Murders in Tunisia
A comment by Neil Hawkes, following the murders last week in Tunisia
"How do we begin to cope with our own sense of what it means to be human in a week that has: photos in the press of the murdered bodies of tourists on a Tunisian beach; the head of a decapitated man being displayed by his murderer in France; a suicide bomber entering a mosque, bringing death and destruction; IS filming another of their atrocities- a group of Muslims in a cage being slowly drowned in a swimming pool?
In the same week the Queen visited Belsen Concentration camp, remembering man's inhumanity to man during the Holocaust.
Commentators in the media take various stances on all these heart-rending news items, depending on their own political, social and religious ideology.
The perpetrators of atrocities share our humanity, but unlike the majority of us they fuel the shadow-side of their human nature in order to act out the unspeakable. History shows us that our nature is complex; at a basic level designed for personal and group survival. Also, that a struggle for power and control plays a central role in our personal and group relationships.
Can there be hope for humanity? My own answer is yes, but there is such an urgent need to enable all people, through education, to nurture the positive aspects of their humanity. My personal week has witnessed three ways of doing this.
The first was at a conference of headteachers in Bristol, where speakers and workshop leaders were describing how young people can be given an education that supports personal and social growth. My own contribution touched on man's search for meaning and purpose. We need educators to see the potential in young people: if you take man as he is you make him worse: if you take him as he could be, you make him capable of becoming what he could be (Goethe). Students from The Ridgeway School, Wroughton, gave an outstanding performance of excerpts from their school's production of Les Miserables. A great example of how being involved in creativity through musical drama can be an access point to gain a deep and profound understanding about human nature. Children around the world need equal access to such experiences in order to understand what it means to be humane. They come to recognise that perceived and real inequality fuels the shadow-side of human nature that spawns extremism in all its forms.
Secondly, I saw with my wife a production of She Stoops to Conquer at the Minack open-air theatre near Lands End. We were treated to an amazing production, which made me reflect that theatre and literature are wonderful teachers, as they give us deep insights into how human nature works in the labyrinth of life's experiences.
Lastly, a visit to the Eden Project centre-staged the need to protect our natural heritage - our very survival depending on it. As we rested on a bench, it was time for a performance of a fairy story, given by Rob, Eden's resident storyteller. We were treated to a Grimm Brother's story that captured the moral imagination, helping the listeners to reflect on their own sense of morality.
These three personal experiences, plus a re- reading of Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, have reminded me that the long- term answer to extremism in all its guises rests in Education; why I with my fellow trustees are recommending the power for transformational change contained in Values-based Education."