Kindness in government? A most welcome intention
We have a new Prime Minister who says she wants to bring kindness back with her government.
Kindness! What a breath of fresh air.
So often politics is made out to be a battle - rival groups pitted against each other, fighting to gain power, to get their way, to do things the way they want to and in the process pouring scorn on what anyone else does, dissing them, putting them down. Too often, that is indeed what happens.
And so many of us have become distrusting and cynical about what drives politicians, who they are working for, their motivations and goals.
But wait a minute!
Politicians are people whose job is to work for us, serving our best interests as people and as a nation.
If we're cynical and negative about them we're not encouraging them to value us, or what we want from them.
So to me it was very refreshing to hear these words (spoken by Jacinda Ardern in an interview with John Campbell of Radio New Zealand as she was being driven to Government House to be sworn in as Prime Minister.) The RNZ website quotes her as saying:
"I want it to feel like we are a government that's truly focused on everybody. Perhaps I'm more acutely aware of that sense having now led a set of negotiations in our government that brings together a range of parties. I know I need to transcend politics in the way that I govern for this next term of Parliament but I also want this government to feel different, I want people to feel that it's open, that it's listening and that it's going to bring kindness back."
"I know that will sound curious but to me if people see they have an empathetic government I think they'll truly understand that when we're making hard calls that we're doing it with the right focus in mind"... "It's not about just preserving people's political careers. It's not about power. It's about being in a position to make a difference to people who need it most."
(She also described the job as being about following through, acknowledging failure, and being up front. Good guidelines for any of us undertaking important projects, I reckon.)
Of course there will be people who scoff, or are even more unpleasantly negative about such aspirations and intentions.
But I think that these aspirations and intentions deserve our encouragement and support.
However, given the negativity she will encounter, there is a big question - how do we stay on track with kindness and empathy as our principles?
And then I thought of the many Jizo statues which I saw in Japan.
Mine is a simplistic non-Buddhist appreciation of these frequently seen figures. They represent a being who is dedicated to helping others, to benefit all suffering beings. Jizo are said to embody qualities of optimism, courage, gentleness and love for all, fearlessly helping those who are vulnerable and in need - particularly caring for children, women and parents who have lost children, firefighters and travelers (it seems a rather odd mix to me.) The Jizo especially represent help for people who may be facing great challenges, and it is suggested that if you are anxious or depressed you can imagine Jizo holding you safely, like a frightened child, in arms that can be trusted. And in people's responses to them, you can see how much Jizo are appreciated.
When I look at them, they are an encouragement and reminder - stick to those values of caring and courage, hold them dear.
So - it might seem a big jump perhaps from our new Prime Minister with all she faces, to the Jizo. But the message is similar, and important.
Cultivate kindness, and there is support for you to find the courage to stick with it.