The Kindness Revolution – Hugh MacKay
Or how crises and catastrophes are the making of us in challenging times and the importance of why we (both you and me) need to show leadership in our communities from the ground up…
As I was sitting in the reception room of our dentist last weekend, an interview with Hugh MacKay was unfolding on the tv in front of me. Hugh is Australia’s foremost social researcher, so I tuned into the interview straight away. He is always worth listening to.
Hugh was discussing his new book The Kindness Revolution. He said:
Revolutions never start at the top. If we dare to dream of a more loving country – kinder, more compassionate, more cooperative, more respectful, more inclusive, more egalitarian, more harmonious, less cynical – there’s only one way to start turning that dream into a reality: each of us must live as if this is already that country.
The inspiration for his book was the state of Australia’s mental and emotional well being and the state of the economy after the ravages of the 2020 Australian bushfires followed by the onset of the pandemic. Hugh found himself (like many of us I suspect) reflecting on the challenges faced during this time and asked three questions that I know many of us have asked around the globe, including:
- What really matters to me?
- Am I living the kind of life I want?
- What sort of society do I want us to become?
Although his book is written regarding the Australian context, he urges all of us not to let these questions go, and points to our inspiring displays of kindness and consideration, our personal sacrifices for the common good and our heightened appreciation of the value of local neighbourhoods and communities during this time. He asks a very big question in turn: ‘Could we become renowned as a loving country, rather than simply a “lucky” one?’
In a recent interview in the Australian, Hugh points out:
By kindness I mean compassion, tolerance, respect, sensitivity towards other people. And the radical version is absolutely non-discriminatory; the revolution is when you are kind not just to your nice neighbour, but to the ones you don’t know or don’t like much. The pandemic has shown us we are actually quite good at this. We are a social species that can only survive by creating relatively harmonious communities, and the only rational response to that is to say, well, kindness had better be our default position.
Hugh mentions in a podcast on his book (Hugh Mackay’s simple ways to be kinder everyday) it became evident to him that there is a movement out there regarding “The New Normal.” People are categorically saying that they do not want, post pandemic, to slip back into a stressful, over committed and overwhelming life. This made him pursue the question “what does it mean to be normal?” The answer: being kind and respectful.
To emphasize his point he quotes Abraham Lincoln: The Better Angels of Our Nature. Hugh goes on to explore that being kind is the only trait that we have as a socially connected species that doesn’t require emotion. We are a socially connected species and we are hardwired towards cooperative interactions. He argues implementing kindness is not the responsibility of governments, but the responsibility of the individual. In order for us to be kind each day, he sets out his four step CARE plan:
When I went through Hugh’s 4 Step Plan, I found myself starting to feel at ease. There seems to a very familiar aspect to it. I connect by smiling and saying hello. It’s challenging at times to do this, in certain settings, but much easier when it is in your local neighbourhood. I do accept people for who they are. I take them as I find them. If you ask me for help, regardless of who you are, I will help out as best I can. With respect, as Hugh strongly points out (and many other insightful minds out there), the virus doesn’t discriminate – it attacks all humans – it doesn’t care who you are or where you come from. I don’t know If I have always been good at engagement, but I give it a good go. Yes, I do listen. Yes, I have joined and done many community things over the years. I have been a netball coach and umpire, women’s hockey coach, played cricket and hockey, participated in drug and alcohol health initiatives, breathed life into community groups that were dwindling away and fought the good fight on making communities a better place to live.
I have Hugh’s book and I have started a deeper dive into the Kindess Revolution. Already I have digested what it means to be resilient…
From my perspective, I already live how I want things to be, with kindness. I may be grumpy day in and day out, but I am a firm believer that us and the world are going to be just fine. We need to sharpen our game plan, absolutely, and get on with how the world (not just our own backyard) can be a better place. Only we, together, can do that!
Podcasts can be found here:
If you have time, watch an interview with Hugh at your leisure
https://youtu.be/HPGkVH92Of0 (60 mins)