Category Archives: Communication

A thoughtful approach to “Me Too” and other important conversations

I like Joanna Bock’s take on the #MeToo phenomenon, published October 19th in Yes! Magazine, except that she calls it a “movement,” which I think is a much bigger thing than just a Facebook/Twitter hashtag. Here are the main points in the article with which I agree:

“Movements like #MeToo can be powerful in many ways. But we limit their potential and pervert them when we insist that everyone get in a box and become one of three things: perpetrators, victims, or allies. How many of us don’t neatly fit any of those categories? How many of us are weakened by the divisions?Something similar happens when we talk about race and racism. People of color are the victims. Outright bigots are the villains. And among the rest of us, we make a mad dash to position ourselves as allies. To be allies, we have to publicly condemn the racist ‘other.’ [Or his/her behavior…]

#MeToo has given voice to the rage many female friends of mine feel at specific perpetrators of harassment and violence in their own lives. But the truth is that no one human being is to blame for this sickness of the culture we’re a part of. And our scramble to crucify the Harvey Weinsteins and Donald Trumps of the world only obfuscates the issue, just as our scramble to line up simply as victims does.

In this oppressive system – where women’s bodies are not safe, where people of color’s bodies are not safe, and where women of color’s bodies are unspeakably violated terrain – we are all suffering. And in this system, where men’s internal and emotional landscapes have been violated from birth, as well as the bodies [and minds] of women, we are all victims – playing out our roles or resisting them when and where we can. We’re enormously alienated from one other. Our most radical option is to undo that alienation, but easy labels and unjust oversimplifications deepen it. We’re all responsible for saving each other.”

I agree with the gist of Bock’s message, but want to say that I Facebook-posted “Me too” to help show the extent of the problem and to show solidarity with other women similarly violated – not to express anger at my rapist, though I don’t go so far as to feel empathy with him. I don’t feel anger at men in general either, and deplore the boxes our society tries to put them in. My main concern is that we all recognize the extent of our sexist, racist, and violent, war-mongering culture as a necessary prelude to changing it for the better. It seems kind of ironic to say this while we have a racist, sexist, war-mongering president, proud of his selfishness and sexual predation, but maybe that’s what’s opened up the wounds – and the necessary conversations.

Let’s use empathy in those conversations – really listening to what others need to express. Some of it may be ugly, even poisonous. But feelings are never wrong – only behavior can be – and the poison needs to be exposed and transformed, however gradually, in love and acceptance. We’re challenged as speakers to be that trusting and honest and as listeners to be that compassionate. Alienation can become connection and caring community, but we can’t skip any of steps.

Just give me the facts, ma’am

One of the many things that upsets non-Trump-supporters is the new president’s unconcern for the truth – or, in my book, the fact that he outright lies multiple times a day. In a letter to the editor in my local paper today, a woman responded to an earlier letter claiming “It’s no lie without intent to deceive,” and demanding proof that Trump is “consciously trying to deceive us.” She said, “Leaving aside what might constitute ‘proof’ of intent – I don’t think anyone knows what Trump’s intent is – let’s say he doesn’t intend to deceive when he utters easily disproved falsehoods. Two possibilities then come to mind: 1) He believes them himself, or 2) he knows they’re not true, but doesn’t expect others to believe them, since he’s not trying to deceive.” There would be no point she says to the latter, and “a sane person in a position of power wouldn’t act so irresponsibly. If it’s the former, he’s mentally detached from reality, and should be removed from office under the 25th Amendment.” Or at least, woefully uninformed, and thus unqualified for political office.

Charles J. Sykes addressed the problem on 2-4-17 in a New York Times opinion piece entitled “Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying.” He believes “the real threat isn’t merely that a large number of Americans have become accustomed to rejecting factual information, or even that they’ve become habituated to believing hoaxes. The real danger is that, inundated with ‘alternative facts,’ many voters will shrug, ask, ‘What’s truth?’ – and not wait for an answer. In that world, the leader becomes the only reliable source of truth; a familiar phenomenon in an authoritarian state.

This may explain one of the more revealing moments from after the election, when one of Trump’s campaign surrogates, Scottie Nell Hughes, was asked to defend the clearly false statement that millions of votes had been cast illegally. She answered by explaining that everybody now had their own way of interpreting whether a fact was true or not. ‘There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.’ Among ‘a large part of the population’ what Mr. Trump said was the truth. ‘When he says that millions of people illegally voted,’ his supporters believe him, and ‘people believe there are facts to back that up.’

Or as George Orwell said: ‘The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world.’ But Ms. Hughes’s comment was perhaps unintentionally insightful. Mr. Trump and company seem to be betting that much of the electorate won’t care if the president tells demonstrable lies, and will pick and choose whatever ‘alternative facts’ confirm their views. We must recognize the magnitude of this challenge. If we want to restore respect for facts, the mainstream media will have to be aggressive without being hysterical and adversarial without being unduly oppositional.” Sounds like a pretty subjective tightrope.

Sykes, a former conservative talk-show host and the author of a forthcoming book, How the Right Lost Its Mind, advises “legitimate conservative media outlets” to stick to the facts as well. “There may be short-term advantages to running headlines about millions of illegal immigrants voting or secret United Nations plots to steal your guns, but the longer the right enables such fabrications, the weaker it will be in the long run.”

 

My last blog post was judgmental and formulaic

My last blog post mostly quoted from a radical political article about police and police violence against black people. My “politically correct” radical, political mind resonated with the article, but life’s a lot messier and more complicated than that. For example, technically I believe being a police officer or a soldier is wrong livelihood, supporting an illegitimate system. But police officers and soldiers do a lot of good things, too, like – at times, at least – protecting us from criminals and, potentially, attacks on our country (not our country’s “interests,” which are those of the 1%, our country as a geographic entity).

Also, I myself worked as a juvenile probation officer for 16 years. People have to make a living, and can do good in almost any job.

My goal is to make my blog posts humble and respectful, as well as politically relevant and radical in the sense of challenging a largely illegitimate system. I don’t want to preach, lecture, or judge, or come across as if I am. That just turns people off who don’t already agree with you.

I want to reach out to everyone, in the spirit described by President Obama in his (I thought) excellent speech in Dallas this past Tuesday. We need to cooperate, see the good in each other, and the good in ourselves as Americans, despite our huge challenges and problems.

As far as the racial situation is concerned, I think our country’s leadership and educational system need to acknowledge our racist and genocidal history – toward African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos. We need to apologize for the wrongs that have been done, and talk with the groups involved about making reparations and planning respectfully and equally for the future. (The unequal criminal “justice” system needs an overhaul for sure, in the direction of restorative justice.) Those of us who are white need to look at our racist thoughts, speech, and actions, conscious and unconscious. For example, we need to understand that countering the slogan Black Lives Matter with “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” is, purposely or not, failing to understand its purpose. It’s countering, dismissing it. Of course, all lives matter. But putting the priority on black lives for now and seeing how and why they’re being discounted must be at the top of our to-do list, so that someday we can honestly say we’re ensuring that all lives matter.

Thanks for “listening.” Let me know what you think.

Our mission, should we choose to accept it

I was just looking over my notes on a book I read several months ago, and got excited enough to want to share them with you. The book, published in 2012, is Birth 2012 and Beyond: Humanity’s Great Shift to the Age of Conscious Evolution by Barbara Marx Hubbard. Full disclosure: when I take notes on a book, I edit the author’s words (without changing the meaning) for brevity and, I believe, better understanding. I don’t use quotes for the most part, so you won’t always know how and where I’ve edited. This is done in the spirit of open access to information, as well as co-creativity, a concept this author believes in. If you want to read the author’s words exactly as written, get ahold of the book!

What’s being required of us, if we wish to avoid extinction, Hubbard says, is learning how to “co-evolve with nature and co-create with Spirit.” If it takes place, this will involve the maturation of a significant portion (critical mass?) of humanity. This is all part of natural evolution, which involves “jumps in synergy and cooperation within and among species.”

We’re being called upon to shift from egocentrism to living from our Essential Selves, so that we can give our unique gift(s) to this shift. Hubbard saw 12-22-12, the Mayan solstice, as the first day, the birth day, of the next era of evolution, the beginning of our opportunity to shift.

In 1966 Hubbard realized that empathy – the pain of one being felt by all – was starting to spread throughout the planet. We were connecting with each other, feeling with each other as members of one body, she says. The Spirit within was rising up in each person like a great tide of love, inspiration, and oneness with the source of our being, activating us by the millions. Hubbard saw that when enough of us felt this connection, there would be a shared feeling of joy and “global coherence.” Our story, she believes, is the birth of humankind as one body, made possible as more and more people recognize that we’re one, we’re good (whole), and we’re being born/consciously evolving.

We’re now at a chaos point, Hubbard says, meaning that our present state is breaking down and can no longer be returned to prior, more stable states. In fact, efforts to restore or reform are intensifying the crisis.  We’ll either break down completely, Hubbard says, or break through to a new structure and mode of operation.

“Cultural creatives,” “universal humans,” are waking up and connecting and communicating, in person and digitally. What’s emerging is, and has to be, more than a new religion, political party, or enterprise – because these are never truly inclusive. And we’re all together on this ride.

We have the resources, technologies, and know-how to make the world work for everyone, but do we have the will and the courage to make it happen?

Coherence is a heartfelt connection with others, feeling them as part of oneself. What we need now is global coherence, an awakening of the global heart, the feeling of being one interconnected planetary body with a shared purpose of mutual growth for the sake of the whole earth community. Hubbard believes this is beginning to happen.

It happens on an individual basis when we no longer see each other as “other.” Our hearts are open, and we know we are, that everyone is, one with All That Is.

When you feel frustrated, discontented, or depressed, as if that your life lacks meaning, it doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you. It means that something more wants to be expressed through you. Recognizing this is the first step. The second is to reach out to others you’re attracted to in the spirit of creative synergy and co-creation.

What do you want to give others, the world?

Hubbard says that through daily meditation, she’s realized/remembered that her essence is Spirit/Love, that she, like all of us, is part of the divine. With the help of continued meditation, she’s integrating her local, separated, egoic self with that essence. The next step, she says, is to create a “resonant core group,” an evolutionary or Shift circle with a friend or two, in which you can share essence to essence. “Resonance” in this sense means reflecting or echoing back the Essential Self in one another.

Spirit, Hubbard reminds us, is our essence – it doesn’t need to be projected onto a god.

The question becomes “What is my unique way of expressing essence that’s both self-rewarding and of service to others?” Also, “How can I remain in essence while making my contribution?”

A New Myth for Our Times

The last great myth took root during the Renaissance: the myth of progress through knowledge, science, liberal democracy, and technology. This “big story” began to collapse after the two world wars, in which tens of millions of people were killed by the most sophisticated nations and technologies. Since then, things have only gotten worse – weapons of mass destruction, pollution, an increasing gap between haves and have-nots, etc. New technologies are actually dangerous in our current state of self-centered separation consciousness.

The only new myth that’s arisen to give us a sense of meaning, direction, and hope, Hubbard says, is the one she’s describing: being part of an evolving and expanding universe in which we have an intrinsic part to play, lovingly and creatively.

We learn from biologist Elisabet Sahtouris that when a species is young it tends to overpopulate, pollute, and compete with and eventually destroy its environment. It either learns to cooperate with itself, its environment, and other species, or it goes extinct. We can certainly see the meaning of these lessons for us!

The birth/crisis is happening either way. We can make it easier and give it more of a chance for a positive outcome, if we act consciously together with love. The suffering prevalent in the world today can activate the empathy, love, compassion, creativity, and courage needed for us to mature as a species.

The attractive and attracted energy that’s moved the evolutionary process all along became (self) conscious in us. It just needs to move to the next level.

Create times outside of time in which you can temper the compulsions, obsessions, and fears of your local egoic self, the manifestor, with the realization, the remembering, that your essence is divine, is Spirit, is one with All That Is – that you and all other beings are one, in this together, in love. In this inner sanctuary you can hear your inner wisdom, feel at peace, and experience limitless joy. Cultivate global coherence by engaging in any heart-based, essence-experiencing spiritual practice on a regular basis. When we do this on our own, we’re ready to experience love and engage in synergistic co-creation when we’re together, however we connect.

Sounds good to me. Want to start a group?

A child creates peace

Last fall a 9-year-old Oregon boy named Ocean brought his inner peace and caring into the world this way…

Ocean was concerned about “bullying, arguments, and pushing” at his school. “They weren’t being nice to each other,” he said of his fellow third graders, and neither his peacemaking efforts nor the teacher’s interventions seemed to help. “Pretty soon, the kids would be right back to arguing and fighting.”

Frustrated, Ocean took the problem home, and thought about it. Finally, he came up with an idea: the Kindness Club.

Ocean wanted to make it easy for people to point out when someone wasn’t being kind. He’d also noticed that sometimes when you tell someone they aren’t being nice, they get defensive and keep arguing. So, he went online, ordered bracelets that said “Kindness Club,” and gave one to everyone in his class, including the teacher. Now, whenever kids see someone who isn’t being nice, they can tap their bracelets, a gentle reminder of a common goal.

Ocean’s teacher said it’s pretty typical for third graders to argue during recess – they’re at an age when they’re learning about how to have compassion for others, and “sportsmanship can be a tough lesson.” Noticing that this year there were lots of hurt feelings happening at recess, she spent a lot of time talking to the class about sportsmanship and being kind to one another, but the conflicts persisted. One day she was lecturing the class about getting along when Ocean raised his hand. He told the class about his idea for a kindness class. The kids talked about the idea, role-played different scenarios, and agreed to try the bracelets, which now serve as a constant reminder about their pact to be kind.

Ocean’s mom said her son is very caring, and that she’s proud of him for coming up with his own solutions. “It makes him happy to help others. If everybody really thought about being kind, it would change everything.”

Amen!

Let’s follow Ocean’s example of coming up with ideas that will encourage the caring innate in each of us and help us solve problems together.