“There must be some kinda way out of here.
Said the joker to the thief.
There’s too much confusion.
I can’t get no relief”
All Along the Watchtower – lyrics by Bob Dylan
After writing the four “Oh Canada, where art thou going” articles I felt drained, perhaps confused. Maybe it was the weight of too much information. Or the fact that the current political system in most capitalistic/democratic countries, including my own, is truly broken, with the world now being run rough-shod by a shockingly small number of transnational corporations and few hundred individuals doing what they will with the planet and its inhabitants. While at the same time many of us plead ignorance. The confusion I felt, altered something in me and made me remember what mostly affects our lives happens at the community level and not on the other side of the planet. But then I realized, holy cow, my community and more specifically my tribe is just as confused as I am.
On the federal level in Canada and after an election, we have no more say in any decisions made by that government, basically the same at the provincial level, who also make their own decisions without any public consultation, with their often times wrong and misguided decisions felt by all except themselves. While on the community level is where we live our daily lives.
On our streets, in our homes, at our workplace, where we buy our food, raise our children, where we meet with friends and where we share our lives with a loved one is what is important to our lives. What affects us the most is the environment, how clean the water is out of the tap, what are the conditions of our communities’ infrastructure and how safe are our streets, most all of our needs are met within the community we live in.
Politics on the community level, in most cases is working. If a municipal’s council comes up with something that many in the community feels strongly about, the town or city hall fills up pretty quick at the next week’s meeting. But reality dictates that councils are also often influenced by the local business community, small groups of usually retired teachers and other very politically correct individuals. Citizens who believe it is their civic duty to make their community safer but perform with such fervor that this type of over the top justified involvement most often becomes invasive involvement. They become hall monitors and snitches, always on the lookout for that one small thing a fellow citizen does that the police or city council might be interested in.
Technology seems to be opening up transparency and on the whole, at least at the town or city level there is still a degree of accountability. We live in the same community with those elected; their kids go to the same school as our kids. We get people into government by voting for them, supposedly to speak on our behalf. And only at the community level can you speak your behalf to the elected member of your community face to face and personal.
Of course this all breaks down the bigger the community, town or city is because those on council are humans and once they believe they have power over others and are becoming increasingly wealthy compared to their neighbours, they will move away and their kids will attend private schools. Scientific American and Psychological Science have both shown and have proven that the wealthier a person becomes the less empathy they have for people unlike themselves. They become much more focused on self and that such a level of self interest of course promotes wrongdoing and unethical behaviour. While the true psychopaths, if defined as individuals whose brains do not register stressful feelings when they observe harms on others, who are most likely to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain and who represent less than one per-cent of humanity while possessing more net worth than the bottom 90% combined, are the puppet masters and running the show.
So anyways, I’ve decided to focus my articles more on the community level. This came about because of two things: a community project I assisted with and the fact I just took a week off and travelled through some very cool little communities around nearby Puget Sound in the States. With an open mind, a willingness to always talk and with a friendly and inquisitive nature I’ve met many people over the past week. And you know what? Most people do know the current way of things is askew and wrong on many levels, but their lives take up all their time and though realized or not, the simple human interaction we have within our tribes, the thirty to forty people we come into contact with daily or at least once a week face to face, is what makes up nearly every moment of our lives. For this is where humanness resides.
The community project needed a dozen people to volunteer to work as a team, by using each one of our specific traits and experience to bring the project to fulfillment. Many in the group had obviously stepped out of their routine and you know what? They craved it, egos were not evident, and everyone was engaged in the moment and enjoyed the feeling of being a part of something far bigger than they themselves individually. It made us happy.
Happy is a funny thing. We consume, earn and spend, often times even when we can’t even afford it, forever chasing down some false and misguided happiness. Yet within our individual worlds, deep down, the level of respect and admiration from friends, families, peers and communities determines a human’s happiness, not wealth, economic status or overall success, while food, sex and water simply keep us alive.
We each would hope to be an engaged, trusted, generous and accepted member of our individual groups. Indeed within our local hierarchies the individuals with such traits hold a higher status among the group. And if truth were to be told, where we stand with those whom we live our lives alongside and the acceptance and respect earned from them makes us happier, regardless of our wealth or fame.
Volumes of reports and studies on happiness all clearly show that feeling respected and admired as a human can cause our happiness to increase and being happier makes those around you happier, thus overall happiness increases. Meanwhile, it’s also been proven time after time and over the eons that just feeling rich or feeling above others, one’s feeling of happiness does not increase. We should know this, you think?
Seriously I don’t see much happy these days. The smiles are there but the eyes aren’t smiling. There are days lately where I feel I’m either going nuts or I’m just noticing we’re all nuts. It seems everyone is questioning, whether it be our lives, relationships or jobs. There’s also a lot of denial out there, even with reality gobsmacking us in the face. We are all agog with far too much information, looking more zombie-like with a thousand yard stare and either a stupid little grin stuck on our face or in most cases just a permanent scowl, with everyone seemingly so pissed off.
Personally, I get excited when I sense change in the air. But lately it’s getting rather thick, with information exponentially increasing in speed and volume it is now far more than we can absorb. It’s not even subtle anymore, this struggle we are having over our subjectivity, our inner reality, and how we define our needs. If change is dealt with an honest apprehension of one’s situation and without cynicism, it can only be proactive, but our avoidance of doing so will only create tragedy.
Communities are being affected by change the hardest because it is where we actually live and because of the trickle-down effect from the top of greed, oily slime and the oppressive nature of capitalism and consumerism. Yes capitalism creates new ideas, but its goal is to intensify consumerism, even when it is no longer affordable for the average humanoid, and it does so with no ecological or moral principles. Advertisers have shaped our attitudes, what we taste, see, hear, smell and feel. Our car and clothes we are told are what defines us. And yes we have unlimited information and technology at hand, because it’s been put there before us to purchase to keep us busy and entertained, while we lose control of the world out on our streets. This happens oddly enough because we think we have freedom, no rights, but we say we are free and safe. We’ve given up far too much just to think we live in a safe and wonderful environment. Our idea of what normal is and what is sane, decent and patriotic has sucked our soul’s dry, while each day we desperately try not to notice that the systems running our societies outside our front doors are terribly broken. It’s like we don’t trust ourselves anymore. The weathers fine, no it is not. Equal rights, excuse me? There will always be jobs for anyone willing to work we are told, nope not no more, because there are simply too many of us. Our senses are numbed daily by a myriad of means, we are all self medicating in some way.
Most of us are seeing the same things, the same stories, yet we are coming to different interpretations. Everything that is said or done is becoming being taken the wrong way. People are offended very easily these days, always “put out”. Trying to prove their point is whatever they say it is by their level of indignation. Trust and respect seems to have been replaced with fear and blame. Any truths and realities are argued and often denied because of a two minute sound bite of only a few dozen words announced on any mainstream news stream that they had heard, seen or read. So much of what we say amongst others is misinterpreted and questioned. We are realizing the deteriorating situation of our lives, individual world-views and the planet, and it is scaring the hell out of us. The scariest is the realization that things have gotten so out of hand yet we allowed ourselves to be distracted while it went on and we are confused by the realization that many aspects of our lives have somehow become beyond our control. It seems all that is left is denial and rage.
Grasping reality can sometimes be painful but rarely does anyone die or lose an eye over it and a change in behaviour does not necessarily always mean mental illness, but could be perceived as a type of societal shell shock. It’s as though one doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Not knowing if one should accept the reality of our lives; where not everyone is a drunk driver, murder (at least here in Canada) is rare, there is no such thing as the perfect family, we all have mental illnesses, and the majority of the population will experience violence only on the screen, thousands of times and all different ways. Or we can keep acknowledging and swallowing the steady stream of propaganda shoved down our throats and which assault on our senses on a daily basis.
Changes are happening that are far too fast for the mind to comprehend and weigh their implications, because reflection has been ignored and tossed aside when the television entered our worlds and became the center of our universes. The people that are getting off of their addiction to the aptly nick-named boob tube are often times awakening to find themselves embarrassed for their blindness and ignorance. I was.
But then that is what a capitalistic system creates, class stratification; along with racism, prejudice and feelings amongst the majority of people of powerlessness, unfocused rage and shame. These frustrations are then controlled by developed compulsions and self indulgences which displace such frustrations. While the majority slave away at their lives the few at the top snicker away that so many have fallen for the propaganda. They do not snicker fearlessly though for they dread and pray the majority do not become pissed off and develop such insolence as standing up and saying enough is enough.
The less people who instead of simply stepping outside and being aware of what the environment is doing, are told what the weather and other people’s lives are doing via a seemingly drunk on caffeine and themselves, boob tube personality with a painted on smile, the better. The less people who still think the world is gumdrops and lollipops the better as well.
Nearly everyone I know is questioning something in their lives. What was once right or wrong doesn’t necessarily mean right or wrong anymore. We seem to have been programmed but are now trying to shake the cobwebs out. Whether because of our parents, peers or mainstream media, what we once believed good is now bad and vice versa. People are not dealing with their shattered dream so well I fear. One of the reasons for this is that too many of us are still living in the past and so very scared of the future, with many of us still hung up over things that happened years and decades ago. Yet all it takes to create positive change in one’s life is relentless struggle to keep a greater self awareness of the present. Most mistakes I have made and continue to make, happen whenever I’m not listening or not aware of the moment nor focused on the task at hand.
It seems ladies and gentlemen we have also somehow lost our empathy, equal rights and traditions. If we were electrical, which in part we are, we’re blowing fuses, experiencing black and brown outs, and disconnecting all over the place. The promise of more open communication through texting and tweetering is actually creating the opposite. Someone once said our generation has at hand, more information and technology than at any time in history, yet we have somehow become the stupidest.
It does not have to continue. All it takes is taking one step forward instead of leaning out of a sofa for the remote. Stepping away from mundane routine and habitual thought that keep us away from taking such a step, for the majority of folk, seems to be the scariest part. It is but being engaged in your world. It’s hard work being aware of each moment and is sometimes forgotten or ignored for hours or days at a time, but it must never be given up on. The only place the ego does not dwell or like, is when their host is living in the present moment. This is where true change happens.
Another step forward could be finally finding out your neighbours name and taking some pride in your community. Not so proud? Do something about it and get others to help you. It’s like if you want a responsible, trusted, smart and goofy child, you as a parent should be responsible, trusted, smart and goofy. You don’t agree to how we’re ravaging the planet and ourselves, speak up, create change and better yourself. Go to a municipal council meeting one night. Once a year spend the fifteen minutes or so and vote. Know who you are voting for. The community you live in is not your living room or house, its outside on the street. The people you meet each day are your community and this is where we can make a difference for the better. Don’ be intimidated by the media and corporate propaganda, no one owns the Earth. At the same time we must stop fouling our own nests, the rest of the animal kingdom are shaking their heads in disgust laughing at us and crying at the same time.
Let us not be souls who instead of dying peacefully, aware and grateful, it will be the tragic; sitting up from one’s deathbed after your life had just flashed before your eyes and very sadly gasping “Oh shit”. Overwhelmed with regret and guilt, thinking of all the things one should of, would of and could have done. Ruing all the differences in one’s life, in other’s lives and in their own worlds, that could have been made. And then slowly laying your head back down upon the pillow and allowing your last breath to escape from within. With finality perhaps asking ourselves if we had made a difference that we had lived or we had never made a difference and it was of no concern to anyone whether we had lived at all.
To paraphrase the humanist and writer, Eckhart Tolle, “The greatest achievement of humanity is not art, science or technology, but will be the recognition of its own dysfunction, our collective madness,” and dealing with it.