South Africa is burning.
South Africa is crying.
South Africans are helping.
South Africans are trying.
How can we help our country rise again?
There are so many questions out there:
What is going on? Where did it begin? When does it end? How does it end? Does it end? Is it a happy ending? It seems that so much is out of our control. Yet, we have to ask, what can we do? Can we make things on the ground a little better?
Social Consciousness: a ray of hope to help our country
A Parthasarathy, a philosopher talks about a concept called ‘Social Consciousness.’ I would like to share this concept. You may find it ‘a ray of hope’ towards a healthier, happier, and more peaceful South Africa.
What does social consciousness mean?
This is when we open our eyes and our hearts to be conscious of the situation of the people around us.
To really ‘see’ the people that we come across every day, and step into their shoes once in a while. To recognise that we are part of a larger ecosystem and to figure out what part we can play in it.
We each have a circle whose needs we are able to see and attend to automatically. We need to ‘look’ a little further and stretch that circle to embrace a slightly wider circle. When we look beyond our immediate families, who do we see? Perhaps an unemployed neighbour, a stressed-out colleague, a boss who is grieving.
What about the less fortunate on our doorsteps, for example, our domestic workers, the cleaners at the children’s school, the security guards in the complex, or the informal vegetable sellers down the road- how are they doing? Some have always been concerned about their welfare, others could start with a simple enquiry, e.g. “Do they have heaters or enough warm clothes for winter?”
We live in a country where many are hungry, jobless, and cold, with little hope of life improving. Though some of us may live on the opposite side of the highway, our lives are intertwined by our common humanity.
So, how can being socially conscious help our country?
Where we can help our country, we should. Whilst attending to urgent needs first, long term sustainable solutions should always be sought. We should think before we give, to ensure that our giving helps the receiver, and does not harm them. “True charity emanates from proper judgement of the intellect.” (Vedanta Treatise, The Eternities, A Parthasarathy, Chapter 6, Charity.)
Everyone has something to give. Even those who don’t have much money, may be able to give emotional or physical support or good ideas. A socially conscious person would notice an elderly person who is lonely. And may be able to offer some affection, some conversation, even just a smile.
If each one of us supports and serves those around us, life for all becomes a little easier. A gentle but powerful ripple effect will flow.
I know that this is not a magic wand that can make all our problems disappear. Certainly, government and other players need to play their part. And all individuals also need to put in effort to lift themselves.
But right here, right now, each one of us can make a difference by making our circle of care a little wider.