"American media in general ignored completely the role that the American government had in the crimes of not just the coup, not just the reign of terror which Pinochet's secret police extended around the South American continent and across the globe-including the worst terrorist act on U.S. soil prior to 9/11, the assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt in 1976 in Washington, D.C.-but also multiple attempts to overthrow the democratic government of Chile in the years prior to the coup. These efforts were coordinated from the very top of the American government, by President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger."
The world is a big place full of real estate and wilderness (which is also real estate in the eyes of the profit-minded) and it is also full of small powerful elite groups of people very focused on controlling who controls big patches of that real estate and wilderness and what they can get out of it to improve their lot. Abraham Lincoln once said that the greatest art of the future would be making the most of a small plot of land. I don't think he meant it in quite the same, almost tribal mentality, that the corporatocracy world views the same philosophy. Maybe he foresaw, like Malthus, the consequences of a coming time - a time like today - when there would be almost 7 billion people on the planet. A crowded very challenging time when the competition for resources and power takes center stage. We would be wise to listen to the wisdom of the Iroquois and think and act soundly:
"In our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."
The Founding Fathers of America were a fresh and welcome moment in human history. They believed in a government of the people, for the people and by the people. They were amazing men. Jefferson even made his own version of the Bible - he went through it and wrote down every passage where Jesus was quoted speaking in the Bible. Jesus may be many things - and I am not one to get into the politics of Christianity or religion in general - but one thing can be said of Jesus - his message of selflessness, forgiveness and love is a powerful and compelling one. A man with such meditations in his mind framed the Declaration of Independence.
It focused on individual rights and the right of revolution. Abraham Lincoln, beginning in 1854 as he spoke out against slavery and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, provided a reinterpretation of the Declaration. He stressed that the unalienable rights of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" were not limited to the white race. "Jefferson and those who shared his conviction" created a document with "continuing usefulness" with a "capacity to convince and inspire living Americans." The invocation by Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address of the Declaration of Independence is perhaps the best takes on Jefferson's famous preamble:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Yes, the birth of the United States was a very welcome thing. At the same time, not one treaty made with the original custodians of that land--the Native American Indian--was ultimately honored. And they were truly people who took care of the Earth with responsibility and affection. Instead one of the worst cases of genocide in history was ruthlessly and systematically carried out.
The Enlightenment brought us Descartes and Newton and a mechanistic world view that heralded great scientific change for the world. "I think therefore I am," was that time's ode to the magnificence and power of the intellect. But thought and reason alone are not the pinnacle of man's potential (indeed thought can be a prison and a cruel master). Thought can build powerful machines and create elaborate and canniving ways to conceal the truth and blind justice. It can do terrible things in the name of vested interest. But only the heart can make use of thought with any wisdom. Reason married with insight and compassion all attuned and in harmony is the pinnacle of our potential.
The President of America is a powerful man and an inspiring leader can bring about important changes with the people behind him. But let us not forget that the world is full of armies poised to attack and defend. Let us not forget that the nuclear submarine--one of the most expensive technological creations of mankind--is a living definition of something that has no creative purpose whatsoever. It is not productive in any way. It's goal is solely destructive. Of course, there is that argument that the nuclear weapons and nuclear submarines that carry them are acting as keepers of the peace by preventing wars--and in a way that is an important truth. But we still miss the ultimate point. Where there is defense there is a sense of lack, a vulnerability. There is also justification for attack. But we are not the body. We are not the little identities that we assign to the body. We are something much vaster than all of that and we belittle our selves when we do not see it. As the Buddha said, the greatest of all taints is the taint of ignorance.
The word "art" comes from latin. It means skill. In that sense anything that we give our full attention and heart to can become a skill. Lincoln predicted that the greatest art of the future would be making the most of a small plot of land. With a planet way overloaded and stressed for resources because of the demands of approaching 7 billion people it is easy to see his point. Lincoln's statement is also a challenge to us. It challenges us to live with attention; to live in such a way that the heart leads the mind. It challenges us to make a fair world.
Today was an important day because a black man became the President of the United States of America. In fact he is a black man and a white man. He is the child of two races - one, a persecutor and the other, the persecuted. The world's tribes have had a long and bitter history with their neighbors and we are a long way--collectively at least--from living the truths that Jefferson held to be self-evident: "that all men are created equal." But today was an important step. This does not mean we are all equal in ability or possibility but we are all equal in intrinsic value. Every seed of potential, nurtured with love and care and wisdom, is worthy and contributes to the needs of the whole.
When Nelson Mandela came to power he brought his angry and frightened people together in unity by bringing both victims with grievances (blacks and whites) and their persecutors (blacks and whites) together to find common ground. He created a special court for this very purpose. It was not a court that dealt out punishments. But it was a court that focused on airing negativity and anger with the explicit goal of replacing it with forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.
I wonder if there would be so much terrorism and war--economic and physical--in this world if man had learned to lead the mind by the heart? The solutions to the world's problems do not ultimately lie in the hands of governments and presidents - though they can do a lot (especially if they humbly follow their mandate as servants of the people). Communism and capitalism are not going to change man deeply, fundamentally, profoundly. Only humanism has the capacity to do that.The real solutions lie in the hands of individuals. Individuals who are interested in meaning and happiness. Individuals whose minds are liberated from the shackles of vested interest, prejudice and tribalism (nationality, racism, xenophobia etc); whose consciousness actually sees the grave and very human responsibility of taking care of life on this planet as is fitting of our role as its present custodians and guardians. The flowering of such a mind only comes about in the right atmosphere, in an atmosphere where education can transform and sculpt in the right way.
Michelangelo once said, when asked how he created David, " I took away all that was not David." That's what education means. "Ex-ducat/ducare." To pull out what is within.To pull out what is potential. Within man there is a potential monster and a potential saint. Whatever your job is--whether you are a scientist or a teacher or whatever--is irrelevant. Only your example counts. You can be a monster or a saint whatever your position or status. The highest refinement of education is to bring out the highest compassion within us - as well as our unique abilities and channel them towards productive and creative ends. That means no nuclear submarines. Imagine if we really made productive and creative use of the world's armies! If used wisely what outstanding humanitarian works could be carried out! Imagine if we could find a way as individuals to share this planet with fairness and affection...without being blighted by extreme greed (I concede that lesser greed can be good for bolstering economic systems) the divisive forces of '"us" and "them" mythologies and prejudice.
Yes, it is a wonderful day for democracy. And there are many reasons to celebrate and cherish this moment. But it is also a good moment to reflect that the only meaningful change is change within individuals. And that a new and enlightened world order will only come about when people, to paraphrase the last words of the Buddha, really really do their best. Lincoln has made clear the challenge. To make good use of a small plot of land (and I have attempted to put it in its right context today here). Jefferson made clear the goal: happiness and liberty.
Would Gandhi be a good example of the kind of logic that might bring it about? When asked if he wanted to bring about independence to India and oust the British he said naturally that was what he wanted but outcomes are difficult to nail, and even when we have the best of intentions, nothing is in our hands. The only thing in our hands is how we go about doing things. Gandhi said his way was non-violence and he lived what he said. As the Course in Miracles says: "In my defenselessness my safety lies." It is not easy or difficult to give up the illusions of ignorance nor is it easy or difficult to subdue the taints and mis-perceptions that control our minds. It is not about "easy or difficult." It's about the resolution and the determination to find a way to do exactly that. A transformation in consciousness is what it is about. And it starts and ends within the individual. Within you and I.
Communities that foster service as the highest goal and who nurture individual worth and tolerance know that humanity's problems cannot be solved externally.
Margaret Mead put it all into perspective:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
We need a new yoga of economics. But a new economics will only come about with a transformation of consciousness for economics is, after all, just a map of our collective motivations. The streams and rivers of money in this world and the intentions that push them along are like the nerve system of the body of humanity. If the decision-making Central processing unit is in harmony, then the nervous grid or network works well; it distributes power and wealth fairly throughout. When our intentions are wise and they are applied wisely and effectively the world has the potential to become a sane place.
The consciousness of the whole is affected by every thing we do. And in the end all we have to look to is the example of our actions. When we are ruled by the mind we react and perpetuate ignorance. When the heart leads a sane mind we act decisively (in alignment with Life Forces) and from another level of consciousness. Yes. Obama is a wonderful symbol of what might be in a world that desperately needs a different way to go forward. But at the same time the old human problems remain. We can judge and alienate or we can encourage as the Buddha did: "Do your best." Like the Buddha we must extend compassion and we must not suffer the fool within us (or those outside of us) gladly - we must go to the very root of ignorance and uproot it courageously and lovingly. As custodians of the Earth we must outgrow the tribal mentalities that keep us at loggerheads.
The last President of America and Prime Minister of Britain lead the world into an unprovoked and unjustified war; war which was really about the geo-politcs of oil. The rhetoric that they were bringing freedom is not even worthy of comment for freedom was the last thing in their minds. Control and power was what it was really about. As a race we now face the colossal challenges of overpopulation and the environmental strain it brings. The clash of ideologies and power that produces terrorism, not to mention the horrible dictatorships and cruel economic disparities that are to be found around the world, are all things that demand our attention. With prudence, skill and heart we can conquer all these problems.
The American poet Carl Sangburg wrote in his introduction to "The Family of Man":
There is only one man in the world
and his name is All Men.
Whether you are born in China or France or Palestine...the mind of man is no different. Fear and ignorance is not Russian or American. It's universal. It does not matter where you are from or what God you believe in. What matters is that you and I outgrow our fear and conditioning; what matters is that we somehow come to see our essential sameness (for our differences amount to very little) and find the treasures of consciousness and meaning that lie within. When we live with that as our focus, unity and peace are inevitable.
The only world that is worth celebrating, the only world that is going to have any meaning is one without borders; one which unites and cooperates as one family. You don't see borders from space. From space you see a shining jewel in the vastness of the void. Ours is the space age - the age of One family. The only borders in truth are in the mind. And with each of us the responsibility lies to pull them down. To see the good in every one, to make the most of our potential... to be responsible for our own small plot of Earth.