It is time to … WAKE UP!

by Bill Gilbert

We are being overwhelmed by our failure to keep up with change. Forty-six percent of the American population, according to recent studies, experience stress, anxiety and/or depression.

The United States has the worst social record of any developed country in the world and many developing countries. The character of a society depends on how it treats its most vulnerable members: the poor, minorities, children, elders, and immigrants, LGBTQ, and migrants. We are: number one in prison population with 2.3 million people incarcerated, first in teen birth rates, and some of the highest rates of STD’s, first in illiteracy, poverty, racism, homelessness, income disparity, child hunger, child poverty, drug use and drug related deaths, use of antidepressants, violence, firearms deaths, not providing access to health care for all of its citizens, not providing child care for working parents, never-ending inflation, the most military spending, hazardous waste production, recorded rapes, and the poor quality of its public schools, and lowest in life expectancy. This is warp-speed decline.  Some political observers call the inability of government to solve these problems, ‘constitutional rot,’ that has contributed to wrong decisions in the past.

I am reminded of the Buddha’s Fire Sermon “Bhikkhus, all is burning…burning with the fire of greed, with the fire of aversion, with the fire of delusion.”        www.GNV4All.ORG/

Human-induced global warming/climate change will soon overshadow all other problems that now confront us. Weather events are and will be more numerous and more severe.

Health groups including the American Medical Association, America’s Physician Groups and the American Academy of Nursing produced a climate change agenda calling the issue, “a true public health emergency.”                                         

In the fall of 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a critical report warning that humans cannot allow the average global temperature to warm past 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit or there will quite literally be hell to pay. Species extinction, related to climate change, is happening on the largest scale since the Mesozoic Era 69 million years ago. Nations must cut their greenhouse emissions 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and aim for zero net emissions by 2050.                             

Continuous war.  According to Mark Twain, “Man is the only religious animal . . In the task of smoothing his brother’s path to the happiness of heaven, he has turned the globe into a graveyard.” Human history has witnessed more than enough violence spawned by the rigidity and bigotry of religious dogmas within Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Look at the Middle East today an example of the failure of religion to meet the modern world.  

We are being controlled, governed, and exploited by the Matrix of wealthy, self-serving, corporate, and special interests, and their followers. We are being overwhelmed with problems that have not been adequately dealt with by our broken political system/government and those who profit from the status quo. No other nation takes as large a portion of its revenue from working people at the lower ends of the economic spectrum and as little from persons who have property or high incomes.  We must end this.            

Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascist’s insight was, “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” Bernie Sanders reminds us, “If we do not restore faith/democracy on the part of the American people in their government, that we see their pain, that we have the courage to take on powerful special interests—if we do not do that, more and more people are going to drift toward conspiracy theories, authoritarianism, and violence.”

It is time to demand that our broken political system be repaired . . .so we, The People, can ‘engage’ our compassion through the, truly democratic governance of ourselves.

First:     We must end corporate control (bribery) of our political system.  We must demand the reversal of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case decision.  This will rid our political system of bribery and to re-instate our working democracy designed for human beings – not for the interests of corporate, ‘personhood.’    

Second:    We must eliminate the Electoral College so every person has one vote. Now, the Electoral College gives disproportionate voting power to states, favoring the smaller states with more electoral votes per person.

Third:     We must pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Actthat would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and strengthen voting rights and ethics laws, and close campaign finance loopholes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  Orthodox religion has also failed us by not responding to the human concerns on earth. Carl Jung talked of society’s need for an affective bond. He warned: “Where love stops; power begins, including hatred, violence, and terror.” 

“Humankind is seen as the living proof of cosmic intelligence; in us, the universe repeats over and over again its ability to produce forms through which it becomes consciously aware of itself.”  Carl Sagan, astronomer.   

Thomas Berry a leading spokesperson for the earth, Catholic priest, and grandfather of the deep ecology movement asserts, “Only a radical re-visioning of what it means to be human on this planet will suffice.”

We must remember and promote, the realities that unite the human family: 

-There is only one Earth, one people with many wonderful cultures, and one future for the human family.

-We share the same desire of wanting happiness and the same desire of wanting to avoid suffering.

-We share the same goals of wanting a safe and meaningful life for ourselves, our children, and for our elders.

Joanna Macy, author of ‘The Greening of the Self,’ suggests, “The emergence of the ‘ecological self,’ at this point in our history, is required precisely because moral exhortation does not work . . . Ultimately, deep ecological awareness is spiritual or religious awareness.”  

“We need a moral compass we can use collectively without getting bogged down in doctrinal differences.  We need a holistic and integrated outlook at the level of human society that recognizes the fundamentally interconnected nature of all living beings and their environment. 

“For believers and non-believers, an inclusive approach to secular ethics requires recognition of only two basic principles. 

“Thefirst principle . . . is the recognition of our shared humanity and our shared aspiration to happiness or equanimity and the avoidance of suffering.

“Thesecond principle . . . is the understanding of our interdependence and interconnectivity as a key feature of human reality.  We owe our being to countless other beings, animate and inanimate, near and far.” Dali Lama 

“There is no duality, no separation between Nature and Us, Heaven and Earth, and God and Humanity.” Philip Kapleau, Zen master. Shared identity, shared suffering, compassion for it all – our true nature, true self.  This must be expressed politically because . . .

. . . we know . . . “The entire cosmos is a cooperative.  The sun, the moon, and the stars live together as a cooperative.  The same is true for humans and animals, trees, and soil. Our bodily parts function as a cooperative. When we realize that the world is a mutual, interdependent, cooperative enterprise, that human beings are all mutual friends in the process of birth, old age, suffering and death, then we can build a noble, even heavenly environment. If our lives are not based in this truth, then we shall all perish.”  Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, ‘The Quest for a New Society,’ edited by Sulak Sivaraksa.   

An act is ‘positive’ [Good] if it leads to the fulfillment of one’s being individually and in relation to the environment now and in the future.  If it stimulates growth and opens further opportunities, if it enhances appreciation of living, if

it negates entropy and preserves or increases the order of one’s being and of the environment, if it benefits the

human species and if it is in harmony with the fundamental laws of growth and change which pervade the universe. Something is ‘right’ when it tends to preserve the integrity, beauty, stability, and function of the biotic community.     

“An act is ‘negative’ [Evil] if it damages one’s essential nature, if it limits future choices, if it diminishes the capacity for appreciative awareness, if it betrays confidence or disrupts interaction in relationships, if it exploits people, if it squanders the natural heritage of humanity, if it increases disorder, and if it violates the laws of being.”  From John R. Clark’s, ‘The Great Living System,’UUA,1977.

“Each religion or spirituality has its own well that draws from an underground river of Divinity, so, we need to honor different wells, then journey deep into whatever well we choose till we come to the one river, the source that connects all wells – common human wisdom that motivates us to show kindness and compassion to All People, to All Life, and to Mother Earth, so our species can live sustainably over time.” from ‘Meister Eckhart A Mystic Warrior for Our Times,’ Matthew Fox, 2014

“There is such a thing as being too late,” said Martin L. King Jr. “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.  We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.  In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thig as being too late . . . We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.”  

King’s message was not a hopeless one.  On the contrary, he aimed to remind us that we have more creativity and more power and collective genius than we often imagine.  He called us to a worldwide fellowship, a radical solidarity, that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation.  He called us to embrace an unconditional love for humanity—not just in words but in deeds.  Not just when it is convenient or politically profitable or safe or good for our careers. . .” Michelle Alexander, ‘Only Revolutionary Love Can Save Us Now,’ The Nation, April, 2024. 

People are now recognizing the habitual ways of thinking and doing must change or we risk catastrophic outcomes. Having the technology. . . we lack the compassion and government response to solve our problems.

Therefore, it is time.  It is time to step out of silence.  It is time to engage the elephant in the Dharma Hall. [church or temple] “The ‘elephant’ is the unquestioned social, political, and ethical dimensions of the structures that we all inhabit.  Despite its looming presence, this elephant is mostly ignored.  There is a refusal to recognize its existence, let alone address it in any significant way. . . If our quest for personal flourishing in this world, through the study and practice of Buddhism [and other religions] does not lead us to question the structures that give rise to hunger, inequality, prejudice, and injustice, then our “Buddhism” [and other religions] exists in a rarefied atmosphere divorced from the struggle for existence of billions of beings on this planet. . .

“We may despair at the individual and institutionalized greed that has brought the world to the point of collapse.  And yet, the silence of the dharma [and religious] world toward the political forces that have brought us to this point is not questioned or critiqued often enough.  Such silence amounts to a complicity by omission.  There should be a constant highlighting of the political forces that have brought us to the critical juncture that we find ourselves in.

“First, we must talk about the injustices created by the social, political, and ethical structures we inhabit. Silence is not an option. It is being complicit.  Second, we must act using peaceful non-violent actions. A new society can come about only by a collective forging of the form that society might take.” From, ‘The Elephant in the Dharma Hall,’ John Peacock, Tricycle, Spring, 2024. For a list of organizations, see the Iguana Directory www.gainesvilleiguana/  

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