Monday, August 13, 2007

Spiritual activism, political revolution & New Age fuzzy thinking

And now for something completely different...

Over at my own blog, In This Moment, I've been exploring different paths to political activism, including one the writer calls "spiritual activism." Although I'm not thrilled by the term, I'm intrigued by the writer's ideas and by the thought that the way we think and act may have as much to do with a political victory as a good get-out-the-vote effort. Actually, the way we think and act may create the biggest revolution of all.

Here are my cross-posted thoughts...

At first glance, the idea that political activists should act out of "awareness, compassion and love" seems both ludicrous and suicidal. But acting out of love is the first principle of what Carla Goldstein calls "spiritual activism."

For what it's worth, I wonder if she might be on to something. Following her principle might well provide the key to unlocking the solutions to our most pressing foreign and domestic problems.

I am not suggesting that we open our arms to Al Qaeda and say, hey, I love you, shoot me, nor am I recommending that my colleagues in the gay rights movement expect to win equality by hugging Fundamentalists. I quake at the thought of such, shall we say, New Age fuzzy headedness.

Yet I also tremble at the idea that we are going to win our battles by seeking to become more terrifying than our opponents. Right now I worry that we are doing just that. It seems, at times, as if promoting ourselves as the biggest monsters on the block is our only strategy.

In Bush's War on Terror, threatening to kill anyone who threatens us and torturing the people we capture have become standard operating procedures. The neocon solution to terrorism appears to boil down to one simplicity: Kill all the bad guys.

Momentarily leaving aside the morality of such a tactic, I question it's practicality. We cannot, in fact, kill everyone who wants to hurt us. Even if we could, we could not keep from creating more terrorists as we kill the old ones. Every husband or wife we would leave behind could potentially become an enemy. Every brother and sister, every son and daughter, every friend, every acquaintance, every neighbor would have a rock-solid, deep-in-the-heart reason to hate us.

More than that, every one of them would have a personal reason to be terrified of us. Bush and friends foolishly think that creating fear in our enemies will keep them from fighting back. But I ask: Would it stop us if we were in their situation?

I live in Lawrence, Kan., and sometimes I wonder what my neighbors would do it we were facing an occupation like Bush and friends have imposed on Iraq. Even if the invaders were first seen as liberators, how would Kansans feel this many years in and with so many of our neighbors dead or imprisoned? At what point would Kansans take up arms against the people who invaded our country?

Finally, if we felt like our backs were to the wall, and we had no chance except to fight back against the terrifying monsters or die, would we befriend the people who were scaring us? Or, would we fight back any way we could?

To believe that Iraqis and other Muslims are a different breed of human, that they they don't hate and fear and love like we do, is simply crazy. But that seems to be the neocon/Bush belief.

The same is true about domestic issues. Attempting to be the biggest monster in the room won't save Fundamentalists or lesbians or gays or Democrats or Republicans. At times, it seems that fear is the only political tactic that campaigns want to employ. It is true that fear does move voters for an election or two, but I wonder what we create when we only evoke fear in our campaigns? Does such a victory sow the seeds of the next domestic war?

And yes, I know that my discussion of these challenges is too brief and simplistic, but those are issues we can return to on other days. Such is the joy of a blog.

For this moment, though, here's why I think acting out of love and compassion is so important: Acting out of fear makes us stupid. Adrenaline pumps and the primal brain takes over. We don't take time to consider. We don't take time to find lasting solutions. Instead, we go into survival mode.

Personally, I think acting out of fear makes it hard for human beings to see reality. Above all, these days, a good sense of reality has got to be a requirement.

In the second column in her series on spiritual activism, Goldstein touches more deeply on the workings of that first principle, which is:

"We take action that is born out of awareness, compassion and love, not out of reaction, fear and anger."

Goldstein provides some first steps on how to open up and become more loving. My hope is that this modest post will provide some explanation as to why such activities are important.

The courage to open to our hearts has the potential to change everything. Goldstein writes:

As a result of my heartfulness practice, my activism has radically changed. It has gone from being something I do to accomplish a social change goal to a way of being. I have come to understand that the means and the end are equally important, which brings me to know that yelling at “the other side” (or my daughter) is doing exactly the same thing I am condemning – creating fear and anger. The more I get in touch with my own heart, the more I am in touch with the hearts of others and the more interested I become in cultivating peace rather than polarization.