The options before us
WE CAN DO THIS ONE PERSON AT
A TIME, OR ALL OF US AT ONCE
We can do this one person at a time — undertaking humanity’s huge course correction by pointing singularly to every allegedly offending individual we can find, bringing that person down with career-ending and life-ruining accusations — or we can do it en masse by just admitting that our species has been divided into the Oppressors and the Oppressed for thousands of years. We can confess that we have been getting it all wrong all along.
We have a problem on this planet that transcends the current outrage over sexual assault, harassment, and misbehavior — as legitimate and important a development as that is. (And it is.) Yet we should not allow our outrage and our social course correction to stop there.
We can continue by acknowledging that it is not just women who deserve to be placed on the Finally Being Believed List. People of color, citizens with special needs, persons who identify as gay, members of particular religions, people who are poor, those who are homeless, and more than one or two other subgroups within our society have also been begging to be heard and crying out for justice for a very long time.
The problem here is systemic. The problem is cultural. The problem is massive and widespread in areas sexual, social, racial, political, economical, and spiritual, and it will not be solved by asking those few who actually get caught (or who are alleged to have gotten caught) to alone pay the price for the ongoing, centuries-long dysfunctions of an entire species called humankind. And before that statement is mis-characterized, this is not a call to excuse any specific behaviors – sexual misconduct or others – but just the opposite. We must all pay the price, because humankind has NOT been kind, but has been behaving like barbarians. We must pay the price beginning now, by increasing the cost, at once and all across human society, to people and groups who would oppress other people and groups ever again. And I believe we would do well to see if we can find a way to forgive those who have offended in the past, to look within our hearts to see if there is a place of compassion and mercy sufficient to allow us not to overlook their offenses, but to overcome them, even as we have allowed many of the very worst among us to be pardoned, and to attempt to reclaim their lives and make things right with their Soul and their God (if they believe in either).
There is a story told about a custom purported to part of the culture of a certain tribe in South Africa. According to the story, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe, regardless of age, begins to talk out loud to the accused, one at a time, about all the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime.
Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. No one is pemitted to fabricate, exaggerate or be facetious about his accomplishments or the positive aspects of his personality.
The tribal ceremony does not cease until everyone is drained of every positive comment he can muster about the person in question. At the end, the tribal circle is broken and a joyous celebration takes place, with the person symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.
The story is told in at least two books. Sent by Earth: A Message from the Grandmother Spirit after the Bombing of the World Trade Center and Pentagon, by Alice Walker, and Contact: The first four minutes, by Leonard Zunin, MD
Ms.Walker said in her book: “I am convinced the only punishment that will ever work is love.”
It should be reported that some have said the story has been completely fabricated, and has no basis in fact. I love it whether it is true or not, because I think it give us a wonderful model of how we may heal both ourselves, if we have been hurt or offended by another, as well as the perpetrator of the offense. And, of course, Conversations with God offers us the insight that forgiveness is not part of God’s response to the mistakes made by human beings. As we are told in the CWG cosmology, “Understanding replaces Forgiveness in the mind of the Master.” And God understands that humanity’s weaknesses derive from humanity’s immaturity as a species.
It is that immaturity that has caused our entire species to have never stopped oppressing each other. We’ve never allowed ourselves as a species to experience “power with” – only “power over.” THIS has been the blind spot of humanity. This has been the weakness of our civilization. This has been the core issue from the beginning. And until we resolve this issue, there will always be the Oppressors and the Oppressed.
We are like animals. Like insects. Like every life form that exemplifies and demonstrates behaviors establishing Survival of the Fittest as the highest and best measure of effective and efficient conduct. And the difficulty with trying to change all of this one social issue or one offender at a time is that it will take decades to even make a dent in the number of individuals who we’ve alleged to have been oppressors, and by doing so to change collective behaviors. And we don’t have that kind of time.
Our society is unraveling. Our world is on the brink of nuclear war. Our environment is degrading. Our political frameworks are crumbling. Our economic structures are collapsing. Our spiritual communities are colliding. Our global systems, ladies and gentlemen, are falling apart.
We are seeing that our civilization is not civilized. We are seeing that all lives matter, that all grievances need now to be given fair hearing, and that all of us can play a role in not allowing assault, harassment, and misconduct to continue in ANY area of life without the course correction that our intelligence as a species is telling us is so long overdue.
What is the solution here? Is it really to focus on one issue at a time and all the individual offenders we can find? Or is it to undertake an overhaul of the entire human experience by challenging and changing the fundamental beliefs of our species, and the group behaviors that emerge from them?