Several people have asked me about the issue the A.IG. bonus situation. Several more have pontificated on it — setting that situation as the foundation n for their belief that human nature is essentially evil (original sin! LOL). For whatever it’s worth, here is my take on it: Yeah, it’s fucked up that incompetent and rich Welfare Queens are taking money they obviously don’t deserve. Our money. And everybody is perhaps rightfully turning their collective anger and rage at AIG.
But my take is that you — yes you — are partially to blame for the situation that allows Welfare Queens in three-piece suits rob you blind, be cause you, for the most part, have bought into the lie that less government is better government. You more than likely voted for people like Reagan, both Bushes, and Clinton — all of whom believed in less regulation, less government oversight. You probably agree with powerful neocon Grover Norquist when he famously stated that he wanted to shrink government enough so that he could drag it into the bathroom and drown it.
You voted for that shit. Many times. So, yeah, go ahead and line up to throw rotten fruit at the rich welfare queens. Have them pilloried. Have your vent. Just remember to save one or two rotten tomatoes for yourself. Save some of the anger for the short-sightedness and stupidity that asserts that a self-loathing government creates better governing. It doesn’t. It creates the environment in which the rich can soak you and where you can’t even know for sure that the peanut butter and jelly sandwich your child is eating right this very moment is safe.
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-=[ Engaged Spirituality ]=-
How do I bear witness to the unbearable?
Why are people so deliberately cruel?
How do I not bring more rage into the world?
For years now, I have bore witness to enduring cruelty. Over the years, I have learned to be present — listening. I have sat with a woman, for example, while she told of a gang rape – something she had never shared with anyone else, except for her mother whose response was to blame her for being a “slut.” I have heard grown men and women tell stories of childhood abuse of such horror that some nights I couldn’t sleep, troubled by these stories, forced to reconsider human nature. It got to the point where I didn’t want to hear any more stories — I couldn’t stand to hear one more horror. But I would tell myself that if they had experienced it, then the least I could do was listen.
I have been to many conferences and speeches and have even delivered a few myself. Sometimes I feel I can’t listen to another summit or conference. We don’t need anymore sessions, we already know what we need to do: we have the solutions. Why can’t we use what we know already works? Where is the courage to stop doing what is destroying so many?
I committed to my spiritual path partly as a way to stop from going insane in an insane world. To be free from these cries of despair. I quickly realized I could never be free while the fate of the children of this country and of the world — the legions of child soldiers, the children leading lives indentured to industry, the millions orphaned by AIDS, nine-year-olds as head-of-households struggling to keep their siblings together — continues. We are earning not only to be silent, but also craven and brutal.
This is a world that does not care about its children…
People not so engaged often ask me how I am able to sustain myself in the face of such horror. Sometimes my answer is that it’s increasingly difficult to keep my own rage from eating away at me. Sometimes I silently wonder how long I can continue to do this work. I especially become discouraged when so many people show such absolute indifference and ignorance in the face of the horrors of the world. There is an old Buddhist saying that goes: For those whose hearts are closed, the world’s suffering is like sticking a hair in their finger: it is hardly noticed. But for those whose hearts are open, it’s like a hair stuck in their eyeball: it is acutely painful.
Only the very naïve, or those steeped in a profound denial, believe that spirituality and politics don’t come together. One only has to look around in this country to see that we’ve become that runaway train in Emile Zola’s story — we’ve become a “runaway society” in which our leaders have abdicated their responsibilities while we worry about finding “the one,” or getting that new gadget, career, car, or whatever, while trapped in an out of control train. And you know what? We can’t blame our children for the current state of affairs, though our collective narcissism compels us to use our children as scapegoats.
Profoundly spiritual people have midwifed some of the greatest changes in history. In Latin America often the only voice speaking out against US-controlled violence were priests and nuns who practiced “liberation theology” and sacrificed their lives and sanity in the process. I have a good friend, who’s steeped in liberation theology and he was part of a criminal justice reform campaign he created that drew on the resources of regular men and women spanning several states.
I don’t need to mention, Gandhi, MLK, and the many unknown, untold others – all members of the “aristocracy of the considerate” – who gave their lives so that we could enjoy ours. These are a different kind of soldier – spiritual warriors – and their lives aren’t remembered by merely raising a flag because they transcended the imaginary borders of nation and religion.
I know deep inside I have no choice: I have to be a part of a change process because that is what life consists of: energies, processes. You’re either a force for positive or negative change, but you have to choose. You can’t be neutral on a moving (or runaway) train, as the historian, Howard Zinn, says. Some of us do what we can: donate to a cause we believe in, or walk, run, ride for one thing or another and I won’t belittle that – you do what you can.
However, walking/ riding/ running for breast cancer for example, doesn’t absolve us from accountability. There is a difference between blame, responsibility, and accountability, you know. We like to say, “Well, I gave at the office…” and then go on our blissfully ignorant way as though we were separate from the runaway train. However, it’s not that simple, shit still happens – all the time. Right now, this very moment, some kid in some God-forsaken land just stepped on a landmine that was paid for by your tax dollars.
Blame is burnout and get it right: pointing out that something is wrong and the causes of that wrong is not blame. Blame is rooted in ego, outrage, anger. Many of my ex-lovers liked to blame me, but here we are all these years removed from not being together and they’re probably still blaming.
And you might say that you’re not responsible for the way the world is today and you’re probably right. I like to make the distinction between responsibility and accountability in this way: if you were diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, you were probably not responsible for getting that disease. However, having been informed of that disease and then being educated in how to arrest that disease, aren’t you then accountable for your disease?
Accountability… what are you accountable for? What will you stand up be counted for?
I have ceased to do things with the hope of having an effect. I have to because hoping for results is a sure-fire way to burnout. Expecting outcomes – results – is hell. The fact is that my work may not make a difference.
I remember being part of a huge protest rally in Dc and walking next to an elderly lady and I asked how she could still do all this without being discouraged. Her answer is one I’ll never forget. She reminded me that we all have ancestors who fought against slavery though they knew they would probably never be free themselves.
That was a powerful reminder for me…
The reality is that the work that I engage will turn out to be worthless and achieve no result at all. It might turn out that my energies will produce the oppositepeople. Outcomes don’t matter. People do. effect of my intention. It doesn’t matter, the more I am part of this work, the more I realize that what matters is not so much the results, but the value, rightness, and truth of the work itself. What is important is not results but
I had to give up trying to save the world. I had to give up hope and fear because once you hope, you bring fear into the process. Beyond hope and fear — freed from the twin illusions of success or failure — I am learning to act skillfully. I still get angry, enraged, and frustrated, but now I go back to that space beyond expectations and fear, and act rightly — or as justly as I am able…