Where To Stand As The World Goes Insane
Last week while on my weekly date with my mother, she shared with me a story about a friend’s recent declaration that democrats were child-eating pedophiles and that Biden had stolen the election. What concerned her was not that someone was proclaiming such absurdities, but that the person espousing them was a longtime friend, someone with whom she shared values, ethical beliefs, and basically similar left-leaning politics. Until now.
“What is going on?!” she worried. “I am hearing more and more of my friends say things that do not make sense to me. What’s even more confusing is that they are not just agreeing with one similar new narrative, they all have various perspectives,” she paused for a moment thoughtfully stroking her dog. “But what is the same in all of them is that they sound utterly insane to me.” She went on to mention the aggressiveness with which her friends were asserting their views. “I’m being punished for wanting to socially distance and met with hostile eye rolls when I say how pleased I am Biden was elected. And these were my friends!”
Her situation is such a clear reflection of the zeitgeist I see it happening everywhere around the world between families, friends, and colleagues. Whether we are speaking about mask-wearing, the validity of COVID, vaccines, or Trump vs. Biden, the left is beginning to sound like the right, and the right is beginning to sound like the left. Almost every issue in public discourse today is politicized, polarized, and fanaticized. Even a topic like ‘children in cages’ is rendered political instead of ethical and moral. What is happening?
Before social media, the Internet, Big Pharma, Big Tech, and Citizens United, when democracy was robust, the right and the left used to be able to engage in discourse together. Their rubbing up against each other’s ideals and viewpoints, based on mutually supported sources of facts, created a constructive synergy. While not perfect by any means (and we could argue to what degree it was a true democracy), it was at the very least civilized, unified behind a common love for a country. But democracy is dead now.
Many years ago in the 1990s, prior to founding EQUUS, I founded, published, and edited Kindred (now run by the nonprofit Kindred World and its venerable leader Lisa Reagan). In my ten years there I was a staunch advocate for informed choice, sovereignty, environmental justice, and human rights. Yet, unlike most organizations which are founded on a premise, declaration, or statement, Kindred was built on a question. The question was: how do we create a just and sustainable society? The gestalt of leading a company from a question, rather than a statement, changes everything about its mission. A question is open to the unknown. It is humble and vulnerable. Its entire mission is to serve the question itself, not my politics or beliefs, and not the politics or beliefs of its advertisers or readers. Little did I know what a challenge that would become.
With that question at the helm of Kindred, I thought I’d find “the answers”. Much to my frustration and sometimes horror, I learned that the answers almost always contradicted one another. In order to honor the fidelity of a question and honor where all of my research took me, absent my bias, I had to, in one issue, produce an article about human-caused climate change, and in another issue, expose the academic corruption behind twisting climate science to scare the public in order gain grants funding through vested interests. Both being true. It was a fierce paradox that became a spiritual teaching. This was all before social media.
When I spoke to Uncle Bob about my conundrum with Kindred, he taught me that life is not linear. It does not run east to west, or right to left, or up to down. That all of life moves in a circle. He said that when we mentally project ourselves politically towards ’the right’ or ’the left’, or another similar binary ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ (or heaven and earth) life invariably takes us on a circle. Pretty soon right sounds like left, and wrong is right. When people are severely polarized, eventually the two begin to sound like one another, and act like one another, in a toxic way––the circle makes it so.
Since my years at Kindred, we now live in a new world, where algorithms shape our brains, censorship and demonetizing dissident channels shape our discourse, and computers drive not only profits but propaganda. Did you know that elderly people are not able to tell the difference between a good computer-animated animal, and a real animal on screen? Their brain literally cannot tell the difference because their brains were too well developed before the invention of the computer screen, and so now the screen visually ’tricks’ their brain.
Similarly, people of my generation—the baby boomers—cannot tell the difference between news and propaganda. Our brains, raised pre-social media, simply do not discern. As a baby boomer, you may believe that you do not fall into this trap, but this belief is part of how your brain reinforces its delusion. As a journalist, writer, and researcher I can tell you that finding factually accurate bias-free information out there right now is a minefield.
Propaganda is being levied at everyone all the time, everywhere. None of us are excluded or immune. This is why I stopped being on social media (I hired a person to do the EQUUS social media for me; I haven’t seen a post in 2 years). My mom doesn’t use Facebook or Instagram. Not really. She might spy on her grandchildren from time to time, but swiping up and clicking is not in her wheelhouse. Interestingly it’s rendered her mind slightly protected from the frenzy of some of her contemporaries.
In particular, propaganda is being strongly levied at a particular group of people: the cultural creatives, innovators, social justice activists, entrepreneurs, artists, independent thinkers, spiritual folks…. to splinter them into a thousand tiny polarized shards. Why? Because they are the creative innovators. Divide them and they are conquered. If you identify with any of those descriptions then beware. Some of this is indeed sinister as is all propaganda, and some are just algorithmic fallout.
We are becoming collateral damage to what I call The Ultimate Distortion. The Ultimate Distortion believes we are separate entities rather than one organic living organism connected with all of creation. From this distortion, we seek to control and victimize, and be victimized by one another. This disconnected worldview, in motion for only the recent 1% of human history, has shaped culture, and cultural bias, and has set us on a trajectory towards an exponential unraveling, and it is only going to get worse because we are unhinged from the anchor of belonging.
As Charles Eisenstein writes, “The lunacy that was the Trump Presidency was not a deviation from a trajectory toward greater and greater sanity. It was not a stumble on the road from Medieval superstition and barbarism toward a rational, scientific society. It drew its power from gathering cultural turbulence, just as a river generates increasingly violent counter eddies as it approaches its plunge over the waterfall.”
Here’s the thing—we cannot solve the distortion within the distortion itself. We cannot heal the polarization in our communities by asserting ‘facts’ within the untruth of separation.
This is not a call to be ’neutral’. As we know playing the ’neutral’ card is just another form of spiritual bypassing and submission rather than authority. So where do we stand? Where do we as leaders, entrepreneurs, creatives, visionaries, humanitarians, social and environmental justice advocates, stand? How do we step outside of the distortion?
“You have to stand in the true north” Uncle Bob said, gesturing to the sky. These same instructions also came from my friends and colleagues Tod and Niccole who are Lakota initiated ceremonialists, Pipe Carriers, and Sundancers-Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. “It’s not about what is true or false, factual or not factual; it’s about the frequency with which one lives,” they said to me last week while on a long walk through a sandy arroyo bed. “True north holds that frequency of connectedness, kindness, gentleness, and peace. When you stand in that frequency, you become like a tuning fork calling others to be in alignment with it too.”
True north is not a static destination (or mindset), it is dynamic, and gently waivers somewhat rightish, then leftish depending upon other conditions. Nor does it swing from one extreme to the other. Nor does it express with the frequency of control, aggression, hostility, victimization, dehumanization, or negativity. Though kind, standing there is fiercely clear of boundaries and what one allows and doesn’t allow ‘into their circle’.
True north calls in, it doesn’t call out. It is informed by this exquisite place of Stillness—a place that is intimately familiar because it is who we are. When we stand here, we stand in our True Authority—in alignment with Life itself. What a mystery. How humbling. Do we know anything at all? Really? The only place I trust these days is the earth and my connection and belonging to her. And right now she calls me to stillness.
I know this: that if you have read this far, you are a kind and compassionate human being, that you care about the world, its creatures, and humanity. We share these values and capacities. And as such we are both vulnerable to our minds and hearts being kidnapped, captured, and held hostage. I do not want to allow these external elements to drive us apart as a people, or draw us into the trance of separation.
I believe a revolution is called for, but not in the ways we’ve been conditioned to think. This revolution is about standing outside of The Ultimate Distortion. When I imagine us not being able to walk through this together with poise, determination, and love, I feel profound hopelessness for the world. I envision that many of us can pull together to stand in the north; outside of right and left, outside of the insanity, holding the frequency of dignity and gentleness. What a powerful opportunity.
So, in the spirit of Kindred, I leave you with a question, meant to hold close throughout your day, like a tuning fork:
Who are you and what would you serve if you knew you were connected to all living beings?