Special note: With these changing and extraordinary times, my writing might seem to be getting more political (and longer) than usual (even though to me it’s more about the bigger scope of our democracy and humanity in general, as I am a nonpartisan person), and this PGG reflects some of my personal views. If it’s not your cup of tea, have no fear, regular PGG’s will be back next week, and essays like these will only occasionally pop up. You can now also read me on Medium, so be sure to follow me there, where you can like, comment and share!
Friday, January 20, 2017, was a rough day. I chose not to ignore but to face head-on everything that had happened since November 8 – after having fully subjected myself to both sides of the presidential campaign for the better part of a year – and by the end of an entire day of exposure to the inaugural events (the finale and final date of a marathon during which I kept hoping that perhaps the Titanic would not actually sink), I needed to take a steam bath to detox it all. After sweating out what I absorbed, I share with you what emerged.
The technicalities of how we got here in the end belong to a man with the initials VP, whose manipulations took advantage of and exacerbated our weaknesses; he didn’t cause them. Besides the virulent last hurrah of racism and sexism, and the imperial karma we have collectively incurred as a nation, along with capitalism run amok, the deeper material of what this is about – beyond red states/blue states, liberals/conservatives, black/white/Muslim/Mexican, etc. – is the obsession with shiny objects and our quick-fix syndrome; the backlash against the “other” and glorification of hyper-masculinity; and our unresolved daddy issues.
Most Americans want someone to blame for, fix their problems or, as we see now, both. We live in a culture that tells us we need to have instant envy and that something is inherently lacking in us; that a pill, lotion, clothing, gadgets will make us feel good and have a fabulous life. That we have to be assertive and desperately grab these things at any cost, both monetarily and socially, instead of being receptive and attracting authentic prosperity in its many forms by our own value, effort and trust (then we find out we don’t need most of what is being sold to us anyway), and that if we don’t achieve a certain fabricated version of success it’s someone else’s’ fault or issue to deal with.
Blinded and lured by glitz, special effects, selfies, a reduced attention span and taking the easy way out, technology has only magnified and monetized our trend toward total superficiality and increasingly addictive behaviors.
People think, “Oh he looks good, his family looks good, he’s done well, etc. …” They are projecting a glamorous image of what they think a “successful businessman” is without knowing, of course, the corrupt and unscrupulous ways he has succeeded. The new POTUS and his brood are the Stepford Family of America, a group of people seemingly put together from central casting to make a supersize Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and they now have the most powerful seat in the world.
Then there is our laziness, combined with anxiety about our own existence and shadow selves, which we project onto and then fear “the other,” as in any person, group, place or thing that is unfamiliar or takes us out of our comfy zone. This is a way of anesthetizing ourselves to the outside world and the broader perspective, wisdom and experience that often come as result of our interaction with it. Instead we would rather retreat into “other” words via our remote control, binge-watching TV series, playing virtual video games or seeing IMAX movies of superheroes divided into good and evil, killing each other and blowing stuff up and saving the day (again the daddy, savior complex, and the hyper-masculinity – even women heroes are portrayed in a masculine way). As a result, we avoid confronting real-world multifaceted and nuanced situations that require patience, understanding and compassion, and the many shades of gray that comprise human interaction.
We are a society that is emotionally constipated. Our culture has become filled with emotional porn (i.e., extreme/gratuitous violence, actual porn, real housewives/girls behaving badly, and/or overusing exclamatory words in a disproportionate/inappropriate way to get your attention, as in “This is EVERYTHING!!”), which is used as a laxative to get things moving around inside.Then when things are backed up so badly and reality becomes too real, we have verbal diarrhea and tantrums at the least, and physical violence at the worst. This is also the root of our addictions in all their many forms.
The backlash against Obama was because he was emotionally mature and thoughtful, and he embodied a feminine approach to his worldview, which includes dialogue and inclusivity. (I always said from day one that if Bill Clinton was our first “black” president, then Obama was our first “female” one.) And if he is a leader, by definition, people look to him as an example, and that’s what should be emulated and encouraged. In fact, in Obama’s first inauguration speech he talked about “the time has come to set aside childish things.” But apparently Americans didn’t want to grow up.
Hence, with Trump, we now have the opposite, as in, “Don’t worry, we have a big, strong man like Daddy (or God via POTUS and/or a narrowly defined Jesus, or a classically abusive husband) who’s going to protect you from the big bad world and take care of everything and make our country great again.” As long as you flatter him profusely, stay in line, be loyal and don’t piss him off, he will get you whatever you want and keep you “safe.”
The bigger, perhaps more urgent, issue is that humans, especially Americans who subscribe (consciously or not) to mainstream culture and consumerism, are resistant to allowing for real inner growth and maturity and taking responsibility for their own lives and happiness.
The cold, hard truth is that at the end of the day you are still going to be miserable until you assume control over your own life – taking into consideration and acknowledging outside circumstances, but working around and with them to the best of your ability; being creative and exercising new skills and growing in the process; and having faith in that process and the very nature of Nature itself.
My philosophy has always been that personal transformation is the key to social transformation. We are living in the most tumultuous times in our country’s and the planet’s history, and the grass-roots efforts we need to make are internal as well as external.
It’s up to us as individuals to find security in ourselves and navigate these waters until we find some terra firma once again.
It’s up to you* to figure out what your talents are and the best way to utilize them now in order to create some kind of living for yourself in the economy of shifting sands in which we find ourselves – mostly due to the ubiquitous, ominous nonpartisan phenomenon called technology, not the outsourcing of jobs overseas – and not blame any one person, group or thing for your current situation. (*Or enlist the help of someone like yours truly to help you do so …)
It’s up to you to create an atmosphere of peace and safety by not militarizing your posture and being antagonistic, but instead by connecting and building bridges and applying the Golden Rule. The bad apples will always be there, but there are fewer than you think and that IS what law enforcement is there to take care of. Just make sure the enemies are real and not imagined, projected or scapegoated.
It’s up to you to filter and synthesize a broad swath of perspectives ……
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