This month’s column starts with a spider. A small, round, shiny, cheery spider. It was sitting in amongst a bunch of beautiful heather I spotted in the supermarket. I hate buying supermarket plants but that’s another story. This heather said “take me home, you know you want to” and before I knew it, four pots had found their way into my basket.
I picked up a few other bits and pieces and headed towards checkout. It was one of those days where you get to the supermarket and there is no-one about and then miraculously, by the time you are ready to pay for your goods, the tills have filled up. So I got into a queue and eventually the time came to put my goods on the conveyor belt. As I was putting the heather down, I spotted this adorable little spider hopping off the heather to explore the great beyond of sterile supermarket. I surreptitiously stuck my hand out, waited for it to climb on and then popped it back into the heather.
The guy in front then paid and it was my turn. Without thinking about it, I asked the cashier to be careful of the pot because of the spider. He gave me a very odd look but was duly careful with the pot. Then we had a problem because the heather had only just come in and was not on the system. Another cashier was despatched to sort the problem out and the queue continued to build up behind me. I opened plastic bags whilst keeping an eye on the pot and sure enough, out popped the spider. Not impressed by my act of philanthropy (spidethropy?) and unaware of the effects of supermarket detergents and chemicals on spiders, it was determined to explore its brave new world. The cashier started to put the rest of my goods through the till.
He suddenly stopped, looked at me very oddly and in a loud voice said “what are you doing?” “Catching the spider” was my response. “Oh, do you want me to squash it” said he, getting into the game. “No thanks, I’m trying to rescue it” was my rather preoccupied flustered answer back whilst spider ran everywhere apart from towards my fingers. I finally got hold of the ungrateful wretch and popped it back in the heather, stood upright and saw a huge queue of people, looking at me as if I was absolutely nuts.
Some of them were doing the whole shaking head and nudging and muttering to each other bit. Trying not to look embarrassed, I trilled “I’ve got him, he’s going to go home with me and he’ll be safe now. I do like spiders, don’t you?” and marched out of the store with my bags. As I swept out I noticed that some people in the queue were still looking at me as if I should be wearing a straight-jacket. Others were looking at me with an indulgent smirk. One or two were looking at me with admiration. It gave me hope that the next time one of them sees a spider; they will think before squashing it (and hopefully not squash it at all).
When I was thinking about this month’s column, it seemed the subject matter (small contributions in your country and the world) was so vast I could only pick at it. No matter how many times I wrote it, it came down to causes I supported, not necessarily causes that everyone would support.
The spider (which by the way stayed in the heather all the way home and popped up to explore the hallway the moment I put the bags down) gave me a thought. Is standing up for what you believe to be right, being an example of the way you wish others were as good as marching with a placard along a street or paying money to a charity? Are small actions as thought-provoking as big ones? My brain’s jury is still out on this one.
… in your country
There is a relatively new term in the UK, called NIMBY which refers to people (normally politicians who have sway over such decisions) who put support proposals for new housing on green belt land, factories which issue pollutants as by-products and other unsavoury concepts, who are happy to have these things happen in other communities but whom raise hell when these sorts of things are raised in their own (i.e.: Not In My Back Yard).
It is really easy to be a NIMBY. All you have to do is say “well, it’s not happening here is it, it’s in that town or that county or state” so it is okay. By standing up for people and issues in other parts of your town, area or country, you can avoid being a NIMBY. One of the biggest shocks to the then (and present) UK governments has been the speed at which environmental protesters have become aware of an issue on the other side of the country, got themselves there and set up protest camps. Organisation is key here, along with people who are willing to show the people in charge that just because it is not happening in their local area, doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
Be aware of what is happening across your state or country and be part of it, whether that means protesting against hunting with dogs, standing in a fashion show with a placard condemning the resurgence of animal fur as fashion on the catwalk or feeding protestors at a camp. If it is happening somewhere else it doesn’t mean it won’t happen in your neighbourhood if someone doesn’t stand up and say “No”.
Educating people is essential, but so is the way in which the message is delivered. A lesson I still have to put into practice. One of the biggest frustrations I have in my friend’s petshop is the number of people who are making money out of unofficial breeding. I have to walk away when I come across people who decide to breed their animals for money because I want to strangle them.
Especially when they come in after their barely-old-enough pup has had her third litter and they wonder why she’s thin and lethargic and won’t feed the pups. And don’t talk to me about the woman who wanted to buy a muzzle for her dog because she had been trying to mate it for five years and the dog expressed its dislike for the proceedings by biting its intended. The words “so you want your female dog to be raped???!!” didn’t make it out of my mouth but I think my gasp and face said it all before I shot out of the door.
My friend however is absolutely wonderful. She manages to engage each idiot on a personal level before ramming home the message they really need to hear, thereby doing much more good than I do.
By encouraging spaying, by expressing a distaste for hunting (without necessarily expressing a personal distaste for the person doing the hunting), by leading by example, you can make a difference in your country. By standing by and accepting something you personally think is wrong is the same as condoning it so getting out there, being a good example and getting your message across (without making people feel bad about themselves) is a great way of making a difference.
… in the world
I read an article in a (reputable) Sunday newspaper a couple of weeks ago. An investigation had shown that some of the recyclable waste that householders in the UK had painstakingly separated and left out and the local councils had carefully collected had been shipped to China where it was dumped together in a large heap for residents to sort through. It was in such a poor state that the villagers had become ill. There is so much corruption at both national and international levels that the good you think you are doing is doing harm elsewhere in the world. Something we do in one country can affect another and blindly doing your best is not enough anymore.
By being aware of the full remit of the politicians you helped vote into power, by being sure of everything they stand for, whether they truly represent you and pulling them up short when they don’t, you can make a difference to your country and the world. Democracy is not perfect and not every country in which pagan communities live practises it, never mind practises it imperfectly. Some pagan communities have such a battle on their hands just to live in peace that they have little time over for other causes such an environmental and animal activism and it is up to each of us who live in fairly free countries to help where we can.
There are organisations which are reputable, run by people who believe in the causes for which they work. Greenpeace is one of them. Not concerned with national or international politics or boundaries, not afraid to do right as they see it, this organisation has my utmost respect. I believe that supporting them is supporting a better world. See for yourself at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/.
If you are against war in principle, if you believe the way forward is understanding one another rather than trading bullets in trenches or blowing up civilians, then this peace activist organization is worth looking at – http://www.citizens4change.org/.
Other organizations look after animal casualties of war and have recently been involved in saving animals caught up in the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon. PETA was there, as were a number of other animal welfare organizations. Both domestic and wild animal and other fauna are truly innocent casualties of war. Suffering dismemberment, abuse and slow, lingering death by starvation and no access to water, animals across the world need help just to survive – see http://www.helpinganimals.com/f-lebanon.asp.
These are just a few ways you can make a contribution that makes a difference in your country and the World. I hope they have given you a few ideas of your own.