As we exchanged enthusiastic Christmas and New Year’s greetings and gifts, as we sang every traditional, joyful Christmas song we could think of, the cries of national and international sorrow continued to color every day’s festivities with an honest question: Is there something I should do — for my part — about this endless saga of violence we’re experiencing as a culture?
During this past year I’ve been introduced to Barbara Marx Hubbard, via internet. Buckminster Fuller, author, inventor and futurist , experimented at one point of his life “to find what a single individual might contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”
He has called Barbara “the best informed human now alive regarding futurism and the foresights it has produced.”
At 83, Barbara is energetic, passionate in her persistent efforts to stop our cultural violence.
When Barbara was 15, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Barbara saw images of this and something changed radically within her. The unfathomable destruction of human life (conservatively estimated at 150,000 people) convinced Barbara at her young age that we humans now had the capability to destroy the world.
In recognizing the power we had to invent such world-changing creations as the atomic bomb, she pursued the question for many years afterwards: “What do you think is the meaning of all our new power that is good?”
She even asked a befuddled President Eisenhower this question. His silence was enough to push her forward into a pathway which she has pursued for over six decades.
For Barbara, as for many environmentalists and futurists, there is still confidence that we together can bring back balance into this fragile world.
We see that our crises are comparable to past evolutionary shift points. The only difference is now we are conscious that we are causing our own extinction. This is what I call “conscious evolution” — the greatest wake-up call we have ever had for the human species to grow up!
In reflecting over this statement, I see that ever since I’ve returned from Hebron, Palestine, I have been trying to find ways not only to wake myself up to the evolutionary point that is needed but also to help the audiences I address see themselves as a part of the real solution to all the violence exercised against each other and to the environment.
The horrid evils that someone like Mephistopheles might do in his dark, dank inner caverns have been witnessed here in the United States.
What more does each of us need to convince us that we must each work not only to dig us out of this apathetic sense of powerlessness but also to wake up and become active in the fundamental crises of our civilization? Alone we claim our inner strength, and together we then move toward the vision of earth health and the justice we seek to reestablish in our world.
I am convinced that, “Yes,” we must have reasonable gun control laws.
“Yes,” we must have the mental health services re-examine our mental health system and see if we have not only enough services but also if we’re sufficiently financially supporting all the services that are dedicated to mental health for all.
“Yes,” we must together create the programs that will address the monumental challenge facing us in our environment.
But truly, even when the systems are “fixed,” the real changes must come within each person. Self-empowerment must touch all the links on the chain: young, elderly, adults of all stripes.
Today through my work in Project Peace I am convinced that every grassroots person must be an activist, must be involved intentionally with the good of the neighborhood and the town one lives in.
Too long, the responsibility has been placed on elected paid officials to ferry away the lurking evil, the violence whose roots have spread like a poisonous serum into human beings, into our families and neighborhoods. Violence will not magically leave us, nor are policemen able to bi-locate into our families and neighborhoods. That’s the job of each of us: to become proactive in our efforts to prevent any potential violence. That effort alone will strengthen all the links.
Recently, I had occasion to see such a proactive peace effort when four women invited me to come into their apartment complex and share ideas for getting some people within their complex to be “not so grouchy all the time with others.”
I was happily surprised to see these women had caught on. Maybe they couldn’t do a lot; yet all kinds of small efforts were mentioned. Hopefully, these women carried out these efforts and their apartment mood now speaks of their actions.
Yes, all could stay as it is in our part of the world. We could just turn our heads the other way and not put forth anything on our part to deal with the societal problems.
The human spirit, however, says there is more I could do, and I must do it. We start in a simple manner by drinking tea, sharing ideas, listening to each other with respect and curiosity, encouraging each other to follow through with a few ideas — then the action must follow through whether it be for a family, neighborhood, town, nation.
Nothing improves without the courage to first envision what can be and then to move toward that vision with direct action, big and small.
All this seems self-evident, but what isn’t self-evident is the fact that all of us must wake up, must take up the reins seriously, intentionally, and make something good happen and not leave it up to the next person. Where there’s a will, almost always there’s a way.
As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.
– James Russell Lowell, “Once to Every Man and Nation”