Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash
Nobody can fault us for trying to live in and adopt to the world into which we were born. A newborn human being is completely dependent on others — usually parents — for everything. So, it’s easy to see why we instinctively accept so much of the world as it is, including a power structure that makes no sense, and systems which are cruel and abusive.
That’s just the way it is, and the way it’s always been — in our experience.
We hunker down, do our jobs, scrape by and go onto the next day. We chill in front of computer screens, and sleep as well as we can, so we can get up again and face another anxious day.
The Rich and Powerful Are Doing the Same Thing As You
Whatever country you were born into, and whatever situation, in most cases you will do what’s expected of you. You won’t challenge the system or the culture or the ways of doing things. We learn by observation and imitation. Life is mysterious and the only instruction book we get is to follow what other people are doing.
Were you born rich? You do what other rich people do. Were you born poor? Look how others struggle to get by. Middle class? Well, there’s a clear and often fruitless path for the aspirational — a battle by people who are getting by to try to “better” themselves.
What’s missing from all of these behaviors? Deep thinking and imagination. That’s missing. Because to challenge the status quo — especially doing so ALONE — is a frightening prospect putting you in uncharted territory. Furthermore, this could put you in danger with your peers and with The Authorities Themselves.
So nearly all of us choose the straight and narrow path. Even wealthy “disrupters” are imitating a predictable overrated shtick, a well-worn self-aggrandizing one.
The wealthy, who are usually born wealthy although sometimes acquire wealth through swindling, have nearly all the toys and make the rules. Except they are making the cruel rules already in place, following an ideology that existed before they were born. Whatever power structure they find themselves on top of, they behave exactly as expected.
The wealthy are cruel — perhaps because that is how capitalism “works” — and others are obedient and play the game of trying to advance themselves within the confines of the existing system.
This isn’t just an American thing. This is under every system, every hierarchy. That’s why work is generally abusive and uses people as THINGS under pretty much every system. Somebody with power controls how you spend your days, and what resources you get to live on. In return, you obey the boss completely and fearfully because you are a cog in an impersonal system. The boss is both responsible for your struggles and a victim who has no imagination and is unaware of any other possibilities.
Historic Revolution Is Itself Just Another Path
Of course, systems have been reformed and even removed by people who object. And there is a way (actually multiple ways) to change systems. This possibility is a path, albeit a difficult one, that exists in the world into which we were born.
All too often, once the revolution is over, the new boss looks like the old boss. Different people might be on top, but the new experience is still one of hierarchy, dominance and abuse. When we get lucky, the new boss is gentler than the previous one. This happens sometimes, but not nearly enough.
In any case, the path of reform and revolution is also well-worn and largely devoid of imagination…except in tactics. The history of reformers and revolutionaries is full of imagination at the tactical level.
What If We Re-thought and Reconsidered Everything?
Human society is a paper thin world of inertia and stale patterns. It is an unreal world which, today, is in conflict with the actual world. The world of physics and chemistry and biology and geology are overpowering the fragile, clueless behaviors and beliefs of humans.
We know what’s hitting us — climate scientists spelled it out for us decades ago — but we are trying to evade reality because it’s not part of our pattern. We only know the existing structures and systems and behaviors. We are limited by the power of the bosses who, themselves, are merely following patterns and systems they inherited.
To go forward, to live meaningful lives, and to break out of childish and cruel patterns, we as a species must wake up to reality, face reality, and consciously choose how we want to change. We must do this because nobody — not the rich, the poor, or the middle class — will survive without a dramatic, imaginative and thoughtful change.
We are destroying ourselves, and we can all see it, but we can’t quite believe it, so we try to distract ourselves and continue as before. But continuing will soon be impossible. Climate collapse is here.
No Textbook Revolutions
We need an age of imagination. Textbook revolutions are insufficient to meet the crisis. We will need to face reality together. Hierarchy is a luxury we can’t afford anymore. The rich are just like the poor, only the rich have more money. But money will soon have no value whatsoever. Because the Earth is reacting harshly to our abuse of Her. Not only is it stupid to fight amongst ourselves; shortly it won’t even be possible.
We need to consciously make decisions for our species and our world. We need to be sensitive to the other fauna and flora that share the Earth with us. As humans, we need to truly and deeply recognize our common humanity and our shared experience of life.
For just a moment, we need to forget all that divides us — money, nationality, religion, ideology, ethnicity, class, gender, whatever. We are alive and exist for a very, very short span of time — preceded by and followed by an eternal span of non-existence. THAT is reality.
And the question we face is: what do we do now?
What We Do NOW
We need to recognize that our bosses and the thugs who make the rules are essentially blind fools who do what’s expected of them. They, like most of us, lack the dynamism and imagination required to face the crisis. And these authorities do pose a danger to us — not only do they endanger our wellbeing in our daily lives, but they are (so far successfully) spearheading the destruction of the climate and destroying our common future.
They are not part of the solution. They are a part of the problem and part of our job will be to shove them aside, to sideline them, to make them irrelevant. We can do this by refusing to obey them, by affirmatively taking the necessary actions, by speaking out and focusing attention on the climate and our common humanity and what’s absolutely necessary for our survival.
What’s needed ISN’T a textbook revolution because our real enemy isn’t the current bosses. It’s hierarchy itself. It’s our behavior that’s destroying our climate. It’s our destructive enmity towards each other. It’s our failure to recognize our common experience, our common humanity and our common fate. Our enemy is our own lack of imagination, lack of compassion and willful (and futile) rejection of reality itself.
We will need to end the destructive pattern, to do what’s required — together — to reverse course and embody our potential as humans to live with kindness, compassion and love.
With imagination and focused clarity, we can do this. We are so engrossed in our current destructive patterns that replacing greed with love seems ridiculous.
It’s not. The human race exists largely because we are wired to love and protect and care for our children, and each other. Yes, we’ve done this imperfectly and too many parents do a bad job of caring for their children. Nonetheless, human nature has been good enough to get us this far.
But to continue, to survive the crisis, to become better people, we will now need to make a concerted conscious effort.
We must do the work.