I walked down the streets in a suburb of Sydney, Australia feeling how blessed I am, and feeling how tenuous every moment of life is. I walked along avenues in downtown Sydney, in view of the famous opera house and the gorgeous bridges and gardens. I walked along beaches in towns peopled with strangers, talking in strange drawling accents.
It is always with a bit of distance that I can get some perspective on the situation at home. And try to get a clearer view on the problems of the world. People would ask me what I thought of Obama, or the debt crisis in Europe, or the world economic situation, as if by merely being an American, I had an opinion worth listening too. And too, reading the papers and watching the news from outside the US, gave me a different view as to how the world looked at us from the outside.
They mostly looked at us with a mixture of pity and curiosity. I got statements like, “where are you from?”
“The US,” I answered.
“I’m sorry,” they’d say, only half joking.
And then the businessman who said, “America is the center of the world. Period. I don’t care what anyone says about rising China or India. It’s America. And New York City is the center of America. Period.”
Or the young man who said, “Its amazing what a mess everything is in, isn’t it? A bit scary really.”
I walked the streets wondering what could be done to change the direction of the world, which seemed to me too, to be dangerously off course.
I’ve always been a bit naïve. Always wondered how people could be so insensitive to the world around them. Were we really such an insular country?
I’d spent much of my life travelling the world. Lived in third world countries. Travelled the dirt road paths, with a backpack on. Even in my own country, though I was by no means one of the impoverished ones, I’d waited tables for many years of my life, worked manual labor, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. I knew how tough it was for most of my own countrymen. And most of the world.
What I couldn’t understand is why the leaders of the huge banks, the huge corporations, the huge multi-nationals, really didn’t think beyond their bottom line. I didn’t understand why if you had a million, or ten million, or a billion dollars, you would still be obsessed with getting more. Why it made sense to close a factory you ran in the US and move it to Mexico or China, because you could slash your labor costs and make even more of a ridiculous profit. And then those same businessmen would complain that China was getting too powerful. Where were the businessmen who were invested in making their own country great, not just increasing their own personal profit?
Didn’t the big polluters, the chemical companies, the coal companies, the oil companies, the fracking companies understand that they too have to live on this same small planet? And that if they pollute everything, they too will have to live in the mess they’ve created? Didn’t the death of Steve Jobs prove that no matter how much money you have, cancer can kill you still?
How could these leaders of business be so blind to what was so incredibly obvious? Could they really be so insane?
I walked along the streets and tried to think what I would like to see happen in 2012 – the year which has been touted as either the end of days, or the opportunity for transformation on a grand scale.
What would it take for the leaders of the world, political and business, to see the truth? To stop seeking power and money, and to realize that when everyone has security, food and shelter, everyone is safer? What would it take?
In the yogic tradition – which I have been studying and practicing for almost two decades now – it is said that the most important thing you can do to change the world is to change yourself. I always thought that was a bit of a cop-out. People are out there protesting, laying down their lives, risking everything to make big changes. And yoga was saying just to meditate?
But when I went into my fantasy world about the possibility of talking to the leaders of Citigroup, Exxon, Monsanto – what I realized I would say to them was the same thing.
If each of them could look with honesty and clarity into their very hearts. If they could move beyond their own personal fears of not having enough, of not being successful, of not padding their bottom line. If they could step away from the way everything has always been done: greedily, haphazardly, recklessly, uncaringly – and take a truly yogic approach. The world could change in an instant! If each world leader saw the light in their heart and realized that light was the same light that each human being has lighting their soul – they would stop manipulating the numbers for their own political gain, and achieve equality for all of us.
There are enough resources on this planet to go around. There is enough ingenuity to clean up the messes we’ve made. We could put to work our entire workforce to clean up our messes, and turn around the environmental disasters we’ve created, and build a new infrastructure based on renewable, environmentally friendly solutions.
The billionaires will still be rich. After all, how many filet mignon’s can you eat at one sitting anyway? And if each billionaire really cared for the good of the world, imagine how much good could be done.
So my hope for 2012 is this: that the rulers and leaders and owners of the World As It Now Is, see beyond their own limitations to the truth behind the curtain: we are all in this together. And whether we all sink, or we all swim, depends greatly on whether those in charge can see the truth of that statement. The World Wide Web, which has been a huge catalyst in the people’s movements toward greater equality, is really a metaphor for a Native American truth that those in their gated communities sometimes forget. We are all just one big web of life. And where one strand of the web is plucked, it will be felt shaking the entire web. It will not be possible for just a few lucky and rich spiders to survive. My hope is that those spiders realize this truth before the whole web is shredded.Happy New Year 2012!!