Promises, Promises

“What if Americans of all ages, races, backgrounds and beliefs could come together in a series of national conversations on topics of significant importance to the nation? What if we could create a listening and learning environment through structured conversations to lead us to better understand one another, establish common ground and transform ideas into action? What if all of us had a role in making this a reality?”

It’s as certain as sin that we will spend our future forever fearfully circling each other, like Voldemort and Harry Potter, unless we find some way break the win/lose pattern of our toxic culture and talk among ourselves like real people. Believe it or not, there is a way that is well researched, well established and well known in business circles. Check out Promise USA if you are genuinely interested in accomplishing a better future.

Personal Power (how to not win)

Personal power basically is the ability to choose. The more choices we have available to us, minute by minute, the more power we have to take charge of our own lives. So the question is how to get more choices in our lives? In our culture, we more often give away our power (freedom of choice) by allowing other people to decide what we want. In our culture we all have that little gut feeling that something is wrong with us. That we want something, we don’t quite know what it is.

The television tells us every moment of the day that we will be happy when we know we are better than someone else. More beautiful, richer, a better Christian, stronger, younger, smarter, more kind and compassionate, more loving, more giving, more powerful, wiser. Pick one, we want it. Big power says: “You aren’t good enough, you aren’t good enough, you aren’t good enough.” And we believe it. Each of us believes there is something wrong with us that we must fix. And then we let big power tell us what we should want, via television, 24-7, and if we only buy this or do that we will be not only good enough but better than George. And pretty soon we also believe that everyone else is trying to be better than we are — even when they aren’t. And nobody can talk to anybody.

It’s impossible, of course. What we are trying to do. Because just after we prove that we are better than George, we will turn around and there is Frank. “Buy more, eat more, kill more, love more, care more.” Whatever we do we can not be better than everyone. And the more we try to fulfill this cultural imperative, the more strings and buttons we grow that other people can pull or push. The more time, money and energy we spend trying to be better than other people, rather than, for example, trying to be as wise or compassionate as it is possible for us to be — or just simply taking a good look at our strings and buttons and having a good laugh at our silly selves for believing the hype — the less personal power we will have available to actually become wise or compassionate or loving. Because if we can’t fill that void by wanting to be better than other people, and we obviously can not, maybe we could wash it away, along with our strings and buttons, by not wanting impossible things.

And how many scientists, I wonder, are right now trying figure out why we have so much addiction in our culture? The strongest message in our culture is that WE CAN have, do, be, anything we want. We believe it. So we keep trying. Any way we can.

Naivete or Ignorance?

In the Wall Street Journal, Naivete Invites Aggression, Mr. Schaaefer opens his piece with a statement that is inflamatory and unsupported, claiming that President Obama’s call for arms control is a response to North Korea. In my memory, there were calls for arms control before there was a North Korea. This is a typical bait and switch statement. The two problems need not have anything to do with each other. First, everyone knows we have more than enough arms to destroy the world. That raises two questions: Why do we need more than it takes to destroy the world? and Do we really want to destroy the world? Evidently Mr. Obama does not.

However, besides the word games of politicians, there is another fallacy here that I think runs far deeper in our culture, and that is the idea that every problem has two and only two alternative solutions. Specifically with regard to aggression, I have personal experience with the fact that alternatives abound that aggressors can’t even imagine, which is why the aggressive posture usually fails to result in a desirable solution, and we have plenty of recent evidence of that reality.

It is a great weakness of American culture that we can only see two sides of anything. Win-lose, good-bad, black-white. I believe this weakness will probably lead to our downfall. Unless of course we begin to think about what we are saying and doing. Because we have no power of choice over options we don’t even consider, and there are many other people out there who can imagine a plethora of options that we don’t even bother to consider. Whenever they think of an option that we did not think of — we have given away our power. People who can only see two possibilities in every situation are incredibly easy to take advantage of — even powerful, abusive people.

Every time we fail to stop and consider all of our many options, before we choose which one is best, we potentially hand over the reins to someone who can think more logically or is more devious than we are.