I love the James Bond movies, and nothing epitomizes the glorious absurdity of them than the moment in OCTOPUSSY where 007 (Roger Moore) is clinging to the top of a flying plane, sans parachute, messing with the flaps. The villain (Louis Jordan) tells his henchman to “go out there and kill him.”
Bond and the villain engage in hand-to hand combat on the roof of the plane, until Bond whacks the guy with an antennae, sending him flying off to his doom. Bond then swings down into the plane, saves the girl, and wins the day.
Wow. So absurd. But…wow. THAT is grace under pressure. The defining characteristic of that fictional creation, and the reason we’ve loved him for almost seventy years.
A reader said something I hear more and more frequently these days: “I am afraid for this country and where hatred is carrying us. We cannot continue along this line of unreason, without our country breaking apart.”
I guess I’m not afraid for America because I don’t see anything going on that feels new to me. I’m sorry that so many people had their heads in the sand, but…I told you so. I was told to have faith before. And that is the best advice I can offer now.
Have faith. But…stay alert. Sometimes it hurts to wake up…but there we are. This country was created largely by people who came from a white male heterosexual Christian European perspective. Let’s call it a fine perspective. But like all perspectives, it is limited by its filters. Add enough new people to the equation, carrying different perspectives, and the social contract, the agreed-upon reality, stretches and stretches until it breaks.
Remember: IT WAS NOT REALITY. I am NOT saying that some other country, some other group of people in particular had a better grasp. I don’t see that. I DO see that there are groups that seem to ask different questions, leading to different and equally valid answers. And the creators of the major religions and philosophies seem to be on that path: Christ, Buddha, Muhammad. Religious zealots will argue that they have the only answer. But Awakened souls like Jesus will say pretty clearly that “My father’s house has many mansions.” I often think there seems a real difference between being “Christlike” and “Christian.” The creators of these sacred paths had genuine elevated perspectives. Were ahead of their game. They were like living trees, providing shelter and food to those fortunate enough to rest in their shade.
Once they die, of course, their followers cut them down and make churches out of them. Not a bad thing–they’re doing the best they can. But there’s a difference.
I say that part of our current political stress is caused by the fact that we are beginning to having deeper, more primal conversations about “Who Am I?” and “What is True?”: the nature of human beings, the social contract, and the meaning of key concepts.
Here are contentious discussions that come to mind.
- Are the races (roughly) equal in capacity and worth? This is first not because it is more important than the others, but because I am knowledgeable about how this conversation has evolved in America. This one I know intimately. It is a VERY different conversation than what we had previously, which was “should black people be free?” “Should they be equal under the law?” or “Are they equal spiritually, in the eyes of God?” I’ve known straight-up racists (believing we are inferior intellectually) who believed they were not racists, because they believed we should be “equal under the law.” Different conversation. Why? Because if we are equal, but the results as measured statistically are not…then the territory traversed has been different, and that difference can be measured by the degree of variance. Then people get to decide if they give a shit. That’s up to them. But the lie of the level playing field is finally really breaking down.
- Are women and men (roughly) equal in capacity and worth? Trickier, because there are obvious reproductive differences, as well as structural and hormonal. Makes the conversation more difficult. But…post birth control, firearms, industrialization, and the need to create as many grandchildren as possible we have erased many of the biological and reproductive reasons for social rules about male and female roles and interactions. What remains is a conversation humans have never had. We’re watching it now. By the way–women are as likely to discount and dismiss male pain as men are to dismiss feminine issues. Its really simple, once you see it.
- What is the limit of the social safety net? UHC is part of this discussion. As will Universal Basic Income if automation continues to take jobs. Critical discussion: is it still evil or weak not to work if there are literally no jobs? So many of our rules and morals about the work ethic and individual responsibility evolved in a different world. The stress between the Great Individualists and the Great Society folks, with words like “Nazi” and “Communist” thrown around like monkeys slinging poo at the zoo, has grown more intense. I’d bet the first prokaryotes who didn’t want to combine into Eukaryotes raised hell, too.
- Is homosexuality evil? Not “should homosexuals be jailed” but…are they just people like the rest of us? This relates to gay marriage, right to adopt, and other things. Note the relationship between reproductive sex and rules against homosexualiy, masturbation, and oral sex. In 70k bc the human race was down to just a couple of thousand breeding pairs. It isn’t hard to see that the societies who survived had VERY serious rules encouraging reproductive sex, passing on genes and memes as rapidly as possible. The alternative was extinction. That simply isn’t true any longer.
- Are nations as real as human beings? Are they just lines on maps? Do human migratory patterns trump them? Must America be the most powerful nation in the world, and if so…by how much? Are we our laws? Our people? Nations as geopolitical entities make real sense in a world where the most rapid communication was the Pony Express. But as soon as you have instantaneous communication beyond line of sight, you have something new. The telegraph was the beginning of the nervous system for the Body Human. Move from there to telephones, and then the internet…and something happens. Some flash point. The entire human race in contact and instant communication for the first time in our history as a species. THAT IS NEW. And terrifying to some.
- Are corporations better than governments? Confession: I never saw that one coming in advance. Only when I realized there really were a LOT of people who talked as if they believed that that I saw a need to focus attention there.
- Is Anthropogenic Global Warming real? And dangerous? And if so, what should we do? To me, considering that human beings use something like 250 times more energy than we did just a few thousand years ago, only someone who believes population should have no limits, and that there is nothing we can do to damage the planet, should doubt that we have a problem. WHY do we doubt it? I think that human beings can be defined, from one perspective, as creatures who have used more and more biosphere energetic resources every generation, the only animal that does this. So much of our culture and civilization is based on this that there is real question about how we would cope without petroleum-based energetic resources. Or nuclear. The movement from non-renewable to renewable actually does have issues. Those who cannot SEE the possible answers are afraid of the movement, and when people are under pressure…they often go into denial. . The rest, of course, is that there are very specific vested interests with trillion-dollar infrastructures who don’t want the change. https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/08/03/humanity-officially-consumed-more-earth-produce-year/#3bd5868a59a4. “Earth Overshoot Day” is a term I hadn’t heard. Again, anyone unwilling to make a solid statement on what they think the maximum population of the Earth is should NOT be a part of this discussion. They are, IMO, simply not engaging logic with the question, and are still driven by memes and instincts sharpened 70k years ago by near-extinction.
- Is gender fluid or set? Another discussion coming out of the shadows. Its not going away.
- When does life begin? In combination with that fear of extinction thing, this is the source of much emotion under the Abortion debate.
In every one of these, we can see fear. Of species, racial, tribal, or individual extinction. Of ego death or real, personal, physical death. We are dealing with hugely serious questions that have deviled far smarter people than myself, or anyone I know.
And…I have total faith that we’ll get through it. But if you never realized how much we’ve papered over questions like these, talking about the deck chairs rather than that iceberg, pretending to consider each other equal while privately thinking “well, they aren’t REALLY equal, but its polite to pretend they are…”
This is all very surprising to you. Well…waking up is hard to do. But we’re getting there. What do we do now? For the thousandth time:
- Love yourself. Learn to control and focus your emotions for health and productivity. If stress doesn’t become strain, IT ONLY MAKES YOU STRONGER. Your Daily Ritual is your friend.
- Love one other person. Nothing will teach you more about yourself, and humanity, than loving and living with another human being you are committed to.
- Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame. Or…fear. We’ve been here before. This is what happens when different tribes, belief systems and ways of life collide. There is stress. People will die. Life goes on, at higher levels of connection and communication.
- Nurture your tribe. Don’t fight with trolls. Know something? Go deeply enough into this principle and we are ALL part of the same tribe. Focus on our commonalities and fear diminishes. Then, in quiet, calm discussion we can build bridges. But you cannot do this coming from a state of emergency. We marvel at action heroes who stay calm under stress, understanding that they are the ones who get things done.
- Win with integrity. Work backwards from your goal–joy. NOT CRUSHING YOUR ENEMIES. That’s hind-brain stuff, the urge for revenge. “Treat ’em rough.” The desire to torture suspected terrorists, even if it is less effective than “softer” approaches, arises from this. No. Crushing your enemies is a MEANS as best, not an end. “The best battle plan is to win by strategy. The next is to bend the will of your opponent through the art of diplomacy. The next is to conquer by the use of force. The worst battle plan is to besiege the enemy’s walled city.”
Why so much verbal and actual violence/use of force? Hatred and Anger. Why so much hatred and anger? Fear. Why so much fear? We mistake our concepts for reality. Like Incels crouching in their mothers’ basement terrified that reality doesn’t match their concepts, we all fight to preserve our world, even if our world is shaped by fantasy.
Waking up can feel like dying. . But remember…no one is saying to drop your guard and let anyone hurt you. What is the First Principle? LOVE YOURSELF. Little I’m saying here makes sense if you are in a state of emotional emergency, sliding down the stress tunnel toward Fight-Or-Flight. Or even worse, depression, which in this context is the Fight-Or-Flight instinct with no one to fight, and no where to run. Might as well just curl up and die.
No. Just…no. We’ve been through worse before, as a species. Your ancestors survived worse, and sniveling disrespects their sacrifice and struggle.
Its up to us now. The goal posts are actually in sight, for issues that have existed for centuries…or thousands of years…or all our history as a species.
I have heard that the story about the Chinese ideogram for “Crisis” being “Opportunity on the wings of danger” is inexact, imprecise, incorrect.
But if it isn’t true, it should be…because that’s where we are.
Be the hero in the adventure of your lifetime…