Today, in cities all over the USA, there are massive, impassioned protests occurring. Sparked by the apparent murder of an unarmed black man by a white police officer, Americans have taken to the city streets and are clashing, often violently with police and military. His death was the result of the officer’s knee being placed on his back for a full nine minutes causing asphyxia. It happened in the street, in broad daylight and it was all caught on video by a bystander. The image of it, by anyone’s account, is graphic and disturbing. The victim, George Floyd, was brutally detained, and subsequently killed, simply because he allegedly passed a counterfeit twenty dollar bill at his local convenience store. Hardly a crime of capital punishment and certainly his penalty of death in the street was not to be administered by a law enforcement officer without any form of due justice, trial or right to defend himself. As are the rights of any US citizen under the constitution.
There is a collective anger felt over the incident by most of us and one wouldn’t be human if they didn’t have strong feelings one way or the other about what we are experiencing on our streets and seeing on our screens right now. But what are we angry at and at whom do we direct our anger? The COVID-19 is still out there, and it’s a very real threat. However, in these nervous times, people are choosing social activism over social distancing. Why?
I’m not a psychiatrist but I know that anger comes as a reaction to fear and uncertainty. Anger creates a boost of energy and increased physical and mental strength within a person. It gives a sense of control back to those feeling vulnerable and helpless. The rage shown by protesters and others right now in America clearly stems from a direct desire to take back control of a situation that is out of control. It’s even spilling out into other countries, in places that have no evident stake in the woes of American politics, racism or civil rights abuses.
The problem is, we don’t understand what is out of control or why and we don’t know where to direct our anger. To whom do we file our complaints? Which department is responsible for all this misery and uncertainty? We don’t like it, and we want our money back. There is literally no one above us who is responsible for our misery. We didn’t put our fate in the hands of some leadership or figurehead that promised us that everything would be alright. And if we thought we did then we were being very naive.
So, we take the anger out on ourselves. We clash in the streets with each other and against a system that we created ourselves. Like children breaking our own toys. We are frustrated but we don’t know where to pitch our fits. And we have been here hundreds of times before. The last 50 years alone has seen Americans peacefully demonstrate over jobs and freedom, the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, budget cuts, nuclear disarmament, family values in black communities, sexual discrimination, women’s rights, gun laws and climate change, just to name a few. And those movements arguably did instigate some big changes. But we have also seen a fair share of violent clashes and riots over those same decades as well. Anger at the establishment, police, the IMF, politics and policies have been the cause for social unrest throughout the world for centuries.
However, these days, things are getting more intense, more heated and more radical. And there is not a lot of political will to be on the other side of the argument. Nobody is speaking out in favor of killing citizens in the streets. Even the police, in many cases, are marching with protestors this time. However, deep down, this is not about Black Lives Matter or some other hashtag movement. This is not about 400 years of racial bias and abuse. Ultimately, this is not even about the murder of an inoccent man. This is about our fears. Our sense of disconnection that leads us to distrust, fear, hate and react violently toward each other.
We do not see, sense or recognize the integral system that we are all a part of. We don’t feel responsible for each other on a global, integral level. We feel ourselves as separate individuals within a system that is trying to treat us as one connected whole and therefore we clash with each other. A peaceful protest will quickly turn into a riot because we can no longer even agree about what we are afraid of. We are just afraid. And fear is debilitating to reason, exhausting to the body and threatening to the senses. Like a cornered rat, we will lash out erratically in order to escape our fear of being cornered.
Right now, we are the only thing in this entire system of “life” that is out of control. And after all the glass has been smashed, after all the stores have been looted and the buildings burned down to the ground, we will still be out of control. It turns out that we were never in control. So how do we get control? How do we find our balance and pull back out of this current chaos? And how do we stay in balance so that we never lose control of ourselves, never have to fear again?
We need to love. Not romantic love or hippy, “let’s all go live in an ashram” love. True love comes from a genuine recognition that we are linked together and we are each responsible for the other. When we care about others as much as we do ourselves because we recognize that we are all part of one, unique and unified system, this means that we love. When we treat all parts of the system as having equal worth and claim within the system, when we bestow respect and value kindness and empathy upon one another, then we express love.
Because we have been conditioned to compete with and disregard each other. Because we value ourselves and our own interest above others, we are suffocating ourselves. We can’t breathe. We are smothering the system by prioritizing egoism over altruism.
THERE IS NO OTHER ENEMY. The only enemy we have working against us is within us. Our ego has placed an array of seeming divisions between us. Culture, language, race, background, wealth, skill, etc. etc., are all false narratives that compel us to feel different, individual and separate from others.
So, let us protest against our own division. Let us rally against disunion; an anti-anti movement. Better yet, let’s be pro. A Pro Connection rally. A Pro Unity demonstration? Because Nature is currently driving many forces towards us so that we will learn its lessons. There is no other example in Nature of an organism that will build up its own habitat and then go out, remonstrate against it en masse, burn it all down only to rebuild it all back up again in essentially the same way it had been built initially. I have yet to see the documentary special on that species, apart from the nightly news.
I don’t believe in aliens but I think the most compelling argument for us never having made contact with any is that they came here, saw how we manage ourselves and decided to vanish into the far corners of the galaxy for fear of contamination. We have to look at ourselves as objectively and dispassionately as a space alien would and determine for ourselves if this is the kind of impression we would like to make when company comes over. Are we being the best version of ourselves as we can be? Of course not and it’s because we reward bad behavior more than the good. The reality show celebrities, media stars, pop-culture icons, politicians, magnates and all those who take advantage of others to get ahead. We celebrate and admire them. We don’t even attempt to bring about a spirit of joy, love and unity amongst us. We don’t consistently reject that which would fuel our dissent and we don’t persistently feed that which would build a sense of community, care and compassion.
Then, along comes a few days of violence, a pandemic, economic downturn or a natural disaster and suddenly, when the dust settles we are all friends and neighbors taking care of each other… for a fleeting moment anyway. What if we could get in front of those waves of misery? What if we chose instead to love, care and regard each other as a first priority? Would we need to protest, we would have to become ill? Would we need to suffer any blows at all or would we already find ourselves in sync with the program, working as one integral organism that constructs its society to be in harmony with the larger system of Nature? That structure which supports all life on our planet.
The word protest comes from the combination of two Latin roots; pro = for and testari = witness. A “protestor” is in favor of the observance of something. They want others to see and understand that they think something is important and notice it. Today the protestors are not actually saying that they simply worry that some white cop is going to harass and perhaps kill them. They are saying, actually screaming that they are afraid of the uncertainty of the entire system we have built.
We are afraid of the future. We don’t have jobs, we don’t have money or enough food. The climate has gone crazy and there’s an invisible virus all around. Our leaders in finance and government are a bunch of crony capitalists, outdated dinosaurs, and real-estate reality stars who provide no wisdom, no hope and only heighten the division and spread of disinformation. All of the institutions we once believed in like education and small businesses are now all degraded and shuttered. The promise of the American dream, which held the fabric of our society together for over a century has shredded in the heat of global warming. “What do we have left?”. It seems as if there isn’t much left to lose. Despite all our technology and advancement, we remain a more helpless and hopeless humanity than any before.
However, we do have one solution; one way out of our problems. Cooperation. Pro unity. A lasting unity. Hatred and anger can only feed hatred and anger. Love will feed into more love. Grab onto those images of unity and connection that we see in the community. Focus on those who serve others. Let the media only (or at least mostly) report on those moments where people come together. Make that our story. Make that our agenda and goal. “What do we want!?”. “We want to see more representation of love, cooperation and care for each other in our communities, on the media and entertainment channels and in our governments and policing systems”. “When do we want it?”. “Just as soon as we commit ourselves to being more pro-actively inclined to support each other in love and care and less inclined toward our egoistic pursuits which only create divisiveness and discord between us!”. Just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?
We are all good people and we have a choice. Fight for love, not against “hate”. Rally around unity, not against “the establishment” and demonstrate in support of our collective interdependence of each other instead of against our mutual intolerance for each other. In this we will succeed to build a new, holistic society that prioritizes compassion and selflessness over egoism.