January 14, 2012
The ways we humans kid ourselves never ceases to amaze me. We actually believe that standing on a table at the edge of a cliff, dropping pennies in a jar while we saw the legs off the cliff side of the table and take a pick axe to the edge of the cliff, is a sign of intelligence as a species. And, that as long as we keep adding pennies to the jar, all will be well.
Mmmm, I don’t think so. I think the saw blade is very near to breaking through the other side of the legs and that if we don’t want to go over the cliff like those idiots with the saws, penny jars and pick axes, we are going to have to take a fast leap off the backside of the table, now. I think 2012 will be the year when those fragile slivers of wood that holds the table legs together finally break, all the pennies in the jar go flying as the cliff gives way and a good deal of the human weight on that table slides over the cliff.
It’s not as if we weren’t warned. The past year reminded me of what Richard Clark said after 9/11 about people in the intelligence community “running around with their hair on fire” trying to warn the administration that an attack of some kind was imminent. Over the last year, the warnings from climate scientists, ecologists, geologists and economists have reached a pitch I’ve not seen in my lifetime. Yet the majority of us continue to delude ourselves that if we just keep adding pennies to that jar, all will be well indeed.
Still, even as our leaders are yelling, “No, no, it’s safe. They’ve almost sawed through the legs and nothing has happened. The penny jar’s almost full. The tabletop is strong. Just hang on; we’re fine,” ordinary people are looking down at that wobbly table and wondering whether they should get off before it collapses. They may not understand why it’s wobbling, but they know it’s dangerous and much too close to the cliff. They may even understand there’s no other way except to let go and jump. But that’s a scary proposition.
There is a certain art to letting go. It involves shedding illusions, questioning ideologies and resisting propaganda. It involves self-honesty, a little humility and no small amount of courage.
We might start with the illusion that we humans are special, created by a god (who has told us that the love of money is the root of all evil) to have “dominion” over the earth so we can plunder it in the worship of money.
That we humans consider life “sacred” and only kill or destroy with a heavy heart and for the purest of moral reasons, when we actually slaughter each other and most forms of life with an avaricious joy not found in any other species – for religious and political ideologies or for profit.
That we do believe the real measure of a person is their character and has nothing to do with whether they are rich or poor, the color of their skin or whether they are gay or straight.
After we’ve shed some of these illusions about ourselves, we might tackle some of our ideologies:
That my god is bigger, better, badder than your god.
That my political beliefs are bigger, better, badder than your political beliefs.
That my wealth makes me bigger, better, badder than … well … just about anyone who thinks that wealth isn’t the be-all and end-all of life on earth.
That anyone who disagrees with me on my version of the above deserves to rot in hell, be shot for treason or banished from my country, die alone and impoverished so I can have his or her wealth.
Once we recognize the silliness of our illusions and the folly of our ideologies, we’re on our way to resisting the steady drumbeat of propaganda that supports them:
That my religion is the only way to true salvation.
That people who practice no religion, any other religion, or don’t fit the constraints of my religion beliefs, are therefore evil and must be constantly demonized until we all realize that and are willing to destroy them for the greater good.
That my political party is the only way to true fiscal health for the nation.
That people who affiliate with any other political party are maliciously uninformed and dangerous and must be demonized until we all realize that and are willing to do or say anything to make sure my party wins for the greater good.
That wealth and power are the only criteria for judging the health of a nation.
That these criteria therefore comprise the “national interests” which must be defended at all costs for the greater good.
That these religious, political and other “national” interests really are in the interest of the entire nation and not just a few elite at the top.
On second thought, after considering the severity of the crises the world finds itself in, the futility of our delusions about how to deal with them and the length of time honest self-assessment entails, maybe the wisest course would be to go ahead and jump off the table while you start the complex process of letting go. Just in case … you know …