First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me. – Martin Niemöller
One often thinks that people in power have a plan – we hope they have a plan – but do they?
Is there a plan to make things better – or are most plans about self preservation.
Are they about doing what is in your interests?
And how does something good or useful emerge from lots of people working on making things better for themselves?
The reason why this is an interesting question is because of the nature of the world right now.
It seems to be dividing into groups of people that are scared of losing what they have and people who… are not yet scared.
Let’s look at those that are scared a little more closely.
Across the world you see the emergence of political parties that are in positions of leadership pushing an agenda of fear – of protecting their constituents against nasty “other” people.
You don’t need to look far to spot the leaders of such movements – they used to once be called “strong men.”
When people are scared they look to someone who says they can protect them – the people who sound like they have a plan.
This is natural really – we’ve evolved to live in groups and fight for the things we need to survive with other groups.
A state of constant tension and frequent warfare is how it should be.
The fact that it isn’t – at least in some parts of the world – is something to be grateful for.
But it’s also something that needs to be protected.
If you live somewhere where there is tolerance and the rule of law then that’s a much better place than most of the world.
But it doesn’t take long for that to change.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil”, said the parliamentarian Edmund Burke, “is for good men (now people) to do nothing.”
But it’s one thing stopping people from doing what comes naturally – reacting out of fear with violence.
It’s another teaching tolerance.
And the single most effective thing there seems to be a shared identity.
Even if it’s a fabricated one.
In a programme on the BBC called As Others See Us by Neil MacGregor, he visits the USA to see what the Americans think of the British.
In one segment a historian talks about how the way in which the British are seen has been “fabricated” by the media of the last half century.
The two countries are brought together by a shared memory of movies and music across the decades that go from the war to the Beatles.
It has little connection to history and fact and much to do with emotion.
This interests me when it comes to my own work.
For example, if you read the Mr Men and Little Miss books you know they are all about emotions wrapped up in packages.
Most of my doodles, when they involve people, just have eyes – they observe and contemplate, but without emotion.
It seems to me that the opposite of being scared is actually quite hard to get your head around.
Do you fabricate stories that make people feel closer together?
Do you try and think your way to a solution?
Or do you put your head down and get on with work?
At what point do you act?