Within the current political atmosphere in the US and beyond, there’s a blinding smog preventing us from effectively addressing social issues that have been neglected for generations. This smog arises from deeply buried smoldering grievances, much as physical smog arises from smoldering fires in a peat bog. It also arises collectively from many tiny sources too, much as the exhausts of millions of cars combine to create smog in our cities. So long as we tend the fires of our grievances collectively and individually, we will continue to be plagued by this blinding smog and fail to see our way clear to address social issues we otherwise have the power – collectively and individually – to address.
Throughout history human beings have avoided our responsibility for the failings of our societies to care for all members of our societies. When these fails come glaringly to light and we feel compelled to address them, we fail to address them with clarity at their root cause. We lack clarity due to the smog generated by the root cause’s smoke-generating schemes. The root cause of our social ills prefers to remain hidden beneath our awareness, protected from being seen for what it is. Its means of hiding are myriad. In addition to generous outpourings of propaganda, one of its primary tactics is creating diversions by which to divert the attention of our minds to focus on false causes for social ills. Blaming a few (or small subclass of) individuals for our social ills is one of those diversions that has proven effective throughout history.
For example, before World War II, fascists convinced many to blame Jews (and others classified as social undesirables or “deviants”) for society’s ills. After WW II, the winners went to great lengths to identify a few individuals as “war criminals” as a way to mollify the populace’s passion for revenge that arose from grievances experienced by members of all nations involved. Both before and after WW II, the system of assigning blame remained unchanged. Only the targets of blame changed. After the war, in our early stage of grief known as “anger” (a natural but not permanent reaction to pain), we cried out for named objects of hate to be tried and condemned at Nuremburg. We sought to name and blame a few for the harm caused by many. Seeking scapegoats to counterbalance heroes, as ego always does, we sought to isolate the few “bad apples” from the barrel. In doing so, we studiously avoided looking for the root cause by which to explain why the many “good apples” had gone along with the few “bad” ones to carry out their orders. We failed to seek to understand why people will join in becoming cruel instruments of injustice – why a few “bad” apples can spoil a barrel. We preferred to blame all injustices and associated cruelties that arose on account of hard-heartedness on a few rather than to examine our own hearts for dormant seeds of the same hard-heartedness.
For the sake of society’s welfare, we need to individually remove the dormant as well as activated seeds of hard-heartedness from our hearts. We all start out as tenderhearted infants who are vulnerable to pain. Pain sows seeds of resentment that can support a later crop of bitterness and vengeance. We need to master the art of grieving to prevent resentments from taking root and creating a crop we regret cultivating and harvesting. Unexamined hearts can become breeding grounds for resentment and support a crop of bitter fruit. For our own sake and the sake of our families and the greater communities within which we participate and exercise influence, we must relentlessly weed out the grievances buried in our hearts before they put down roots, grow to maturity, go to seed and spread to other hearts. Societies in which bullying, cruelty and injustice produce painful experiences for all of us are greatly in need of weeding. It is futile to weed out the individuals we blame for the social violence and injustice we abhor. We must take responsibility for our own individual roles in promoting such violence and injustice rather than try to shift the responsibility to others as the ego seeks to do.
If ever we are to enjoy living in a society in which we judge each other not by the color of our skins (or any other external demographic), we must focus upon cultivating the content of our characters. Examining our hearts for unreleased pain and grievances and ensuring that they are progressively released is essential to our creation and preservation of strong, resilient, honest and trustworthy characters and their resulting healthy, mutually caring society. This symbiotic ideal of individual character and collective society is within our reach even now. We reach it not by protesting against or resisting those our egos would like to blame for the unaddressed social ills we abhor. We reach it by climbing together along the upward-bound path of grieving with its steadfast belief in – and receipt and use of – the healing power of forgiveness and the gift of love that inspires and fuels it. The upward path is strewn with fragrant flowers of empathy and compassion for those whose past experiences of pain have hardened their hearts against those they want to blame. The blame game is a game only losers play because everyone who plays it loses. Regardless of the loudest proclamations to the contrary, there are no winners in this game’s downward spiral of guilt and blame. In this game, we all go down the drain together.
We can do better than blame others for not growing more mature and for instead holding onto and cherishing their pain as if it is essential to their identity. We can model our own progressive growth towards greater maturity and wisdom through our openness of empathy, compassion and forgiveness until it shines a radiance that warms and softens their hearts as well as ours. We are all one heart, one mind and one humanity. There is no escaping that reality. Wise folks cease to try to escape. Instead they accept their parts within the human race and do their best to shine with authenticity, integrity, humility and wisdom while living among us. They are the incarnate gospel no matter whether they claim a religious path of faith or disavow all religions in their path of faith.
Let us dare to name the ego as the root cause of our social ills and address it effectively rather than continue to distract ourselves by blaming a few individuals who represent the ego so relentlessly and openly. These “others” are our sisters and brothers in the human family. They merely represent in more exaggerated ways what our own resentments and grievances may one day cause us to become if we do not heal and nurture our hearts as we are today empowered by love to do.
The smog generated by fear’s fiercely burning conflagrations need not blind us. We know better than to breathe it in. From within us arises a refreshing breeze of Love that casts out all fear. In that breeze we may live and move and have our being as Love would have us be no matter how momentarily surrounded by the ego’s lies and half-truths we may be. We can soar on the wings of eagles and run and not be weary . . . because we trust in the Source of Love from whence we all arise. Even those of us who have forgotten the true nature of our Source and, for a time, may mistakenly blame our Source for our social ills can gain clarity of sight by participating in the healing of our hearts and land. Just as we have participated in generating the smog together we can participate in clearing it away by dousing the grievances of our own hearts with the healing waters of forgiveness and love.
© Art Nicol 2017