RELATED AUDIO PODCAST: PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY:
Its Role in Creating a Better World
...a virtual online dialogue with nine Berrett-Koehler Authors
John Perkins, David Korten, John Renesch, Angeles Arrien, Alex Pattakos, Charlie Derber, Lee Drutman, Stewart Levine join me in dialogue.
Every time I write about my questionings, I can't explain the uneasiness I feel. I've never considered myself a person who blames and complaines --- far from a typical activist. Oh, I have my opinions, but mostly the things I set out to do have been governed by what I thought was the right thing to do. Over the years, I admit the meaning of what is right has changed.
Perhaps, this idea of thinking, questioning and exploring ideas from others outside my seemingly mainstream thinking is relatively new to me. As Emerson said: "What is the hardest thing in the world? To think." I'm assuming many of you out there may share this same sense of things yourselves.
When I was growing up, I was taught to not make waves (not lady-like), don't question those in authority or never be disrespectful of anyone or anything. These values served me well for the most part. I did do a little protesting in my early life, but in retrospect, it came more from following the flow of all that surrounded me vs. some deep philosophical conviction. In more recent times, as I have been called upon to lead change as a woman, I used a different skill. If I needed to step outside the boundaries of those early values I was taught, I relied more on what I would term INFLUENCING A POSITIVE OUTCOME, instead of making waves. My mentor, who encouraged and coached me, was right. This skill is invaluable --- it often asks more of you --- but INFLUENCE in a positive way can move mountains and create a situation where everyone wins.
The past six years has been an awakening for me. A lot of things I've believed in, and never questioned, have shown up to be myths. I've begun ranting and raving in front of my TV over the short-comings of our government, which hasn't been hard with situations like Katrina, abuses of power and a war gone out of control before my eyes with perhaps 100s of thousands of lives lost and human treasures of our own. Meanwhile, we sit seemingly helpless to stop this situation gone wild and crazy with its power. It appears our founding fathers never imagined we would allow our country to be led by such incompetence, disregard and disrespect for its citizens or that we would be so complacent in our comforts and consuming. Stirrings. As I've been presented with new ideas and begun to think and question, I have realized that that there is much more going on here, and around the world, that was different than it appeared (past) and appears (present). Things I TRUSTED, I discovered were not trustworthy. These are different times. I see things now. Do YOU? They make me sad. Some days they worry me. I find that I feel a bit like my knees wobble when I speak out even like I am here, but I'm committed to practice in my own way and compelled to do it. These times call for leaders of all kinds to stand up for what is right in any way we can, when we see so much is not right. Who else is there to stand up, if not us? It is clear, we need to use spans of influence to sound the bell strongly enough that perhaps it will stir a few citizens to reconsider a few things for themselves.
REVISITING THOMAS PAINE's COMMON SENSE Wisdom
Yesterday, I found a newly published copy of COMMON SENSE by Thomas Paine. It was sitting on the counter when I went to pay for a book at a small bookstore. The quote on the front jumped out at me:
"When my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir."
Stir? Yes, that describes what I see in myself and many others, we are stirring --- how ever slowly it seems, there are clear signs we are stirring as a nation of people. The world is stirring. I hope I am right.
Thomas Paine's wisdom seemed to echo into our reality today as I opened to the first page. He wrote:
"Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour, a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right. raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Times makes more converts than reason."
Time for me is converting me to see with open eyes that the country and our world sit here in peril and I am one of those as you are holding the responsibility for its future.
I was also taken immediately by Thomas Paine's wisdom about the differences of SOCIETY and GOVERNMENT. Ideas we've all forgotten if one measures the out of control abuses of power we have witnessed in recent years. Here is a refresher from Thomas Paine:
"Some writer have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. ... Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country with government, our calamities are heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer...
Where I do think we can be different in recreating a better country and world than we know today is in HOW we go about it. Our generation has collectively witnessed the results of what six years of leadership, with a bent for aggression and violence and power. Violence does nothing but kill, maim, destroy and bring more violence. It makes people desperate and inspires their hate.
I think we need clear, fresh new thinking and a change in our national collective consciousness --- in our global consciousness. Albert Einstein certainly affirmed this when he said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." Violence, war, greed, corruption and abuse of power have not worked well for us. Instead, it seems to me that we have to join together to reclaim our world by our actions, behavior and conviction --- we can start right where we are. We can speak-up; speak-out --- we can use our individual talents in our own spans of influence every day. There is strength in numbers and I believe that we have a powerful force of people wanting a new more economically just, socially peaceful and environmentally respectful, yes?
I have no intention of trying to change your mind to be just like mine --- what I do hope is that you will consider what's in your mind, rethink for yourself, consider some outside perspectives, perhaps even radical kinds of thinking that others put on the table --- dare to listen; it costs nothing ---- and then form your own informed perspective. It is doubtful to me that what you think will not be shaken when you finish this time of self-examination.
We have a long road ahead, but we are a society --- broken perhaps at the moment --- that with a slight shift in consciousness and a little more mutualistic thinking about one another, could be the generation that became the tipping point. This is a time for us to do our best thinking. Then we need to turn our stirrings into action.
The journey of a thousand miles, begins at your feet." --- Lao Tze
May we take a bold step.
Founder, Global Dialogue Center