, and allow us to try again without prejudice (which is not to say without caution, in certain cases).
Yet people who would never consider it acceptable for a child to publicly demean another, will happily engage in taking a bash at the latest Kardashian outfit. People who might otherwise be kind and generous stalwarts of the community nonetheless think it acceptable to take a photo of a stranger’s arse-crack or clothing choice, and post it on the internet for their like-minded friends to laugh at.
Just because a person will never know it happened, or because they made poor choices, or put themselves ‘out there’, does that mean they ‘deserve’ to be a target? Does it do any harm?
I would suggest that although the target may never know the individual pot-shots taken at their expense, the very action of taking those pot-shots proliferates a culture of fear and unease. It provides a poor role model both to children and other adults. It suggests that there are people who are ‘fair game’ (and again, as far as satire or genuine criticism are concerned, there may be, but these would be dealt with differently than just hurling abuse for the sake of it, or for kicks) and these actions harden hearts against recognising certain individuals as worthwhile.
To an extent, it dehumanises them, and nothing good ever comes when someone is able to view another with a complete lack of compassion.
Bullying and unkindness are insidious beasts, which manifest themselves in all kinds of ways, both blatant and covert. All we can do is attempt to recognise them in ourselves and change our behaviour to that which builds up, encourages, and is FOR other people.
I know that there are many ways in which I fall down in this, probably on a daily basis.
But I also know it is important – nay, vital – for me to try. Because I care, and because my heart hurts when I see division and cruelty.
To those who read this and think I’m an idealistic, stupid asshole for caring about whether it matters to laugh at the shape of a politician’s face, or Mama June, or a Kardashian, then I hope that you find yourself right in the centre of The Village, wrapped up in its heart, because until the level of care in it is such that you feel able to open your heart to it and embrace it, then The Village had better buckle up – it has WORK to do.
To those who read this and agree, well…we have work to do.
We only have the right and ability to control what we do.
I hope you will choose to build The Village with me.
On March 20th, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion are having their SECOND link-up, this time with a particular focus on ‘Building from Bullying’, as well as compassion in general.
To participate, write a relevant post, and add it to the linkie on the day.
Spread the word that this event is happening again, and help us to find another 1000 Voices to help restore some balance by providing an influx of GOOD into the Blogosphere, and the world at large.
Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook
Visit the 1000Speak blog
Follow @1000Speak on Twitter
Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.
Help us BUILD The Village.