Remember the kids in the back of your teenage classroom? Not bad, just not engaged. Before Zen and yoga became trendy they were pioneers in living in the here and now. History? Homework? How will they help me get a car today – and some sex tonight? What’s a square root and how will knowing about it help me buy beer with my fake ID? Hey teacher, if you’re not spreading instant gratification, leave those kids alone.
Most of us have moved on since then, with varying degrees of what society defines as success. That includes most of those kids, too. They found jobs, raised their families and dealt with life’s ups and downs as best they could. They learned that they could live a decent life in a community of friends and family without wanting or needing much involvement with the “big issues” of society. Like many of us, they never retreated from society, they just didn’t participate in the fictional life promoted in our textbooks. When was the last time you heard an electorate described as well-informed and involved?
Then change hit. No, not the incremental change that nudges us away from our established routines without impacting our direction. But revolutionary change – like jobs that were always available evaporating or moving to machines or Asian labour. Like daily newspapers and evening newscasts dying while 24-hour opinions replace edited reporting. Like society’s role models being revealed as humans with clay feet and loose zippers, not gods on pedestals. Like those people who were always beneath you on the ladder getting several legs up. To where you used to be.
The result? All of a sudden we have an electorate that’s pissed off and striking out – reacting with fear instead of responding from thought – doing the only things they know how to do. Shepherded by today’s demagogues, they’re bent on tearing down society’s structure in the name of selfishness. Their anger is understandable, in many cases justified, but it’s a nuclear explosion on the body politic. Today’s actions are creating a toxic wasteland that makes it hard to plant the seeds of a new society that works for most people, not just the few. And the few don’t care, because they’ve retreated to their enclaves and paid their hired guns – excuse me, media experts – to handle the madding crowds.
We need to be re-rooted, since the soil we used to grow in – family-community-church-job-society-media-music – have all changed in significant ways, far beyond normal generational changes. It’s one thing for your kids to like the new/reject the old. It’s another when you’re surrounded by society’s apparent rejection of everything you hold dear and you feel hung out to dry. You haven’t just lost your place on the social ladder, the ladder itself has collapsed and there’s no way it’ll ever be rebuilt.
So…do I have a simple answer for all this? Of course not. But since so many of the leaders of today’s anger-driven politics call themselves Christians, I’d like to suggest that they set aside their fixation with ten pre-Christian commandments and begin to pay active attention to ten suggestions from the person they call their Savior:
- The list starts with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
- In the middle, you’ll find, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
- And at the end of the list: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
For the rest of the list, you can find the eight Beatitudes at Matthew 5:3-10. The two greatest commandments are at Matthew 22:36-40.
If you’d prefer to leave religion out of the picture, give some thought to the verse that’s engraved on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
They’re all available online, if you don’t have a bible or history book handy.