On agency

As I sit down to write this column — as usual at the very last possible minute! — I have BBC News playing in the background, with ongoing coverage and analysis of today’s Russian attack on Ukraine.

It’s 24 February, and who knows what Europe — and the world — will look like by the time this is being read. And while world leaders conduct endless discussions and issue threat after threat, and Ukrainians huddle in underground stations and queue in gridlocked traffic at petrol pumps and city exits, Putin carries on his outrageous acts of violence and aggression with impunity.

I could allow this column to spiral downwards and darkwards, but I know this is not the point and so my thoughts turn to agency. How does a man like Vladimir Putin get to unleash such naked aggression on a neighbouring country while the whole world watches? Again!

Mickey Glass writes on page 4, of the moral imperative that we all have to act for good (read it here). On page 8, Gwynne Robins, writing about climate change, reminds us that ‘we’re all in the same boat’ (read it here).

I don’t know what we (I) can do to stop Putin, but to think that this is not our concern would be a mistake. We’re all connected, and will feel the impact on the global economy, food security and another possible refugee crisis.

In March, we will be celebrating Purim — that time of year when we dress up as that which we’re not, eat three-cornered hamentaschen (yum — see page 24 and here) and read the story of brave Esther and evil Haman. The usual, ‘they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.’

When my two daughters were little, I found myself focusing on Esther’s story when looking for strong Jewish female role models to hold up to them. Esther was a favourite character in our home who inspired many ‘moments’, from a preferred hairstyle (we had a beautifully illustrated book of Esther’s story where she was depicted with a particular braided hairstyle, adopted and worn for years and referred to as ‘Esther plaits’), to the subject of a batmitzvah speech. In the Purim story, Esther finds herself in a pivotal position of agency, and has to find the strength to ‘do the right thing’. In rising to the challenge, she becomes a hero.

On page 25, Craig Nudelman writes about leadership (read it here). Leadership is something required of all of us — not just those at the top of the social and political hierarchies.

Life challenges us to act — whether on a small or large scale. And we have to find the judgement and courage to step up.

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• Published in the PDF edition of the March 2022 issue – Click here to get it.

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