Listening to Meet the Press. As always, the wrong people asking the wrong questions. It’s black–no, it’s white. And of course, it is neither.
Outside perspective are always valuable in the middle of crises. In the age of social media, we don’t have to go very far to find outside perspectives.
Here are three that landed in my social media “inbox” just this morning, shared by people I have met on my travels: “the chronic food crisis of the Horn of Africa edges with every hungry day towards full-blown famine.
One image captures the degrading awfulness now facing millions. It is not that of a wide-eyed, swollen-bellied child crying for food–although there are countless numbers of them. It is the sight of mothers using rope to bind their stomachs so they will deaden the pangs of hunger as they give what little food they can get to their children–a grotesque parody of the gastric bands used for slimming in the West.
It says a lot about American politics and culture that such a passionate minority believes that it can defy not just American political tradition but also the normal terms of trade that define human association. Everyone expects there to be a compromise at one minute to midnight on the very last day. I am not so sure. These are politicians who in some respects have more in common with Islamic religious fundamentalists than the Enlightenment tradition which gave birth to western democracy. The Tea Party sees neither virtue nor integrity in any position but their own. Nor do many of their number want to build political careers. They have been sent by God and their electors to bring down Washington.
There has always been this fundamentalist strand in U.S. life, but what has inflamed it over the last decade is a twofold process–a wrong-headed understanding of why U.S. economic pre-eminence is being challenged, closely linked to the breakdown of a public realm in which ideas are discussed, traded and exchanged in a climate which respects argument. The abolition of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, which required all broadcasters fairly to represent all points of view, has created a mass media shouting, ranting, sloganising and overwhelmingly from the political right.
And here is a third, this one from a book by Alan Watts that I first read in college.
“Thus for thousands of years human history has been a magnificently futile conflict, a wonderfully staged panorama of triumphs and tragedies based on the resolute taboo against admitting that black goes with white. Nothing, perhaps, ever got nowhere with so much fascinating ado. As when Tweedledum and Tweedledee agreed to have a battle, the essential trick of the Game of Black-and-White is a most tacit conspiracy for the partners to conceal their unity, and to look as different as possible. It is like a stage fight so well acted that the audience is ready to believe it a real fight. Hidden behind their explicit differences is the implicit unity of what Vedanta calls the Self, the One-without-a-second, the what there is and the all that there is which conceals itself in the form of you. If, then there is this basic unity between self and other, individual and universe, how have our minds become so narrow that we don’t know it?
Here comes the heavy part: we are all connected. What is happening in South Africa is relevant to us. What has happened in the Murdoch empire is relevant to us. And what is happening in Washington is relevant to us.
Ironically, taxes are a symbol of that. What happens to the recipients of tax-funded programs is relevant to us. We should be willing, and even eager, to pay taxes to acknowledge our human connections. It’s not the taxes, or even the amount of the taxes, that we should be fighting about. It’s where and how the tax money is spent. If it is increasingly spent to dishonor our interconnectedness (war and lobbyists) rather than honor our interconnectedness (care for the very young, the old, and the sick), we fail to acknowledge an essential truth the Hindus knew: it’s not us v. them, because we ARE them. That’s why China is rising and we are falling.
Doesn’t anybody realize this? Where are our leaders?