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Meaning, Spirit and Activism. David Legge.

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It is hot and noisy in the make-do shack which 'A' shares with thee other young people, also from the country. He gets occasional casual work pushing the hand cart but it is hard find the energy to do more than just survive. It is hard to see the point of it all. Alcohol soothes the pain but also releases the anger; commonly it is 'E' and her kid who feel the brunt of his anger.
  • Is meaning/ meaninglessness a determinant of A’s health?
  • How will the people’s health movement reach out to A?
'B' is driving his new motor cruiser to the quay for the launch. The cabin is the latest in luxury but he has had to take out a mortgage on the house and borrowed from the special account he has put aside to pay for the boys' education to pay for it. He doesn't mind working 11 hours a day, six days a week, if it means he can meet the needs of the family but it is a bit risky with rising interest rates. The killer is the recent increase in land tax on the beach property. It wouldn't be so bad except that so much tax is directed to various do-gooder social engineering projects such as housing for so-called refugees and so-called 'aid' for other countries, most of which are corrupt.
  • What are the values which give meaning to B’s life?
  • B’s political views, which reflect his values, are a barrier to Health for All
  • How will the people’s health movement approach B in the course of the struggle for Health for all?
the search for meaning
The search for meaning
  • The need to ‘make sense’ of our experience and to find guidelines for practice is deeply human
  • The alternative is meaninglessness
    • a flick in time; a speck in the universe; an inevitable end
    • frightening and depressing
god is the source of meaning for believers
God is the source of meaning for believers
  • There are many conceptions of God;
    • only one is the intelligent, loving but judgemental ‘father’ who created us; whose purpose provides sufficient explanation of our existence, and who provided us with guidelines for living
    • others have a much less personal God who represents the aspiration for a more joyful and loving world
  • There are many conceptions of God which, in their own ways, provide guidance regarding the good and bad, the oughts and the ought nots
  • Clearly this source of meaning and these roots of spirituality do not have the same authority for non-believers
culture spirituality and commitment
Culture, spirituality and commitment
  • Yin and yang; the self and the other. Love and fear, generosity and selfishness, empathy and heartlessness, fairness and deviousness are all rooted in our genetic make up
  • But culture has a powerful effect on how our genes are expressed. Culture, the stories and directions which we collectively create, help us to build on the generous, the empathic and the sense of fairness and to steer our more fearful impulses into socially useful directions
  • The spiritual traditions of many different cultures, including various religious traditions, share many common values and precepts; they help us to build constructively on our humanness
  • These traditions provide personal and collective disciplines which can help us to become the people and communities we hope to become
  • For some people, some communities, these disciplines have the force of commandments, from God
  • For others, both individuals and communities, such disciplines are taken on as an act of will, a choice to take a path which may enable joyful, loving kindness to flourish and which may help us to deal constructively with our fears, wants and our deafnesses
spirituality the practices we build into our lives which
Spirituality - the practices we build into our lives which
  • reinforce our appreciation of joy and love,
  • strengthen our commitment to working for the social conditions in which joy and love may flourish
  • help us to live in ways which help to protect and cultivate these conditions
  • help us to grow ourselves in ways which make us better able to do so
meaning spirit and activism1
Meaning, spirit and activism
  • ‘Meaning as a ‘social determinant of health’ (... not by bread alone)
    • why am I here? where shall I go?
    • searching for and creating (or finding) meaning is part of well being
    • health for all depends on achieving conditions where meaning can be found in joy and love and where the impulses which give rise to fear, lust and greed are usefully directed
  • Meaning in analysis and strategy
    • the search for certainty (against the threat of meaninglessness) is a powerful social dynamic for both good and ill (examples: great art and various religious and political fundamentalisms)
    • the search for meaning is one of the drivers of social change with which the PHM must engage
      • eg, working in ways which affirm the meaningfulness of people’s lives and support the search for and the finding of meaning
  • The life and practice of the activist
    • affirming (and re-affirming) the values which generate outrage and commitment in the face of suffering and injustice, both generally and in relation to health
    • finding the reference points against which to navigate one’s way past the seductions of ambition and withdrawal
small group work
Small group work
  • Group discussion
    • Case 1. Competitive individualist materialism as a determinant of health?
    • Case 2. What keeps me going?
  • Discuss and suggest (report back)
case 1 competitive individualist materialism as a determinant of health
Case 1. Competitive individualist materialism as a determinant of health?
  • In what ways does competitive, individualist materialism impact on health?
  • What are the dynamics which reproduce competitive individualist materialism?
  • What can the PHM do to confront the negative impacts on health of CIM?
case 2 what keeps me going
Case 2. What keeps me going?
  • The seduction of the activist
    • disappointment, fatalism, withdrawal (to our private lives)
    • being diverted by the rewards of mainstream institutions (PHM as a ‘good career move’)
  • Managing the seductions of activism
    • maintaining my commitment despite disappointments and occasional envies
    • building disciplines into my life which help me to manage the seductions and maintain my commitment
    • building a culture into our collective practice which help us collectively to manage the seductions and maintain our commitment