If one were to watch television, particularly cable “news,” one would be led to believe that there has never been a more divisive time and that people are increasingly hateful. What I observe on the ground is more akin to people being disenchanted or aloof while administration and transactions of our daily doings becomes more centralized. For instance, in my decade-long boycott of Wal-Mart and effort to encourage others to stop shopping there, I had neglected to notice that the supermarket chain I have usually shopped at, Dillons (Kroger), is now the second largest retail outlet in the United States. The day I made this discovery, I had decided to begin shopping at my city’s food co-op, only to discover that its doors had shuttered a month before. People will complain about this kind of market efficiency and that there are malevolent forces at work to speed these changes up, but while this is true, many millions of individuals acting separately simply thinking they do not have consumer power has been far more destructive. In this case, a flourishing farmer’s market on Saturdays and a culture more open to organic and locally sourced food had encroached on this niche more than the co-op could bear.
The other normal reaction to situations where one feels like they have less power is to fall prey to someone who does project confidence and who has the ability to compel others to follow them. We all know who these major voices in our respective countries are, but the blame cannot be laid squarely on individuals who are but temporary game pieces that do not disrupt the board landscape itself. There is a major effort in many societies to dehumanize and nullify others and pull the funding from social services or other entitlements as we have all witnessed in North America for the last twenty years and more recently in Europe. I always say that everyone wants union wages but slavery-based economy prices when they do their own shopping. Furthermore, everything is welfare and there are no free markets. Who or which free market principles decide(s) that we work x-number of hours, an x-ray costs a certain amount, or the price of any other commodity? It is not demand or intrinsic value alone. If we are to believe our main sources of information, a lifetime of education and enhancement is worthless but uranium, weapons, or other toxic brews are valuable and competitive (though uranium has dropped in market price by almost half since Fukushima).
Pointing Fingers As I sit and write, I can hear an older man remarking about US president Barack Obama derisively and if I were to sit longer, I would hear something about how Kansas Republican governor Sam Brownback has destroyed the state and so forth. However, unless one is bursting the glory bubble of someone idealizing these public figures, there is nothing gained by complaining about a remote individual and actually, it defers any sense of personal responsibility or ownership of the situation to someone who has very little ability to change policy. The mentality of most Western voters has been to vote for the person or party that proposes the least amount of personal responsibility for improving the human condition, and typically this means lower taxation. The lower the taxation, the less money will circulate (moderate taxation works when the taxed money is not being used for pork barrel projects and that the majority of people are participating by paying their taxes), and thus the more dodgy and unethical investments people will have to make in order to get a return, and the more blatantly we will have to be lied to and mollified with platitudes by whichever media demigod we align ourselves with.
Labels and Categorization By far the biggest issue in the US media cycle now is the jury’s conclusion of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin. The majority of people I know are outraged and a large minority of other observers are annoyed at endless accusations of racism and an unequal justice system. Does it really have to be exclusively one conclusion or the other? Are not both sides both right? From what I can observe, the reaction of the public with over 100 rallies in the US as I write indicates that the majority of people have graduated into realizing this is an unfair society that sometimes has people armed who do not have the mental capacity to handle the weapons. However, it would seem that this kind of low vibration revenge-seeking mentality, while seeking justice and correct in its basis, is feeding rivalries and divides that are actually dying out. Unfortunately, to be correct and to stand on morally high ground often involves quiet behavior rather than demonstrations and outrage which can make those in the wrong or of an opposite viewpoint more mobilized.
When I was studying for my undergraduate degree in sociological studies, there was a course that I had in which the professor and some of the students addressed that major media themes are actually planned six to twelve months ahead of time. In a country as large as the US, there is always so much happening of every story type that there is enough material to make a particular crime or situation seem like a new epidemic. Right now, as of July 2013 in the US, the major planned theme is anything that involves ethnic tension or to a lesser extent, overcoming ethnic tension. At any given time, it can be terrorism, school food poisonings, gay teen suicides, abortion legislation, or any number of things, but they are all constantly occurring rather than having spikes at particular times. One must always question why a particular issue is being brought to the fore and what other major issue may be going on unchecked at the time somewhere else. For instance, in November 2012, while everyone was focused on Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, most people (myself included) neglected reading up on their local candidates and the states of Montana and Colorado voted to end corporate personhood, but our misplaced focus stopped major reforms and implementation from happening. Therefore, the true way to progress for social issues, money matters, and tragedies like the Trayvon Martin case is often less pontificating and more negotiating and flexibility to hearing others out… we are often more in agreement than one would think.
Revenge I have often referred back to The Celestine Prophecy and I will do so again here. Again when we feel depleted, hopeless, and looking for an answer, we then resort to trying to draw energy from others or to extend our sense of power by verbally or physically dominating space. We will try to win an argument not for the sake of true reform but in order to have the last
word and eventually someone backs down and feels less worthy. In the 30 countries I have visited, I find this style of dominance most common in Romance language countries, the US, Canada, and the Middle East (although not everywhere and it depends more on the context), and least common in Europe, where people can have heated debates and still be friends, and even less common in Asia where people are generally extremely pragmatic and will consider long-term business relationships and hierarchies before spouting off. Every time we prepare to speak, we have to stop and ask ourselves “Am I seeking revenge or am I trying to inform and improve conditions in a gentle and just way?” It is not always right to “let someone get away with doing bad things” but it is generally best to try to not let anyone around you lose face. We can try to assume that the people around us are doing what is most practical, necessary, or what they have been forced to do. By at first agreeing with another party you are then able to enter their world in such a way that you can steer them slightly as opposed to making them feel like they have to capitulate.
Conclusion In short, last night while out with some friends, a particular line sprung to mind. We all need to react less and read more! Preserve that inner core of self while spending less energy trying to dominate others and our informed decisions can spiritually and commercially move reality to a more desired outcome.