The Clash of Sybil ’n’ Jason
Triggered by the crippling polarization of our global political system, protesters are taking to the streets to demand that the ‘powers that be’ stop erecting ideological and cultural roadblocks around peoples and nations. But after a few weeks of demonstrations, when the marchers realize that their efforts have served no purpose, they will disband, and their cause will fizzle out. Why are protests nowadays unable to generate enough awareness for a cause, and why are movements so ineffectual in instituting meaningful change? What lessons can we learn from the triumphs of social activism during the Cultural Revolution of the sixties, and how can we reproduce the winning conditions needed for social and political transformation? Re-embracing notions of love and compassion as change agents for social mobilization would be a welcome start. For nothing is nobler than a person who brings an unshakable belief in equal rights for all, and a capacity for deep compassion into civic good works.
Love trumps hate, compassion eases suffering.
The sixties were an evolution of consciousness where an emerging sense of freedom birthed a revolution of social change. Direct citizen participation and activism transformed social and cultural developments around the world. With ‘Peace, Love and Understanding’ as weapons of choice, 60s activists were infused with a burning zeal for fairness, justice and equality of rights. Deviating from the social norm, they organized into grassroots political resistance groups and won major civil, legal and political concessions against the powerful forces of greed and selfishness of the day.
Silly and transient they may have been, they did it all with the help of ‘Flower Power’ and a naive belief that all that’s needed is love, which will literally and figuratively always set you free. Despite negative thoughts associated with that period of history, the sixties were known for the abundance of love and compassion flowing and flowering between people. John Lennon once said; “If anyone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the sixties, that’s their problem.”
I’m not downplaying the importance of the internet and mass communications as indispensable tools for empowering citizenry, civil society, and social movements today. The message here is that the notions of ‘Peace, Love and Understanding’ are all powerful and eternal, and having gone out of style since the 60s, they’re sorely needed to revitalize our politics, our communities and our civic life again.
Same muck, different era.
The sixties are long gone but concerns for the rights of all people, and those for a world mired in war are still valid today as we face a new set of challenges in a post-Cold War world. Our leaders incite us nonstop with absurdities of an impending “clash of civilization,” (a hypothesis claiming that people’s cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict). They use such hyperbole to instill fear in all of us, and as a pretext to divide, conquer and intimidate their “enemy du jour,” whether foreign or domestic, by economic or militarily means. After all, who benefits from situations involving conflict but the malefactors of great wealth. The international financiers of war and economic sanctions and their political lackeys, who disseminate lies and propaganda designed to shake the foundations of traditional ways of life, and deliver a divided and bankrupt humanity into the hands of a global cabal of control freaks who rule the world.
United we stand. Divided we fall!
People are helpless against all the insecurity and instability in the world, it’s no wonder they’re giving up and giving in. They feel insignificant, shut out and unable to vent about their problems, about what makes them angry, about what shames them. They endure pain and suffering in silence, with nary a compassionate ear to listen to them. Look around you, those “alien others” are everywhere, begging on the street, collecting our garbage, cleaning our bathrooms, stocking our shelves, serving our meals, and the most unfortunate ones escaping in rafts and fleeing bombed out villages. It seems there is no limit to human suffering, folks without love, without care, lost in an empty, scary, cold and dark world. While this may be progress for some, it’s a whole sorry lot of regress for pretty much everyone else.
The human and spiritual damage caused by a ruthless global economy and widening inequality has taken its toll, forcing many of us to retreat in our own little world, indifferent and unconcerned with the pain of others. No one’s interested in anything but what directly concerns them, and even then, they wouldn’t know where to start. Everyone is busy, struggling to survive; to keep a roof over their head, to pay bills, to make ends meet, to put food on the table. And if our daily struggle isn’t enough, greed and unfettered capitalism have created wide swaths of enraged individuals, whose only comfort is political, sectarian and religious extremism and uncontrollable violence.
We can solve all our problems with simple actions, which are at the heart of all progressive activism, so please read on.
Build bridges not walls; tear down walls and not bridges.
I find it difficult to make sense of all the animosity between people. I want to shout out to them to accept one another, to see eye to eye and not to be too concerned about their differences, but instead find common ground in their humanity. I want to ask everyone to try to make a difference, however small, in their lives and in the lives of others. We’re an interdependent species. Insects are social beings too, who without any religion, law or education, survive constant turmoil by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. So why can’t we stop behaving like selfish and brutish apes and start acting like insects, cooperate like ants, communicate like bees, cohabitate like termites?
Loving others is an antidote to personal suffering.
A man once asked the great Talmudic sage Rabbi Hillel, (born in Babylonia in 100 BCE) to teach him the entire Torah, (the five books of Moses), while standing on one foot. Hillel stood on one leg then said; “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor, that’s the whole Torah. All the rest is the explanation of this.” We always think of changing the world; but by adopting this philosophy, we can change the world by changing ourselves, one person at a time. Therefore we should strive to become more loving and compassionate, to develop a genuine sympathy for the suffering of others and desire to help remove their pain. When we help our fellow humans, our suffering will decrease and our inner strength will increase.
In the sci-fi movie “The Forgotten,” Julianne Moore plays a mother still grieving over the loss of her son in a plane crash and suddenly wakes up to find that no one remembers he existed, not even her own husband. She talks to the father of another child who died in the crash and he doesn’t remember either and only when shown physical evidence of his daughter does he finally remember only to be taken away by the mysterious force stalking them. At the end this is all revealed to be part of an experiment conducted by Extraterrestrials to see if the “mother-son bond” was so strong that it could not be broken. Apparently not, since despite the Extraterrestrials’ best efforts, her memories could not be erased, the experiment seemed to have failed.
The success of the collectivity depends on the single actions of individuals.
Apart from foiling Extraterrestrials, there are mutual benefits to loving and caring for others, as explained by the Dalai Lama; “The need to love actually lies at the foundation of our human existence, the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we may encounter. It’s the ultimate source of success in life.”
We’re told that our intelligence is what makes us unique, but with artificial intelligence poised to surpass our own, what makes us truly unique then? Is it our ability to love, to feel the pain of others, to be one with the world? Isn’t the mother-son bond, (the ultimate form of love), testimony to those powerful hidden forces at work within, around and between us? Aren’t the neurophysiological processes responsible for experiencing love and compassion one of creation’s greatest achievements, and life’s deepest mystery?
The solution to our survival is; “loving others as ourselves to save everyone.”
Spiritually awakened people have the capacity to love and be able to feel pain when seeing others suffer. In order to join their ranks we need to do likewise. But opening our hearts in a society that condones animosity, segregation and conflict towards those “alien others” is more than difficult.
Here’s a simple 3-pronged exercise (3Fs: Forget, Forgive and be Fortunate) that will help start the process of self-healing and set us on the path to opening our hearts out to others:
Forget the past; especially if it’s full of unpleasant memories that sequester your daily thoughts, for this will stunt your spiritual growth and impede positive interactions with people. This is why it’s imperative to live in the present; the eternal now. Nothing exits except your present actions, your good (or bad) works. The past has come and gone, the future is yet to materialize; therefore the past and future do not exist.
It’s also important to forgive, for being angry towards someone is like drinking poison and expecting them to die. Think of someone you’ve wronged in the past; how would you feel if they still held a grudge against you, even though you’ve since repented? Use this argument to rid yourself of what poisons you. And remember that when forgiveness is exercised collectively it can nullify decades of enmity and lead to peace between hostile nations.
And finally, be fortunate to be alive; be grateful for everything you have. Accept the cards in your hand, for there’ll always be someone who was dealt a worse hand than yours. Be fortunate for your life’s precious; you must not waste it, you must expand your heart to others, and benefit them as much as you can.
Connecting with others is humanity’s last hope for survival.
In order to heal this world and end its suffering, we need to care for those less fortunate than us; our neighbors below the tracks, the refugees from a war-torn nation, the drifters from an abandoned town and our veterans back from another hellish war (and stop sending them there in the first place). We need to stand up for the weak, the subjugated and the dispossessed. Cultivating love and compassion for others is good for the soul, it will put our minds at ease and help remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have, giving us the strength to cope with any future obstacles we might encounter.
For this reason, revolutions inspired by principles founded on “love and compassion” will be the last stand for humanity. The last stand against those who are too eager to embrace that loathsome hypothesis (Clash of Civilization), and transform it into a wicked doctrine of hatred, death and destruction. The Beatles had it right: “We all want to change the world / But when you talk about destruction / Don’t you know that you can count me out”.
With a focus on love, we must connect with others of like minds and hopes, for here among a compassionate consciousness, the Revolutions of the Righteous must continue to exist, grow and ultimately prevail.
Choose love over hate; embrace compassion not cruelty, for the right motivations can move the world!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Alan B. Nagy