Why Operation Kindness?
Our movement in context
We live in challenging times. Right now, over 800 million people on our planet do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.1 A blind faith in a neoliberal model of development, encouraging the pursuit of personal profit and enhancement has led our global community into the greatest levels of inequality in human history. The situation is so out of control that the 85 richest people on the planet now have the same level of resources as the poorest 50% of the world’s population.2
Such enormous challenges can often seem impossible to relate with, but it is not too late for our global community to change the trajectory of our development, our common welfare and the welfare of this planet we call home. If fear has been the overarching frame of reference within which the elimination of the public sector, complete deregulation for corporations, and brutal cuts to social spending has become global policy, then surely kindness and love must be its antithesis. This ethic of kindness and love is we believe, an ethic which offers the world an opportunity to alter course. As individuals, the practice of kindness towards ourselves and others has the power to transform our lives, in turn benefitting our families and communities. On wider institutional and global levels, kindness offers a shift from current business models and governance structures based upon competition and self-concern towards models based upon altruistic loving kindness and the collective good.
Following the breakdown of the Cold War status quo over two decades ago, an unprecedented wave of globalisation has unsettled conventional political belief systems.3 Across the spectrum of the political, social, economic and cultural realms, the forces of globalisation are creating new global challenges which exist beyond the control of individual nation states and their associated ideologies. These new global challenges include climate change and environmental degradation, food insecurity, deepening disparity in health and wellbeing including the increase of pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, increased migration, financial volatility, multiple cultural and religious conflicts and an upsurge in transnational terrorism.
This period of profound change has seen international development subverted and co-opted by the corporate/political establishment.4 Once grounded in the liberation politics of countries suppressed by empire, development has rapidly shifted away from this emancipatory context and has been shaped by the economics of unregulated markets. On 1st January 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect whilst simultaneously, international ﬁnancial organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the G8 worked together to create a new economic order, suppressing the barriers against free trade at the global level. This market-driven globalisation has increased inequalities, injustices, and violations of rights, especially for workers and people in the Global South.
Today’s dominant neoliberalism is above all a project to restore class dominance to sectors that saw their fortunes threatened by the ascent of social democracy following the Second World War.5 Whilst proving to be of limited effectiveness as a catalyst for economic growth, it has succeeded in channelling wealth from ‘subordinate classes’ to ‘dominant’ ones and from poorer to richer countries. This process has entailed the dismantling of institutions and narratives that promoted more egalitarian distributive measures in the preceding era. Even a recent IMF internal staff discussion 6 has admitted that their own research shows that trickle-down theories of wealth and prosperity simply do not work. In contradiction to all IMF policy to date, the study recommends raising wages and living standards for the bottom 20 percent of the global population, installing more progressive tax structures and improving worker protections.
In parallel, indigenous movements, environmentalists, anti-privatisation campaigns, trade unions, progressive intellectual networks, libertarian activists, feminists, youth activists and NGO’s have all contributed to the rise of a diversity of movements resisting neoliberal globalisation which exist today.7 What is clear is that this growing international movement of movements has by far the greatest potential to imagine, articulate, implement and actualise an alternative development model to neoliberal globalisation which delivers environmental sustainability, equality of access to resources and opportunities, restorative and redistributive justice, universal access to legal rights and genuine participatory democracy.
With such diversity within the movements there exists a need for a framework of unity which avoids the domination of current models yet allows the construction of a cohesive collective identity.8 Research indicates the value of kindness, altruism and love as lenses through which to understand and transform the processes that reproduce such domination, whilst simultaneously providing the frame, motivation and energy required for social justice work.9
As feminist theorist bell hooks asserts:10
Domination cannot exist in any social situation where a love ethic prevails.
The subjects of kindness and love usually evoke an embarrassed response with the topics suggesting a conservatism, a denial of politics and ‘an aura of naïveté and sentimentality’.11 There is however a growing interest in the application of kindness and love in relation to politics and international development. Love can act as the causal factor for how values are pursued and therefore the subsequent trajectory that development takes, the absence or presence of love determining whether values are pursued for personal profit or for the collective good.12
Kindness and love have a major potential to transform the structures of domination which have underpinned neoliberal globalisation. Such a shift will require a massive mobilisation of a diversity of stakeholders on a scale previously unknown, but a radical reversal of current development trajectories is essential if we are to realise a truly environmentally sustainable, egalitarian and just world. We can begin to legitimately imagine kindness and love as a frame of reference within which a genuinely realistic and visionary set of transformations could occur, allowing for principled and non-violent revolutionary social change.13
As an expression of this vision Operation Kindness is taking root in communities across the globe. Through our Operation Kindness national movements, activists are working to achieve these goals from the grassroots up in a variety of ways. From individuals to University groups and community groups, activists are involved in supporting the homeless, working in solidarity with marginalised communities, tree planting projects, social justice campaigns, volunteering with local charities, school projects, art projects and many other activities.
We invite you to join us on this journey towards a kinder, more compassionate world.
- United Nations World Food Programme (2014) ‘Hunger Statistics’. Available at: www.wfp.org/hunger/stats.
- Oxfam (2015) ‘Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016’. Oxfam Blogs. Available at: www.oxfam.org.uk/blogs/2015/01/richest-1-per-cent-will-own-more-than-all-the-rest-by-2016.
- Steger, M., Wilson, E. (2012) ‘Anti-Globalization or Alter-Globalization? Mapping the Political Ideology of the Global Justice Movement’. International Studies Quarterly. 56: 439–454
- Dearden, N. (2015) ‘A manifesto for global justice’. Red pepper. 200: 12-13
- Harvey, D. (2007) ‘Neoliberalism as creative destruction’. The Annals of the American Academy, AAPSS. 610: 2244.
- Dabla-Norris, E., Kochhar, K., Ricka, F., Suphaphiphat, N., Tsounta, E. (2015) ‘Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective’. Staff Discussion Note. International Monetary Fund.
- Pleyers, G. (2013) ‘A Brief History of the Alter-Globalization Movement’, translated by John Zvesper with the help of the Institut Français. Booksandideas.net. Available at: www.booksandideas.net/A-Brief-History-of-the-Alter.html (accessed on 7th April 2015).
- Della Porta, D., Andreta, M., Mosca, L., Reiter, H. (2006) ‘Globalisation from below: Transnational Activists and Protest networks’. Minneapolis. University of Minnesota Press.
- York, M. (2014) ‘Transforming Masculinities: A Qualitative Study of a Transformative Education Programme for Young Zulu Men and Boys in Rural Kwazulu-Natal’. The Journal of Pan African Studies. 7(7): 55-78.
- hooks, b. (2000) ‘All about love: New Visions’. London. The Women’s Press.
- Toye, M. (2010) ‘Towards a poethics of love: Poststructuralist feminist ethics and literary creation’. Feminist theory. 11(1): 39-55.
- MacQueen, D. (2013) ‘Love-infused development: in search of a development ethic to halt poverty and forest loss’. IIED. UK.
- Davis, L. (2011) ‘Love and Revolution in Ursula Le Guin’s Four Ways to Forgiveness’, in Heckert, J., Cleminson, R. (Eds) ‘Anarchism and Sexuality: Ethics, Relationships and Power’. New York and Abingdon. Routledge