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New guide - 'How to be civilised'

Several months ago, when we began writing the new Life Squared publication ‘How to be civilised’ - which we’re launching today - we had no idea how relevant some of the lessons would be to some of the major news stories of the day.

The booklet (available here to download free) examines some of the lessons that we can draw from the Holocaust for our own lives in the modern world.

The Holocaust is a relatively recent event, but is such a horrific period in human history that many of us just don’t want to contemplate it. Yet, if we summon the courage to really reflect on what happened, we can draw out some profound and important lessons - both for our own lives and for society at large.

This booklet - aimed at adult readers - considers 8 lessons from the Holocaust that could help us live better lives. Some of the lessons are stark, but are becoming more relevant by the day to our lives and the turbulent modern world we live in - from the Orlando shootings in the US. to the refugee crisis in Europe, through to some of the dubious rhetoric and divisions emerging from the Brexit debate.

For example, one lesson from the booklet is that the smooth, co-operative surface of civilisation that we all skate upon is very thin, and can be shattered with relative ease.  We shouldn’t take our civilised, relatively peaceful society for granted, but cherish it and work tirelessly to protect it.

Another conclusion is that it takes effort – both as individuals and as a society – to be civilised and compassionate, and the booklet argues that we need to work much harder to build more civilised, compassionate thinking and behaviour into our own lives, and into the fabric of our society – from the ideas that overarch it (such as the political and economic models we choose to govern us) through to the institutions that help it work (such as what we teach our kids).

Many of the worrying ideas and events that are bubbling away around the world at the moment have something in common – a lack of civility.  By this I mean a failure to see ourselves not just as individuals but as part of a wider (global) community of people and a failure to put in the effort needed to coexist with people in a harmonious, civilised way. When we fail to put the effort into preserving this civilised society, bad things can happen - as history tells us.

Conclusions like this may seem fatuous in our current age of aggressive individualism, but I’m increasingly coming round to the idea that it is the rebuilding of our lives and societies around simple but important values such as compassion, empathy and civility (an idea that we explore fully in this new booklet) that will help create the better society most of us are looking for in these turbulent times.

Please do read the booklet, tell other people about it and let us know what you think.

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