“Every nation must now develop on overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, class, and nation in reality is a call for an all embracing and unconditional love for all mankind” -M.L. King (as cited in Guardian News and Media Limited, 2010).
In these words from the speech, Beyond Vietnam Martin Luther King, Jr. called for worldwide fellowship. The problems that mankind faces today -illegal wars, climate change and worldwide financial failure urge us toward the birth of a larger consciousness that goes beyond the narrow constraints of the nation state. The protest against the WTO in 1999, known as the Battle of Seattle, was an iconic moment in US history. It was a clash of two forces, one working for commercially led globalization, represented by transnational corporations; and the other by ordinary citizens from around the world who united for the universal right of self-determination.
The event in Seattle can be seen as the symbolic birth of a global civil consciousness, a kinship among all creatures on the earth. There people gathered from all over the world, who crossed political and religious boundaries, speaking for the voiceless, soon to be extinct sea turtles and butterflies and all workers across borders. A decade after the battle of Seattle, the awakening of this fellowship thrived again in the hearts of ordinary citizens in the streets of Copenhagen during the climate summit in 2009. What emerged on the streets was an impulse for true democracy through action.
True democracy is neither a political persuasion nor an empty word exchanged in debates. It is a spirit that ignites a kind of fellowship in people and awakens a shared sense of civic responsibility in each person as a resident of the Earth. This spirit of democracy thrives or weakens depending on our participation, bringing immediate consequence to the well being of this planet and its creatures.
We are born into culture. The culturalization process brings a kind of forgetfulness of our common fellowship. As people grow up, they take in opinions and views that are passed down from parents, friends and teachers who are regarded as authorities of knowledge, by which they guide their lives. It is like growing up learning to wear clothes that identify one with a particular nation, culture, ethnicity and language. Jungian psychologist, Jacobi (1973) describes these clothes as the persona, “is a compromise between the individual and society revealing what a man should appear to be. In other words it is a compromise between the demands of the environment and the inner structural necessity of the individual” (p.28). We cover ourselves with masks of what we immediately identify with, and there is often a gap of compromise between the outer masks (how others see us) and nakedness (who we think we are behind the mask).
In the process of developing one’s identification with the environment, when adults simply take given direction from authorities at face value, they withdraw their inner participation from this world. This absence in the process of developing one’s sense of self at a personal level makes oneself like a blank state that is masked with the outlook or agenda of others. The more solid one’s identification with this kind of persona becomes, the more we become a hardened shell that cuts us off from a sense of fellowship. Through losing universality, where things exist as multiplicity in relationship, we become foreign to ourselves and to one another.
At a collective level our disempowerment in the developmental process leads to this disconnection throughout society. The habit of filling the soul with Hollywood images and electronic distraction furthers the malaise. This turns our world into an empty place, a silence that is filled with voices of one-sided monologues, leading to disengagement and freezing of perception of the world into dead abstractions. Then the world becomes an object upon which one can impose a one-sided view that allows for it’s exploitation. Recent documentary films exposed this act of objectification. Food, INC reveals how commercial interests such as Monsanto monopolize seeds and destroy the life of the land. The film, The Cove exposed a hidden captivity industry in Japan in which fisherman chase after and slaughter dolphins. Here, the scripts of self-defined experts who are driven by commercial interests monopolize the message in the media and replace our intuitive sense of knowing what is right for the creatures on this planet.
Historian Howard Zinn (1990) reminds us of our responsibility for carrying the spirit of democracy:
To depend on great thinkers, authorities, and experts is, it seems to me, a violation of the spirit of democracy. Democracy rests on the idea that, except for technical details for which experts may be useful, the important decisions of society are within the capability of ordinary citizens. Not only can ordinary people make decisions about these issues, but they ought to, because citizens understand their own interests more clearly than any experts. (p. 6)
Only through the individual connecting with the imagination of the Earth can they become a spokesperson on behalf of the planet and transform monologue into dialogue for the betterment of society. Obedience to experts and voices outside oneself often results in loss of access to the living images, the voices of the Earth. Ultimately this results in a weakening of the spirit of Democracy in the individual.
Pursuit of Power
Jungian psychoanalyst, Rafael Lopez- Pedraza (1990) described two aspects of human nature which he considers to be in exclusive opposition to each other.
One aspect is our access to archetypal images and consistent life-forms, making possible psyche, emotions and feeling values, and making our inner processes. The other is a lack of images, a vacuum, a lacuna, out of which come excess and the madness of power. (p. 7)
One’s identification with persona leads to becoming more disconnected from living images. When one is cut off from the stream of imagination, one becomes susceptible to the feeling that there is something missing in their lives. Even though what is given from outside tells them who they should be, they feel empty inside.
This emptiness can drive one further to find an answer. It can also become a destructive force in the pursuit of power, as with the tendency to hold onto ideologies, or to hunger for material goods and superficial sensory stimulation etc. This can be seen in the form of abuses of power, in the endless sex and corruption scandals of many politicians and corporate executives. And yet, because we are looking for answers in the wrong places, we can never satiate the real hunger. And as long as we remain unconscious of this real hunger, we are more easily blinded to the force that drives us to feed the emptiness with this tendency toward ideology.
It is like an orphaned child that is craving for her caregiver’s attention. If one doesn’t have caring validation and acceptance in childhood, one is always insecure, seeking for outer validation. When confronted with people that are culturally, ethnically or politically different, those differences are perceived as a threat to their identity.
Hunger for love, for the validation of one’s individuality is often directed outward, which feeds the lust for power. This forgetting of our common connection to mother earth creates what I term the illness of isms, which leads to weakening of community, of civic power and the sense of responsibility for the health of the Earth.
The Illness of Isms
When one fractures oneself through the blind clinging to that make us different, there occurs what I call illness of isms. These aspects that constitute an individual identity are described below. When absolute faith overrides our common universality, these unique differences are turned into illness and are used to perpetuate oppression, creating perception of the inferiority of others for the sake of justification of one’s identity. Examples of these are as follows:
Religion: Organized religions tend toward power to control when domination of thought and rigidly prescribed morals prevail and govern other’s actions, rather than helping individuals develop their own moral compass.
Politics: Party lines, ideologically (often artificially) divided groups.
Nationality: Bloodline, patriotism
Race: Culture, racial identity, differences in skin color and racial/ethnic identities, customs, and ways of being.
Sex: Gender orientation man and women, and sexual orientation such as straight, homosexual and gays.
Species: The separation between man and animals.
Those in pursuit of power use the criteria depicted above and turns them into an illness of isms, which further hardens one’s wall of individuality, and justifies violating the spirit of democracy. It separates people with differences, breaking fellowship among people as stewards of the Earth. Fear and terror are used by those in power regularly to make us cling to and defend our concocted identities, resulting in further disconnection with a living imagination of the Earth. Consequence of broken fellowship is a tyranny where one country dominates the others, acquire power over others in terms of foreign policy, military intervention, wars of aggression, and reallocation of resources poor to the rich in the form of neo-colonial corporatized trade and government policies.
Each person as a resident of the Earth is responsible for building the spirit of democracy. In this effort everyone is counted. This requires teamwork and thus the building of networks of people around the globe so that each can take turns in stewarding the life of the Earth. Each individual is a watchdog and as a resident of the earth has a responsibility to ‘check and balance’ the abuse of power in any form. This is a crucial aspect of what I am calling the Spirit of Democracy.
This evolved Democracy requires remembering our larger collective self as resident of the Earth. Out of this shared ground we help others live from the heart, to feel for each other. It calls for citizens who can witness and testify when their brothers and sisters fall into amnesia of shared responsibility. If each falls asleep in the tendency to identify with our masks, we will be forever driven to seek within the material world to fill the hunger that comes with that forgetfulness.
Absence of citizenship that carries the spirit of democracy as a guardian of this planet makes us vulnerable to the attacks focused on breaking our fellowship. We give over to the destructive force of power, and inevitably lurch toward tyranny. The events of the time indicate that momentous changes are coming. This is an urgent call for a worldwide fellowship. Each person in their own way are called to a kind of awakening to carry the spirit of democracy that binds all living creatures to the Earth. The revival of the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia through the film series spoke deeply to this world that we knew as children, yet have forgotten as adults. We can rekindle our kinship beyond species, to a fellowship of the Earth.
I ask all of humanity to keep the heart open, to remember these deep ties to one another. Every morning and every evening, before we wake up and in the moment we go to bed, each person can take a breath to keep the memory of our fellowship. While you are asleep, someone on the other side of the earth takes up where you left off, performing the duty of taking care of the Earth, conversing, twittering and reaching out to reconnect with neighbors. It is a dream of the earth gently held by cradle of citizen’s networks. At each sunrise deep in the ocean, a catfish yawns shaking his whiskers, on starry night eagles in the sky are flying home. Today and tomorrow, each takes a turn guarding the precious life of this planet.
Guardian News and Media Limited. (2010). Martin Luther King: A time to break silence. Retrieved March 13, 2010from http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/jan/18/martin-luther-king-speech
Jacobi, J. (1973). The psychology of C.G Jung: An introduction with illustrations. (R. Manheim, Trans.). CT: Yale University Press.
Lopez-Pedraza, R. (1990). Cultural anxiety. Einsiedeln: Daimon Verlag.
Zinn, H. (1990). Declarations of Independence: Cross-examining American ideology. NY: HarperPerennial.