The Beautifully Lived Life of Jo Cox
A tribute to my friend – who was driven by an unambiguous desire to make life better for those battered and beaten and punished by this world.
The Beautifully Lived Life of Jo Cox
Labour Party MP Jo Cox, who was shot and killed by a lone gunman on Thursday, pictured in her constituency in Yorkshire, England. (Photo: Yorkshire Post/SWNS)
By Martin Kirk /

What use are words penned in moments of shocked grief? What insight can be found here that eludes us at other times? What useful honesty can I access when both my head and my heart are struggling to connect my friend, Jo Cox, with the story of this young mother and MP who has been brutally and violently murdered, and finding the two utterly incompatible?  

I’m chained to the news. There’s a lot that’s on repeat, now. All the facts that we can know so soon have been known for a couple of hours. Nothing new seems imminent. And so the same pictures are being shown on a loop, the presenters are repeating the same basic story.  The gallery of people offering tributes and praise is still changing, though, because Jo was an MP, a public figure, and a roundly popular one at that. The Prime Minster has spoken, as has the leader of the Jo’s own Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, as well as countless of her fellow MPS, and politicians from across Europe.

And although I know it is de rigueur to praise the dead, I know, because I knew Jo, that this is not all show and opportunism. She just was, genuinely, one of those people who made her connections on a deeply human, honest level and who related to you as a person first, a political friend or foe long after that. No wonder, then, that people form across the political spectrum are lining up to honour her basic humanity; she probably honoured theirs first.

I can’t claim to speak for Jo, or even to describe her life or politics in fine detail.  Although we had times of closeness – when we worked together, at her wedding, when we climbed wet, cold Scottish Munroe’s – we had not been very close in recent years. I moved jobs and countries, she became a mother for the second time, then an MP. Busy lives all round.  

What I do know about Jo is really very simple. She was driven by a clean and unambiguous desire to make life better for those battered and beaten and punished by this world. It sounds glib, almost too saccharine for a real person, but I can assure you it’s true.  She was a humanitarian, through and through. To her bones.  It wasn’t complicated and it didn’t waiver. The Jo I first met working for Oxfam twelve years ago is exactly and entirely consistent with the Jo who went on to lead a global campaign on maternal health, who used her maiden speech in the House of Commons to call for humane treatment of Syrian refugees, and who has been a powerful voice for a humane and compassionate approach to immigration in the year since.  In the chaotic and swirling morass of politics, Jo’s values stood firm and unchanging. Simple, predictable, undeniable.

And maybe that’s what Jo’s death can remind us. Can remind me. The final simplicity of our lives. The final simplicity of the hopes that undergird our passions. The final simplicity of love; it’s brilliance all the more striking against the black, chaotic rage that seems to have killed her.

Jo is one of the few people I’ve known in my 44 years of life for whom I can say with absolutely confidence that the appropriate complement to her life would be if her death triggered a surge of support for the politics of empathy, compassion, understanding. For a politics where our common humanity was where we first met each other, and then worked out what to do about our differences.

These are such troubled times. The politics of hate seems to be in the ascendant everywhere. In the UK, the EU referendum has brought out some of the most divisive and ugly campaigning I’ve ever known. In the US, well, I hardly need finish the sentence. It is so easy to feel entrenched, embattled, at war. To have enemies. To descend into a politics that would seem to meet the terrible hate that confronts us with angry passions of our own. But right now, as I sit watching pictures of my murdered friend scrolling across the TV screen; and a part of my heart wants to give up trying, the better part of me, the part that can still be inspired, knows that the only sane response is to reject the hate I can so easily and often feel for those who are scaring me, and instead reach for the love, the hope, the compassion that defined the life of Jo Cox.

Martin Kirk is Head of Strategy for /The Rules, a global network of activists, organizers, designers, researchers and writers dedicated to changing the rules that create inequality and poverty around the world. Follow him on Twitter: @martinkirk_ny

0.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 17,939 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 10,766 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
No Moral Superpower: Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden, and the Crimes of Empire
Jake Johnson · 8,979 views today · When Arundhati Roy was preparing, in 2014, for a trip to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden, she was troubled by two things. One of them was the fact that the meeting was arranged...
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 5,975 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
And After the Election, The Reaction
Ret Marut · 5,030 views today · Could there be any better illustration of the shortcomings of representative democracy than this year’s Presidential campaign? For months upon tiresome months, the whole world...
'The Climate of Fear Is Unacceptable' - Ken Loach on I, Daniel Blake
6 min · 3,606 views today · Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning film I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a man who is denied disability benefit after a heart attack and who is then subsequently caught in a...
Men Loving Men
Bianca Vivion · 3,063 views today · When my father was seven he and his best friend Phil cut their index fingers open and placed them together to create a “blood pact” that they would always be brothers. To this...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 2,307 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,003 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Writers Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein Talk About Journalism and Activism
27 min · 1,974 views today · Author, Activist and Former California State Senator Tom Hayden talks in depth with the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, about the state of the fourth...
Three Massive Mergers - Millions for One Bank and a Disaster for Food, Water, and Climate
Wenonah Hauter · 1,862 views today · In addition to advising on all three mega-mergers, Credit Suisse is playing a big role behind the scenes of the Dakota Access pipeline.
Grow Heathrow: Residents Resisting Eviction Over 3rd Runway
4 min · 1,191 views today · On March 1st 2010 Transition Heathrow members swooped on an abandoned market garden site in Sipson; one of the villages to be completely tarmacked to make way for a third...
Social Geographer Shows How Much of You is Determined by Where You're From
3 min · 1,179 views today · The Professor of Geography examines social inequality and the geodemographics of the UK, using maps created by Oliver O'Brien (UCL, CASA) in 2012 and updated in 2015. You can...
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 1,108 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
A Beautiful Reflection on What It Means to Be Human
8 min · 794 views today · Hello! We are Oh Wonder, a musical duo from London. We believe that everyone is equal. We are all human. We all deserve the world. And we can build that equality by sharing...
Heartbreaking Animation Reveals Plight of Animals Under Threat of Extinction
3 min · 762 views today · This stunning and heartbreaking animation gives voice to animals under threat from human activity. Made as part of the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, it features a...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 733 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Speaking Out Against Australia's Unforgiving Refugee Policy
42 min · 714 views today · The Forgotten Children: More than a hundred child refugees are stuck in asylum limbo on the island of Nauru as a result of Australia's harsh and unsympathetic border policies...
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 631 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
How Big Banks Launder Money and Get Away With It
9 min · 543 views today · 'I wrote about how money laundering was actually done... they spiked it.' Parliamentary Candidate David Malone was a popular second choice in the UK Green Party leadership...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
The Beautifully Lived Life of Jo Cox