"The Christmas hope for peace and good will toward all men can no longer be dismissed as a kind of pious dream of some utopian. If we don't have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments and our own power. Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. We must either learn to live together as brothers or we are going to perish together as fools."--Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Christmas Eve sermon, 1967
In an age of bureaucracy, overcriminalization and militarized police, it often seems as if no good deed goes unpunished. Indeed, although Charles Dickens immortalized the money-loving, Christmas-hating, bah-humbuggiest of humbugs Ebenezer Scrooge in his classic A Christmas Carol, the world has always been plagued by Scrooges so single-minded in their pursuit of money, power and control that they exhibit few qualms about stamping out acts of kindness, compassion and true charity when they arise. Still, we must press on, despite the Scrooges of the world.
So how do we press on and make the world a better place in the face of weaponized drones, far-reaching surveillance and a government that with every passing day is coming to resemble authoritarian regimes of old?
Throwing money at the problems won't fix them, and wishing them away won't work. Indeed, I've seen enough of the world in my time on this planet to know that wishing is not enough. We need to be doing. As much as I long for an end to war, poverty, hunger, violence and disease in my lifetime, millions continue to die every year, casualties of a world that places greater value on war machines and profit margins than human life.
While it's not possible to solve all of the world's problems right away, there are practical steps each of us can take to hopefully get things moving in the right direction. Here's what I would suggest for a start:
Move beyond the "us" vs. "them" mentality. Increasingly, we as a society have come to reflect the hostility at work in the world at large. Having astutely mastered the art of partisan politics, politicians frequently perpetuate a "good" versus "evil," "us" versus "them" rhetoric which pits citizen against citizen and keeps us fighting among ourselves while the politicians feed at the corporate trough. Instead of wasting time and resources on political infighting, which gets us nowhere, it's time Americans learned to work together to solve the problems before us. The best place to start is in your own communities, neighbor to neighbor. After all, at the end of the day, it makes no difference what politician you voted for--Republican, Democrat or otherwise--politics will never be the answer.
Tune into what's happening in your family, in your community and your world, and get active. Read your local newspaper. Attend a school board or city council meeting. Get involved with a nonprofit that works to help others in your community. Whatever you do, reduce your intake of mindless television programs and entertainment news. The only reality programming worth taking notice of is the one playing in your home and community. That said, although the police state looms large, we can still fight back most effectively by thinking nationally, acting locally and most important of all, being vocal in objecting to militarized police, drones, SWAT team raids and government surveillance.
Show compassion to those in need, be kind to those around you, forgive those who have wronged you, and teach your children to do the same. Increasingly, people seem to be forgetting their p's and q's--basic manners that were drilled into older generations. I'm talking about simple things like holding a door open for someone, helping someone stranded on the side of the road, and saying "please" and "thank you" to those who do you a service--whether it be to the teenager bagging your groceries or the family member who just passed the potatoes. As author Robert Heinlein observed, "A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters."
Stop acting entitled and start being empowered. We have moved into the Age of Entitlement, where more and more people feel entitled to certain benefits without having to work for them. There's nothing wrong with helping those less fortunate, but as my parents taught me, there's a lot to be said for an honest day's work.
Learn tolerance in the true sense of the word. There's no need to legislate tolerance through hate crime legislation and other politically correct mechanisms of compliance. True tolerance stems from a basic respect for one's fellow man or woman, and it should be taught to children from the time they can understand right from wrong.
Value your family. The traditional family, such that it is, is already in great disrepair, torn apart by divorce, infidelity, overscheduling, overwork, materialism, and an absence of spirituality. Despite the billions we spend on childcare, toys, clothes, private lessons, etc., a concern for our children no longer seems to be a prime factor in how we live our lives. And now we are beginning to see the blowback from collapsing familial relationships. Indeed, more and more, I hear about young people refusing to talk to their parents, grandparents being denied access to their grandchildren, and older individuals left to molder away in nursing homes. Yet without the family, the true building block of our nation, there can be no freedom.
Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and comfort the lonely and broken-hearted. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take part in local food drives. Take a meal to a needy family. "Adopt" an elderly person at a nursing home. Support the creation of local homeless shelters in your community. Urge your churches, synagogues and mosques to act as rotating thermal shelters for the homeless during the cold winter months.
Give peace a chance. So far, America's global war machine has cost American taxpayers trillions of dollars, and that doesn't even begin to approach the human cost in lives lost--military and civilian--and families torn apart. The military industrial complex has a lot to gain financially so long as America continues to wage its wars at home and abroad, but you can be sure that the American people will lose everything unless we find some way to give peace a chance. We can start by bringing our men and women in uniform home.
Get educated. As I illustrated in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, most Americans know little about their rights and know even less about the fast-approaching police state. Education precedes action, and as I often say, freedom is an action word.
Start somewhere, anywhere--just start. It's not possible to solve all the world's problems single-handedly, nor do you have to solve them overnight. Little by little, you'll get there, but you have to start somewhere. It is up to each of us to do our part to make this a better world for all. As the legendary singer, songwriter and activist Pete Seeger once remarked to me:
I tell everybody a little parable about the "teaspoon brigades." Imagine a big seesaw. One end of the seesaw is on the ground because it has a big basket half full of rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air because it's got a basket one-quarter full of sand. Some of us have teaspoons, and we are trying to fill it up. Most people are scoffing at us. They say, "People like you have been trying for thousands of years, but it is leaking out of that basket as fast as you are putting it in." Our answer is that we are getting more people with teaspoons every day. And we believe that one of these days or years--who knows--that basket of sand is going to be so full that you are going to see that whole seesaw going zoop! in the other direction. Then people are going to say, "How did it happen so suddenly?" And we answer, "Us and our little teaspoons over thousands of years."
As Charles Dickens reminds us in A Christmas Carol, it's never too late to make things right in the world and try to be better people and, most importantly of all, pay your blessings forward. Whether you do it by raising money for a charity, standing up against injustice as The Rutherford Institute does, or as Scrooge did it, by repenting of his greed, selfishness and bah humbuggery and looking out for those in need, the point, my friends, is to do it now before it's too late, not just at Christmastime, but always. As Dickens writes, "And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!"