Babylon 5, benefits, Benjamin Franklin, Cait Reilly, Catherine Bennett, Chris Grayling, conditioned helplessness, Conservative, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, DWP, economy, Employment Minister, government, Human Rights Act, Jan Moir, Job Centre, Jobseeker's Allowance, Jobseekers, John Kennedy, Mahatma Ghandi, Mike Sivier, mikesivier, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Pen Room Museum, people, politics, Poundland, Sarajevo, students, Tesco, The Guardian, Thomas Aquinas
I’ve been accosted by several people in the 24 hours or so since I wrote ‘No forced labour please, we’re British’ – all of them determined to make me believe that any stand against government injustice is doomed to failure and I shouldn’t try to support it.
What a bunch of craven cowards.
If these people had their way, everyone in the UK would be a slave. If the religion they preach was true, all of our ancestors would have been slaves as well – to the biggest bullies with the nastiest weapons, all the way back down through time.
None of the great changes, emancipations, freedoms that were ever gained in history would have taken place.
Well, I’m here to tell you that we are not slaves; those changes did take place, and they happened because people like you and I made them happen.
The writer J Michael Straczynski, creator of the cult SF TV show Babylon 5, put it very well a few years ago, so I’ll hand the rest of this article over to him:
“Let me tell you about a little psychological trick called conditioned helplessness.
“When our world and our choices are restricted over a sufficiently long period of time, we come to believe that we cannot snap our bonds, cannot choose anything other than what we have, even though those bonds are often as sheer as gossamer.
“And it’s when we are in that state of conditioned helplessness that we are truly at our most dangerous, to ourselves as we fall into despair or poor decisions, and to others when the weight of the perceived chain becomes too much, and like enraged elephants we go mad… and make those around us pay the price for our confinement.
“It is in the vested interests of any society, any form of government, any hierarchical system to make you believe that you have no power, that you have no choices, that you cannot fight City Hall or Parliament or the Party or the Committee. We are told to play nice, to behave, to get along, that the human being singular can’t really change anything, can’t affect anything. Leave it to the rest, to the authorities, to those qualified to deal with the problem. They want you to go to sleep, to believe that there is nothing you can do.
“They are, of course, quite wrong. And when they tell you you cannot do anything, that you do not have a choice, they are lying to you. Nothing more, nothing less.
“History was changed by one assassin in Sarajevo, whose bullet set off a chain reaction that led to World War I and by default to World War II and much of the Cold War history thereafter.
“One man with a bullet can change the world. We’ve seen it. We know it’s true.
“How much more can one man or one woman with one idea change the world? Ask Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, John Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Aquinas.
“And while you’re at it… ask yourself.”
JMS is appealing to us to see “hope, and optimism, and our capacity to build a better world if we are willing to fight for the future, to seize it for ourselves and make of it what we want, because if we don’t then someone else will make it for us, and it may not be the best possible future, or the one we most desire. It is about the nobler aspects of our humanity, those elements which call us together in a common cause, not the differences that pull us apart… In the final analysis, whatever we may have been taught to the contrary, we are more alike than we are different.”
There is something we can do. And we should praise those who do it.
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