The George Floyd mural outside Cup Foods at Chicago Ave and E 38th St in Minneapolis, Minnesota
(Image by Lorie Shaull) Details DMCA
One definition of a catalyst is an agent that provokes or speeds significant change, or a person or thing that precipitates an event. The death of George Floyd happens to be a potential catalyst for a long overdue reaffirmation of our most basic American values. Those values are respect for others and a concern for equality and justice. They are the basic tenets of a humanized democratic society.
The human spirit remains alive and well within all people regardless of status and regardless of abuse, oppression, repression or exploitation as was evident in the Holocaust survivors. It remains alive in the world and is at the very heart of the American spirit; that spirit that has long held on to the ideals that all men (people) are created equal, and the ideal of government of the people, by the people and for the people.
This human spirit is the reason that America was a beacon for freedom for ordinary people around the world during much of our history. We were not perfect in our execution of those ideals, but there were many periods where we continued to make progress toward their fulfillment.
In recent history we have turned away from those ideals in our apparent search for economic solutions to all human problems. But that human spirit continues to exist, waiting for an opportunity to emerge. Religions have spoken about it. Articles, books, movies, TV programs and music have been written about it. We have all wrung our hands and shaken our heads when abuses have occurred that led to traumatic results like police brutality and gun violence. And yet nothing seemed to change, and that norm of indifference to human suffering almost seemed unassailable, protected by an entrenched system of dominance; a system based on money and manipulation.
But just as we nearly begin to despair, an event occurs which catches the attention of that human spirit and brings it to light. That human spirit that has had to exist in a spiritually arid environment was waiting for the spark to burst into flame and create the light necessary to bring clarity to the failing of an existing system.
Even when a social environment looks stable and static, a catalyst causes significant, and perhaps unexpected, changes that transform the very nature of that environment.
There were many events that helped prepare the ground for this change of consciousness. There have been many attempts over the last couple of centuries, by ordinary people around the world, to demand a more significant role in governing their own future. These attempts have most often been thwarted by those with power and money. But the human spirit remained alive and quietly grew. The more recent growth of authoritarian governance around the world has caused that spirit to become stronger, looking for some way to survive and express itself.
The clear need to change in the face of warnings of global environmental disasters fed that smoldering fire.
The 2016 election of Donald Trump and his term as president made clear what was to come if we only focused on the authoritarian dictates of a market economy; and the heat grew.
This recent pandemic prepared the ground for transformation by making us face the failures of a system that put profits before people or the planet, sacrificing the security and the health of hundreds of thousands of people while trying to resurrect a global economic system that is no longer functional in a modern world, especially in the face of this new human reality.
And then there was the graphic death of George Floyd at the hands of a repressive system bent on control at all costs.
It was the last straw, the straw that broke the camel's back, the event that created the final realization that enough is enough. The human spirit could no longer tolerate any more abuse. The human spirit broke out with cleansing flames, providing enough light to finally see clearly through the fog created by an economic system that defines all relationships in economic terms. The human spirit in all of us knows that humanity cannot survive in such a society.
Breaking through that fog, we can see each other as valuable human beings, far beyond anything economics has to say. The caring, compassionate heart comes to life again, finally freed from its economic bondage. That spirit, now back in full view and ready to lead, will require a transformation, a rethinking of how to live together on this planet to create a sustainable future.
George Floyd was in many ways an ordinary man living an ordinary life in America, running the risks that people of color continually run in our society. His death could have become another statistic; just another unarmed black man killed in police custody. But because of the accumulation of events, injustices, and attacks on the human spirit, his death became the final event, the breaking point, the catalyst that caused a flood of energy from the previously pent-up human spirit which will carry with it a new vision, a reinvented human society reflective of the best of the human spirit; to a transformed America, a transformed world and a transformed planet.