The Will to Change: Our Crippled Search for True Heroes and New Leadership
It's not that Social Media is good or bad. We all can recite the party line: "ubiquitous access to information, free speech, " yada yada... But what's the bottom line about the sources of that information, and who is it that speaks so freely to an audience that has lost its powers of discernment?
I'm only half-heartedly writing this, realizing that by submitting yet another opinion I am just adding to the pile. But there is a place for calling out, over and over again, as often as it takes to be collectively heard and personally claimed, that it's far more critical now for QUESTIONS to be asked, than for answers to be manufactured in pursuit of followers and views. Note: As you read, follow the purple.
Our social and intellectual environments are conflated as never before: what passes for cognitive analysis and mindful understanding is mostly indistinguishable from social tribalism. Fact is conflated with position. Authority is conflated with celebrity. Guidance disappears for lack of even a definition of Truth, much less consensus. A Wild West culture of absolute relativism literally "trumps" all reason or sustainable action. You don't need to know or think; you just need to recognize the tone and rhetoric that knee-jerk your attention toward your tribe of choice. No New Thoughts get past the gate. And because change is impossible in the absence of originality or innovation, the warring tribes accumulate mass and momentum, repelled ever further apart. The soundtrack beneath the FaceBook feed of "an examined life," is an endless loop of white noise. Echoing in a vacuum of trust, wisdom, integrity and service is just scary silence.
Vying for Influence: What is the the underlying motivation driving our cravings for multitudinous, anonymous public attention?
I no longer confine the notion of "Influencer" to the entrepreneurial narcissists of all ages and causes who have systematically cultivated their ME ME ME platforms. They want money, or compensatory love, or just more witnesses to the fact that they had an idea with no place to go. Now I recognize with dismay that these magpies have simply provided a bad role model for the rest of us interactive media consumers. Maybe we're tired of minding our own business. It doesn't much matter who you want to be seen/heard by -- or why -- because Just to compete in the game should be short-sighted goal enough for any incrementally diminished attention span.
I wonder who wakes up in the middle of night and thinks to themselves: "Oh my God... what am I DOING?"
What can we say about a population of individuals who are physically unacquainted, yet immersed in conversation up to hours every day with a menagerie of online communities, all the while invisibly enriching commercial platforms with our precious profiles? Are we lonely? Are we angry, frightened, confused? Are we just friendly and in the mood to share? Are we seeking reinforcement for our worldview, maybe searching for our own buried identity by gleaning which ones already out there seem most popular, cool, sexy, radical, safe? Like urban fisherman in concrete, or in this case, digital jungles are we casting the live bait of our own insecurities just to see if anything out there "bytes?" (pun intended)
The answer is probably D) All of the Above, and then some... The deep rooted needs and subconscious black holes in our intimate histories and collective psyches have gained keys to the dungeons in which some part of us is confined since birth. What exactly imprisons us? Hmmm... could it be a well-meaning, and sometimes just mean social experiment that paralyzes the human spirit and intuition so that it might better conform to generational norms more shaped by commerce and control than by timeless innate longings for transcendence, and the "better angels of our nature?" Fun Fact: This appeal by Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address urged citizens to recall and preserve what made the Union great and worth preserving. Some would say that the game was already lost, even then. Now a century and three-quarters later the question is: Do we still have the Will to keep flighting?
I have been saying a lot lately that, scream out for change as loud as we might, there is no change without the Will to Change. No matter if the spotlight is on women's biological rights, gun sanity, climate sanity, racial justice, the age-old demons of poverty and disenfranchisement, the looming implosion of democracy, or the enduing unthinkable patriarchal habit of killing people as a way to solve problems (for just a teeny little start), if the dominant investment is in the Greater Greed rather than the incorruptible intention to change, nothing will happen. So what is the question here? What does the Greater Good look like? And what would compel us to invest in the heavy work of scale-tipping in that direction, away from what we've been creating up to now?
Sorry folks, but in my very best Parrot voice I'm going to say it again: the Civil Rights movement in the 1960's, Gandhi's Salt March, Anti-Apartheid in South Africa, Women's Suffrage, American Farm Workers Union, Vietnam Protests, the Boston Tea Party, itself (not that OTHER Tea Party for heaven's sake) -- these are models for successful social upheaval from the grassroots shooting upward. The tiny tip of a hierarchical pyramid has no Will to Change unless it is forced by real threat of toppling. Perhaps since the time of the Founding Fathers, hierarchy is designed for obsolescence when its closed doors and self-interests inevitably alienate the Persons of Humanity it was designed to serve.
Ah, but here are a few more questions: What if those Persons of Humanity have, themselves, been divided into camps, set at odds to increasingly vicious degrees? What if the illusion of their opposition was invoked, encouraged and incited by an inside hierarchy of self-interested actors invested in the dis-unity of their underlings -- a sure formula for dis-traction and dys-function? The opposite of solidarity is Manipulated Othering and it works every time by dividing the Whole, diluting the force of its focus, and diverting the instinct toward the Greater Good with an array of shiny objects like: attention, fame, celebrity, followers, boku friends, and enough empty influence to ease the gut-wrenching ache of insufficiency beneath, if only for a proverbial 15 minutes.
Lest I misrepresent, we're not talking Conspiracy Theory here, but something more like the Perfect Storm. I don't believe this Dumb and Dumber trend we've been co-manifesting would likely yield the Mastermind who holds our fate in the palm of his hand by holding infinite personal/social/cultural/global variables and the Indra's Net of their inter-connections in his superhuman brain. The Perfect Storm is sufficient to explain it all: the unhealed wounds that eventually fester and sicken the character of those in power and those who "wanna be." The demise of a coherent public conversation about values and remedies in parallel with personal growth that re-prioritizes material supremacy over spiritual insight. Finally, spin together the cold, precise mathematics of chance with the terrible synchronicity of an actual Antichrist in our midst and ... Holy Shift!
Ironically, it's been conservative Christians who've urged us to be on the lookout for the Antichrist, expected to appear shortly before the Big Finish. Here, then, are a few things to know about him, just in case:
1. He is the Son of Satan
The Antichrist was the perfectly evil human being because he was completely opposite to the perfectly good human being, Jesus Christ.
(Anyone come to mind?)
2. He is an earthly tyrant and trickster
He is accepted as a Messiah and ruler by his supporters. Those whom he cannot convert to his cause, he would just as likely torture and kill.
(Anyone come to mind?)
3. He Holds Highest Offices
Another narrative of the Antichrist is that now he is no longer the tyrant outside of the highest ruling institution of the day, but the deceiver within it. In short, he could be the President or even the institution of Government, itself.
(Anyone come to mind?)
4. He is one and many
Ethics scholar, D. Stephen Long suggests the Antichrist represents: “not a single person but a political pattern that repeats itself by taking on power to oppress the poor and the just”. His genius is in his power to clone his supporters into extensions of himself, mindlessly mimicking his lies and schemes even at the risk of their own welfare.
(Anyone come to mind?)
Here is a question: How are we, deafened by the cacophonic din of social media, to sense a still, small voice that might belong to a new kind of leadership, or to an authentic hero/ine who has something original and helpful to tell us? If it exists, how will we recognize this radically empowering impulse that synthesizes brain, heart and spiritual maturity to inspire an actual way forward, out of this mess?
Mainstream news sources, far right to far left and everything in between, will never alert us to a prophetic idea because their services are not designed, nor are their personnel trained for that. Think of a paper bag holding water, or whether you'd like a computer programmer performing your knee replacement surgery. An old machine with many moving parts that can't be replaced anymore operates against tremendous inertia. Innovation is almost inconceivable under the economic and ideological pressures they face, by their own doing. How many of us would continue to tune in if better alternatives were openly offered to a public that can't fairly be expected to look deeper and do the research? (e.g.https://www.thegoodwebguide.co.uk/best-sites/best-alternative-news-websites-citizen-journalism/16752).
The feeding frenzy that is social media has made it nearly impossible for us to conceive of a reversal -- a strategically sound and well engineered commitment to rethink these platforms as tools that work for our collective Greater Good. The lessons of grassroots social movements reveal the elemental synergy of the One and the Many. The seemingly impossible power of unified shift is, in the end, a matter of devotion and discipline. What if, instead of followers, we all decided to become disciples? And instead of trading "views," we traded in authentic worldviews, making the common good our common goal?
Self-responsibility would be the keyword underlying every post, and that attribute of character is only achievable if, along with the Will to Change, we take a deep breath and dive deep into the Will to Good. It would require, to shamelessly oversimplify, some honest personal work on all of our parts. Though the social experiment is not designed to support us , we can support each other in drawing guidance from the immutable wisdoms of world cultures, spiritualities, the compassion in our blood, and the genius that works through us when we open our pure heart. The Will to Good is like the root of the grass -- it will seek any light it can find.
True heroes and new leadership is no single person, no matter how many followers, charisma, or influence. This era of social media and customized truth has leveled that playing field beyond return, nor should we seek return. This is what fighting for our lives looks like -- and we ARE designed, innately, to succeed. Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term meaning "humanity." It is sometimes translated as "I am because WE are. By seeing and hearing others, we earn the right to BE seen and heard. If we cultivate a taste for the sacred elixir of a true need fulfilled, we will never buy the chemical sugar water of "Likes" again (even if there are coupons).
This is about the actionable meaning of co- creation: no one gets a pass; every one matters. A "Group Messiah" would be a wondrous thing to behold.
Question: Are we bearing witness to the fall of another civilization that started out strong but took a wrong turn when it failed to recognize and honor it's own Divine Nature?
Said the poet, John Donne, in The Anatomy of the World in 1611...
“Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone”.
Question: OR... Is there another chapter to our story and do we have the devotion and discipline to shape it? Even if we can't quite see a happy ending, a happy beginning is quite another matter.
Said Henry Rollins, American singer, poet, monologuist, and publisher...
"My optimism wears heavy boots and is loud!"