Ewan Aitken: It’s good to talk in a dangerous world

People walk next to floral tributes, notes and candles placed in the road for victims of the deadly Bastille Day attack in Nice. Picture: Getty
People walk next to floral tributes, notes and candles placed in the road for victims of the deadly Bastille Day attack in Nice. Picture: Getty
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The tragic events at the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, axe attacks on a German train, the attempted coup in Turkey, the shooting of police in Dallas and a suicide bomber in Bagdad; just a few of the many violent and terrible events this month which our global connectivity means we know about in greater detail than ever before. Add in Donald Trump being one step closer to the White House, the madness of Brexit and its political fallout and it seems the world has become a much more dangerous place.

And in some senses that is true. The threat of violent attack is very real and appears now to be spreading in organic as well as organised ways as the unheard and the excluded lash out in their alienation. Political upheaval here and in the US seems to be rooted in a similar a sense of disconnect with the places of power and wealth.

I am not equating Brexit, or even Trump, with violent attacks in any way, shape or form. I am simply saying support for both begins in communities who are experiencing feelings of disconnect and alienation even if these are in very different – though still challenging – manifestations.

Alienation and exclusion, feeling disconnected, on the edge if life, far away from your potential is very painful. It leads to dangerous choices that are often as much a cry for healing as a demand to be heard. Recently I was with one of the people Cyrenians has been journeying with for the last three years or so. They’d been an addict for over 35 years, beginning drinking in their early teens; given what their childhood was like, this is no surprise. Their transformation began when they discovered Cyrenians didn’t judge them through those choices.

Cyrenians’ decision to journey with folk in similar places means we have to understand first the sense of rejection and alienation felt by so many and the choices made as a consequence. That does not mean affirming those choices or saying the consequences, especially where others have been hurt or put in danger, can be ignored or simply forgotten. To understand it is to put ourselves in the shoes of those with whom we journey and see the world from their eyes before we ask: how would you like to see the world differently?

Perhaps we need to apply that way of beginning transformation to the other places where the consequences of alienation and disconnect are having such devastating consequences rather than play to the gallery of fear, promoting those solutions of exclusion which have formed so much of our recent public debate.

Ewan Aitken is chief executive officer of Edinburgh Cyrenians