Violence comes in many forms. There are many ways to hurt someone besides conking him over the head.
Lately, I’ve been wondering how our new mythology might persuade us—the perpetrators of violence—not to perpetrate…
I’m using the “us” pronoun here, instead of “them” because we’re all in this boat—we all perpetrate. When we engage in unethical behavior, we perpetrate.
When we, as perpetrators, use creative reasoning to justify our actions, I’m actually given hope—because then we may be having doubts about what we’re doing.
If we have doubts, then we may eventually see and come to terms with our unethical behavior…
…we may even unconsciously trick ourselves into coming to terms with our behavior (consider the recent peccadilloes of U.S. politicians).
But what if we don’t feel the need to engage in such creative reasoning? What if we feel no need to justify our actions? What if we believe we haven’t done anything wrong?
Ironically, the most immoral among us often believe they’re innocent of misdeed.
This group may be relatively small in number, but that doesn’t stop them from wrecking great havoc. Those in power, at any level, are often the ones lacking moral qualms.
I may decide not to follow along, I may decide to stick to my moral principles, regardless of the consequences…
…but that often has little effect on the ones wrecking the havoc.
Leaders can always find willing mercenaries to aid them. If a pipsqueak like myself raises a dissenting voice, he can easily be silenced.
It’s a bleak picture. How can our new mythology help us here?
As with any mythology/religion, our new mythology must provide us with moral guidelines—and give us reasons for wanting to follow those guidelines.
Is morality its own reward? Yes, I believe it is, but when the visible rewards go to the unethical, we often feel at a loss. It’s depressing, discouraging.
Our new mythology must also give us hope.
Perhaps we can borrow something from current religious traditions.
The idea that our immoral acts may land us in “hell” doesn’t work so well anymore—if it ever did. We might as well drop that concept. Fear of incurring bad karma doesn’t seem to do stop anyone either—especially if the karma isn’t instant.
I believe there’s a great psychic cost when we engage in any of the many immoral acts of violence. I believe I experience a loss when my actions don’t jibe with what I believe to be right.
At such times, perhaps I’m only feeling the burden of my guilt. But I believe that when someone works to shut down a major portion of who he or she is—when there’s that loss of being—the suffering is considerable, though it may not be visible at a superficial level.
If you have a lung removed, you can still breathe, but not at full capacity.
I’m struggling here to express a nebulous concept—unfortunately, I can’t support this idea with the facts and figures our society so cherishes; I have to rely on metaphor…
Nonetheless, I think most of us would agreement with this concept because we see it at work everywhere…
We see it in the lives of those around us, in the stories of this world…we experience it within ourselves.
I believe this concept can help us; I believe it belongs in our new mythology.
…even if you’ve decided it’s best to play by the rules, you may feel cheated and angry when you’re beaten by someone who isn’t playing by those rules.
To know that the cheater is in pain should do little to comfort us. Knowing of his pain will not keep us from being discouraged and depressed…
…depressed at how greed and dishonesty rule in this world…depressed at how greed and dishonesty work to destroy this world.
A gloomy picture indeed! Enough to sink any but the most buoyant boat (and I’m not the most buoyant boat). To have hope, we need to believe we can help change the situation, at least, in some small way…
At this point, I’m reminded of a concept demonstrated to me, years ago, by a friend.
This friend took a sock—an ordinary sock—and turned it inside-out. When it was fully inside-out, I could see the mass of little stitches usually hidden in the interior of the sock.
My friend told me to think of each little stitch as a human being.
Then ever so slowly, she began to turn it right-side-out again.
She pointed out how some of the stitches were in front, some in the middle, some in the back.
Of course, the ones in front had to turn before those in the middle and back could turn. They all moved together.
It may not be the perfect metaphor, but it has its points—beyond the obvious ones.
We’ve heard, time and again, that we’re all connected, that what is done by one affects all…
But consider what else the sock metaphor shows us….
We’re not just connected, we’re inextricably bound together. In other words, we’re stuck with each other. We’re a can of sardines. One sardine moves, the whole can moves.
Perhaps you’ll say that some seem to be moving in the opposite direction—they’re holding us back.
But the movement of the sock shows that when one limit is reached, we then began to reverse course.
Perhaps we haven’t reversed yet, but I think we’re getting pretty darn close. When we’ve reached that point—when we’re fully inside-out—we’ll have no choice but to go in the opposite direction—we either move or die.
Maybe you’re thinking, “The possibility of extinction isn’t so hopeful.”
But to me, knowing that we must change, that we’ll be forced to change, is hopeful. Knowing that we’re all working to change the situation…despite appearances to contrary…
…despite what governments may do, despite what business interests may do, despite what media corporations may do, despite what criminal organizations may do, we’re all working to change the situation…
…that idea gives me hope. It also gives me some sense of power in the situation: no one—nothing—can stop me from changing my own behavior (though I know I need to do more than simply focus on myself). My change helps pull us a little farther along.
I don’t know where I am on the sock. Sometimes I feel as if I’m near the front. Other times I feel as if I’m near the rear. Truth is, I’m probably somewhere in the middle. Yet, according to the sock metaphor, even those of us in the middle can lead.