Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Warblings on war and city life. ... "Do not use water, it will spread the fire."

A borrowed picture: Such courage amazes and inspires me.
A misty morning in Edinburgh: A view out our window. Good housing but so dense. Not the way I would like to live.
The news of the last couple of weeks has been filled with stories of the Air Malaysia plane shot out of the sky; the unrest in Ukraine; the feeling that Russia is adopting a more aggressive stance toward the rest of the world; the terrible Israeli offensive in Gaza and the devastation there. I am always terrified and saddened by war. As I think about current unrest, and think back into history, you get the feeling that actions in the midst of unrest in the past, sometimes going back centuries have contributed to today's tragedies.  I am probably naive but I have three observations.
"Do not use water..."
When there is a fat or oil fire in a kitchen the advice is "Do Not use water" e.g.
• Do Not Use Water - Pouring water can cause the oil to splash and spread the fire. The vaporizing water can also carry grease particles in it, also spreading the fire.
My firefighters tell me that if you use water, the fire burning in a pot or pan suddenly spreads up the wall and around the kitchen. You end up in a worse situation than you started with. I would like our political leaders to think the same way about the use of military solutions in times of unrest. You may subdue your enemy, but you spread the unrest, the tragedy and killing down through generations. There can be centuries of hate to deal with.  By rushing in with a destructive military response you may be opening up the citizens of your country to centuries of hatred, insecurity and injury. I believe too that in this day and age it impacts on the whole world. I am currently on the other side of the world from my home country. I look to travel home soon but so many people have said, "Is it safe flying anywhere these days?"  When we got our tickets the agent had us flying back through the United States. My reaction was, "Do I want to fly through there? So many people have a grudge against them? Their airports may not be the safest place to be?" 
"Same batch of dough, different ovens...".. understand their "oven"
In a cafe in the Victoria Market in Inverness, Scotland, I saw a plaque that read, "We are all kneaded from the same batch of dough, but cooked in different ovens."  Palestinians and Israelis are from the same batch of dough... we are all brothers and sisters. As one man has said, "From God's point of view every war is a civil war, brother and sister fighting brother and sister."  But they have been baked in different ovens.  They have different world views, experiences, cultures that make them who they are.  I think the beginning of responding to an enemy is to listen to where they are coming from.  "That Palestinian hates me... why? What is it about the Palestinian experience of life that leads him to have this reaction? Is there something we can address in this?" Listen - really listen to the other, the history the culture first. "That terrorist wants to harm us. Why? What is it about his experience of life that leads him to this? How can we address those things?" If I just squash him, his children and their children will still hate us and want to harm us, the hate will spread. 
In the midst of the search for civil rights, the oppression, threats and violence involved, Martin Luther King said, "Love is the only power which can turn enemies into friends." Gandhi said and practiced similar truths. In the midst of the oppression of occupying Roman powers and ruling elites, Jesus said, "Turn the other cheek" which, in context, was quite a rebellious way to combat violence. It was inviting the oppressor to hit, but to hit as an equal!  It is the same with his "Going the extra mile" exhortation.  We need to see that in the long run, for the good of ourselves, our nations and our world, it would be better for us to spend money and time seeking for ways to express love. Military response must only and always be a last resort, it "spreads the fire." even when it looks "successful". When will we ever learn? 
Cities worry me...
We have been living in a modern, but densely populated area of Edinburgh. The houses have very small backyards. Nearby there are blocks of low cost housing estates - housing for the poor. There are some quite high rise buildings. We caught a bus the other day and rode it for an hour and a half through the streets of Edinburgh. I was astounded at the density of the housing, people packed together with not much outside room to move and no real "land of their own". I compare this to the average New Zealand city suburb.  There most people have lawns and gardens to tend, a place to park the car, to work on the car, a place for a vegetable garden if they wish and single story detached housing. I long to be back in that environment.  I ache for our acre of ground in Sawyers Bay. Now I know we in New Zealand are spoilt silly, and that perhaps most of the world's population do not live in such luxury. But I wonder what this dense living does to them? Maori, Aboriginal and many other cultures value intensely their links to the land. It is a deep thing. I feel like many people in cities have lost that link and have lost something important. I find the people around us here in Edinburgh to be dour, and often angry as I encounter them and listen to their conversations on the bus etc. Is this related to how and where they live? I recall once giving a man a dozen eggs from our hens. They were beautiful, big, bright yoked chemical free eggs from free range hens. He refused them. "Proper eggs" came in a carton from the supermarket, they were, as far as he was concerned, "safe". Pale, questionable chemical laden eggs produced in cruel circumstances... good grief... somehow in our city life we lose touch with the processes of nature and we lose something very deeply important and spiritual.  I love my trip, but I long to be back in lush green open NZ. 

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