This article is part of a series. Read Part Two here.
In the fallout from a worldwide economic system run amok, our environment has been poisoned. People guilty of no harmful have been jailed or executed. But, keen manipulators of banking and industry show us how untouchable from the consequences of justice their calculated actions are. Slavery, now conveniently tucked out of the sight of our tender, first world sensibilities, still affects a grotesque amount of human beings on the planet. A recent analysis by the Global Slavery Index showed nearly 30 million people are enslaved around the world. During the entirety of legalized slavery in early America, it was less than 600,000 persons. A paltry number, one might think, considering we’re careening towards eight billion people, not even four tenths of a percent of the population are present-day slaves.
Now, add to that dismal statistic of how many people live in extreme, absolute poverty. Continue to add to that the generations of families whose lifespans are cut short due to their severe living situations which compromise their health and well-being and then, for the sake of what we’re discussing here, the wanton, unconscious objectification of the other. Consider the tremendous amount of animals slaughtered for human pleasure (and just as often, for waste in our over-consumptive society) and you have a figure, that highlights a grim and unnecessary statistic of the modern world where the controllers regard many of their fellow humans as “useless eaters”.
Slavery is documented back to the earliest civilizations, but massive poverty hasn’t always been with us.
The core behavior that enables slavery, poverty, over-consumption, waste and disregard is one of objectification. The engine that drives that behavior is an imbued fear, a fear of not having, whether it be basic sustenance for daily life or control over the fate of resource-providing nation states. Objectification and fear are the tent poles under which we collectively shudder from an imaginary brutal downpour borne of our primitive imaginations, stoked for centuries by the scare tactics of more learned, organized and manipulative humans who decreed upon thrones, judged at tribunals or wielded newly acquired weaponry in the battlefield. The driving instinct, always the same: I must secure my own.
This is a conversation we are having more frequently, with young girls claiming their personal sovereignty in fundamentalist theocratic cultures, with the growing demand of worldwide industry and governments to change how they execute their business and politics with profit as their primary or exclusive goal. The memes emerge with more frequency in the subject matter of films as diverse as Gravity and 12 Years a Slave.
In the first film, the viewer is keenly brought into the awesome realm of the humbled astronauts who, time after time, have returned to Earth, desperately attempting to form the words of what it is truly like to look down upon the pale blue dot that is home to all of us and all we have ever known. They behold that dot as an immense sphere stretched out before them like a glowing sapphire, spinning and hurling in a conical vortex as it relentlessly chases its parental life source, our sun, throughout the galaxy, one of billions throughout the cosmos.
In the forthcoming film based on the memoir of a free black man in upstate New York who is kidnapped and spends years enslaved in the pre-Civil War south, our First World sensibilities will again be uncomfortably challenged by the film 12 Years a Slave. Being confronted by the more brutal aspects of our physicality, whether that be the fragility of a human life in the vacuum of space or in the vacuum of our culture, provides a necessary contrast that any truly thinking and feeling human being in the information age needs to experience cognitively and emotionally. We are indeed fortunate to live in a world where we can simulate these experiences so vividly. Whether depicted on screen or known in real life, it is only then, with our awareness propelled higher by the thermal lift of our own emotional experience that we are compelled to take action. It is then, a matter of the type of action we take: reflexive and instinctive, or responsive and insightful.
What actions can be taken in a society, in a world over which we perceivably have no control? What can one person do to change? To consider all the things you cannot change is to build a compelling defense in your mind for giving up the quest for change altogether. To identify the things each of us can change, those things closest to ‘home’: our perception, our attitude, our actions towards others in your community, whether geographic or digitally defined, is what we should be consciously pursuing right now.
We have developed a thick skin in our culture that requires us to be right, to be considered, have our voices heard, our opinions validated and our choices upheld. And yet, before all that must come the simple acts of compassion that consider, listen, validate and uphold others. How curious that the fundamental building blocks of community, of reconnecting with our tribe is to simply follow what has come to be know as the Golden Rule! Our fragile egos make that pursuit anything but simple.
The ancient greeting “namaste” is more commonly used in the West these days, thanks to the proliferation of Eastern practices of yoga and transcendental meditation. The word means to honor the true self of the one you are encountering. What is the true self? Is it the bag of bones we propel around for a few dozen years before it deteriorates and returns to the basic elements from which it first formed en utero? Is there something else to us as sentient creatures that consciously interconnects us, what Rupert Sheldrake denoted as a morphogenetic field that is able to communicate everything from instinct to insight between and across species? The same instinct that guides a human infant to a mother’s breast after birth also compels the newly hatched sea turtle to scramble out of its shell buried in the sand and towards an ocean it has never yet experienced.
What is our instinct, our insight, our knowledge, our higher consciousness compelling us to do? In our attempts to wire the entire world, as Peter Russell forecast in his landmark book The Global Brain, are we not encouraging our higher selves to take us forward into a world where we won’t merely survive in a state of constant instinctual fear and insecurity, but we thrive in a state of conscious intent and interconnected awareness where we recognize the star stuff in each person, in every creature, indeed, in every moment of life we experience. It is an integral tenet of nearly every spiritual practice.
Though we may forge this path with all manner of new devices that technology continues to provide, the truest use of the technology we bring forth is in the imaginings that occur with each firing of electrical synapses in our brains. A sense of radical openness, as techno-optimist Jason Silva has coined the term, is how we must learn to poise our awareness, ideally treating each experience as a dazzling euphoric delight as if we were a child, as if we were high. Such a concept might register as completely impractical within the culturally accepted notion of a competitive, dog-eat-dog world. That world is as concrete or as illusory as one would choose to believe. What kind of world do you want?
Whether you are an astronaut or a slave, starving in squalor or living in regal abundance, your thoughts, your perceptions and your resultant actions present your connection to the rest of the world. Though chaos plays a substantive role in the cymatic modality in which all life vibrates and organizes itself, our task is to keep striving until we arrive at the grandest epiphany of all: we live, experience the contrast, participate in the shifting of awareness as we end one age and emerge into another, on a fragile little world that is but a grain of sand on an expansive cosmic beach. Here begins the awesome quest of re-gathering your tribe. You have the awareness, you have the technology. The thing to remember is: we are one tribe.
Photo Credit: Mask Africa
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