WHO ARE “WE” – CONFRONTING OURSELVES
Good Morning Readers!
I have been called to task over my statements that “we” are responsible for the state of human affairs, including misery in the lives of many.
I understand the call. I stand by my statements. The part of my first title (“where do we want to go?”) is not directly addressed here. But the question underlies nearly all my posts.
When I refer to our “we-ness” I refer of course to our universal family. To humanity. To our natural inclination to “do good” or “do harm” in many ways, in a constant stream of choices we make all the time. From the most ‘harmless’ single tiny choice to larger choices such as fighting unnecessary wars.
I grant and agree, with no qualifiers, that many among us intend no harm in our choices, whether or not we consciously make mental note of harm vs good in moment to moment choosing.
I believe moment to moment tiny choice has effect. Within our personal spheres of social experience, any of us, all of us, “witness” moments of abuse, selfishness, inappropriate power play, malicious humor, unfair manipulation, and so on. Mean spirited email ‘humor’ opinion forwards from friends, often close friends whom we treasure, are a prime example.
Those who intend no harm have several choices when “confronted” with these forwards. One is to delete them, send them no further. One is to pass them along – we may personally object to the “mean spiritedness” but at the same time “appreciate the humor” or “understand the motivation.” A third choice is to hit ‘reply all’ (if a set of email addresses arrives with the forward) and post a statement of our objection. Such a statement can be written with genuine respect to recipients. It is opportunity to speak to brothers/sisters whom we know as good-hearted people – to re-mind them. Yet another choice is for you or me to write to the friend who forwarded the ‘humor’, and lay out why the post is not really funny, choosing words of genuinely felt respect for both the sender and the ‘target’ of the humor.
I have done the last two, hit ‘reply all’, and also replied only to the person who sent me the forward. Results are mixed. Sometimes I’ve had no response, sometimes I’ve had someone else hit ‘reply all’ and post agreement with me, sometimes I’ve had the person who sent it write me back that they understand my objection and agree with me. Curiously, oddly, this does not change sender habits of forwarding the next offensive, malicious “batch send”! I persevere – not writing back in every case so as not to seem a complete nag – but never do I forward these offensive batch sends to others.
This gives me two assurances: I know myself as “one who will speak up”, which is important to me. Secondly I address an ethical/moral issue to one or more brothers/sisters and over time may help reduce these grossly unkind, non-compassionate, often illogical and uniformed points of view, also important to me (to sew seeds of other ways to understand a matter).
I have written plenty to brother and sister policy makers on some political matters! I have written media with questions on their editorial policy. (And I have sent notes of appreciation for editorial policy that seems thoughtful, respectful, and meant to inform .)
Rarely but occasionally I email organizations, even at international level, to object to displays and attitudes I find based on questionable logic and/or ethics. When I do this, I make a point not to get into “you brute!” language – but to point out why I find whatever it is “off target”. (An example is media enthusiasm for video of “running of the bulls.” I know cattle very well, know the circumstances behind the behavior of those bulls, and find nothing admirable in enthusiasm among my brothers/sisters to “enjoy” the challenge of mixing it up with these animals. The entire ‘event’ would not happen if we did not think we had the ‘right’ to treat animals as ‘objects’ for our entertainment and amusement or to prove something about bravery in this case.)
Practices of silence, and/or of ‘omission’ are perhaps the largest ways we, by our very normal human psychology, “miss” opportunity to make “small, tiny” differences. I assure readers, I do not “live and breathe” in a state of looking for such opportunity. They are common enough I need not “look” for them. If moved by my own thoughts to speak up, I often ‘measure’ the situation before speaking. I assess whether or not my doing so will “at least be heard” or instead may break a relationship and result in opportunity lost.
A few decades ago I was driving home on a route that took me through a small village. I was astonished to notice off to the side, on a vacant lot, a group of elementary school children attacking another child. The group kicking the downed child had potential to do serious harm whether or not they intended it. I could have driven on but stopped, approached the situation, asked what was going on, and with “parental authority” put a stop to it. What came of further action about the event? The school in which the children were students had no authority due to it being after school hours and off school grounds. I had no idea who the children were so could not take it farther myself (for example, contacting parents and asking them to review with me what seemed to be going on.) A single moment with little follow-up. I have no idea if shifts in behavior may have resulted – still, it was ‘a’ moment. A child’s health may have been protected, and awarenesses might have shifted.
When hearing loud, angry, calls from small gatherings on a street I have walked out of my home to at least “view” what was going on (after not being able to assess the event from a window view.). The question to ask is simple enough: “Is everyone all right here?” And take it from there. (I of course will not take myself into a situation that looks like serious weapons are involved, but will contact authorities or call on others to join me in some kind of help.)
The point with these “moment by moment” choices is not to play “thought/action police”, but to assume those involved are, like me, of one family. I want to live in a family where members are thoughtful and respect one another. Where joy is genuine, heart-based, and shared in the presence of one another.
A guidance principle I use is “become the least involved as may be helpful or necessary”. The point is not to interfere with possible “necessary” conflict, such as two of equal power loudly sorting out a difference. Conflict may have its own reasons that are none of my business. But if I am aware by the public nature of an event, choice of action (or not) is mine to consider.
Now that I think about my times of ‘speaking up’ among ‘strangers’, I think I am inclined to do so when there appears very real “power imbalance”. Five kids against one; a large person appearing to manipulate or overpower a small person, or when some of my ‘family’ are gleefully scapegoating others of my family. I can’t write out an extended description of possibilities due to time for both reader and myself. I hope my general description makes my point.
Do I make mistakes? Of course! Sometimes I mis-read an event. I am perfectly willing to apologize and back off. I am also perfectly willing to realize (post involvement) that my own state of mind at the time may prompt me to get quite carried away. (I refer to a time when a disabled ‘stray’ dog appeared at my door and I had not one ounce of extra emotional or psychic energy to take on its needs and could not locate the dog’s owner. My tears at the vet’s office created quite a bit of wonderment! All was well in the end when the dog’s owner appeared at my door after learning via grapevine news that the dog was at my place.)
Even without email we find many moments of choice that are “harm/good” opportunity. Family and social gatherings when malicious humor is used to entertain; or when we notice someone is scapegoated (a child, an adult, or an entire group of a nation or of the world).
WITH email, with internet, opportunity abounds! Some weeks ago I linked a website whose point of view is valuable. The link led easily to a second website of similar point of view. The secondary site was “adolescent” in tone, with large amounts of f** this and f** that sprinkled throughout. I used the ‘contact us’ link to write the secondary site and suggest they were not making their valuable insights available due to the tone of their site. They never did reply; I have no idea if I had any influence on them. But I did speak up – I let them know I valued their perspective, but was concerned about their effectiveness. Will I ‘hound’ them? Of course not! Sewing seed.
Due to our globalness, we are literally “of one family” in ways we could never have been to this time in our history. We have been reminded many times, in many ways, of our “one family” reality. From concepts of “All is One”, to Walt Kelly’s famous Pogo strip in which the ants go to battle and it is eventually declared: “It may be, with tiny flags and tiny blasts from tiny trumpets, that we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.”
This is the “we” I experience and intend when I say “we” are the cause of war. I do not separate out myself from this “we”. Nor do I separate out any other, anywhere on this earth. I do not separate out the power players at highest levels, but I am aware of “relative powe.r” I am aware of those among us whose experience is basic struggle, sometimes in violence-ridden environments. I appreciate these may have least capacity to “speak truth to power”. It is on behalf of brothers/sisters in such environments that I speak, and ultimately on behalf of all of us, myself included.
I hold to my perspective: each and every one of us is very often in position to at least “speak up”, and to the extent we remain silent in the face of abusive and cruel power, we contribute to its continued practice. Abuse and cruelty may stem from ignorance; when we speak up, we help to erode ignorance; we sew seeds of alternative and more open points of view. In tiny moments we take stands against beliefs and practices which support war with “an enemy”.
If, in my ‘family’, I witness inappropriate practice of power, or effort to sustain a sense of ‘felt power’ by ‘trashing’ others locally or at some other part of this earth, I am likely to speak up. If, as in the case of the disabled stray dog, I have simply no capacity I may remain silent. The capacity will return and I will resume.
To turn aside, as if “separating ourselves out,” is no longer as easy as it may have been when we could gate ourselves off, or push into a new geographical frontier.
I believe in the best potential of universal family. I believe in our underlying “good intent.” I do not believe any of us “arrived on this earth” meaning to wreak havoc wherever possible. I believe in our capacity to understand ourselves, our psychology, the ‘drivers’ that influence choice.
I also believe those of us who know we are in positions of “less power” relative to those “very powerful movers/shakers” can relate to them as “mere” brothers/sisters who may need to hear from us. The same psychology that lets us understand ourselves, and those close to us (friends, family) can be used to understand that very powerful movers/shakers “act out roles” of “most entitled sibling”. They do not need to be considered a “big deal”. If we treat them as “big deal”, we either spend energy worshiping them (they do not deserve worship) or making them “separate and enemy” which uses a lot of our energy. By holding them as “a big deal” we simultaneously increase their false power and decrease our own real power. I believe in our capacity to “tame the wild ox”, which includes awareness of our psychology, base and higher motivations.
It is not “mandated” of course, that we shift into self-empowerment that lets us speak up. We fear some consequences that are normal and understandable. We may fear we might “not get it right”, that we might find ourselves “out of control” and become part of the problem. These fears will not be overcome unless we practice, hone, our skill at speaking up. The “rule” to follow is to remember we speak to family members whom we cherish at least as “fellow living beings”. The ‘rule’ is to acknowledge divinity in life itself.
Fear that our personal lives will be less comfortable if we speak up is normal and understandable; as is fear that we risk being ‘shut out’ of valued relationship. Speaking up teaches through experience that we have effect here and there, not many will ‘shut us out’, and “comfort” may arrive differently than assumed. The rule is to genuinely find an internal felt respect for the person/s whose behavior we want to address, and to speak from that felt respect. Someone may “shut us out” but we can continue to hold the person/s in a place of respect. We need not feel we have “lost” a valued relationship, even if they ‘shun’ us.
I realize I speak here of “confrontation”. This includes ‘soft’ confrontation in small matters and moments, and includes private confrontation of brother or sister in our human family. Most of us already practice confrontation, but have levels of comfort with it. We are not comfortable to ‘confront’ in all circumstances, including some small moments. We don’t want to find ourselves “judgmental” so are inclined to explain away confrontation moments among family and close friends. The language, the heart of confrontation, is a very large topic and I will post separately on it. For it to work to brighten and lighten our human load, confrontation needs to be be sincere, to the point, but also to have a quality of light heartedness, a quality of ‘no fear’ of human mis-take, something more like non-self-righteous observation.
There is, I believe, no getting around the we-ness of our human experience or our human ‘culpability’ in present misery of both human and animal.
The burdens of choice to confront can and may and will be experienced when we take on the practice of “speaking up”. As the practice spreads, however, it can become “normalized”. We can find our skill increases, we experience somehow it works out. By example, more may begin to do the same. Courage is often easier when we model it for one another.
How much burden is lifted, when speaking up becomes a familiar, respectful, even cheerful practice! (As it can become, when we learn to do so with genuinely felt good will toward one another.)
My Very Best Wishes to All – MaggieAnn