Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.
Hello friends! Today our question comes from Carrie Kingston of Port Angeles, Washington.
“Dear Banaba,” Carrie writes. “It seems like everything is a mess. Our leaders blatantly lie to us and nothing happens. Our corporations gouge us and nothing happens. Our environment is being destroyed around us and nothing happens. Everyone seems to hate everyone else and nothing happens. People are shooting each other and nothing happens. It’s a real mess! Will it ever get better?”
To my new friend Carrie, I ask, “Better than what?”
But of course, that is me making a small joke while I consider the many facets of your query.
There is some truth to my joke. To divine whether things are likely to get better, we have to have some level of understanding or agreement as to what “better” means. What is better for you may not be better for me or better for someone else and so on. In fact, it rarely is, and these fluid definitions may prove to be so disjointed that striving for each one’s “better” may just make things worse. At least over the short term.
So one, to be “better” we need a common and agreed upon standard of what better looks like and as such, it must be something we work toward collectively.
The next part of your question seems to deal with the consequences for those who appear to be doing the work of making things worse. Most of us are raised to believe in the concept of the right of common sense. This means that while people have the right to self-actualize, there are common rules and pathways that must be followed to achieve that actualization. And common sense dictates that if one was to circumvent those rules and pathways in an egregious manner, they will be corrected, reprimanded or in some other way, aptly punished.
As an example, if one desires money, the pathways and rules that guide that desire make it clear that in a civilized society one will work for the money they get or inherit it. To get it in any other way, like stealing it, breaks the code of conduct for our society and demands correction. If that correction or punishment is not realized, at least to our satisfaction, we who feel as if we live our lives within the set code of conduct basically feel like, as one of our friends said previously, “what the hell?” Why should we play by the rules when others don’t and get away with it?
So two, to be “better” we need to re-establish or re-enforce and agree to adhere to the basic code of conduct that guides our society.
Finally, the status of, or the quality of, our existence often hinges on the status of our mental state as we encounter the things the go awry in our day to day lives. The world is big and full of problems. Disease, pollution, corruption, hatred, mistrust, hunger, war and more are all the things that we must deal with and most of those run counter to our standard rules, pathways and general code of conduct. When we feel as though these things are allowed to continue or are being flamed by dissidents or made worse in general by people who don’t subscribe to the general code of conduct, we feel overwhelmed and despondent.
We cannot turn a blind eye to these problems by opting for an artificially sunny disposition, but we can be mindful and purposeful about how we manage our responses to the breaches of social conduct and the travesties we bare witness to.
So three, to be “better”, we must be able to have a mindset that is rationally optimistic and that guides us to seek solutions so that we are not actively part of the greater pool of problems.
Another question to consider, is are we actually in a worse situation today than we have ever been? In other words, are things really worse? Can they get better?
Historically, humankind has generated and endured travesty after travesty. Things that, to talk about them seem counter to the intent of all human existence and yet we repeat these atrocities over and over again as if the new reasons for doing them were better than the old reasons which, for their time made them unacceptable. Are our modern atrocities worse than our historical ones?
We also live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by messages which give us the latest facts as they happen. Where facts are not yet realized, speculation and hyperbole fill the gaps. This is because we demand access to information. We have become used to getting information as we want it. However, information is not generated as we want to consume it and we are apparently, not picky about the quality of the information as long as it keeps coming.
Again, applying some common sense to what we are hearing will help us maintain a better perspective, as will seeking all the facts on the issues that affect us most and, believe it or not, stepping away from the media entirely for a while.
Of course, these are simple thoughts that work to address what we see as a gigantic and unruly situation. Being human is difficult, but I often think we make it more difficult than it needs to be. The secret to our success, to making things better – is in no way a secret all. We know what to do. We probably also know how to do it. It seems more likely that we just don’t.
There are people out there who are trying and those are the stories we need to share.
Will things get better? Can things get better? Better than they have been? Can we be more than we are? Can we reach the aspirations of our potential?
That answer lies within us as individuals and as a collective species. I believe things can be better if we want them to be and are willing to do the work. We make it happen when we finally decide it needs to happen and I hope we do that before we can’t.
Peace to you – Banaba
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