Favours

It’s true, I never seem to learn in this “doing a favour” game.

People ask for help. I say sure, I’ll see what I can do, I’ll try my best, but it will be in my free time after work, so please be patient. Enough?

No. Soon enough there will be emails demanding an immediate response — “have you done it yet?” — real professionals would have responded straight away.

Ah, there’s the clue. You would have paid for the real professional’s time too, and you wouldn’t have expected them to work on your project late into the night after a full day’s work already sat in front of a computer.

I’m not honestly sure if you can expect the same rights from a friend helping you out of kindness as a professional being paid a living wage to do the same job. Maybe you can. Maybe this is the wage of charity and kindness and friendship.

But sadly these favours always end the same way: with me promising myself not to take them again. But I never learn; soon enough I’ll take on the next favour out of a sense of duty, kindness and good cheer. And soon enough I’ll be grumbling again about disrespect, and singing the blues once more.

Presumed knowledge

The trouble about ignorance is that it’s easy to be impressed by presumed knowledge. There are so many times I have been “blown away” by the incredible knowledge of a scholar who sounds so erudite, intellectual and wise – because it is a field alien to me. But when they have opened the mouths on matters I am familiar with, they have come across as shallow, unreliable and confused. The danger of speaking outside you area of expertise, perhaps. Or simply the folly of leading the unlearned.

New world order

Not to worry, “The Political Establishment” will push him under a train soon enough to give the conspiracy nuts who voted for him something else to be enraged about, and then a UFO laden with NWO physicians will land to force vaccinate everyone and take away their guns, at which point the Illuminati will inverse the Golden Ratio, making Rio de Janeiro the new centre of the earth and enslave mankind under the yoke of political correctness and force everyone to wear cardigans.

Delivering aid

The British Government is providing £100million in aid to Yemen, whilst simultaneously selling £3.7billion of weapons and military support to Saudi Arabia, whose actions have been causing massive suffering and damage there since March 2015 (almost 4000 civilians killed and 130 health facilities hit).

All aid agencies are going to struggle to get aid to those who need it most; Médecins Sans Frontières hospitals have been hit by Saudi bombs several times now, but continue to work there. We must trust that organisations such as Oxfam, Unicef, the Red Cross and Islamic Relief that explicitly ask us to support their work in Yemen have the means to reach those in need.

Yet it does all seems tragically futile when our own government has such an intimate and compromising relationship with arms dealers, who help fuel conflicts like this in the first place.

The little people have their good intentions, as they spend of their wealth on the poor and the needy, but they have no influence. Only governments can decide how they will behave in the world: to take a moral stance, or just focus on economic growth, whatever it takes.

Playground stories

The racialisation of religious identify on school playgrounds is deeply troubling.

“Muslim” has become shorthand for anyone with brown skin, regardless of their background. The acceptable face of racism. “Christian” means a white person.

Our own children come home with such ideas. Despite us having non-white friends and family members they know to be Christian, these ideas emphasised by friends at school are all persuasive.

All brown people are Muslim, even if they claim to be Christian. All white people are Christian even if they claim to be Muslim. And there is no more complexity to the world.

Do adults reinforce these ideas at home, or is this purely playground mythology, passed on from child to child? We find it utterly bizarre, listening to the claims of our children, which are so at odds with their lived experience.

The power of the playground in full force.

Lessons

Do not be rude in speech (3:159)

Restrain your anger (3:134)

Be good to others (4:36)

Do not be arrogant (7:13)

Forgive others for their mistakes (7:199)

Speak to people mildly (20:44)

Lower your voice (31:19)

Do not ridicule others (49:11)

Be dutiful to parents(17:23)

Write down what you owe in debt (2:282)

Do not follow anyone blindly (2:170)

Grant more time to repay if the debtor is in hard times (2:280)

Don’t consume interest (2:275)

Do not engage in bribery (2:188)

Do not break your promises (2:177)

Keep your trusts (2:283)

Do not mix the truth with falsehood (2:42)

Judge with justice between people (4:58)

Stand out firmly for justice (4:135)

Do not devour the property of orphans (4:10)

Protect orphans (2:220)

Do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly (4:29)

Try to make settlements between people (49:9)

Avoid suspicion (49:12)

Do not spy or backbite (49:12)

Spend wealth in charity (57:7)

Encourage feeding poor (107:3)

Do not spend money extravagantly (17:29)

Do not invalidate charity with reminders (2:264)

Honour your guests (51:26)

Order righteousness to people only after practising it yourself(2:44)

Do not commit abuse on the earth (2:60)

Fight only with those who fight you (2:190)

There is no compulsion in religion (2:256)

Do not burden a person beyond his scope (2:286)

Do not become divided (3:103)

Think deeply about the wonders and creation of this universe (3:191)

Do not be miserly (4:37)

Shun envy (4:54)

Do not kill each other (4:92)

Do not be an advocate for deceit (4:105)

Do not cooperate in sin and aggression (5:2)

Cooperate in righteousness (5:2)

Be just (5:8)

Don’t reduce weight or measure to cheat people (6:152)

Eat and Drink, But Be Not Excessive (7:31)

Protect and help those who seek protection (9:6)

Never give up hope of God’s Mercy (12:87)

Invite to God with wisdom and good instruction (16:125)

Walk on the earth in humility (25:63)

Repel evil with good (41:34)

Decide on affairs by consultation (42:38)

Save yourself from covetousness (64:16)

Seek forgiveness from God. He is Forgiving and Merciful (73:20)

Avert your eyes

Is this progress? That I’ve begun to resist the urge to challenge every unfounded claim, every piece of propaganda and the pseudo-scientific nonsense that passes before my eyes on my news feed each day?
 
Yes, even when a friend could do themselves serious harm were they to follow the advice given in the article they shared? Yes, even when others could be caused serious harms as a result of unfounded claims.
 
So yes, I very nearly responded to the latest misleading and downright dangerous article to whiz before my eyes. I penned a diplomatic response, wording it carefully so as not to cause upset or offence. But in the end, I deleted it and moved on.
 
For in the end, minds are already made up, and we all believe what we want to believe. We all have our own truths, that we’ll cling to be what may. “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” is never a good enough retort. “I’ll look into it” or “I’ll investigate” or “I’ll do some research” — none of these cut the mustard.
 
“Verify it” is the first lesson we learn and the last we apply. We claim to seek truth, but in reality we only seek contingent truths: our truths, convenient truths, partisan truths. Verification does not come into it.
 
So move on, be quiet, stay out of it. Avert your eyes.