Archive for January, 2011
Note: Ironically this was the first post ever entered at Gold Post It. Its was published May 7, 2007. I copy and enter it here in memory of Sargent Shriver who died this week at age 95.
I have just read Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Most people under the age of 50 know him, if at all, as the father of Maria Shriver or, more remotely, the father-in-law of Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you’re over 50, you more likely know him as the husband of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics. A few people, comparatively speaking, will know him as the first Director of the Peace Corps during the 1960’s.
But, only a handful know him as perhaps the greatest visionary and architect of social change in this country during the 20th century. The Peace Corps, the Job Corps, Head Start, Legal Services for the Poor, the OEO… the list is staggering in its breadth and scope exceeded, only perhaps, by the breadth and scope of Shriver’s seemingly infinite energy and profoundly motivating impact upon everyone who ever had the privilege to know or work with him.
Yet, in all that I read and learned in the nearly 700 pages of Scott Stossel’s exhaustive work, nothing has given me more pause than one of Shriver’s most noteworthy speeches, first delivered during the presidential campaign season of 1970 and known as “The Politics of Life” speech. In it, Shriver made “a distinction between the politics of life and the politics of death.”
It is this distinction that has crystallized for me where we are today, 37 years later, as we embark upon yet another political season as the field scrambles to determine who will be the Republican and Democrat candidates for President and Vice President in 2008. It seems that we are, once again, enmeshed in politics…the Politics of Fear.
We are already being subjected to campaign rhetoric from both sides. Fear is a big issue. It’s a big political issue. Each side wants us to fear the other. Republicans want to capitalize on the fear generated by 911 and have you fear the inability of the Democrats to protect you as well as the certainty that they will increase an already oppressive and obscene tax burden. Democrats want you to fear the effects of a Republican-fueled incestuous relationship between government and private corporations, as well as a foreign policy bent upon imposing our military and global vision upon an increasingly unreceptive and hostile international community. Independents want you to fear both the Republicans and the Democrats simply because they are bigger, more powerful and have been around too long. And trumping all of these, global terrorist cells want you to fear Life itself.
So, ’tis the season to be fearful it seems. Or is it?
My father taught me to believe that in every situation, I always have a choice. If you’re religious, call it Free Will. If you’re not, call it the right to self-determination. No matter what you call it, the ability to choose starts with our thoughts.
What will I think about and, by thinking about it, to what will I give my energy? If I can choose my thoughts, and my choice is between fear and reason, I choose reason. Why choose otherwise? If the choice is between fear and courage, I choose courage. Why choose otherwise? If the choice is between fear and hope, I choose hope. Why choose otherwise?
So the real issue as we prepare for the onslaught of political rhetoric is choice. Choosing to reject the Politics of Fear.
The illusion, or hologram as I like to call it, is that it’s all about choosing between “us” and “them.” In stark contrast, the reality is that it’s all about reclaiming our inherent and divinely forged right to choose what we think about and how we view the world and it’s future. To choose wisely is to choose reason, courage and hope over fear.
Abdicating the choice is not an option. Failing to make the choice yourself will guarantee that someone will make it for you. And with so many marketing “fear” this season, the odds are with them…unless you campaign instead for the Politics of Reason. As Americans, born and raised with the concept of liberty and the constitutionally mandated right to vote, we understand the importance and significance of free elections. But it seems we have forgotten and worse still, abdicated the greater right to free thought.
This is a critical moment in the evolution of our individual and collective truth. In order for us to move into the Politics of Reason, we must each turn inward, away from these “external marketers of fear,” and make up our own minds about what we think and what we believe has value.
The paradox holds the answer.
Only by going within, by thinking for ourselves, can we all unite as one in the Politics of Reason and by so doing, collectively reject and annihilate the politics of fear. For me, the timely and lingering message taken from Sargent Shriver’s life is what one mind, thinking for itself, rejecting the politics of fear, can accomplish.
“Alone Together” written by MIT professor Sherry Turkle is big news because in it she lays out the case that the various means of social networking, via technological advances, have actually diminished our ability to communicate not enhanced it.
Well, forgive me for I told you so, but I came to that conclusion years ago… writing and speaking about it ever since. While I had no scientific data to back up my conclusion, I had eyes, ears and common sense. Admittedly, pre-technological apparatus… but quite useful none-the-less.
My observation was that when social-spiritual development is outpaced by technological development the result is alienation, dependency and in extreme cases addiction to the technology.
Why? Well, for two reasons.
First, because we are going to be slaves to something in our lives. Now before you get all huffy about that statement, allow me to explain. When I say “slave” I mean that we humans will spend our lives in service to something. We will each select goals, or ends, and means by which to achieve them. Without core ethical and moral underpinnings that support us in discerning positive means and ends from negative ones, we are easily seduced by the most expeditious route to where we want to go… however, not necessarily the most life-affirming route. Core ethical and moral values are best developed over time, observing people who exemplify them by their behavior.
Technology applied to social networking lacks these necessary characteristics. In fact, it stands in direct opposition to them: 1) Its rapid, not allowing for a natural unfolding or development. 2) The human element is sublimated to the technology. 3) The physical distance combined with anonymity negates the behavioral aspect completely.
Simply put, social networking is a misnomer. Its social alienating.
But back to slavery.
In Egypt, Pharaoh knew what he was doing. In mystical Judaism it is taught that the Jews were slaves not because they were physically imprisoned, but because they were socially and spiritually dependent and thereby imprisoned. It wasn’t their bodies Pharaoh took claim to it was their consciousness and their laziness (a/k/a wanting to get things the easy way). The Jews traded freedom of thought for comfort and ease. It is further taught that it’s a “story” in which Pharaoh represents the reliance upon materiality and physical enslavement represents unconsciousness (a/k/a) relinquishment of human consciousness.
I remember many years ago, pre-WORD, when I was working in DOS. As my computer was booting up the hard drive, I saw the words “master drive ” and “slave drive” flash across the screen. It gave me pause. I actually thought it was a joke, albeit a dangerous one, originating in some programmer’s mind who then saw the potential inherent in the medium.
I am many things, but first and foremost I am the mother of a seventeen year-old daughter. Anyone with a teenager knows the distance, detachment and danger inherent in the unbridled access and use of social networking. The big worry isn’t carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritic thumbs. It’s inhumanity.
So, many thanks to Professor Turkle for providing data for all those who need it. As for me, I just looked around at the kids and saw the future. It’s a time-tested method for discerning where we’re headed.
As for possible solutions: Reprioritize your life. Slow it down. Be able to look into the eyes of the people from whom you are learning life’s lessons. Be willing to do things the hard way. Breathe. Laugh. Love.
If you’re going to be slave, choose a Master with a heart.
While I definitely have a personal opinion regarding the passage of universal health-care, that’s not the focus here. The focus here is integrity. After at least two decades of rampant and oftentimes blatant deceit by politicians, it’s just plain heartening to see the outcome of the recent House of Representatives vote to repeal the Health-Care Act.
Just because the Republicans kept their word.
Those members of Congress who achieved nationwide upsets in the November 2010 elections did so because of national disgust and growing unrest over the direction in which the country seemed to be headed. But almost to a candidate, those who prevailed in those Congressional upsets promised to vote to repeal the Health-Care Act. And so they did
Now whether you were for or against the passage of the Act really isn’t the issue. The issue is that when someone gives their word they tell you their truth and then act in accordance with it. Its how the world is supposed to work. Whether in our personal or public life, maintaining trust and healthy relationships is impossible without integrity.
So I am encouraged by the House of Representative’s vote. Encouraged to think that when the pendulum swings sufficiently far in one direction it will, in fact, begin to swing back toward the other. In this regard, we’ve experienced more than a tolerable amount of deceit from our public servants to last several lifetimes… and may, sadly, have to bear the effects of all those lies for that long as well.
However, if the recent vote to repeal health-care is any indication… and I think it may well be…we are in for a new and growing rash of behavior unseen in our public servants for quite some time.
If memory serves me correctly, it’s termed “honesty.”
I seem to hear a repeated theme lately that’s troubling lots of people. It revolves around feeling that events seem somewhat out of our control. Now, while I can’t say that things have ever really been in our control… it is true that life in the first decade of the new millennium has been chaotic, requiring lots of energy just to stay “afloat” through it all.
Embarking upon the second decade, I see no signs that things will vastly improve in the “In Control Department.”
So, what’s a person to do?
Well, might I suggest surrender? No, not as in a feeling of hopelessness. To the contrary… with a joyful feeling of hope-full-ness.
Why? Because it’s in surrendering to the flow of Life that one is able to catch the wave… so to speak. We are definitely dealing with a wave Here and Now. So, you have two options. Resist it or catch it. To think you can control it is a waste of time and energy.
I know. I used to think I could control waves. I was always trying to manage the situation… direct the players… determine the outcome. It’s exhausting continuously bailing that water! Not to mention futile.
Trial and error have taught me that when things around me are either temporarily inexplicable or seeming out of my control… let them be that way. It’s best to go within… quiet my mind… and release events to their own unfolding. What happens next is that when I “reemerge” from my inward focus, voila! The sun is shining. Things have taken a turn for the better. Everyone’s better, actually.
So whether it’s personal, professional or global, give it a rest. Float on your back for awhile. Enjoy the ride and the scenery.
You’ll be surprised how refreshed you… and all of it… will seem upon your return.
Today, still unfolding as I write this entry, was the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona of 12 people at a peaceful political assembly. While details yet remain sketchy and incomplete, it is confirmed that at least 5 people have died, including a 40-year veteran of public service, Federal Judge John Roll, an unnamed staffer of Representative Gabrielle Gifford (D-Arizona) and an unnamed 9-year old girl. In addition, Congresswoman Gifford herself, shot in the head at point blank range, has survived but is fighting for her life as are several others currently in surgery.
Moments ago, President Obama spoke to the Nation. After my expression of prayers and comfort to all involved, the President’s speech is the focus of this writing.
It is no surprise to any American that we, both nationally and personally, are transiting extraordinary times. Divisions are deep, tension high, finances troubling and fuses short. In such times, it is our intention that those we look to for leadership, calm, focus and vision provide us the guidance and confidence necessary to move beyond the difficulties involved.
Today in his words following the Arizona tragedy, President Obama missed the mark… if he was ever aiming for it.
The President expressed his condolences to the victims. In so doing, he erroneously referred to Congressman Gifford in the past tense, although she is alive and fighting for her life. He had absolutely nothing to say about violence being an ineffective tool for achieving ends or even words of a calming or encouraging nature. His failure to do so is at a time when individuals such as Frances Piven, professor and political activist with access to U.S. Presidents, openly advocate for revolution, and when bullying and violence in our schools have become an epidemic.
Why would our President pass up such an obvious opportunity to reassure the nation and set the standard, at least verbally, for where we as a nation stand on violence as solution for political and social differences?
The answer I see disturbs me. Because he doesn’t want to.
The most frequent visitor to this White House in the first two years of this Presidency was Andy Stern, President of the Service Workers International Employees Union (SEIU). Stern has said “If we can’t use the power of persuasion we will use the persuasion of power” as a legitimate tool of social change. Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO has done the same. William Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground, a self-described Communist revolutionary group and long-time friend of the President’s is also an advocate of violence as a legitimate means to achieve an end. The list goes on.
I don’t think our President wants to seize this or any event to quell the possibility of violence as a means to the “change” part of Hope and Change he promised. For if violence escalates, the People with turn to government which, through its military and regulatory powers, will be all too quick and happy to intervene. In so doing, the door is then open to abridge our basic rights and coalesce power in the hands of a few at the expense of the many.
We are a nation in need of leadership and the man we chose to lead is at a loss to do so. I suggest he has revealed his irrelevancy and that we now look beyond him and broaden our search in two directions.
First, that we go within ourselves, the only search worth taking, and look for ways to exemplify the stability, focus, priorities and courage needed in times of change. Secondly, that we go in search of quality leadership and this time we not allow ourselves to be distracted and placated by smoke and mirrors, because we lack the personal responsibility and patience to do the hard, investigative work necessary to make such an important decision.
I HOPE the President’s woeful, AND almost negligent, response today to the tragedy in Arizona is the impetus for CHANGE to the Office of President of the United States in 2012.