A number of weeks ago, I was at the wedding of my former boss and was sat next to one of his old school friends. After the speeches had been delivered, the wine was flowing, and the spirits were high, my table companion turned to me and asked what I thought was the best thing about the groom. Now, through the two years that we had worked together, I formed a very strong friendship with this man and he became somewhat of a mentor to me, so there were very many ways in which I held him in high regard – both in personal and professional senses. After some thought, I decided my friend’s most salient and consistent virtue was his kindness.
Despite having worked together in the high-stress, pressure sensitive and ultra-capitalist environment of financial PR, my friend had always retained his consideration for others, regardless of who they were. Far from this working towards his detriment, it is what I believe has contributed the most to his success.
I often feel that kindness in the 21st century is grouped in with ‘niceness’ as something considered bland and unimportant. This is not aided by the realist ‘winners and losers’ mentality dispersed through American soft power, which celebrates the individual above all. There are few better embodiments of such sentiment than Donald Trump – a man who stands atop of the golden pyramid of capitalism, praising his own ‘genius’ and acting as though his ability to jettison kindness and ‘win’ at the expense of all else, is a virtue to be held in the highest regard.
Kindness is not motivated by a sense of pity and charity, but more by an understanding of justice and compassion – it is a human attribute that is often much neglected due to its intangible nature and the ability of people to get so far in the world we have fashioned without it. In many ways, the growth of Trump – his Mexican border wall, his reduction in foreign aid, his lack of commitment to multilateralism – is reflected in Europe and beyond, and we have arrived at a crossroads where we must decide what is most important. Should we strive to help the millions of refugees that flee war and destruction or should we barricade our borders in fear of our fellow man?
As young people, we can be accused of being unrealistic by holding the belief that kindness adds value to our actions and activities. We are told that the world does not deal lightly with those that approach it without a firmness that borders on hostility. However, I believe that this is not based in universal law but constructed by norms. Through bolstering trust in our international community with acts of kindness, we can re-establish the importance of this undervalued virtue. And in doing so, construct a world that we can be truly proud of.
William Murray-Uren is a member of the Borjomi Innovators Network 2018, and is the co-editor of issue 2 of the BIN’18 newsletter.