Last week I was listening to the NY Times The Daily series on the rise of nationalism in Europe. I was fuming about humanity’s inability to break out of the cycle of greed, suffering, fear and violence:
People in political & economic power amass wealth and hoard it away from their fellow human, fellow human becomes angry, is deprived of basic necessities like a way to make a living, a decent education and a way to feed their family, the resentment builds and fixates on targets–other poor people, Jews, people who are different from me and mine. And then there is a match–a stabbing, a rape, some story line that feeds right into now widespread fears of being unsafe in one’s world, and then the flames burn where we can see them. The smoldering coals of fear and anger become visible. And by then, there is something real to contend with. And the people who have been hoarding money, wonder: why is everyone so crazy? These dumb people, it is a shame they can vote. And so on and so forth. And the fear creeps into our hearts thousands of miles away, because deep down we know we have kindled our own fires here.
So how do we respond? What can we do with the fear and pain that we feel when we witness the suffering of humans and the environment around us?
Over the past year my feelings on being informed have evolved. I am a sensitive creature. (I believe that a lot of us are if we get real with ourselves.) Hearing about suffering can have a huge impact on me. There was a period of time where I just needed to take a break and get myself in order, build up my inner strength, resilience and power to be able to respond to this information in a way that energizes my work, not debilitates it.
But once we’ve made the choice to be informed, what will allow us to keep doing so in a way that helps us fuel action to help contribute to something better? What can we do to breaks free from the habit of self medicating with alcohol, bad food and Netflix that keeps us stuck in a self loathing that threatens to further submerge us?
Solutions. Solutions are the salve for the pain. For me it is creating jobs in places that are at risk for this sort of scarcity-induced nationalism, and inspiring other entrepreneurs to build their dreams. I know these are big things, but most of what will allow us to change course will be billions of little things. Signing that petition, writing that email to get your friends to vote, planting a pollinator garden, voting, being a good friend to keep moral high, teaching your children about being a good human, loving each other and embracing the beauty of our differences–these are all solutions. We have to play the long game. None of these will change things over night.
But there is a beautiful peacefulness that you can inhabit when you take on the pain of hearing about or witness suffering. You dust yourself off, and you take responsibility for righting the ship, one tiny step at a time.
I wonder, can we one day break this cycle? Can we live in an abundant, harmonious world? Why not? If enough of us start believing in it, it will be. So when you are ready to be a fellow warrior on the path to a better world, when you are ready to take in the news and do something about it, our billions of solutions to break the cycle will deliver us into a new world, one where no one goes without a way to feed themselves, and people who are hoarding money and power are exposed and allowed to make different choices. I realize that my idealism has reached new peaks here. But I for one am tired of settling for anything less.
Go, fight, win.