How to Oppress People of Color

We have a holiday named for this guy! But we still have work to do. Photo by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegram staff photographer

We have a holiday named for this guy! But we still have work to do.
Photo by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegram staff photographer

A black man once told me that, as a white woman, I didn’t have the right to write about racism. I understand his point; I don’t live in his skin. On the other hand, I pointed out that as a white woman, I am part of the problem, and therefore I must write about racism. I don’t believe white silence is helpful.

There can be no doubt that people of color are more likely to be killed by the police than white people are. Given the almost daily examples in the headlines, I cannot imagine how this affects people of color. Depressing? Yes. Horrifying? Yes. Outrageous? Yes. Scary as shit? Absolutely. When I leave my house, I don’t worry about being wrongfully arrested or killed by a public servant.

So, dearest white people, I know many of you care. I know many of you want to do your best. I know that, if you exhibit racial biases, you are probably blissfully unaware of it. I freely admit that I have been a complete idiot at times in my past, too. Life is for growing and learning, so let me discuss some of the ways in which white people may unconsciously oppress those who have a higher melanin content in their skin.

When we see another killing of a black person in the news, it’s uncomfortable, so our brain wants to make us feel better about it. Here are some of the things that may go through your mind:

He/she must have done something to deserve it.

This is what horror writers understand: if you’re going to kill a character, perhaps gruesomely, then you first write them so that when they die the reader will secretly applaud. No one minds if the despicable person gets eaten by zombies. Alfred Hitchcock set up Janet Leigh’s character in Psycho as an immoral woman who casually slept with men, thereby setting her up so that, as a slut, she gets what’s coming to her. So naturally, if a policeman killed someone, well, it must have been their own fault somehow. Right? See also: Blaming the victim.

If he/she didn’t deserve it, then they must have done something stupid.

Okay, maybe they weren’t actually robbing a store or dealing drugs, but maybe they already have a record (and therefore did something in the past to deserve it), or they were just “uppity.” Maybe they gave the cop some attitude, or did something to make the officer feel threatened. While there can be no doubt that politeness goes a very long way, there is no law that says that citizens are required to be polite to the police. People become upset. They get stressed. Cursing at a police officer may be unwise, but it is not illegal. A death sentence seems a very high price to pay for inflamed passions.

He/she must have done something to arouse suspicion.

We assume that all police officers are completely rational, and that they would never harass a civilian without a very good reason. But officers (and white people in general) tend to make assumptions about people of color that do not apply if the person is white. Unlike Sandra Bland, I have never been pulled over for failing to signal a lane change. Unlike Trayvon Martin, I have never been shot dead for walking in my neighborhood wearing a hoodie. Unlike Henry Louis Gates, I have never been arrested by the police for trying to enter my own home. No, black people do not have to do anything to arouse suspicion. Their mere existence is suspicious. If you have ever crossed the street to avoid walking past a man because he is black, I am talking to you.

He/she must have been hanging with the wrong crowd.

When we see another black death on TV, there is the initial assumption that these are poor folks from the ghetto, probably doing drugs and stealing. Because those are the only kind of black people in America, right? Oh, I guess there are some middle-class black families, but those people don’t end up dead on the news, do they? Somehow, our narrative says that “poverty corrupts.” All those welfare queens come from somewhere! And if you’re poor in America, you deserve it. And if you’re black and poor in America, you’re a thug. Thugs deserve to be shot to death. If you were shot to death and you’re not a thug, then you must have been hanging out with thugs, which brings us back to: You deserved it.

I have known plenty of poor white people over the years. Most of them aren’t thugs. And I’m pretty sure that if one of them was shot dead over a traffic stop, the community would be upset. But even the few penny-ante white “criminals” (if you count drug use) that I’ve known don’t deserve that kind of fate. We should extend our compassion to everyone, regardless of their skin color.

Black people are just “like that.”

You know what I mean. “It’s just how they are.” Naturally violent. Behaving like animals. No surprise when one gets killed. (“They deserve it.”) When a black person becomes angry, a white person feels threatened. When a white person becomes angry, another white person just sees an angry white person. White people love authority, and we submit to it more easily than we think. We automatically side with authority in most cases. When a shooting occurs, our first thought is that the officer was in the right. And that may be the case. But the officer may just as easily be in the wrong. They are imperfect humans in a stressful job, carrying guns. Shit happens. Unfortunately, it happens more often to black people, because white people tend to see them as a threat.

And so on…

I have written before about how well-meaning white people can exhibit racist behavior, unaware that they are doing so. We have had around 400 years of this nonsense, thanks to a culture that thought it was appropriate to kidnap other people, put them in chains, and sell them to people who would exploit their labor. Capitalism at its finest! But hey, you gotta watch these slaves. They’re probably not too happy about this state of affairs. They might try to escape, or worse—revolt. They might even want revenge.

Yes, our legacy of White Trauma is centuries of fearing those whom we imprisoned and exploited and paranoia that they want to repay us for all we’ve done to them. It’s in our national DNA. That’s a painful thing to acknowledge, however, and isn’t it so much easier to just deny that there’s a problem? Hey, this is a post-racial society now! Go Obama! Kill the Voting Rights Act. Problem solved. Nothing to see here.

Our black brothers and sisters keep saying to us, “Please listen. We want to live side by side as equals. Your attitudes are causing us pain. Racism is still occurring. We are dying because of it.” And we switch off the news without a second thought and go to the mall. “Oh, well, I trust that justice will be done.”

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
~ Edmund Burke

The Subtle Shades of Racism

subtle racism america

Photo by Frerieke

Let me be clear:  I am a privileged white woman. As such, I feel that I have a responsibility to write about what I perceive as a “white problem,” the problem of being willfully blind to the oppression and humiliation that “other people” suffer on a daily basis. By “willfully blind,” I do not mean that all white people are engaged in any kind of conscious meanness, or that white people are constitutionally incapable of behaving with humanity. No, by willful blindness, I simply mean that many people (of any color) would prefer not to examine themselves too closely, lest they discover something that they might not like. No one wants to be uncomfortable with their own psyche, and shining the light in the dark corners of the mind makes people naturally uncomfortable. But this is what we must do if we are to solve a problem that I believe is harmful to everyone, not just any one race.

I last wrote about racism in my blog “Haters,” and some of the experiences that I write about there are the sort of blatant racism that gets included in Oscar-winning Hollywood scripts. This is the sort of racism that progressive white people can view and say, “How simply horrible! I would never behave that way to my fellow man. I’m so glad we’ve moved on past those days.” And then we leave the theater and go to Starbucks.

The truth is, a lot of racism is not that blatant or that obvious—to white people, anyway. It’s more subtle, it’s unconscious, and it’s just not something we see. If we could see it, there would be greater understanding that, yes, White Privilege is a real thing, even if you’re white and poor and don’t have much.

Racism in all its forms requires an enormous amount of mental gymnastics to rationalize and maintain. My ex-husband grew up in rural Louisiana in the 1950s. His parents were unabashed racists, yet they hired a black woman to be his nanny (his mother was unusual for the day because she worked outside the home). My ex could never quite wrap his head around the idea that this supposedly “inferior” person was entrusted with his upbringing. She loved him and was probably more emotionally present for him than his own parents were. He told me that he was uncomfortable when she told him that she loved him like her own children, whom she was not able to be home with to care for. She was taking care of him, all day, after all.

My ex’s parents were also poor, and one particularly hard year when my ex was little, a family down the road brought them a Thanksgiving dinner. This was probably hard enough on his old man’s pride, but the family who brought the food was black, and that was more than his pride could bear. That must have been a rough day, because my ex never forgot it or his father’s reaction.

An old southerner’s bruised pride and anger, his debasement of the woman who worked for his family, this is “Classic Racism,” yes? This is recognizable, and it happened “back then.” But let’s fast forward to the 2000s.

I once worked for a white man who was vegetarian, recycled, drove a Diesel car with good mileage, liked yoga, and who was, by his own definition, a progressive, liberal voter, who no doubt would applaud any Oscar-winning portrayal of racism by Steven Spielberg. As head of my office, he had the final say on a number of matters, and many of his decisions reflected his own unseen biases.

When we interviewed for a new quality assurance engineer, we had about 5 candidates. One of them was a black man whose resume was just as good as the other candidates’ resumes, and who seemed to have a lovely personality. The quality of his interview and the questions asked were not the same as for the other candidates. When he left, there was never any serious discussion about considering him for the job, whereas the other candidates were discussed quite animatedly. No doubt, many people would say he was simply not as well qualified as the white candidates, but that would be false. He was marginalized from the moment he walked in the door.

Later on at this same job, I had to write scripts for a DVD that we would make for medical providers’ waiting rooms. My task was to write scripts for an “Oprah-type” show, only showcasing medical services. I wrote a number of episodes of this show, taking pains to specify minorities in many of the roles (I wrote the host as Hispanic). I particularly took pains to write a strong character for a black female in one of the scripts. Casting day came, and… my boss had changed everything. My strong black female was now white, and the sole person of color cast was now given what I considered to be the most “downtrodden” role. My boss’s casting was the worst kind of racial stereotyping. My complaints did no good, but I learned a lot from this experience.

I learned that people who think they aren’t racist can be the worst kinds of racists. I learned how pernicious racism really is, and I could see how it hung on into the 21st century, in spite of all the back-slapping and congratulating that we now live in a “post-racial society.”

I don’t think that my old boss is a “bad” person, but I do think he is an unconscious one. I think if he saw himself, truly saw himself, he might actually be horrified. Looking into the mirror and acknowledging the ugly truths about ourselves is the only way that we can begin to heal them. As a white person—as a person!—I believe that my job is to heal myself:  “Physician, heal thyself.” Healing is my gift to me. It also happens to be my gift to the world.

I invite everyone, of any color, to examine the feelings that come unbidden when you look upon another person. Are you instantly afraid? Do you instantly clutch your purse? Are you comfortable? Do you even notice the other person? Fears based on stereotypes—merely viewing the physical appearance of another—are learned and become automatic. But they can be unlearned. In order for that to happen, you have to acknowledge them. (Fears based on outward appearance are different from psychic feelings that you get when something is wrong—gut instinct. Learn to recognize the difference.)

I invite everyone to shine their light into dark places and free yourself from the tyranny of your own fears. Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last.

Who is Right?

right wrong debate

The Cheshire Cat and Alice

Recent events in our world have caused huge divisions among people, and most of us choose a side. We believe that we have chosen the “right” side, which must mean that the other side is “wrong.” But no one’s right if everybody’s wrong, to quote Buffalo Springfield. By choosing a side, we give energy to negativity—even though our “side” may be saying, “Hey, let’s have world peace, let’s not attack any one, let’s not return violence with violence, let’s help those who are less fortunate.” And it’s okay to believe in that; that can be your truth. Believing in the possibility of world peace is not a problem in itself.

Many people say that they want world peace and harmony, and yet they feed conflict. It isn’t obvious at the time. It’s done unconsciously, and it happens when we mentally choose a side and enter into the energetic push/pull of duality and division, which we do as naturally as waking up in the morning. But by taking a side, we devalue other human beings and pass judgment. We say, “You are wrong, because you are advocating something that I really don’t like.” And when that something is violence, war, or even lack of health care coverage, it can be really hard not to choose sides. However, in choosing sides, we create a division within ourselves and allow anger to fester. We can’t promote peace with anger; it just can’t be done. So now, instead of being peaceful, we become angry and project that anger onto others. In short, we become part of the problem.

Anger and the drive to take sides can be healed, but it takes awareness and resolve. It may also require a break from mass media. We tend to seek out news articles that validate our own opinions, our own sense of “rightness.” And this is easy to do. You can always find someone with a similar opinion. But reading about it or watching TV news obsessively only reinforces our sense of anger, outrage, and the amount of negative energy that we contribute to the situation. This cycle of seeking out validating information can become an addiction:  not to the news, and not to a “cause.” Instead, it’s an addiction to feeling “right.” We can become very angry with people who do not validate this feeling.

So in a world where people need to be right, is anyone right? We really want to believe so. Our egos really want to believe so. But no one is.

Truth, right, and wrong are all subjective. For some people, war is wrong—end of story. But for other people, war is a rational response to violent provocation. For others, war is a reasonable way to ensure economic security. Are all of these points of view wrong?

Yes. And no.

The answer depends on your point of view in this great dream that we are having in which we are all separate. In our dream, we disagree. We go about things differently. We see the world differently. But we’re still all One being, all God. And part of God can’t be wrong. Likewise, a single soul’s perspective does not reflect the entire truth of God, so no one person is right. In spirit, there are no “sides.”

This has implications, of course. No religion is right or wrong. No political belief is right or wrong. No opinions are right or wrong. And there is no such thing as duality, because so-called opposites (such as good and evil) don’t really exist. There is only the Oneness of God.

How do we live this? Intellectual understanding is all well and good, and that is always the first step. But to know something fully and truly live it requires emotional understanding. It means integrating what we’ve learned into our emotional body so that it can become part of our behavioral patterns. This requires practice.

When someone disagrees with you, try to place yourself in their energy and see with their eyes. From their perspective, you can at least understand how they believe that what they are saying is right. Then let it go. You can also remind yourself that no one—no political figure or anyone else—wakes up in the morning and says, “I want to be the baddest, most evil person I can be.” No one does that. They may be deluding themselves, they may be unhealed, they may even be mentally ill, but everyone acts out of their belief that what they are doing is right.

Another challenge is raising our children with the knowledge that no one is right. This involves helping them to be discriminating without being judgmental. A fine line, that. Archangel Metatron suggests that we teach our children to see how subjective right and wrong are. For example, burping at the table is considered rude in America, but it is a compliment to the chef in Japan. It depends on your point of view. The trick with children is to make them see that it’s not about right and wrong, but about choices that are safe and healthy versus choices that are unsafe and unhealthy.

None of this means you or your family can’t have a code of ethics. We can, and we can encourage our children to develop their own sense of them. What it does mean is that we shouldn’t judge others because their values are different from our own. We must respect their right to make their own choices. For example, in your house, you may choose to be kind to animals and people, to eat all of your meals together as a family, and to live joyfully. Others may choose similar—or very different—values.

So why bother with any of this? It’s comforting when others are wrong (thus making you right), and it’s certainly the easiest road. There are, of course, many reasons why you might bother. For one, right and wrong is a method of dividing God, of separating two or more people, or groups. You can’t be One with God if your ego is busy dividing what God is.

Another reason is to have peace. If you’re not constantly warring with others about what is right and wrong, you can let go of anger. When you let go of anger, you can find peace. Imagine what could happen if the Israelis and Palestinians stopped believing that they were right, while the other was wrong. Imagine what the U.S. as a nation could do without party divisions and finger-pointing. Imagine what you could accomplish as an individual if you weren’t expending your energy on right and wrong.

There is a saying, “It takes two to make a knot.” So stop pulling. Drop your end. The other party will end up with a slackened bit of string and be unable to make any knot at all.

The Holiday Wars

The Holiday Wars

Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto,
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Let’s face it, when this time of year rolls around, some people just want to run and hide. Already, the Christmas carols are playing, and the Christmas trees have been on display since September. If your kid is in public school, it’s been all about Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. Which is awesome if you celebrate those days. And if you don’t, well… it’s pretty annoying.

Yes, Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday that’s been made into a bigger event because of its proximity to Christmas. But at least it’s acknowledged. Unlike, say, Yom Kippur. And of course, pretty much every holiday on the Christian calendar owes its very existence to a pagan precursor. Easter remembers the goddess Eostra and, of course, the ritual sacrifice of the King of the Year, eerily echoed by the crucifixion of Christ. Samhain and Yule were Christianized as well during the process of converting the many European pagans, who did not want to lose their festivals and traditions.

So it’s fair to say that many of our modern holidays are muddy, at best, in terms of their origins. Am I celebrating Christmas or Saturnalia? The answer, for us, is yes. Do we celebrate Hanukkah? The answer, for us, is yes, because one of our family members is Jewish. Do we celebrate Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Litha (midsummer’s eve)? For us, the answer is yes, because we take the view that any day is a day worth celebrating. The pagan understanding of the Divine presence in the natural world and its cycles makes sense to us. Celebrating the life of a master (be it Christ, Buddha, or any other) also makes sense to us. Celebrating Jonathan’s Jewish heritage makes sense to us. There is beauty in all of these. And I have no doubt that if we were introduced to Diwali, Eid al-Adha, or the Chinese New Year, that we would find joy in all of them.

Given our perspective that every holiday is a good holiday, I don’t understand why so many have chosen to be offended by someone else’s holiday. I understand that the nondominant religions are rightfully irritated by the overwhelming presence of the dominant religion (Christianity) in the U.S., and let’s face it, we all know that this push is really about making money in retail sales. Acknowledged! And these holidays are overwhelmingly pushed in public schools, and Wiccan/Jewish/Muslim kids may or may not like to create construction-paper reindeer. Acknowledged! Public schools could do a better job of acknowledging minority religious practices. At all. Ever… But when they do…

There was a stink a few years ago in Texas because some textbooks didn’t discuss Christmas, but they did discuss Diwali, which is the major festival in India. Christians were outraged. I think it’s probably fair to say that most Texas kids don’t need further instruction in Christmas, but most have probably never heard of Diwali, so exposing them to it is a really good idea. I have worked with teams in India, and trust me, in a global economy, this sort of thing is good to know. But of course, the “War on Christmas” folks had a field day with this, and bemoaned the “attack” on their beloved holiday.

So here’s my point:  isn’t this all getting a bit silly? I don’t really care if someone says, “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Blessed Yule,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” or even (gasp) “Happy Holidays!” My own holiday preferences don’t need to be validated at every turn. What I do in my house is my business, and if 50,000 Christians salute me with a “Merry Christmas,” then so what? I am not offended by pagan posts in my Facebook newsfeed any more than I am by pro-Jesus posts or even pro-atheist posts. There is no conflict here, unless I create one. Someone else’s beliefs can never negate what I own in my heart, so why should I care?

As it happens, I can scroll by. I have that power.

When I play “The Holly and the Ivy,” I remember the Druids who gave rise to the tradition of Christmas trees, holly, and mistletoe. When I play “The Coventry Carol” or other songs, I think of a lonely couple in the desert, giving birth to their first child. And when I hear Jonathan sing a Hebrew prayer, I think of the thousands of years that prayer has been sung about a miracle of oil.

The Holiday Wars are just another way of creating separation where there is none. We are all One, no matter what we celebrate or revere or think is important. Why would someone else’s joyful celebration be an annoyance to me? Celebrate! Live! Love! Drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. And let’s stop looking for ways to divide what can never be divided. It’s all an illusion…

Happy holidays!

By Asha Hawkesworth

“Where Do I Fit In?”

why do we need belong

Crow Tribe
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

What you think about yourself is much more important than what others think of you.
~ Marcus Annaeus Seneca

It is accepted wisdom that the road to happiness requires us to follow our hearts and our own conscience without regard to the opinions of others. Yet, we are human, and we want to be accepted, at least somewhere. We want to find our tribe. We want to belong, to fit in. We want to find our human family, which may or may not include our blood family.

It is much harder today to figure out where we, as individuals, fit in, because our society has not allowed everyone to do so. There are entire groups of people who have been disenfranchised because they do not fit into the ideal box that our economy requires:  to be a “good worker.” And as jobs continue to be replaced by technology, more people are feeling left behind. Where do I fit in? What do I have to offer?

All human beings have a purpose and something to offer, though you may not be able to put a dollar sign on it. We must get beyond this thinking of economic value. In our tribal past, every member had something to contribute. The young contributed joy and the promise of the future. The older generations helped care for the young and used their collective wisdom to benefit the tribe. The disabled contributed as well, often in a more sacred and spiritual way. They were recognized as special. This also includes the mentally ill, whom we now stick in an institution (but only after they present a danger), or allow to wander homeless and self-medicating with illegal street drugs, or authorities end up killing them when a misunderstanding or situation escalates, which happens far too frequently.

We label people instead of including them, and the schizophrenic of today was probably the shaman or seer of the past. Many say they are “crazy,” but they are just psychic in a different way. In other societies, these people would have been trained to use their gifts in a healthy way; now we stigmatize them and prefer not to have contact with them. Given the number of tragedies that occur each year for the mentally ill, what is certain is that our current mindset about them is not helping them.

But you don’t have to be old, young, physically or mentally challenged, or otherwise different to feel like you’re out of place. I suspect most average people feel that way most of the time. Consider what our society asks us to conform to:  work hard, earn a good living, work harder, take two weeks off a year, get a mortgage, pay your bills, shop til you drop, have a family that you spend a relatively small number of hours with, retire—maybe?, and die. It’s interesting that we think of more tribal cultures as primitive, yet they have far more time for family, art, and culture than the modern person in an industrialized nation.

We have lost our sense of connection with one another in the modern age. We no longer think in tribal terms; we think in terms of ourselves as an individual. But no man (or woman) is an island, and it’s no wonder we can’t figure out where we fit.

This dilemma is impacting our young men the most. Most mass murders are committed by disconnected young, white men who don’t know where they fit in and have given up caring. The despair that these men must feel in their souls is probably not unlike the feelings of Mary Shelley’s monster in Frankenstein:

Shall I respect man when he condemns me? Let him live with me in the interchange of kindness, and instead of injury I would bestow every benefit upon him with tears of gratitude at his acceptance. But that cannot be; the human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union. Yet mine shall not be the submission of abject slavery. I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy, because my creator, do I swear inextinguishable hatred. Have a care; I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you shall curse the hour of your birth.

Why do young people join gangs, even when they must know how incredibly destructive that path is? Because for the first time in their lives, they have a sense of belonging, of fitting in somewhere. We can do a better job of creating alternatives.

It’s good and healthy not to worry about the opinions of others, but we all need our Core of Care, our tribe, in order to feel safe and loved. Spiritual growth is a private, individual journey, but it isn’t really possible in a vacuum. We all need our supporters and helpers, our catalysts in growth, in order to achieve any of this. We need connection. We need to feel connected. Isolation leads to a sense of having no purpose, of having no value. It leads to despair, and despair leads to desperation.

We can indeed reclaim our tribe. We can indeed include everyone and not judge them by some perceived economic value. We can build our communities beyond the nuclear family model, which just isn’t sufficient. Get to know your neighbors. See the value in every single human being, no matter how valueless they may feel. While you may not want every person to sit at your table, there is a table for everyone out there somewhere. And you might be surprised who ends up being seated at yours. Many have entertained angels unaware, or, perhaps, you are the angel today.

Reclaiming Our Tribe and Creating a Better Future

This image has been making the rounds on social media.

This image has been making the rounds
on social media.

What is one of the first things that is said when you meet someone new? “So, what do you do?” Or maybe, “What do you do for a living?” Perhaps it is our desperation to find something besides the weather to discuss, or a desire not to seem too trite (“Do you watch ‘Downton Abbey?'”), or an awareness that we mustn’t pry too much by asking more personal things (“Are you married?”). But I can’t help but feel that without the bellwhether of career, we would be unable in our modern age to come to any conclusion about another human being’s likability or worth at all.

It was interesting to read a three-part series in The Oregonian about middle class jobs that have been lost during this last recession, and they aren’t coming back. Technology has made them obsolete. We are more clever and more productive than ever. That isn’t really so bad, except that in our current economic system, you must “earn a living,” and if you do not “earn” this, you will not eat. You may, in fact, sleep on the street.

“Earning a living” is a curious phrase, since we are here by the good grace of the universal Divine, however you may see or define that. We are here, we are alive, and yet, we are the only creatures on this earth who must somehow “earn” their spot upon it. Personally, I think this earns us the title of “Most Ridiculous Lifeform.” Nevertheless, if we do not do something to “earn” our bread, many people seem to think we have no right to any.

This state of affairs owes a lot to the mindset and beliefs of our Protestant ancestors, who felt that the way to God was through asceticism and hard work. Joy did not enter into it and was, frankly, often frowned upon. The early Protestants also felt very strongly that if God blessed you, then you were wealthy. If he didn’t, then you were not. Either you were of the elite, or you weren’t. Of course, everyone wanted to be of the elite, and what better way to prove it than by having lots of “stuff” that showed how wealthy you were? And here we are in America in 2013, stampeding into Walmart on Black Fridays and “earning our living.”

Naturally, there are “good ways” and “bad ways” to earn our living. Investment banking is fine, as is doctoring, teaching, and selling. Stripping is usually frowned upon. So is most art, unless it’s very high-brow, of course. Very few parents encourage their children to earn their living by painting nudes.

Of course, a lot of “good ways” to earn a living are simply not going to come back. Now we have a highly productive workforce and a highly idle one. The idle workforce isn’t really earning their living in the way we’ve been told we must expect, so what to do with them? Watch them starve? Put them on a reality show?

I was struck by this letter to the editor in The Oregonian (Jan. 29, 2013) with regard to the series on lost jobs, and I like the writer’s vision very much:

Technology has always raised productivity. Industrialization permitted the spread of the 40-hour week, paid vacations and other benefits. Currently, high-tech workplaces add exercise facilities and flexible hours as aids to health and creativity. We should be pleased at the prospect of having robotics end more and more workplace drudgery.

However, with the arrival of unprecedented increases in productivity, the benefits can no longer go mostly to the 1 percent. The workweek can be further reduced with no reduction in pay. More benefits that enhance creativity can be advanced, such as lifelong learning, sabbaticals and earlier earned retirement. Coming generations are about to create enough productivity to concentrate human energy on our most urgent needs—ending industrial climate disruption, diminishing population growth and reducing poverty and warfare. The only alternative would be social inequality rising to the level of our self-destruction.

PATRICK STORY
Southeast Portland

The sort of future he is writing about is one in which our worth as humans is not measured by how well we “earn” our right to space on the planet. It assumes that we all have an inherent right to space on this planet, and an equal share in its abundance. It assumes that every single person on this earth is a co-owner and co-creator of our world and our future.

We are still a tribal species, and we suffer when we do not behave as a tribe. A successful tribe does not allow members to suffer because they “failed” to “earn” their way by being sick, or disabled, or old, or very young. The healthy and able provide for those who cannot provide in the same way, knowing that they will likely benefit from the same privilege themselves one day. The very young, the old, and the infirm still contribute to the tribe in many other ways, whether it’s to provide childcare, emotional support, or wisdom. In our current economy, of course, these qualities cannot buy “stuff,” so they have no economic value. You lose a lot when you measure things solely by their economic value.

When we separate ourselves from our neighbors and community, when we live isolated, when we choose to believe that there is no greater good other than our own short-term interest, we literally cannot cope. A society that attempts to live “every man for himself” without the social interaction, nurturing, and loving touch that we are born craving, must, in the end, become mentally ill. The “breakdown” of society that many decry is a breakdown of our community bonds. It is the absence of a true heart connection to one another. As Max Weber wrote in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, we have become “specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.”

We are not the greatest civilization ever to exist on this earth, though we do imagine ourselves at the forefront of our evolution. There have been greater civilizations in our past, ones that retained the bonds of community, belonging, and caring for each other and the earth. That being said, I believe that there will come a “greatest civilization,” and that we will build it together. We will change what it means to live with one another and with our environment. We will imagine new ways of being, and doing. We will free ourselves from the bondage of timeclocks, workweeks, and being judged by our ability to slowly kill ourselves by doing things we hate. We will open the cage door and leave Mammon behind, finding new ways to trade with one another and exchange ideas. Humanity and our beloved earth will no longer be casualties of short-term profit for the few.

No, this isn’t a pipe dream. This is the new reality that has already begun. The awakening of humanity did not end in 2012. It is simply beginning.

We are the Earth

gaia oneness life

We have pushed ourselves to extreme limits in our Dream of Separation. Not only are we “I” and “you,” but we are not of anything else. We are not of our community, so suffering in our midst can be overlooked. We are not of our environment, so clear-cutting a forest for short-term gain does not bother us. We are not of our planet, so ecological destruction, land development, and pollution are simply signs of “progress.” Indeed, we have brought ourselves to a place of utter alienation and isolation, and the right of the individual to do as they please without considering the whole is our holiest god. No wonder we are in crisis.

We have become disconnected from all that we are. We have lost what is truly sacred:  ourselves. As a race, we are mentally and emotionally disturbed, because we have forgotten who we are.

Fortunately, that is changing. A number of people are waking up and will continue to do so. But on this path of change and shift, it is important to understand that we are all part of a larger body. We are part of a larger organism. On the cosmic scale, we are all God, everything is God, there is nothing in existence that is not the great Deity. On a more local, physical/spiritual scale, we are also the body of the great organism of this planet, known as Gaia. She is alive. She is aware. But she is also diseased as a result of our disease—our disconnection and disregard.

The earth is a living body. The oil we so callously burn and spill is her blood. The rivers, mountains, and tectonic plates reflect her movements. Ley lines are meridians on her body. There are sacred places that house her chakra system. Many peoples have known this. The Native Americans, the Druids, the Australian aborigines, the South American rain forest peoples, and on and on. They know. They have been careful stewards of this great being. They seek to live in harmony with her and her laws instead of attempting to impose their own.

It is time for Gaia to heal, and she is doing so. She is moving her body and raising her vibration. We will all feel the effects of this, but it does not have to be hard or disastrous if we help her. It can be as gentle as rocking on a calm lake. But we must wake up. She will heal with us or without us.

I believe that we have reached critical mass in shifting our consciousness. All will be well, but it could be a rocky transition yet. Hang on to your surfboards. Listen to your spiritual guidance. Be prepared to swim with the current, not against it. We must change.

Change of this magnitude means creating new systems, new ways of doing things, and new ways of being. Divine inspiration will help us. We just have to listen and follow through. What we have been doing is not working. The things that are out of integrity are collapsing. Indeed, they have already collapsed, we just haven’t noticed it yet. Take your power and start doing things in a new way. When you stop giving your power to what is corrupt and out of integrity, it will disappear. But in order to succeed, we must work together, as one. We must acknowledge that we are One. The planet, every plant, every animal and microbe, and every human being on this earth matters.

An Edenic society once existed on this earth. In it, we lived in harmony with ourselves, each other, and all life. We can be there again, but in order to do that, we must shift our consciousness. Are you ready?

Eating the Future (A Tale of Lack)

homeless_man_during_morning_commute_iStock_000004136154XSmall

When a person is raised within a system or culture of any kind, they tend to believe that it is the natural way to be, and possibly even the only way to be. In other words, we don’t question it, even when it fails to work.

Not everyone in the global economy is suffering, but many people are. In the west, we hear lots of talk about “austerity measures” and “tightening our belt,” as if we as nations suffered from overeating and needed to go on a diet. It is a natural outgrowth of the dominant Protestant philosophy that historically has said that we must be very severe with ourselves, or God will punish us. And if God does punish us, then we no doubt did something to deserve it. So if we are suffering from lack or poverty, then surely we have displeased God.

There can be no doubt that we as a society have overindulged in many things:  energy, cheaply made material goods that are readily discarded (out of sight; out of mind), land development, the very trees themselves, and, last but not least, human life, spent in our many wars and military actions, or lost through suffering, neglect, or corporate greed (unsafe working conditions, exposure to toxic substances, etc). Our current society has been formed by the view that the Earth was gifted to us by an external God who said, “Here you go. Use it all up.” And we nearly have.

Yet, even as we have overindulged in these things, we have an astonishing lack of the things that we truly need as nations and societies:  healthy, clean food and water; decent housing; healthcare; quality education; human dignity and worth; the true opportunity to pursue happiness without economic enslavement; and a healthy, unpolluted environment and planet. And yet our fear of going without the things we have overindulged in has driven us to create even less of these things that we truly need as a single human race.

Ponder for a moment an entire subset of the human race, invested in something called “the economy,” which is run entirely on Monopoly money. That is all that our currency is. It’s a game. We have collectively agreed that currency has a value, and that certain work and goods have a value, and that if you want to avoid this thing called “lack” or poverty, then you have to have a pretty good stash of this Monopoly money. It’s ridiculous when you stop to think about it. Think of all the lives that are either exalted or ruined by the amount of these pieces of paper, most of which don’t actually exist anywhere except as numbers in a variety of computer programs. People actually commit suicide because they end up on the losing side of the game board.

Now imagine that the things that truly make life worth living do not have a value in this Monopoly game. You cannot put a price on love, friendship, or a healthy ecosystem. But you can put a price on the destruction of these things, so those things take on more importance. And they have. And here we are. Monopoly money has ended up in the hands of a relative few, while millions starve or are virtually enslaved in third-world countries which supply something we call “the middle class” with cheap gadgets. And now this middle class is hurting, too. Why?

With all of this austerity and belt-tightening, we have begun to agree collectively that there is a lack (not enough Monopoly money), and that we cannot afford the things we truly need any more (education, healthcare, feeding or housing our neighbors), so there must be suffering. Is this really the world we want? Apparently, because many people now believe in it, and belief will make it so.

Unfortunately, this belief is causing us to eat our future. Consider:  we have cut public education back so severely that the next few generations will pay for it. Society will pay for it. We will have less knowledgeable citizens with fewer skills to solve our problems, which are grave. We have cut back on programs that help pregnant women and children to eat. Children who are malnourished will pay for it the rest of their lives with lower aptitude and opportunity. It is a vicious cycle. What we are doing is eating our seed corn.

Now, this is a bleak picture, and I do not want to leave you with that. There is hope. There is always hope. What is required is for humanity to wake up to this and to see the illusion—and their power—for what it is. This is happening. No, it will not happen to everyone. It doesn’t have to. It only has to happen for enough people. I believe we are there.

All of our systems are in a state of failure. Be glad. They need to fail. In their failing, we will collectively create a new way, a better way. Many are laying the groundwork for this. Consider Greece, that paragon of profligate shame. The Greek people are suffering from what is basically bank-mandated austerity; the bank wants their money, and the people must pay the price. But in this process, the Greek people are reinventing themselves. Watch it closely. Many have already returned to the land. They are simplifying because they must. They are rediscovering what is truly valuable (and it’s not the Monopoly money).

We are an amazing species, and we are undergoing an amazing shift in consciousness. Many already see the illusion for what it is. Do not be afraid to let it go. Spirit will provide. Abundance is your natural state. Trust in that. Do not trust in what is corrupt and failing. Instead, open your mind and heart to new possibilities. We can have paradise on Earth, if we really want it. If we really understand that it can be shared. If we really understand that the Earth itself and our brothers and sisters who live upon it must share in it, too. The Earth is not ours to use; it is ours to share, love, and respect. Everyone can have what they need. The trick is to understand that you do not need to take more than that to have value, or to be happy.

Here is a great video from Bashar, as channeled by Darryl Anka, on this subject. He explains it well:

Measuring Our Worth

Extreme poverty in Rand, WV, USA in 1973. Roads were unpaved and housing was substandard. Source: Environmental Protection Agency Archives

Extreme poverty in Rand, WV, USA in 1973.
Roads were unpaved and housing was substandard.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency Archives

If I had to distill the essence of our social and political discourse as a nation and a global community right now into just a few words, I would say that the biggest source of all our divisions and quarrels lies in the measuring of our worth compared with others. Now, what do I mean by that?

In theory, our disagreements are about concrete things like economic policy, social policy, budgets, and the firm belief that there just isn’t enough money to go around, and some people are going to have to suffer to make up for it. The question at the core of the fighting is, “Who must suffer?”

It is a hard thing to condemn another to suffering, so it is human nature to make excuses for it in order to lessen the psychic burden of the person who is doling out the suffering. This feat of mental gymnastics is accomplished by simple rationalization:  the person who suffers must somehow deserve it because they are morally deficient, lazy, subhuman, or they simply “screwed up” somehow. When these ideas are born, compassion dies. And therein lies the root of every problem.

There is no question that sometimes people make poor choices, even harmful choices for themselves or others. It is true that some people may try to find an “easy” way to get by—which is quite the judgment, actually. A person who scams government benefits may “win” $200 a month in grocery money and a few hundred a month in other assistance, but is this really easy? Ask anyone in poor circumstances, and they’ll tell you how hard it is to live on such a meager income. If that’s “the good life,” then I wouldn’t want it. No, anyone who would work so hard for so little deserves my compassion for having set the bar so low for themselves.

In our modern money-centric society, we now measure everything by its perceived monetary value. If the “cost” of fundamental services (such as education, healthcare, road maintenance, etc.) is too high, then we’ll just have to cut back and “live within our means.” Abundance, however, is a river that flows in whatever direction you focus on. If you are generous with it, it is generous with you. If you are stingy with it, it is stingy with you. This is true for individuals and society as a whole. If we tighten our belts too much, we will no longer be able to breathe.

On a personal level, regardless of our political beliefs, we are accustomed to comparing our worth with the worth of others. If someone gets “more,” we take it personally, as a reflection on ourselves. If someone gets “less,” there is always the nagging belief deep down that maybe they deserve it, which makes us feel better because being better off makes us less “bad” or “wrong” than they are.

Everything is measured in dollars and bling, and now our self-esteem is, too. Our worst fears seem to be that someone else may get “more” than what we have without “deserving” it. Of course, what we’re really afraid of is that we don’t deserve it.

But of course, you do deserve to be abundant. So does your neighbor. So do the mentally ill. So does the guy down the street who’s getting public assistance, or the woman who’s sleeping in doorways. The key to everyone’s abundance lies in our compassion and willingness to share in it. You must give, without judging whether someone “deserves it” or not; likewise, you must receive, without judging yourself and understanding that you also deserve it as much as anyone else.

Imagine for a moment that Jesus stood on the beach, surrounded by thousands who came to hear him and learn from him. He passed his hand over the baskets, and as the loaves and fishes began to flow, he said, “I will give a loaf of bread and a fish to every person who can prove to me that they deserve to have it. The rest of you will have to fend for yourselves!” No compassionate being would say such a thing, and whatever happened on that day, Jesus didn’t either, or we wouldn’t know who he is today. When he offered compassion and unconditional love, it was for everyone, no matter who they were or what they had done or thought or believed. This is the definition of unconditional love. If you want to follow his path or any other enlightened path, then know that there is no such thing as a “measure of worth.” We are all worthy. We are all deserving. We are all One being, the Great I AM, and there can be no greater or lesser here. When we come to know this, we will know peace and true abundance for all.

Intersections

children_holding_hands_iStock_000004544472Small“Why can’t we all just get along?”
—Rodney King

Although this quote has been bandied about so much that it has largely lost its meaning, it’s a valid question. What on earth is preventing us from coming together in a spirit of compromise to solve our problems? Are we really planets apart? Is there a “great divide” that is insurmountable? Are we really so intolerant of one another?

The media and our politicians would have us believe that there is a chasm between two “sides,” and that “their” side will save us, and the “other” side will doom us. It’s a ridiculous idea, but even ridiculous ideas can take root and color our perception if we allow them.

I know many people from all walks of life. Some are liberal; some are conservative. Some are wealthy; some are very poor. Some are religious; some are atheists; some are somewhere in between. I have come to know their opinions and beliefs, some of which are strongly held and often expressed. But the most important thing I have come to understand from all of them is that there are places where we all agree, even in the midst of profound disagreement. These intersections of agreement are where we must begin.

It may seem that there can be no intersection, no agreement with someone whose beliefs are on the opposite end of the spectrum from you. And it’s true that you may disagree about much, but it is also true that you can find the places where you do agree by simply shifting your perspective slightly. Reframe the question. Place yourself in their shoes. You may find that you are both seeking happiness, security, liberty, peace of mind, etc., but you have different ideas about how to get there. You may also find, with a little self-reflection, that the fears, control issues, worries, and the like that you see reflected in that person’s beliefs are also living in you—they just express themselves as different beliefs.

Of course, there is one place where we always intersect. It is the only place that matters. It is the place that Christ talked about. It is the place that Gandhi talked about. Martin Luther King, Jr. Countless masters, known and unknown, all understood the one place where we always intersect:  Love. No matter how far apart we think we are, we intersect in unconditional, unchanging Love. Everything else is an illusion. In this Love, our opinions, our beliefs—no matter how firmly held and important we think they are—turn to dust. They do not matter.

As always, we have a choice. We can choose to stand on opposite street corners and hate and berate. Or we can meet in the middle of the intersection and work together in Love. As the angels said to us, “It takes a right wing and a left wing to fly.”

Namaste.

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