Time for a reprinting of part of my New Year’s post for 2011:
“Long held hierarchial communication within religious, social, and political institutions is giving way to a more egalitarian form of communication. Within my lifetime, dramatic changes have already occurred which reflect this paradigm shift of consciousness. The races see themselves, finally, as inherently equal. The public acknowledgement of homosexual orientation is quickly becoming acceptable, and one no longer has to deny outwardly who one innately is as a sexual being. In the threat of worldwide nuclear disaster, world leaders are realizing that they must work together to achieve common goals rather than to continue a long held pattern of domination and submission. Even this blog, through access to the worldwide web, represents an egalitarian change within the communications arena, in which one voice – my voice – has the possibility of sharing individual truths as widespread as only the mainstreet media had in the past.
The voluntary relinquishing of power is the primary ingredient needed to move from a vertical to a lateral manner of relating to others. The first president of the United States, George Washington, modeled great wisdom for his nation’s progeny, when – after having guided the American military forces to victory over Great Britain – he chose to relinquish his power and to return to life as a private citizen at Mt. Vernon. Most generals, such as Napoleon, would have seized more political power with newfound military power, but Washington in his wisdom knew that, if the future held a place for him within the public arena, he wanted to be viewed as the servant of the people as their elected president, and not as their powerful ruler/king. That simple gesture by George Washington was a gigantic step in changing the order of reality in the world. Today, the world is moving even more rapidly toward that egalitarian spirit, which fosters the dismantling of previously preprogrammed roles, or labels assigned from the outside, and seeks to look inside for greater authenticity. In my second post I had said, “the essential premise in finding one’s true spirit is understanding that all are equal within the spiritual universe. We are all part of the One. We each have equal, individual spirits within the One.”
During Iran’s 2009 presidential election protests, in which the beautiful young woman Neda was killed on the streets of Tehran, people were willing to die so that they would not to be ruled from without by power which, they felt, gave them no voice. They were seeking a more egalitarian world. As Mama Cass Elliot sang in 1970, “a new world is coming.” All the signs point to it. The old world is quickly coming to an end. Do we, individually and collectively, in this next year and beyond, have the grace of spirit – as well as the courage – to relinquish power for service? Are we wise enough to know that America’s first president, George Washington, by his example of deliberately relinquishing power, was modeling for posterity the role he desired for America’s leaders to emulate in the future? Will America acknowledge that all in the world are inherently equal? Will America and Americans lead others in seizing this budding egalitarian world consciousness through the choices we make? If America can lead others into the coming new age, in this new direction, then she, like her first president, will become a great leader through her grace of spirit and wisdom, rather than simply through her power.”
Now, also, is time for a reprinting of the ending of President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech, which he delivered in Olso, Norway on December 10, 2009 :
“Agreements among nations. Strong institutions. Support for human rights. Investments in development. All of these are vital ingredients in bringing about the evolution that President Kennedy spoke about. And yet, I do not believe that we will have the will, or the staying power, to complete this work without something more – and that is the continued expansion of our moral imagination; an insistence that there is something irreducible that we all share.
As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are; to understand that we all basically want the same things; that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.
And yet, given the dizzying pace of globalization, and the cultural leveling of modernity, it should come as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish about their particular identities – their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we are moving backwards. We see it in Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.
Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.
But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached – their faith in human progress – must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.
For if we lose that faith – if we dismiss it as silly or naïve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace – then we lose what is best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.
Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago, ‘I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him.’
So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.
Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that – for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.”