Can this society be saved from itself?

Posted July 24th, 2012 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Can this society be saved from itself?

Fostering Ecological Hope
Reflections on Culture and Meaning

by Margaret Swedish

Listening to this culture attempt to talk to itself about gun violence in the wake of the Aurora CO massacre is really depressing. It sounds a lot like the way we talk about climate change in the face of unprecedented drought, floods, storms, Arctic melting, Greenland glacier calving, ocean acidification, catastrophic death of coral reefs, deforestation, and species extinction…

…we immediately tell ourselves why in the face of the terror and collapses, we don’t need to really change anything.

It’s why some of us get pretty discouraged about our prospects. To hear people like John McCain and right-wing pundits, along with our president and that other candidate, try to tell us why this is the wrong time to discuss gun control is a lot like saying that when we get the climate back to normal, or when we get the economy to right itself, we can talk maybe then someday about the need to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. It’s a lot like hearing the Catholic Church tell us that we ought to stop handing out contraceptives as part of health plans or funding UN Population Programs while the planet is going to be bursting with population pressures by mid-century.

We go on and on in these worldview constructs while they are being blown apart under the weight of reality.

The AR-15: just a handy little sports item. Could the guys that wrote the Second Amendment ever have imagined something like this?!

I found myself pondering this yesterday as I watched the mostly woeful cable news coverage – that if we can’t talk about banning assault rifles and online purchases of massive amounts of ammunition in the wake of something as horrifically obvious as what happened in Aurora, our chances of shifting industrial civilization at the scale required to save us from a pretty depressing future is not so great.

By the way, the name of the perp is James Holmes. Now Prez Obama and others are saying that they will  not mention his name in public because he does not deserve the attention  he is going to get by being one of the nation’s great mass murderers (I mean, really, could anyone get through 5  mins of their lives yesterday without seeing his dazed face in that courtroom?! Are we really robbing him of attention by denying him his name?).

His name is James Holmes. He was born into us and out of us. He lives among us. He has family, he’s had 24 years of troubled life, and he is undoubtedly very ill. Like it or not, he is part of us. This mental exercise to remove his name from our consciousness, to completely dehumanize him, won’t work, friends. He is human. Humans do things like this. Check out the bombs in Iraq yesterday, legacy of our war there.

Okay, now that we have put James Holmes back among the dysfunctional human family, let’s ponder what this attempt at cutting him off from us, to wash our hands of him, tells us about our prospects for understanding our connections, our interrelatedness, with all that is – in other words, how we cannot keep our happy little lives to ourselves apart from the terrors, tragedies, collapses, and disasters happening all around and within us. Worse, as we know, so much of our happy little lives are part of what creates the terrors, tragedies, collapses, and disasters happening all around and within us.

Like allowing the ban on assault rifles to lapse. Like building bigger houses with higher ceilings and then turning up the a.c. in summer heat waves to keep them cool while Appalachian mountaintops are being blown to bits.

Part of the problem is that we are becoming increasingly unable to simply stand in the moment, quiet and attentive, to really pay attention to what is actually going on, the impacts of our mutuality and interdependence, to know in the moment how truth presents itself.

In his book, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh asks, “Can we live in a way that helps us see the causes that are present in the effects and the effects that are present in the causes?”  No, apparently we can’t. By attempting to cut James Holmes off from us and then saying our love of guns and violence, along with our breathtakingly irresponsible lax gun control laws, have nothing to do with the massacre he just perpetrated is a perfect example of living in a way that does not see, that does not want to see, the connections, the interrelatedness, the “inter-beingness,” of these realities.

And so we go on with our wholly unsustainable, self-destructive way of life on the planet, thinking that somehow I can protect myself from all the interrelations that are cause and effect of everything, that make up the reality of the world we have made.

No, we cannot cut Holmes off from us no matter how hard we try. And we cannot remove blame from all the assault weapons-lovers and second amendment manipulators and gun lobbyists and fear-mongers and intimidated politicians anymore than we can really convince ourselves that our earth-consuming, earth-contaminating way of life can be separated out from the urgent need to bring industrial civilization down as gently, and as swiftly, as we can if we are to have prospects for a decent future for the generations now coming into our world.

When we finally grasp these connections and live in them truthfully and honestly, we will have taken the most important step in bringing about the Great Turning.


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