Inner Fireworks: Changing How We See
We've all had flashes of inspiration, bright ideas, moments of clarity, realizations that the old way of thinking or seeing something isn't "it" anymore. Sometimes this new insight comes from within; sometimes it comes from hearing or reading someone else’s perspective. I want to focus on two big topics: our economy and violence. The two seem to be separate subjects, but turn out to be very interrelated.
A growth or no-growth economy?
We’ve all been told that our economy is healthy when it grows, ideally in leaps and bounds. But lately we’ve also been hearing people advocate a “no-growth” economy as we realize that we are outstripping our planet’s capacity to sustain life. So which is it going to be? A growth or a no-growth economy?
One of my favorite visionary activists and author is Frances Moore Lappe´ who presents another way of describing our situation that embraces both ideas. She points out in this excellent interview with Conversation Earth, that the idea of growth is usually seen as positive—we want our gardens to grow, our kids to grow, our wisdom to grow. So when folks talk about “no growth,” people can get confused and worried. What’s wrong with growth? Instead of a “growth economy,” Lappe´ would like us to call our present system an “Economy of Waste and Destruction.” She argues that we can have a vibrant economy without the destructive elements like pollution, greenhouse gasses, etc. We have what she terms a “one-rule economy;” that is, the highest return for existing wealth. It leaves a vast majority of people not making any gains in enhancing their lives, or barely getting by. She says, “This brutal form of capitalism creates suffering and deprivation.” The system has to change. We have to change.
Is Consumerism the problem?
We often hear that rampant consumerism is the problem, and indeed it’s essential that we curb our appetite for stuff and to be mindful of the source of our purchases. But we must consider that many people who feel ignored and marginalized and generally unfulfilled in their lives often turn to buying stuff to feel a sense of dignity, to be part of the culture, to not be left behind. People need to express themselves, to feel a sense of connection and acceptance, to feel more security and powerful in a culture that has deprived people of meaning, power and connection. Given such unfavorable conditions who can blame people for wanting and buying more toys and more stuff? Consumerism is a symptom and we’d best address the roots of the “dis-ease” if we are to save our species and save our planet. Lappe´ advocates a system of dispersed power, transparency and mutual accountability. She urges us to resist “the blame game” and acknowledge we have all contributed to the dire state of affairs we find ourselves in. Lappe´ says people have three essential needs: power, meaning and connection. Without meeting these needs we will continue to see more destruction of the planet and more miserable human existence. It will also lead to more violence. Read more of how Lappe´ speaks of what brings out the worst of us, and what brings out the best. "Growing up as a Species, Accepting the Worst, Realizing the Best."
We also must recognize and accept the biophysical limits of our Earth as we consider what we buy. We in wealthier countries can follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s motto, “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Do without,” so that those who have so little can at least have their basic needs met.
How does violence relate to the economy? Injustice begets violence
Our present political and economic systems sow the seeds of violence. It’s easy to see the violence of a gun shooting, a bomb exploding into a crowd, war, rape. We are most horrified, repulsed, shocked and saddened to witness such violence perpetrated by a person or group of people against other people. But we typically don’t think of the harm done by cutting services for the poor or health care for millions, or removing benefits of food and shelter for the needy, or dismantling environmental protections as violence, but many consider these to be acts of institutional violence.
It seems inevitable that the more inequality and injustice there is in the world, the more we destroy and degrade our life support systems the more we will see increasing violence. People who are deprived, depressed and angry will resort to violence if there is no other outlet for their frustration. In his article,"Violence Begets Violence," Rabbi Michael Lerner writes “It is predictable that those who are using violence worldwide to achieve their policy goals and to protect American corporate interests, will face more violence from random individuals incensed by the hypocrisy that they hear from elected officials and media personnel pretending that America is an exception to, rather than a perpetrator of, the violence that is poisoning our world.” As Lerner says, “We also need compassion for the deeply misguided among us who, in moral outrage at the violence of this system, resort to violence.”
Why are more and more people turning to violence? We should condemn all acts of violence—personal and institutional—and do what we can to prevent them. We also urgently need to look more deeply at the roots of violence, at the roots of any dysfunctional and harmful behavior really: alcohol and drug addiction, obesity, suicide, depression and despair, to name a few.
Terrorism grows when there is no other option, and as long as the world economy has at its center the god of money and not the person. This is fundamental terrorism, against all humanity. —Pope Francis
Related Articles and Resources
The Small Planet Institute, Frances Moore Lappe´
Network of Spiritual Progressives, Rabbi Michael Lerner
If you're seeking more understanding of the roots of terrorism and violence, there are several excellent articles listed under Favorite Articles to Inspire Change — "Terrorism" on this website. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
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