MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL – AN EXERCISE IN REFLECTION
When we think about the mirror hanging on the wall, we see it as showing us what we look like, and how well we appear. We look forward to seeing our reflection in the mirror and feeling confident that we look our best, or that we can make the changes necessary to improve this reflection. However, I am using the word ‘reflection’ in terms of thinking. When we reflect, we think back to our actions, attitudes, behaviours, and the things that may have occurred during the day in which we were involved.
Too often, we pass up on this latter type of reflection and continue behaving the way we have always behaved. We do not realize that just as our reflection in the mirror could point out areas where we could make improvements, so our reflection on ideas could cause us to make adjustments in our actions, attitudes and behaviours that could make us better human beings.
I recently listened to a recorded speech by Lilie Chouliaraki, Professor of Media and Communications, at the London School of Economics and Political Science, delivered as part of the Hellenic Observatory Athens Lectures at the observatory. In this speech, Chouliaraki discussed lifestyle solidarity or the moral imperative to do good to help those who are in need, without looking for something in return.
Some of the ideas I drew from this speech are that it is a good thing that a celebrity culture that supports humanitarian causes exists, and that humanitarian giving through digital media, as well as films, videos, breaking news reports from conflict areas and war zones, and concerts for worthy causes provide opportunity to help to those in need. These events are a dominant part of humanitarian giving today and bring to the public view some of the atrocities and great needs that exist in other parts of the world. But, as the professor points out, something may be lost in all of this.
What Could Be Lost?
What may be lost is our true understanding or consciousness of the nature of the world outside of our own nations. We fail to continue to be educated about the world outside, and are unable to fathom or comprehend some of the atrocities and needs that exist in other places. Therefore, when we hear about refugees, for example, we are only able to think in terms of their impact on us. We think of ourselves as victims who are about to be invaded and to lose some of our ‘precious’ resources because we may have to share with others.
Even More May Be Lost
But there is even more that may be lost: our values. We stop seeing ourselves as part of a larger community: a world community. Instead, we think of ourselves as part of a small nation state. Ironically, everything else, including our media, is telling us that we are part of a global village.
According to Chouliaraki, what is lost is our value of “recognizing otherness”, showing some curiosity about other people and “understanding others who are not like us”. What is at stake may be our lack of engaging with values, in being empathic, and seeing others in the same way that we see ourselves.
“Education of the Soul”
What we need to do is to undertake an education of the soul, where we come to see the importance of caring for others beyond a very small circle of individuals, where we see closing our borders to those in need as inhumane, and where we look at people who are different from us and realize that they share in the same human feelings that we experience. We need to see human rights as basic rights that we all possess, and so take a stand when anyone’s human rights are being violated.
Looking in the Mirror
Let each of us look into the mirror and reflect on our actions, attitudes, and behaviour, and ask, “What kind of person am I?” and “Do I like what I see?” If the answers we get are not positive, then we have the opportunity to change.
Keywords: education of the soul, reflection, Mirror, Chouliaraki, Lifestyle solidarity