Showing posts with label Occupy Wall Street. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Occupy Wall Street. Show all posts

Thursday, January 19, 2012

More Government or Less Government? Democrats or Republicans? How About Both-And? Obama, you listening?

Americans are engaged in a great debate. Should the government take an active and larger role in solving our problems, or, should it step aside, pay off its debts, and give people and the marketplace greater scope?

This debate has polarized and paralyzed both the national dialogue and the collective will to deal creatively and boldly with challenges facing our country, and the world.

Distrust and dislike of a central government was layered into the very fabric of our country’s beginnings. But in the over two hundred years since that time we have granted to the federal government powers one would be hard pressed to suppose the founding fathers had in mind.

So in essence we have come to a crossroads: not only in the sheer size and complexity of the challenges we face but in whether we continue on the trajectory of big government leading and protecting us all or whether we go on alone.

My spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda, has inculcated in me and thousands the idea of “both-and,” rather than “either-or.” So I’ve come to approach issues with an eye to see how two things which, on the surface seem incompatible, might, in fact, be two sides of the same coin.

On the one hand, the issues we face collectively — such as energy sources (their cost, their impact, their availability), ecological degradation and sustainability, terrorism, trade imbalance, excessive public and private debt, decline in the quality, affordability, and accessibility of education, cost and access to affordable health care, just to name some of more obvious ones — require national (and even international) consensus and will to address on the level and with the magnitude sufficient to enable change, while, on the other hand, our central government is more or less bankrupt, inefficient, and by definition, heavy handed because so big and so tangled with special interests.

In addition, many people, left and right, recognize that creative solutions come from individuals or small groups of people working cooperatively together. Government-imposed one-size-fits-all ends up pleasing no one and annoying everyone.

We are hard upon the horns of a dilemma whose origins lay in the shift of consciousness taking place on our planet today. (I say “today” but this has been an evolving and shifting process: two steps forward, one step back, another step sideways.)

We see the debate spilling into the very symbol of the level playing field towards which this shift is moving: the internet. Control and censorship of the internet by governments of east and west (north and south) is attacking the heart of the freedom of information and self-expression symbolized by the internet.

We see in the U.S. Congress the paralysis resulting from a minority holding a majority hostage. In other circumstances based on democracy the fear is that the prejudice of the majority tramples upon the legitimate interests and rights of minorities!

A new paradigm is needed if the deadlock between the power of institutions and the freedom individuals is to be broken. I’m not saying there’s some silver bullet here but the shift in consciousness will continue and if wholesale chaos and destruction and suffering is to be minimized (it will not likely be avoided), something must “give.”

In the “Occupy” movement taking place around the world we see this struggle quite visibly: we see how a small number of people have the power to bring down an entire government; we see how entrenched institutions respond brutally to protect their interests with no regard for the rights and safety of individuals.

The bigness that is rich and powerful is, for its very bigness, vulnerable. Great changes in world history have always been initiated by small groups of people whether in science, the arts, religion, business, or politics.

How then do we accommodate the bigness that is needed to solve big problems and the individual initiative which is the real source of creative solutions? One way of expressing the both-and principle as a solution is see and support what is in fact a reality: the steady move away from competition and towards cooperation. Cooperation requires the willingness and ability to see reality from another point of view other than your own. It is the ability to see that self-interest can be expansive and that “narrow self-interest” is, indeed, just that: constrictive and self-defeating. It is the ability to think long-term and not just short-term.

America is at the cross roads of long-term vs. short-term. And solution is both-and, because what is good for us long-term is in fact good for us short-term. We here complaints that responsible ecological behavior is bad for jobs and that unsustainable ecological policies and practices is bad long-term policy. We need to learn to think more expansively than that. We can look for the job potential, for example, in industries and jobs related to sustainable practices. That idea is not new but it has been slow to be accepted, thus far.

Much of the impulse for big-government solutions would be transmuted if smaller groups (governments, business, organizations, and individuals) would participate in cooperative solutions, with some latitude to creatively apply the general solution to their own environments or regions. In this way government doesn’t necessarily have to get “bigger” but work “smarter” by working together with others.

National policy on, say, health care can achieve broad consensus and direction at the national level, setting overall goals and parameters but leaving the next level of particulars to the next level, presumably states. In many ways this has been going on for years, but not necessarily consciously, consistently or with harmony.

But while all of this thus far seems sensible (I hope it does to you!), what defeats progress in the realm of the body politic is the heat of self-interest generated by the desire for re-election and the popularity and money-driven process we call democracy.

Now I’m not about to suggest a benign dictatorship, so just relax. But our body politic needs leaders who will re-affirm the importance of dialogue, compromise and respect for differing views.

I don’t care for the fact that a vocal minority in Congress, strident with their own and evidently unrealistic and impractical ideology can hold the nation hostage in the face of such challenges and crises. But I don’t know enough about the details of the elective process or congressional decision making to suggest anything meaningful.

But I do sense that there is a large body of citizens who find the paralysis frustrating and the negativity distasteful. To citizens of intelligence and goodwill who want to see our country express its fundamental ideals and creative energy there is the “strong arm” of voting and participatory action that can flex its economic and idealistic muscle in steering the political debate towards compromise and positive action.

While I’ll never be a presidential advisor, and while I have the luxury of an opinion without the responsibility of bearing the consequences of it, I would, if asked, suggest our current president (President Obama) be the magnanimous one to make whatever concessions are necessary to pass legislation appropriate to the national issues we face.

If the public finds the result weak-willed he can obviously blame those who diluted his own stated goals and objectives in order to accomplish the compromise. The naysayer minority can crow if their modifications achieve success as they claim. But if not, they will have to take the blame. And if it works, we should all rejoice, for that is process we call democracy.

Someone “up there” has to act like a grown-up. Someone has to act in a mature way. Let re-election be based on those who serve national not merely local or narrow self-interests. If I am defeated because I didn’t bring back enough pork, then, g-darn-it, I don’t want your vote or the job!

This leads us to what motivates those seeking public office: again, we have to return to our ideals: public service, not self-interest. Why have we for so long tolerated or winked at the unethical and often immoral behavior of people in power? Is it because they “buy us off” with pork?

Ironically, here is both-and again because serving the public interest is, and I believe provably can be, the means by which our representatives can find themselves elected time and again. It’s the down and dirty pork politics that causes the voters to waffle and throw the bums out and replace them with new bums.

None of this can happen without inspired and moral authority and leadership. As distant as that may seem, there are many such individuals in our country. They are simply not recognized or supported. And where does this come? From the grass roots. This is where faith groups and similar groups of people with high ideals should speak and act.

You can see that it is a “vicious” (or “victorious”) cycle: leadership effects individuals and individuals draw out quality leadership. Yes, you guessed it: both-and.

It’s like thinking big with your feet firmly on the ground. Stand tall and you can for miles. It’s not that difficult but we need to have “eyes to see, and ears to hear.”

For much of our country's relatively brief existence, we've made the cultural error of holding fast to the mantra of self-interest (think Adam Smith) but seeing it too literally and too narrowly. The idea that each person acting out of self-interest is some kind of self-adjusting “mechanism” bringing the greatest good to the greatest number is flawed unless we understand that “self-interest” means “expansive” (or “enlightened” and intelligent) self-interest. Both-And.


Nayaswami Hriman

Monday, December 12, 2011

Occupy the Heart! Christmas Reflections

I cannot help but applaud the “occupiers,” protestors of the greed that is symbolized by “Wall Street.” Yes, changes are long overdue, and yes, we were not wise enough to make them on our own volition; and yes, we’ve asked for it, deserved it, no less; and, finally, yes, most of the people in western nations would not have made any other choices but to live beyond our means, both in money and in the world’s natural resources!

Whether the protestors cause any political change directly is less the point (to me) than the fact that they symbolize a shift in consciousness. For every occupier there must surely be a million, perhaps millions, of people in support of what they are saying. So there may well be some changes in attitude and policy in the years ahead.

There is a story from the life of Paramhansa Yogananda (see the book, “Conversations with Yogananda,” by Swami Kriyananda, wherein he was being thwarted by the Los Angeles Planning and Building Department regarding one of his properties there. Discussing his frustration with a group of disciples, someone blurted out, “There ought to be a revolution!” Yogananda chuckled at first with everyone else, then paused, became quiet and more serious, and then added, “There WILL be a revolution!”

Well, none too soon in my book. But I’m not here, today, to complain about our political and economic troubles. One could write a book about those and yet, for one’s effort, nothing would change. It’s the Christmas (or, would you prefer, Solstice?) holiday season and it is one of good cheer and goodwill toward all.

Instead, I say, “Let’s OCCUPY THE HEART!” By that I do not mean something soupy and sentimental. The heart is the receiving station for intuition and deep feelings, not just the boiling cauldron of ever-changing emotions that most people believe and experience the heart to be.

In the stories of the birth of Krishna in India, and Jesus Christ in Israel, the former was born in a prison, and the latter, a manger. Both were pursued by the local king who sought to kill them, as both were perceived by him to be a threat to his worldly power.

To us this symbolizes that our materially-minded, self-involved, self-affirming ego will fight our soul qualities to the death because the ego knows that the awakening of our soul nature threatens to de-throne the ego. But it’s easier to kill the soul when it’s still an infant and relatively helpless. The reason many children were killed in these two parallel stories is that infant soul qualities wherever located and whatever form they take are always a threat to the ego’s rule of the body kingdom.

In the darkened chamber of our heart, even if but imprisoned by the ego, lives the infant of our divine, soul Self. This calmer, wiser, and kinder higher Self occupies the heart and is the source of our heart’s natural loving nature. Whether we occupy Wall Street or Main Street or 228th Street is less important than the heart that pre-occupies us.  It is “where I am coming from” that counts far more than “where I am going to.”

We all have very different lives and only a few can go out and occupy anything at all. It’s less important what we do, and far more important how we do it. We like to think that what we do is important, and it is to us, or, at least, we may need that attitude in order to summon the will power, energy, and creativity to accomplish our work. But, let’s face it, drop dead today and someone else will take your place. They may even do a better job than you.

It is not my intention to suggest anyone act irresponsibly, just honestly and wisely, as best we can. What I am saying is that the intention and consciousness behind our every word, thought, and emotion, indeed, our essential “vibration,” is the real determinant in the happiness and fulfillment we discover in life.

During the Solstice season , on the shortest day of the year, the sun of God is born and with each passing day thereafter, he will grow in strength and wisdom as he ascends toward the summer Solstice. What a beautiful symbol and what an opportunity for us to be still, resting in the manger of the quiet and humble heart, to witness, pay reverence and adoration, to offer gifts of our intention, goodwill, and devotion to this infant Light.

It is this deeper knowing that brings millions of people out into the cold winter night on Christmas Eve to participate in devotions of all type, even when this may be the only time of the year some people do this.

For as the tiny oak seedling can grow into a mighty tree which gives rest and shelter to all creatures, so too the Light of God, manifested in the spark of divinity which is our own and unique soul, can grow and wrest from the pretender king ego the princely throne of our heart, mind, and body once again!

Christ is not just a human being born two thousand years ago. Christ is the Light reflected in every atom of creation that endows creation with innate intelligence and joy. It is this Christ consciousness that certain souls have fully realized (“Self-realized”) that anoints them as prophets, as messengers down through the ages who come to remind us of our true Self. Christ-mass therefore is the celebration of the second coming of Christ in our own hearts. He comes in the dark night of the soul’s winter, when nothing of this world can satisfy us. It is the Christ, the Kristna, the Buddha that comes to us as a messenger, carrying a Light which shines in our personal darkness and lights our way. That message is the same everywhere: “Know thy Self,” turn within to discover that that light is within us, as well.

Meditation is the priceless gift of India to this age of great change that we might find the inner security and inner peace of our soul. “Give me a light to light my way, truth is the light, so wise men say.” Imagine if this Light were to occupy the hearts of even but a small percentage of humanity, today! It would change the world in a way no legislation, no protest, no funding from a rich foundation, nor any treaty could ever do.

A blessed, bliss-filled celebration of the universal Christ consciousness in you, and in all creation. Occupy your heart of Light.

Nayaswami Hriman