a promise is a promise

His brusque behaviour and bluster sent warning flags up immediately. He rebuffed attempts to welcome and engage him in conversation. A hardened, aggressive stance clearly signalled that something had gone wrong for him somewhere.

His brusque behaviour and bluster sent warning flags up immediately. He rebuffed attempts to welcome and engage him in conversation. A hardened, aggressive stance clearly signalled that something had gone wrong for him somewhere.

Now he narrowly saw only one way forward and he would let nothing or no one get in his way. How many times have you witnessed this behaviour pattern?

For a child in a school gym, an adult at a workplace meeting or a partner in a marriage, attitudes can harden. A disappointment, failure, perceived personal injury, sadness or some grief may ostensibly trigger their bullying posture. How do you break down the barriers?

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a familiar figure to many here in Yukon, writes in his book Hold on to your Kids that “When humans enter a relationship, their attachment brain automatically ranks the participants in order of dominance. Embedded in our inborn brain apparatus are archetypal positions that divide roughly into dominant and dependent, care giving and care seeking, the one who provides and the one who receives.”

Neufeld argues that “this is even true for adult attachments, as in marriage, although in healthy, reciprocal relationships there will be a good deal of shifting back and forth between the giving and care-seeking modes depending on circumstances.”

Is our failure to provided needed care at the root of the lack of the positive attachment really being cried out for by bullies? Are our societies’ pathologies aggravated by not tending to basic human needs? Can we lay present world strife at our failure to truly implement the global ethic of caring implied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed 65 years ago?

Karl Jaspers, a German philosopher, spoke in the late 1940s of an axial age between 800 and 200 B.C. when the foundational ideas which underpin our contemporary global civilization were laid down. The major world religions and philosophies can trace their roots, he argued, to this period.

At this time, from Buddha to the Hebrew prophets to the Greek philosophers, surprisingly similar core concepts emerged across the globe such as the Golden Rule. The common striving to envision an ideal society where the peace reigns and the widow, orphan and poor are cared for is not unusual after all. Neufeld sees human care-giving and care-seeking behaviour as deeply embedded in all of us.

Dr. Jaspers (who died in 1969) late in his life questioned whether our era was witnessing the beginning of a new axial age. Can we now envision a world where drone wars are no more acceptable than allowing a child to starve to death in South Sudan? Will we come to place a greater priority on nurturing people rather than corporate profits? When will cherishing our environment replace coveting the latest gadgets?

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day on March 8 is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” We should make ourselves a promise to root out the causes of violence in our communities and ultimately in our world. Truly caring for each other is a good place to start.

The four Whitehorse churches hosting a Lenten Ecumenical Social Justice program invite the community to the third evening in this series. It will be held on Tuesday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church at the corner of Strickland Street and Fourth Avenue. James Loney, peace activist, Christian Peacemaker Team member and author, will present a talk entitled Invitation to a Culture of Non-Violence. This will be followed by a discussion. All are welcome.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

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