Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Seeking Hope

Do you believe in redemption? Is it possible for a person who has made serious mistakes to turn a new leaf and live a worthwhile life? I suspect your answer to this question will determine your attitude toward poor people.
Bad things happen to good people. A medical emergency our economic shifts beyond our control can thrust any one of us into poverty. Science has established that poverty causes addiction and mental illness more than the other way around. There, but for grace, go I…
It’s easier to rationalize our participation in a system of oppression if we believe some people deserve to suffer. Rationally, we know that no good comes from kicking somebody who’s already down, but if I fail to see my own reflection in the face of my victim, I can justify exploitation.
Empathy, honesty, amends, and forgiveness are the signposts on the two way path to redemption. Religion is optional, but humane community is essential. Are some people a burden on society or is every person a well of undiscovered potential?

In theory, a social system facilitates people serving each other’s needs. In reality economic rewards often flow to exploiters. Each of us can honestly reflect playing all the roles.
We’ve been exploited. Got stuck paying some sleazeball more than deserved. Lost more than we could afford to systemic greed. Worked hard for less than fair compensation.
We’ve been exploiter. Even those of us who didn’t rape nature for raw materials certainly helped to consume the proceeds. Who among us is above accepting easy money from a sucker?
Some of us have been fortunate to discover the deep joy of voluntarily serving the genuine needs of another. Truly clever individuals have contrived to make a living through such service. More have justified exploitation with a veneer of service.
How can we collaborate as a community to build a system that discourages exploitation and encourages service? How can we honestly acknowledge past error, openly envision a healthier future, and carefully but rapidly implement systemic change? How can we inspire each other to live up to our highest shared ideals?

Our goals aren’t wrong. We want to raise healthy children, grow lots of good food, and craft fine art and tools from nature’s abundance. We specialize to suit our skills and desires and agree upon efficient processes to make our tasks less onerous. We seek wise leaders to guide our collaboration. We band together to protect ourselves from threat. It all makes sense. But we remain human, thus fallible.
Leadership can be corrupted to exaggerate threats and exploit people and the natural systems upon which we depend. Too many children stress social networks. Efficient profiteering rapes natural landscapes to produce worthless trinkets for dissatisfied consumers. The machine we built threatens to destroy our species as we struggle to establish control. Nobody has the power to stop everybody.

Today more than ever, each of us can see how we fit into the grand dysfunction. As we acknowledge the horror of our individual greed, lust for power, and lack of a healthy balance, we can begin to imagine functional human community that fits into the grand natural systems of life. If each of us does all we can, together we can still pray for our progeny.