What needs to change? Who needs to change it? And how do we do it?
These three questions form the basis of any approach to making improvements in ourselves, our families, our communities, our countries, and our world, and answering them is essential to achieving any genuine progress.
The first question is often the easiest to answer, and as such, it is frequently the only one we address. Despite their equal if not greater importance, we often give ambiguous answers to the “who” and “how’ questions, or we simply leave them for another time. Typically, this is because the actions or sacrifices needed to convert perceived change into actual progress seem too daunting, too personal, or too much to ask.
So when the moment arrives to implement our vision, this contradiction freezes us solid and stunts our progress. Still desiring something different, though, we look for other ways to carry out what we would like to see in the world; we delegate (or relinquish) our responsibility to “higher” entities with a “broader” reach and a “greater” capacity for change.
In today’s world, this “higher” power often materializes as government; votes are cast as a mandate for the implementation of a certain agenda for change. However, this is a fundamentally misguided approach. Governments are useful for managing systems of interactions (business deals, health facilities, infrastructure planning, etc.), but their effectiveness stops there. Delegating governments, or any “higher” authority, to be agents of change represents the collective belief that the work on the ground is to be carried out by someone other than ourselves.
Many of our problems today stem from this approach. It’s why we continue to use countless plastic water bottles, throw out unwanted (yet perfectly edible) food, pretend famine doesn’t exist, buy clothes and other products produced in near-slavery conditions, and do so many of the other things we know deep down to be wrong. Unable to see our implicit role in the creation and propagation of these wrongs, or the impacts of even our smallest actions, we sit back and wait for others to make the changes we would like to see.
This “handing over” of the keys to change is a representation of a gross misunderstanding of our human nature. We are repeatedly taught—explicitly and implicitly—that the world is made up of good people and bad people. Some are kind, loving, and altruistic, and others are selfish, greedy, individualistic, and just plain old mean. This struggle between good and evil, or right and wrong, is seen all across films, television, literature, and almost every other version of human expression. Always presented as a fight between two bodies, this representation denies a fundamental truth:
The battle between good and evil takes place not between people but within people.
Just because we do evil, or are capable of evil, does not mean we are evil, so those who commit evil acts are not doing so because it is in their nature. But then, why do they do it? Simply put, context.
A child who has her toy taken away may kick and scream and tell her mother she hates her, but does that child really hate her mother? No. The true nature of this child is one of love, compassion, empathy, respect, and interdependence, but an unfavorable, confusing context has blurred this reality. Understanding why people are evil is a matter of understanding the context which has brought this evil out.
Unfortunately, though, there are many settings in which evil rears its head, but one in particular can be found almost anywhere we look: scarcity. The precarious nature of life before technology engrained in our collective psyche the idea there is not enough to go around, attaching our survival to the application of our evil ways—we must selfishly secure our own, even if it means taking from others.
Much of what we do is an effort to try and overcome scarcity, hence our dogmatic focus on economic growth and technological progress; never satisfied, we continuously pursue abundance in the name of defeating scarcity. However, we must learn to reject this idea, for much of the world, particularly the wealthy West, no longer lives in a context of genuine scarcity.
Instead, the feeling of not having enough is fabricated. Abstract concepts such as identity and self-worth are bound to external, material pursuits, which can never be satisfied, and this unskillful pursuit of want is engrained in our collective conscious. For proof, simply look for references to a “consumer-based economy” in the news, or reports of consumer spending—something frequently tied to the health of a country’s economy. Entire populations of people are taught to search for happiness in a place they will never find it, creating the sensation of scarcity and drawing out our inner evil.
Since the context in which our interactions play out is grounded in the idea of scarcity, evil is all around us, and this abundance of negativity causes us to mistake this evil for our true nature. This belief then supports the need for “higher” entities to carry out change, but these same entities entrench this concept of scarcity deeper into our collective psyche, setting the stage for evil to flourish and a governing body to rein it in.
This leaves us with two paths forward: change these “higher” entities, or change our understanding of ourselves.
Unjust social and economic arrangements are difficult to change, and since they exist in their current form only because we misunderstand ourselves (and because they provide massive benefits to the greed of small groups of people), the only way forward is to look within and deepen the knowledge we have of ourselves so that we can realize our true nature and unleash the power we have to be the masters of our own destinies.
Our first step on this path forward is to simply accept our natural state of being as one of love, compassion, and interdependence, not evil, selfishness, and greed. Doing this breaks down the false distinction between good people and evil people and forces us to recognize the importance of context. This is done through experience and self-reflection. Once we accept our natural state, we must then believe it and begin to trust in ourselves as capable of determining our own future without the interference of these “higher” authorities.
From here, we must work to eliminate the context of scarcity. The Earth is bountiful, if managed correctly, but to take advantage of the fruit it offers, we must build trust in ourselves through a fuller understanding of our true nature. This allows us to search for happiness through love, compassion, and interdependence, not individual, selfish pursuit, providing an opportunity to be happy with far less than the world currently tells us we need to do so.
In this utopian world, people are their own governments. Collective action would provide the resources for necessities such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure, but the rest would be provided for by the benevolence of humans who understand how acting selflessly provides a much deeper form of happiness than acting selfishly.
However, it is very likely none of us will have the chance to see this utopian world. We are only placed here on Earth for a short period of time. But this does not mean we cannot do anything.
We must encourage each and every person on this Earth to follow what is in their heart, to ignore naysayers, and to value their daily actions as significant inputs to the world around them, no matter how small they may seem. There are countless other things we can do on a day-to-day basis to embody our true human nature. The effects of this might not be felt immediately, but we must believe that by setting an example, we are providing guidance for others to discard this false notion of the human nature and to pursue goals more closely related to this understanding of ourselves.
Making new rules, electing new leaders, and buying different products are helpful ways to improve our world, but only by empowering people to live the lives they have reason to value can we truly change our world.
This is what we will be doing here, reminding people of the amazing potential waiting to be unleashed by an acceptance of who they truly are.
So follow along to find out what YOU can do to make the world friendlier, safer, more peaceful, and more loving for you, those around you, and those yet to come.
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