The human brain can easily be petty, bitter, indignant at how unfair life is. You could say it’s human nature.
But really it’s primate nature. That’s the monkey part of our brain.
What’s unique to humans is the creative, imaginative part of our brain that can look at those instinctive feelings and choose an alternative action.
The operative word there is “can.”
The human brain can also be manipulated to feel that those monkey feelings are valid. Like poking a few smoldering embers into a blazing fire, we can be provoked into believing in our feelings, and with a little suggestion, can even believe in a reality that isn’t objectively true.
This creative, imaginative part of our brain gives us our ability to create amazing things, and also our ability to create horrible things, like war, riots, phobias, and violence.
If we zoom out, we can see that as a society, we have reached a point of great instability and uncertainty. The base of our society, like our economy, our education, food production, and energy production, are all based on outdated technologies and ideas that are starting to collapse.
And instead of adapting to create an education system that encourages creative thinking and knowledge work — fields that can’t be replaced by machines…
Instead of adopting biointensive and regenerative agriculture methods that replenish the soil, supporting organisms, and creating healthier food…
Instead of fully adopting renewable energy sources and replacing our fuel-burning infrastructure, which would create a whole lot of jobs and opportunities for our economy…
Instead of seeing the problems we’ve created and moving forward, we wallow in the mess we’ve created and invent stories about one another. We blame other people for our problems and we start fights.
It’s the same petty, bitter, indignant feelings at the root that allow us to feel justified in finger-pointing, shifting the responsibility from ourselves and our own need to change, and placing it artificially on random groups of people.
Change would be difficult, and perhaps even feel like giving up our power, or admitting we’ve made mistakes.
So instead we try to make ourselves feel powerful by pointing at someone else and saying they are the problem. It’s their fault we don’t have enough food or jobs or money. It’s their fault we aren’t getting the education we need.
When I look at that photo, I see people who are scared, who have had their fear used to manipulate their human brains in a chillingly effective way. Their entire reality is skewed into one they believe so passionately in they’re willing to do horrible awful things in a bid for power. When someone feels they need to grasp for power, obviously they feel powerless and lacking.
And I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories, but when the people at the very top of our government seem to be feeding these stories, it really does make me stop and think…
The people who can bring change to our infrastructure, the rules that govern our society, the regulations that say what’s acceptable and what’s not… those leaders aren’t doing what needs to be done to fix what’s clearly broken in our society.
It seems like the people in power are either keeping the power where it is for their own benefit, or are being blocked by people in power who are benefiting from keeping the system broken.
It’s like my Facebook friend Joe Brewer said the other day, “when you see one group of working class people pit themselves ideologically against another group of working class people” it is generally the very wealthy people (still grasping for more power) who will benefit.
Like they say, Don’t Be a Sucker (title of a film released by the U.S. War Department in 1947, urging Americans to remain united, to not to listen to hate speak aimed at inciting racism.)
So, what, when we see people who have gotten caught up in the flames of this provoked fire, what are we supposed to do? When we call them scum, when we meet them with violence, we are doing what’s expected. If we are being played, lowering ourselves to more hate is just playing into the game.
So what are we supposed to do, sit idly by and let them exercise free speech?
No, silence is just as bad as violence.
We do need to do something, say something. This is not the time to sit idly by or to be polite, especially if you are white in America right now.
Be loud. Be angry. Be very very vocal about the specific behaviors you find unacceptable, rather than the people performing them.
We all have the ability to express our opinions and make our voices heard. We can exercise our own free speech to say things like “I find racism horrible and disgusting.” “I believe diversity is our strength.”
We can create powerful words and art to speak out against fear and hate without directing that fear and hate to the people exhibiting fearful and hateful behavior. We can call the behavior horrendous without expressing judgement upon the people.
We all have the right to be fully and authentically ourselves and express our point of view. I believe it’s wrong to denounce or insult a group of people due to their skin color, birthplace, gender, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, abilities or disabilities.
So when someone expresses a view that does denounce or insult a blanket group of people, I don’t agree with them, but to insult those people or desire violence on them is to do the same thing they’re doing to the group they’re marginalizing.
We can imagine that in certain scenarios, if we had grown up in a different place or in a different family, it could be us on that other side. We can imagine what kind of circumstances would lead a human to condone violence to other humans. We can realize we all have this potential in our human brains.
We also have the potential in our human brains to choose another behavior. We can acknowledge when we feel afraid or powerless and choose to let that feeling go, rather than letting ourselves get wrapped up in the mentality of a victim who needs someone to blame and enact revenge upon.
Unlike monkeys, we have a part of our brain that allows us to see our own feelings and behaviors and choose a different way to act. It’s hard, but we can interrupt and redirect our monkey mind tendencies.
When we see one another as human beings and choices, we can begin to talk with one another. If we can hear where the other person is coming from at the root, behind all that anger and fear, we may be able to help them see that the group of people they’re directing all that resentment and violence towards is not the issue.
The issue is our society is in need of massive change requiring massive collaboration, and the people in power are currently behaving out of fear and short-sightedness instead of working to make it happen.
We don’t have to wait for government to act. We don’t have to see problems we don’t like and wring our hands with anxiety or roll our eyes with cynicism or join in the flame wars.
We can take this all in as information. Information about what humans are capable of. Information about how to mobilize one another in collaboration. Information about the needs people have that are unmet. Information about what we’re passionate about and where we’d like to put our creative energies.
And then we can act. We can start a business or write a novel or create art that inspires people to see things in a new way. We can act for change and make our voices heard.
This is why I’m building The Determined. To help those who want to make change succeed. I hope someday you will be one of our clients or collaborators. I want to work with you to create something that changes the world.
Let’s create something amazing together.