There was a time in my life when it seemed as if all the challenges in the world were lined up ahead of me like an obstacle course. I had no sooner negotiated one glitch than another one seemed to rise up out of the ashes to appear even more insurmountable . One after another they appeared until I felt I was at the end of my tether. Why is this happening I would implore my friends? Did I do something awful in my last life? How can I stop it? One day Christine, a new friend, turned to me and said "Robyne stop fighting and find the gift...try to act with Grace....endeavour to be gracious in all you do and then you will discover that Grace is a much higher law than Karma. Grace can topple mountains". I can remember that conversation with such clarity it is as if was yesterday. My friends didn't talk like that. We were slightly new agey but not THAT new agey. But at desperate times desperate measures are called for and even though I didn't actually believe her, I was willing to have a go at anything. I had bored my friends silly with my complaining and my lurching from crisis to crisis. So it was sort of comforting to hear someone say such a thing. It also meant that the mastery I had to have was over my own behaviour and never over someone else. The courage came in trusting a concept that was so alien to me. I should add that it was the sixties and there were lots of ideas floating around.
For those who have learnt in childhood that bullying is an appropriate response when things dont go their way, the decision to just stop and try to understand the other may be too huge a chasm to leap. It is just too difficult to believe that standing still may be a far greater defense. When your life metaphor is warlike and your whole anguage is a language of war then it is tricky to not default into attack. But what if you have defined a war and the "enemy" doesn't turn up. If you are left with your arsenal poised to attack and you are met with a centred stillness how do you engage? How can you cope?
All those who know me know how much I have rubbished the Big Brother programs. It is a crass voyeuristic program. I am not a fan of the unreality of reality programs. But this program does draw an audience of 8 million people. 8 Million is a great and untapped starting point for social change. And so it was. It was in this house that the watching public were unexpectedly shown the power of grace and the extraordinary strength of standing still in the face of anger. They were shown how one young woman, despite being hurt and confused managed to stand still and look within herself to find the good in those bullying her. She stood still and let the flotsam and jetsam of some damaged lives swirl around her. Now I dont know the demographics of the audience of Big Brother but I am fairly confident that a large percentage would be young people.
Just say, for instance that 6 million of those viewers were young people. That is 6 million who have within them a memory of how by not engaging in the behaviour of agression and by seeking to find the real people behind the nasty behaviour, she emerged as the winner of the program .
There was one soft guiding voice gently supporting her.....bringing her back to the centre when she was teetering. Jermaine Jackson sat quietly behind her...never picking her up nor defending her...simply guiding her back to her self. In hindsight it was not suprising that it was Jermain for he himself must have seen human beings at their most destructive and most predatory. It was he who had the life experience and wisdom to know that it would be of the greatest benefit to her to simply remind her of who she was. It would have been so easy for him to interfere. He would not have been challenged.Jermaine had a strong presence and was revered by everyone in the house. It would have been easy but it seems he knew better. He chose instead to let her draw on her own strength. It appears she needed little help and in doing so, her graciousness and generosity of spirit was an example for all those who watched.
Some say that Channel 4 ignored their duty of care and neglected Shilpa (I don't know her last name) and whilst this was reprehensible it did have an unexpected benefit. It provided an opportunity for viewers to witness another way of dealing with the destructive anger and bitterness of fear.
The program is over and my thinking about the impact of it had more or less disappeared. Then something happened today that brought it all back. On my way back from the city I found myself sitting on a bus behind four school girls. They were probably about 12 or 13 and they were huddled around a very pretty blond. All of them were involved in a very animated conversation. The blond one at the centre of the group was recounting some spat that had taken place with another girl at school. She was obviously upset and distressed. " What have I done to them? I don't know why they have to act like that. Are they trying to scare me?" One of her friends sat up and straightened her back. The she said with clarity and conviction "Act like Shilpa. Try to take no notice and then act like Shilpa, she'll hate that". It really made me laugh. That one tacky reality show had shown these kids how the greatest strength came from refusing to engage in a "war". OK, they just hadn't grasped that the outcome was not to increase the anger. But as far I am concerned , little "dolly steps" of understanding are much better than no steps at all.
I am pretty certain that this unknown Bollywood star had not gone into "the house" with altruistic intentions. I am also pretty certain that the intention of becoming a role model for millions of young people had never crossed her mind. But the law of grace is generous and in having the faith to trust the path of graciousness and with the support of Jermaine, the viewers' respect for her grew. The unfortunate side effect was that the disgust with the other three also grew. But there was an ironic twist. It was observed that as the disdain for the bullying behaviour grew so also grew a compassionate understanding for the three ignorant young women.
In Brighton recently I have witnessed how a group of women in the music industry grouped together to keep "a newcomer to the area" in her place. Despite the benefits that her connections might bring to them and their clients they were driven by their history and their fear to default to bullying. Confused .she was reminded of Shilpa and like Shilpa, the "isolated" young woman wished them well and simply refused to recognise nor engage in, their battle. Soon enough the troops and "hangers-on" loosened their grip and began to invite the young woman out. Soon the angry old women sat alone sending out emails and messages, but these were just the falterings of a lost cause. The young woman had chosen to stand still in her integrity and grace and wait for the thrashing to end.
Is this a new wave of behaviour? It may be a slow moving swell but I cant help feeling it is wonderful that it has arisen just at this time.