Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Teddy Bear, Seagulls and Some Thoughts on Evolution

There was an uproar in Britain this week when a foreign government arrested a middle-aged English teacher and threatened her with a public whipping and/or imprisonment for allowing her class of little children to name a teddy bear Mohammed. (The kids' idea, it should be noted, not hers).

No doubt the UK government is happy about that diversion. Getting scandalised and indignant about fundamentalism 'over there', takes people's minds off the corruption (e.g. 'disguised' donations to party funds), hypocrisy (e.g. carbon-lowering rhetoric combined with plans to expand airports) and pathetic impotence (dancing always to the corporate tune) of our own so-called leaders. It's easy to decry what happens 'over there'. When deplorable things are happening 'over here', that is harder to cope with because it means we need to DO something rather than merely grumble. We usually don't, though. The British have made grumbling an art form but we are not good at revolutions.

The Americans were good at revolutions once, but these days most of them seem too busy watching TV or trying to earn a living to notice that the hard-won 'freedoms' they have been taught to believe in since their first day at school are being rapidly taken away from them by a government that's becoming just as scarily repressive as the one that disallows certain names for teddy bears.

Since the tragic events of 9/11, there has been what one journalist described this week as "…a virtual avalanche of legislation and commissions designed to protect the country at the expense of the Bill of Rights." It's a one-two punch, and the final sock to the jaw is likely to come from the passage of a new bill that has the potential to turn any citizen or resident into a 'terrorist' just by jiggling a few words and definitions. (Like they jiggled the definition of 'torture'). Everyone who reads Ronni Bennett's blog, 'Time Goes By' already knows about this. (And if you haven't read what she has to say about it, please do, and forward the link to anyone you know in the USA.)

The problem with revolutions is that they don't usually work. Whatever group seizes power from dysfunctional leaders generally ends up being dysfunctional itself. We may belong to the family of primates but I often think that human beings are more like seagulls than they are like any of the primates I have ever seen. We seem to find it so much easier to fight and squabble – over territory, over belief systems, over just about anything you can name – than we do to co-operate. We talk about democracy but we have really never had it. Not really. Whether it was kings and dukes. governments or multinational corporations, there have always been the rulers and the ruled, the haves and the have-nots, the powerful and the powerless. It never changes. It merely changes form, from place to place and from era to era. Let us not kid ourselves.

I believe, along with many others, that there is only one path out of this morass and that is not north, south, east or westwards. It is upwards. We need to work on changing our own consciousness. To start with our own inner seagulls, watch how they operate, get them talking – and listening – to each other for a change. Next step: learning the skills of interpersonal communication and co-operation. Co-operation, after all, is as much a part of our evolutionary heritage as competition is. Darwin only saw half of the picture. The other half is finally being documented and understood.

This, I believe, is the only way we can avert catastrophe, either political or ecological – and ultimately, both are the same. We face a stark choice now. Evolve or perish.

The one-celled organisms who were our original ancestors faced this same choice three and a half billion years ago, when the planet's oxygen levels rose so high that those CO2-breathing prokaryotes could no longer survive. They learned to breathe oxygen instead. They survived. They learned to co-operate and become multi-celled organisms and all life on Earth is the result, including you and me. But they each had to start with themselves and their personal habits.

So do we.


Elderwoman said...

Ronni Bennett asked me to add this comment on her behalf:

"The first change Americans must make within themselves to preserve their freedoms is to educate themselves about the principles on which our country was founded. The principles aren't perfect, but they do quite nicely in giving us the underpinnings for an open society - or have done so until

The powers that are leading the U.S. down the road to fascism conveniently undermined the public school system beginning a couple of decades ago so that hardly anyone under 40 or 45 knows anything about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, etc.

There is lot of information available to learn these things on the web and it's not all that difficult to find. Like the samidzat during the Soviet regime, bloggers, YouTubers and others are doing good remedial work. Now if only those whose ignorance is not always their fault will find it..."

Ronni Bennett

Sara said...

This is an important post and topic but it leaves me feeling a bit sad and hopeless. I agree that the only way out is upwards, or inwards as the case may be, but the speed at which the ball is rolling now seems to preclude that happening on a scale of any meaningful size. As much as I believe this needs to happen, I feel fairly powerless as a regular citizen to make any real changes. I can recycle, reduce my consumtion, vote, demonstrate, read, and meditate all I want and I still don't feel like it'll make much of a difference. To me the machine just looks to huge to fight.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Marian. And based on what I'm seeing with our Democrat candidates for ' very true. I, for one, am already getting SO tired of all the squabbling and backbiting, back and forth. Reminds me of immature children. DO your job, for goodness sake and get ON with it. NOBODY seems to co-operate anymore and sadly, our US Congress is proving that more each day!

Elderwoman said...

As you said, Sara,...the machine looks too huge to fight . Whenever I feel as though I am fighting it - which I frequently do - I usually end up feeling depressed, dispirited, impotent and and hopeless, and no amount of telling myself that David did beat Goliath in the end can dissipate that feeling.
That's why I think it is important to be able to move, sometimes, to the 'big picture' and remember that we are all part of the One, fragments of the Earth, atoms in this vast Universe. We were there in the fireball of the Earth's creation, we are here now, in this form, and in some form or another we shall always be here. There is nowhere else to go. Dinosaurs came and went. Humans may also make themselves extinct. As T.S.Eliot said, "...there is only the dance."
For me, the small picture in which I keep fighting the machine and the big picture into which I can rest and be peaceful are not an 'either/or'. They are a 'both/and'. People who live only in the big picture don't do their part to make the world a better place. People who live only in the small picture get burnout. We need to hold both. That's my take on it, anyway.

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