Lately it seems all topics are linked to the same three apocalyptic Ps – the pandemic, Putin, and the pigu’im (terror attacks in Hebrew). But there’s an alternative three Ps out there.
Precaution. This blog article contains a lot of awful alliteration. And most of it starts with the letter ‘P’. This Passover it seemed most people were pondering the same Ps – the pandemic, Putin, and the pigu’im (Hebrew for terror attacks).
First, let’s start with the pandemic. The coronavirus, or Covid-19, or whatever you call it today, certainly seemed to turn the world upside down. Unfortunately, many people got sick, lost or changed their jobs, and sadly large numbers of the elderly population died in some countries. You could say the pandemic was the catalyst for the three Vs – victims, vaccinations, and variants. Although the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, we’ve yet to uncover the long-term effects on people, and particularly, children’s psychology (which leads to another ‘P’).
The next P is for Putin, who decided to push his Russian forces into Ukraine this year. Was it a provocation? Was it political manoeuvring? Is it all about power? Well, it certainly was planned. No-one knows where or when it will end but there are a few predictions out there:
a diplomatic deal, an all-out war with Nato, or a long occupation. No doubt, whatever happens in Ukraine will affect petrol prices and most of all, people – the refugees who were pushed out, mainly to Poland, which also starts with a P.
The third P is for pigu’im – a Hebrew word for terror attacks. The latest spate of deadly attacks included stabbings in Be’er Sheva, and shootings in Hadera, Bnei Brak, Tel Aviv, and Ariel. Unfortunately, Israelis have become accustomed to such attacks. But to have so many attacks in such a short time, during Ramadan, did cause alarm. Again, these pigu’im didn’t come from nowhere, they follow years of failed peace talks, corrupt politicians, and propaganda from both the Palestinian and Israeli leaders. With so much violence and prejudice, peace feels like an impossible prayer.
If we ‘zoom out’ we can see that the three Ps are part of a bigger picture. The roots of most of these problems come from three other Ps – poverty, pollution, and propaganda.
Poverty plays a large part in all the world’s crises, yet it rarely makes the headlines. Apart from Ukraine, there are wars raging in Yemen, Syria, and Ethiopia, to name a few, that are almost never mentioned on the news. Poverty has become a non-issue once more, as we’re more interested in events that directly affect us.
The next P of pollution is also past its sell-by date. While the climate change protests and debates go on, it’s undeniable that the world is becoming increasingly polluted over time. Just a short study of our beaches, seas, coral reefs, forests, and even the air we breathe, concludes that toxic acids, fossil fuels, plastic waste, and micro-plastics have spread so widely that it’ll take generations to clean up the mess we made, mostly in the last 120 years. To prepare the damage caused by overproduction, deforestation, and pollution, will require wider-reaching policies, perseverance, and preservation of protected areas.
And finally, propaganda, perhaps the most evil of the Ps – as it’s totally manmade, and in many ways perpetuates fear, hatred, and wars. Propaganda was used by the Nazis, and countless others including Putin, but also appears daily on our Facebook feeds. Propaganda is like advertising – it’s so entrenched in the fabric of society that we can barely recognize it. Yet, propaganda is still a powerful tool of persuasion, peer-pressure and promoting prejudice. Quite a few Ps there.
Indeed if you follow the news too long it can feel like we’re living in apocalyptic times. But not all Ps are bad. I’d like to propose three alternative Ps that can play a part in countering the previous Ps. I call these Ps the Positive Peace Projection. These three Ps can’t solve all the world’s problems but they can certainly help us face the tough challenges ahead.
The positive part is not about being naive, happy or looking on the ‘bright side of life’ all the time. Positivity is actually a weapon, a choice, to confront the negative forces within and outside us. We can’t ignore the negative news (though I often do), but we also can’t ignore the beauty of the world. Children, more than ever, need to hear that the world is still a beautiful place. Thinking positive is the start of acting positive, and deeds that can change a negative situation. Merely being angry, and shouting at the TV or on a Facebook feed, will not get us anywhere.
The next alternative P is for peace, which strangely has quite a bad press. I’m not talking about world peace here, but inner peace. The late, great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a book called Peace is Every Step. In this book, this humble Vietnamese monk, the father of engaged Buddhism, outlines that the best way to bring peace to ourselves is to be aware of our breathing and be in the present-moment. In this way, peace can be practised while meditating, walking, driving (a challenge in Israel), and even washing the dishes.
And the last alternative P is for projection. Once we have realised the other two Ps of being positive and peaceful within ourselves, then we can ‘project’ it out to the world around us. Peace starts inside us, then at home, then at work, and then everywhere we go. Hanh says that this can simply mean smiling, helping others, being present and calm for someone who needs it, and just setting an example to our children and peers. Peace is like a positive pandemic, but it spreads slowly, over many years.
Yep, there are lots of Ps out there. In some ways the three recent Ps of the pandemic, Putin, and pigu’im are connected to the underlying root Ps of poverty, pollution, and propaganda. So, more than ever, we need three alternative Ps – the positive peace projection, just for our own mental health. For example, we can maintain a positive attitude to fight the pandemic and try to be healthy. We can hope and work for an eventual peace in Ukraine, though at the moment it may seem distant. And yes we should protect ourselves from terrorism, but not let it stop us projecting our compassion for others. The three Ps prove that it’s a problematic planet, but there’s still plenty to be proud of. Each day can be paranoia or paradise. Pessimism or positive change. Pick your path.