In the spirit of Janus, the two-headed Roman god after whom January was named, this post looks back, reflects, and looks forward with some inspiration to share….
How dismantling social institutions can actually benefit us.
Last year, when I witnessed in horror the dismantling of major elements of a democracy, I felt afraid and helpless. I must confess that there were too many weeks of feeling depressed and immobilized. Only when I remembered learning that movement can help loosen the clinging, stifling, isolating fabric of depression could I shake myself free. Being a builder by nature, I decided I must re-frame (1.) and look at how the dismantling of social institutions could become an advantage to the citizens of this country – We the People! It is horrifying to see the destruction, but what cannot be destroyed is experience, is vision, is the energy to build anew. How can we build a better program there, and there and…? (read education system, healthcare, poverty abatement (2.), and/or the issue that most concerns you)
So forward to 2018…..
I know how much we can accomplish by collaboration. Working together we can discern the flaws and shortcomings of our institutions and, with creativity and experience and love, clarify the vision needed to build better ones.
2017 Divide and Conquer
Looking back, I am most struck by the danger of complete, unswerving identification with the political party we voted for and the polarization that overwhelms the possibilities of working together for the good of all (and in this way keeping democracy alive). We all have the same basic needs. People of all political stripes suffer in the same ways, want the best for our children and ourselves. We all feel hunger, suffer poverty and may be homeless. We all become ill and need proper healthcare; red states and blue states alike are destroyed by fire, storms and floods. In spite of that, there is a huge effort in every sector of society to emphasize the differences. A divided people is easily manipulated and dominated. Divide…and Conquer! Looking at history we see the long lasting effects of this colonizing strategy on countries all over the world – the Middle East, Asian subcontinent, African continent — and the US. Millions of people have been, and still are, living with the results.
We have to ask ourselves who benefits from this “time-honored” colonial strategy of Divide and Conquer? When we are fighting each other we don’t have time and energy to fight FOR what we all need.
2018 — Building visions
My wish for 2018 is that each one of us chooses a particular problem and focuses on possible end goals. In doing so, we must accept that we all have similar human needs and desires regardless of our political stripe. Once we acknowledge that all the problems facing us are so complex that they require many different approaches. If we can accept that there is not “one right way”, we may become unified by building a vision together and understanding the feasibility of a variety of different methods to attain it. Remembering that we are all interconnected and so the gains, as well as the misfortunes of other groups, affect us. Once we each take that step, and look for allies, wherever they are doing that work of visioning and taking action. I believe that by banding together on the “issue” closest to our hearts, we can create a vision of the desired end result even though the means may differ.
Vision and Dreaming
A vision can be a pole star – we may not be sure how to get somewhere but we know where we want to arrive. Cathedrals, great pyramids, temples and democracy all grew from dreams that became visions. Many cathedral/pyramid/etc. builders did not live long enough to see the finish of their dream, but sharing in the vision, believing in the process and in its benefit to their children’s children kept them going. I imagine that they took delight in the process, and comfort in knowing they belonged to a group that was making something beautiful. They each did what they could, propelled by the vision.
We builders like to turn ideas into reality, and have learned the importance of a vision, a trust in the process, and how necessary it is to examine the stories we tell ourselves and others about the world, life and meaning.
Stories are how vision is shared, either intentionally or unconsciously. The stories we tell ourselves can strengthen the vision and our belief in it – or undermine it. Listening to the stories we tell ourselves, and where necessary changing them, is vital.(1.) Determining which stories coming at us through media, marketing, speeches, etc. are designed to make us afraid and to disempower us. Once we recognize this, it is easier to discard them. We cannot let what earlier generations believed in, strived to build and inspired other countries to follow, just slide away into oblivion because of our own disempowering stories (excuses) that we were too busy, too powerless, too much in denial, or did not have enough money.
Listening to others’ stories that help us imagine the possibilities is vital. There are enough of us who know what it is like to be educated, to freely speak, to vote, to have decent health care and enough to eat. There are enough of us who have honed critical thinking so that we can unravel the stories embedded in propaganda and the marketing of confusion. There are enough of us who remember that we had healthy food, free clean water and who experienced the wonder of land, waters and skies thick with wildlife. There are enough of us to build visions to live towards. Let’s pool all this knowledge and experience. Colonialism does not like empowered populations!
My goal is to encourage you, the reader, to join me in picking an issue. Together we will imagine the story behind recent progress (noted below), be inspired – and, act in the spirit of “well if they can do it with so few resources and advantages, then we can, too!”
(Thank you Andrew Hervey, in Future Crunch December 5 2016 – 99 Reasons 2016 Was a Good Year https://medium.com/future-crunch/99-reasons-why-2016-has-been-a-great-year-for-humanity-8420debc2823)
We can research which persons and organizations are dedicated to working towards the vision that is important to each of us and join them. (As an aside, I feel it is important for maintaining our drive, our sanity and our energies to narrow our focus. This includes the difficult task of ignoring pleas for help or dire warnings of doom from elsewhere. We can do that if we remind ourselves that there are many others who want to build there.)
Questions: What is your most important concern? What doesn’t currently work in that area? What is your vision of what it could be?
For example, talking to a friend who described that she is one of many who find healthcare too expensive, who can’t afford all the expenses of getting sick or needing surgery. She mentioned that the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare – what a silly name) was a stepping stone towards something better. I asked her what that something better would. She replied with little hesitation “Single Payer Healthcare”. That is the beginning of a vision. Where will she find allies working on that?
Some inspiration to contemplate
- A new study from the world’s leading health journal reported that the number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth has almost halved since 1990. Guardian
- Liberia was officially cleared of Ebola, meaning there are now no known cases of the deadly tropical virus left in West Africa. Vanguard
- 93% of kids around the world learned to read and write this year. That’s the highest proportion in human history. And the gender gap between girls and boys in school narrowed in 2016 too. Medium
- In 1990, more than 60% of people in East Asia lived in extreme poverty. As of 2016, that proportion has dropped to 3.5%. Vox
My issue is Climate Change; one inspiration is “In July, more than 800,000 volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in one day. The country is planning on reforesting 12% of its land. National Geographic” and my allies back California Senate Bill 100. (3)
It feels better to look around and see what others have accomplished, are working on currently and then add our own energy to the cause.
It feels better to add to our vision than to feel powerless and upset at each destructive act.
We can use the memories and experiences of all to build something that is even better than we have had, BUT first, each of us must construct a vision of what we want to happen. It takes courage and like the cathedral builders, know that even if we do not see it come to fruition in our lifetime, what we are building is beautiful and necessary.
What is your vision?
- The Frameworks Institute is very helpful. Also Arran Stibbe’s books on Ecolinguistics.
- Income: Timebanks <Timebanksusa.org> Social Security for All or Universal Basic Income <universalbasicincome.org/index.html>
- California Senate Bill 100 for 100% Renewable Electricity by 2045