There has never been a more important time to be kind, says Stylist’s Lucy Mangan
I don’t usually go a bundle on special or commemorative ‘Days’.
My mother always refused to let us mark Mothering Sunday because “every day should be Mother’s Day” and I feel a little bit like that about all the diseases, triumphs and disasters that are marked in such a way. If you care about X, surely you care about it every day.
I even get a bit annoyed about World Book Day because it seems mostly an excuse to fill my bus to work with a hundred overexcited nearly-Harry Potters, which makes it harder for me to read my BOOK in peace. And that’s before you get into the hundreds of barely legitimate Days – World Potato Day, World Flea Market Protection Day, Medieval Englysshe Daye – that have sprung up in the wake of the genuinely worthy ones.
But 13 November is World Kindness Day and f**k me if I’m not pinning all my hopes on it to get me through the rest of this godforsaken year. The past 10 months have, I think everyone of any political persuasion short of actual neo-Nazi can agree, been brutal. Not to mention of course, the year or two before that.
But we’ll confine ourselves to 2018 for now. We could even confine ourselves to just the past few weeks and wonder what hope there is left for humanity: to the men who thought it hilarious to burn a model of Grenfell Tower (complete with brown paper doll figures hanging out of the windows) on Bonfire Night; to the homeless man attacked with fireworks in Liverpool; to one of the lads who egged and floured a woman sitting on a park bench and now complains he can’t go out for being vilified…
And that’s before we look at the bigger picture, which sees murderous attacks on synagogues, accusations of widespread bullying in our parliament and evidence of innumerable, dangerous official cruelties being practised against those on benefits.
And then there’s Trump, under whose amoral leadership literal children have been literally taken from their parents and kept in literal cages, trans and other rights are for the chop, tax cuts are being pushed through for the rich and… I could go on. Or you could read the headlines, of any newspaper or website, at any time of the day or night and fill in the rest yourselves. None of this is good. None of this is kind. And in some ways, asking whether something is kind rather than good is a better idea.
I can imagine the question “Was it a good thing?” being asked of the Grenfell men or the park lads, or even Trump, being greeted with a lot more bluster and argument than asking, “Was it kind?” “Good” seems to allow a role for intellect. There is room for manoeuvre, argument for subjectivity between what is good and bad. It’s all baloney of the worst kind, of course, but it serves to muddy waters, exhaust people’s energies and help to let the blusterers escape. “Kind” – that’s a matter for the heart. You know when you’ve been kind. You know when you haven’t. And so do other people.
We can look at each other and know each other’s hearts better than we can wrestle with each other’s thoughts. That’s where conscience and a more unbreakable bond of common humanity lives. On World Kindness Day this year we should be kind ourselves but also stand up to those who are being unkind. Rational argument has its place and hopefully, one day, will again be all we need. In the meantime, an appeal to the heart and the conscience might be the light we need in dark times.