[I promise that I have several horticultural posts in the works and I will be posting them in the next two or three weeks…it’s just that the world is so crazy right now and there is still too much fighting amongst ourselves. We need to start taking control of the ‘discussion’ for our own sanity and the good of this country. Please, I want to start gardening again!]
We don’t truly realize our own power, and how it works…we surrender it to our “leaders”, because it is difficult for us to reach out to each other, to make the effort to network, to trust in like minded, but ‘unknown’ individuals and ‘live’ the life we want and each deserve. To do this requires our full commitment, our full awareness and our faith that at our core we all share compatible goals for our own lives and for those of our children…it requires courage. It requires that we understand that each of us will choose a path that is unique to them, but that each of us can still be respectful of all of the others. At its best, at its fullest expression, it is inclusive of all people requiring only that others be the same. We have to be strong to rise above our own fear and clear sighted enough to see through the fear that others might use to sway us, to manipulate us. We know when something is ‘true’, because truth will always resonate within us. Fear, dishonesty, falsity…will send a discordant vibration through our core that will leave us feeling fearful and angry, it will cause us to look at others with suspicion and put us into a defensive stance, it will feed the fear that can threaten any of us and cause us to react, if we aren’t careful, to others in ways that are disrespectful and harmful to them. We might say that we are protecting ourselves, our children and our communities, but when we act out of this kind of fear and anger, we are not…when we do this we have given up on hope, on love, we have ‘circled the wagons’ and are making our ‘last stand against’….When we define ourselves in opposition to…we are accepting a world and lives that are less than, we have surrendered and either are awaiting rescue or are desperately hanging on to the belief that we can defeat ‘them’, and we and our lives are all smaller for it.
The problem isn’t the poor, their staggering numbers and the cycle of poverty they seem trapped in…it’s all of the hurdles and barriers that block their efforts to get out of it, that we are blind to, that we refuse to see. The problem is that the ‘economy’ needs them to help instill the fear into the rest so that we stay with even the most demeaning poorly paying job that we can find, to keep from falling further. The problem is that the poor help prop up profits, by keeping labor costs down. The problem is that we all need money in this post-industrial-consumer world, a world within which few of us truly do for ourselves, a world of shoppers and purchasers, a world that has put a price on everything…and then no matter how hard we may work, it is barely enough, or inadequate to meet even our most basic needs… and then we tell the poor that it’s their ‘fault’, their fault that they were born into the wrong family, the wrong community, without the network and opportunities that the rest of us have more access to, that the wealthy have in excess. The problem is that the poor don’t go to the best schools, have good healthcare and family and friends with connections who can give them opportunities. The problem is that poverty ‘breaks’ families often leaving them ill equipped to prepare their children for a better future, with more room for love. The problem is that the wealthy don’t worry where their next meal is coming from, if they’ll have a safe and clean home to sleep in tonight. The problem is that the wealthy don’t know the poor, don’t know how hard many of them work, don’t want to. And, the problem is that the wealthy want to keep their wealth, they don’t want to give it up to the poor and so, strategically, blame them. The problem is that so many of us ‘believe’ that the wealthy earned it, that they truly are smarter and worked long incredibly hard hours to attain it….as if one person’s time could be worth a thousandfold and more than another’s. The problem is that too many of us envy the rich, that we are willing to accept sacrificing the poor to greed. The problem is that we don’t recognize our own right to dignity or even to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The problem isn’t that too many people have an unwarranted claim on their financial security, that they have pensions, and investments that will support them in their retirements, that they are undeserving of…it’s that millions of others don’t, that mine could disappear in an instant, that we don’t have a right to even a minimal level of financial security, that it is more important that the wealthy and corporations grow their profits when so many others go without and are riddled with anxiety. The problem is the huge and growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor, the shrinking middle class. The problem is that the generals of the financial markets can’t stand that they don’t have access to the enormous funds of the Social Security system and the opportunity to have it for themselves.
The problem isn’t that some have health insurance right now, and that millions of Americans don’t…the problem is that we have to buy it for ourselves, that we are forced to choose between the many things that we need, only one of which is healthcare. The problem is that many of us must choose between our health and having a roof over our head, or pay the electric bill, or feed our children 3 squares a day and save money for their education. The problem is that none of us have the right and access to regular healthcare or the assurance that they can get it when they need it. The problem is that our right to life does not come with healthcare. The problem is that this basic human ‘right’ is less important than the health industry’s ‘right’ to profit.
The problem isn’t that there is not enough available housing or that millions of people prefer to live in their cars or a tent…the problem is that millions of Americans don’t earn enough money to meet the lenders requirements, or to afford the increase in their monthly rent even thought they work full time, although many can only find jobs that are part time so that employers have more freedom in their scheduling. The problem is that millions of Americans can only afford the most meager of housing choices and that it isn’t profitable enough for the banks, the property owners and the developers to provide it for them, so they don’t. It would be burdensome and reduce their profit margin to require them to provide it, so instead, millions must wait until the ‘housing stock’ deteriorates to the point where they can afford it. The problem is that when housing stock declines and becomes cheaper owners are less likely to give it the maintenance it needs and it degrades more, until the cycle begins again and the cheap housing is removed and new more expensive housing takes its place. The problem is that in ‘hot’ markets investor money pours in upgrading the housing stock, or simply holding it, flipping it to make a high return. The problem is that no one wants to live near the poor so they are ‘moved’ to less desirable, less accessible parts of town. The problem is that where there are more poor, there are fewer jobs because investors and their money go elsewhere. The problem is that we don’t value people, we don’t grasp their potential or anticipate the value of their contributions to come or the cost of those who are denied their full rights and the opportunities that arise in healthy vibrant communities. The problem is that too many of us want the ‘big’ house and are willing to deny others any house at all. The problem is that we recognize an owner’s and investor’s right to profit, to whatever the market will bear, over our right to shelter and housing security. The problem is that we have to ‘compete’ for housing with those who have much greater ‘resources’. The problem is that this often drives the cost of housing beyond the reach of many, not just the poor, and people are forced out of their neighborhoods and cities because the economy is booming and there are few checks on the rapid rise to its cost. The problem is that we have no right to housing that even our dignity is revocable. The problem is that so many of us are one paycheck away from eviction.
The problem isn’t that we are being flooded and threatened by immigrants…its that we live in a world that too often uses violence to take from others, putting them and their families at risk, creating the conditions that cause them to flee. The problem often is that when nations play at politics, wars begin and people’s homes and lives are threatened and destroyed. The problem is that so many countries and corporations perpetrate economic violence on others and the effects can be nearly as devastating as war. The problem is that in too many countries the land and resources of the people have been lost to them, stolen or traded away by the powers that be, so that regular citizens can no longer support themselves and in many cases, can’t even afford to feed themselves. The problem is that some countries are willing to sacrifice the lives of another’s citizens for political/economic reasons. The problem is that many of these countries have no or little history of democracy and have never recognized the human rights of their own people…their ‘rights’ are instead revocable privileges. The problem is that such places are ripe for rule by despots and that no matter how cruel they may be there will be foreign governments and investors willing to back them in order to get what they want. The problem is that so many powerful countries and corporations don’t recognize the human rights of another country’s citizens, that too often these people become the casualties of war and oppression and that they must flee or die. The problem is that to live in a country that refuses to recognize your basic human rights is no way to live. The problem is that many of these countries rightly fear an uprising of their own people so they act aggressively, violently, against those they suspect. The problem is that because these people have no legal rights, their governments can treat them with impunity, cavalierly, ruthlessly and no one comes to their aid.
The problem isn’t that immigrants are taking our jobs…the problem is that the economy in their homelands, has failed them, that too often it has become more important that their economy and their resources meet the needs/greed of the multi-national/global corporations, or of their megalomaniacal leaders and their cronies that dominate them than it is to meet the needs and rights of the people. The problem is that there seems to be a general agreement, internationally, among many that this is an acceptable way of doing business, that there are the weak and the strong, that it is better to be on the side of the strong, to have power and influence and to the rest, we can offer them pity and handouts. The problem is that most of us know that this is the way it is and we accept it. The problem is that ‘good’ jobs, jobs that pay a ‘living wage’, that provide needed benefits like healthcare insurance, a retirement program or the income to create one for ourselves and vacations to help us survive the tedium, emotional stress and physical wear and tear that our jobs often inflict on us, are very few. The problem is that too often our jobs leave us in a very vulnerable position.
The problem isn’t the color of my skin, or of yours…the problem is that it seems to matter. The problem is that we live in a world today that has not extended civil and human rights to all people and skin color provides an ‘easy’ way to divide us. The problem is that so many of us still need to see ourselves as better than someone else. The problem is that too often we see difference as a sign of inferiority or of threat. The problem is the idea of precedence, that somethings and people came before others, and because of this, are somehow more deserving. The problem is that those people who legally defined us, have taken power over the rest and have sought to affirm and solidify their own positions. The problem is that those fearful few who first defined us lived in a past with poverty and wealth and could not imagine a world otherwise. The problem is that we ‘need’ legal documentation to define and limit human rights, that we don’t simply choose to recognize them. The problem is that we allow lawyers to carve them up and distribute them like pieces of a kill. The problem is, our failure to understand and value ‘others’, that because it is difficult to do this, so many of us would chose to surround themselves with others like themselves. The problem is that this pressure to conform to some narrow standard, diminishes everyone of us, reduces us to a common denominator and rejects the rest. The problem is that we ‘expect’ that our lives should be easy, that we not be required to make accommodations. The problem is that all our claims to individuality are false when we deny it to others and force each other into a political homogeneity.
The problem isn’t that the poor, Blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, Immigrants, Homosexuals, Transpeople, Women…have rights that they are undeserving of, the problem is many of us have mistaken certain privileges for rights, rights over others, rights that supersede the internationally recognized rights of all people. The problem is that we accuse others of claiming ‘special rights’ when they are simply claiming their human and civil rights…rights that have been denied to them, due to our claim to privilege. The problem is that many of us have become selfish and do not want to give up our privileges. We fear that giving them up will diminish our lives somehow, that our ability to possess stuff and wield power over others, will some how reduce the quality of our lives. The problem is that too many of us are struggling in this society, trying to keep up, make ends meet and that as long as we can see ourselves as better off than, as above, some others, well, that is some satisfaction. The problem is that all of the stuff in the world, all of the power that we could ever effectively wield, will never be enough, because it is the wrong thing, it cannot fill the hole many feel. For those who do enjoy their rights, that have the security that they need in their lives, anything else that we ‘need’ we already have, if we only look inside ourselves, to our families and friends, our communities. The problem is that we look to our country to provide these things for us, when all that it really needs to do is to grant and assure us those rights that each of us deserve. The problem is that we can’t do this by taking from others, by denying them what is their birthright. The problem is that we don’t believe that we are ‘enough’.
The problem isn’t that the Muslim’s of the world would destroy our country, our lives and abolish Christianity…it’s that they simply want to be left alone to worship as they please, to live their lives, with dignity, unbothered…but we invaded them, sought control of their resources and forcibly tried to deny their way of life, pitted one faction of their people against another, for our immediate benefit. They did not invade us. The problem is that it is the countries of the Christian west that have occupied their countries, sought to control them and take their resources for our own. The ‘problem’ is that they have oil that is accessible, that given today’s markets and technology, can be affordably extracted and processed. The problem is that we believe our ‘right’ to their resources is greater than theirs, that to the victor go the spoils, that might makes right, that the ends justify the means. The problems is the oil/energy companies are allowed a great deal of influence when it comes to our foreign and military policies. The problem is that we are so easily able to justify our own greed. The problem is that we can so easily be lead to ignore the real problem and turn it into a Christian-Muslim thing. The problem is that we look at the long bloody history between followers and continue to rationalize our behavior, and remain blind to the root. The problem is, that at some level, we still believe that we are superior, that we are right, that ours is the one true religion, and we righteously champion our own God and do not see how we are shaped by our own greed. They responded with anger and frustration after repeated and severe provocation. Their action is an ‘understandable’ response to our occupation and violence. When under attack, if our resources and their benefits we’re being denied to us, our profits drained away by local elites, mightn’t we also fight back in whatever way that we could? Mightn’t we rally around our communities and churches if our government failed us in this way? The problem is that we too often deny others the same kinds of hopes and dreams that we have, deny their frustration and right to anger. How much would we sit and take passively?
The problem isn’t that we’re running out of freshwater, oil, timber and the minerals necessary for industry, or that government regulation is standing in the way, that we must ‘sweep’ unnecessary regulation out of the way, to ‘secure’ the resources for our future…the problem is that they were never ‘ours’ to begin with, that the world is finite and that our ‘need’ for more and more of all of them is unsustainable, that this ‘need’ drives up profits and increases our efforts to go to greater lengths to acquire and extract them. The problem is that we see them all for us to use, that we have a right to do so, that there is no higher value but for us to ‘consume’ them! The problem is that, ultimately, we have taken on a consumptive role and abandoned our role as stewards, providers and caregivers, that we fail to recognize that there is something in ‘this’ world that is greater than ourselves, that this world, its materials and its very life, have no value beyond what we can add to it. The problem is that so many of us agree with this and have surrendered to it and have staked the futures of our children and ourselves on our own cleverness and an afterlife. The problem is that everything has value, that everything is related and connected. The problem is that we have become complacent, resigned ourselves to this diminished world and are girding ourselves for even greater conflict in our fight for diminishing resources. The problem is that business has fully committed to an old technology that depends on the massive consumption of resources and spews millions of tons of waste, of pollutants, that are poisoning the world. The problem is that business leaders are unwilling and frightened to take the next step, to embrace new technology that is not so consumptive, but is more creative and productive. The problem is that their ‘need’ for profit drives everything else and they cling to the belief that what we/they do won’t be as potentially horrific as the picture that today’s science is painting. The problem is that we still believe that through shear force of will we can still shape this world into what we want it to be, that after all of the change and destruction that we have inflicted upon it, we are still in ultimate control. The problem is that we are denying what science as well as the ancient wisdoms of indigenous peoples has been telling us. The problem is that, deny as we might, right or wrong, the Earth abides and it will be truly tragic that we have destroyed our chances for a meaningful, life affirming future. The problem is that we have always had an obsession with the end times, the apocalypse, that popular culture is immersed in dystopian futures via television, movies, games and social media…and, that like all play, this is preparing us for a future that we carry in our minds. The problem is that we are suffering from a lack of imagination and hope, from a blindness to see the everyday miracles that still continue to unfold around us…in spite of what we do, to the power of renewal if we only make space for it. The problems is that so many of us no longer strive, to be better, more loving , creative…more aware. The problem is that it is too easy to succumbed to the greed, fear and self-loathing that seems to be everywhere. We sell ourselves short and bet our futures on it. We attempt to find contentment through consumption, not in engagement. We see our lives wanting and rather than fully embrace them, bury ourselves in stuff. We too often live our lives in a state of distraction, fearful to commit and fearful of its end.
Our problem is a spiritual one. We have lost faith in ourselves, in our communities and in our humanity. Our economy is failing us, because it denies or minimizes the values, morals and ethics of the societies within which it operates, because it only recognizes the human rights of a select few. Everything has had a price put upon it, as if the market somehow ‘knows’ the ultimate value of something. Environment and society are reduced to inputs to the great economic engine whose primary goal is profit…and through some inexplicable process it ‘decides’ value of each of our lives and everything of this world. Our survival has been tied closely to it. Very few of us have the ability or desire to retreat to the days of village production, when life depended directly upon our own abilities and those of our neighbors with whom we could trade. That is not the only alternative here. There is no reason why business cannot take upon itself the values of its population and extend them the human rights that all deserve, as well as recognize the ‘rights’ of the greater world and the life that shares it which we all depend upon. Life could direct business rather than the other way around. To live in a world that recognized our value as human beings would be a remarkable and freeing thing, an integrated, coherent, world, a world dominated by neither business nor religion. It is time that the values that honor and celebrate Life itself, its quality, diversity and beauty, were brought to the fore. Human rights are life affirming. We must always carry in the back of our minds the understanding that rights of any kind won’t matter on a planet on which there is no one left to claim them.
We are an amazing species and Americans are a ‘great’ people! We always have been, no matter what the race or ethnicity of our population, no matter what our differences. Ecologists have long argued that true strength and health lies within diversity, all of the species of a place living in relationship, in harmony, with one another, adding strength to strength. The survival of the fittest, natural selection, has only ever been a piece of the puzzle. There is a greater miracle behind it whether you attribute it to your God, to DNA or an evolving ‘intelligence’ that lies just beyond the edges of the visible world. The problem is that we live in a country that does not fully realize this. The problem is that this ‘us’, so narrowly defined, is becoming the a new minority and we fear what that could mean for us because we have not been good stewards and friends to our brothers and sisters and so we fear relinquishing that power to define and control. The problem is that the stresses that we all feel are building up and if you put enough stress on a system, whether it is mechanical or living, it will breakdown and fail to do what it needs to, what it was originally intended to do. The problem is that the powers that be, many of them, are afraid of what’s coming next, and are so wedded to the past, that they are trying to hold back the next change. But change is necessary. It is natural.
The problem is that we seem to believe that human rights are something that we can dole out when in actuality they already reside within each of us and our only choice is to recognize them or not. There are multiple international treaties and covenants that underscore our rights, rights that too many countries, including our own, do not always recognize, in their own population and, to often, in those of other countries. While we continue politicizing them, the rights are there. We can only deny them and remain in a struggle, or embrace them and move on to the next unfolding, and there will be more, as we continue to struggle with our place as a people in this world. Many other organizations and institutions have already begun defining the rights of other species, of our pets, the domestic animals which we consume for food, of wildlife, even the rights of place, the waters that flow on them and the plants that live in communities there. This process will never be finished, it is part of the responsibility that we have as a thinking, reflecting species, part of our role as ‘dominant’, as a steward and protector of each other and the life on this planet, our awakening from our role as one dimensional ‘consumers’, to a mature and full participant. It is ultimately not just the rights of our fellow human inhabitants which we are responsible for, it is for the planet itself.