Wednesday, April 29, 2015

If you want to understand radicalization and/or the “issues” of war veterans, try this on for size…

In the reporting of slews of young people with good upbringing, from modern well informed countries becoming “radicalized”, or war veterans falling through the gaping “cracks” in the social system, or growth in gang problems, or veteran suicide, and more, I frequently hear words to the effect of “Why? What could be so ____________ (fill in the blank) that they would do that?”  I never cease to be amazed by this, or the amounts of time and money that are spent chasing the chimera of false understanding that wants to rationalize the problem as anything BUT the real problem.

Elliot Ackerman, author of the newly released "Green on Blue" talked with the host of The Takeaway on Thursday (19 Feb, 2015) about the underlying issue of young men throughout a difficult world being at “loose ends” and looking for "purpose". He is a veteran of five Marine Corp deployments to Iraq & Afghanistan and makes the highly accurate observation that the essence of the warrior - nobility, camaraderie, esprit de corp, and the relatively clearly defined, highly responsible role available in a war situation - create the "crystal meth of purpose" for young men who are living lives particularly devoid of self-defined or self-evident purpose. He makes this observation in the context of the apparent similarities in the function and opportunities for a recruiter for IS and a recruiter for the Marines. Then he makes, almost as an aside, what I considered the stunningly accurate connection with what happens when the conflict ends and that young man goes home. He relates how the opportunities presented by routine civilian life - where the level of responsibility is not 1/10th that of the military environment, where so many never actually lead anybody and those who do are in their 40's before they are trusted to do that, where the collected opportunities of life are the functional equivalent of the "light beer" of purpose - are so underwhelming, so disappointing, in some cases so devastating that the root of PTSD and depression probably has much more to do with the sudden radical demotion of role, responsibility, and purpose as any of the "accepted/ correct” reasons such as battle field fatigue or dealing with death in combat. 

Now (and THESE are my words) - Realizing you will never again have that kind of experience, as much because of your social setting/position, and the prevailing structures of your society, as anything else - not because of any shortcoming in you - that the rest of your life will be sitting on your front porch drinking "light beer" - is so hugely demoralizing and enervating that it can account for almost any form of emotional state, mental health issue, or deviant behavior. So… the next time you encounter a (wo)man of any age who "served their country" in the military as a young (wo)man and who has attempted to make a realistic life after their military time was done, think about this. THINK HARD about this. Think about what it is like when you ask someone to be their VERY BEST, and they DO it, and then, when they come home, you don't show any respect for that, you don't ask them to continue to be their best, to continue to bring that to "the party", you don't even invite them to "the party"…  If you don't present even a bad approximation of a good opportunity to build on what they know, what they have done, WHO THEY HAVE BECOME…  there are consequences. 

If you encounter ANY man (or woman), of any age, who "served his/her country" in the military as a young person, and (s)he seems "driven", or "sad", or "desperate", or "angry", or slightly off center… ALL THE TIME… even though life seems perfectly "normal" to you, try some understanding instead of the all too familiar dismissal, disrespect, and holier-than-thou rationalization. The disappointment NEVER goes away. The need for purpose NEVER goes away. The sense of loss is palpable. Having a sense of place and purpose is IMPERATIVE for their good health and well being jut as it is for yours. The difference is that they have been to the top of the mountain and now they are relegated, by their own people, to the rock pile at the bottom. That dog just don't hunt. Only if they are very lucky or inordinately obstreperous will they overcome any part of this. Otherwise they will spend the rest of their lives dying… slowly - at your expense.

On that note, maybe it’s time to seriously review our modern societies and our social structures, with an intensive focus on if, how, and when they deliver functional respect and inspire purpose – purpose that will last a life time, and be an inspiration to the next generation to do the same. Maybe we need to seriously consider how much of ALL of our major issues relate to this fundamental denial of respect and purpose to the large majority of the population. Disenfranchisement, denial of opportunity, and worse, denial of basic respect are short paths to hopeless. Hopeless is the blood brother of radicalization, and desperate action of almost any kind. It’s not about “bad” Islam and “good” western civilization; it’s about being human and lack (or loss) of purpose, respect, and hope.

Thanks for being there and being you, and thanks for caring enough to reading this

Copyright, Feb 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015

This I Believe...

A number of people I know are scared, exhausted, depressed, anxious, over-worked, and vastly unappreciated. The people of whom I speak are uniformly eco-warriors, fighting to change the harmful paradigm that holds sway over most of the planet on a daily basis - the predatory capitalism and all the goes with it to make life miserable and unthinkable. Climate change activism DOES have emotional consequences. One of these people, in trying to deal with his difficulties, recently quoted from Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, in the opening moments of which states “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult. Once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

I agree with this. More importantly, I BELIEVE in this. This is the key concept - belief - or faith. What you are willing to stake everything you are, know, and do on - that is what you believe in. As the old saying goes, regarding your stated faith that someone can push a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls on a rope - "It's not faith unless you're in the wheelbarrow." The wheelbarrow is climate change, and you have no option. You ARE "in the wheelbarrow"… as is every other living thing on earth.

The problem is that we're ALL in this wheelbarrow, and not only is faith scarce but denial is prevalent. Here are some other things, some corollary principles, that I believe -
1) What's supposed to happen does. What's not doesn't. (which is approximately equivalent to the Viking observation that our thread was woven into the tapestry of life long ago. Being afraid of death serves no purpose and makes no difference.)  We just need to "do" and "be" what we naturally are drawn to. Which goes hand in hand with "Each and everyone of us is exactly where and who we are supposed to be at any given moment."
2) I believe that we are all energetic beings having a physical experience. This in no way means we are impervious to the pain and panic of our physical world and times but it does mean that there is something more, something greater about us than anything this physical plane can meet out. Think of this as a stage of metamorphosis in our development. 
3) I believe "you get what you focus on" - what you believe in.  This is a simple statement but it is quite literally at the root of everything we have and are.  We create our world around us every moment of every day, as a matter of forging into physical space the thoughts and concerns of our deepest conviction, whether they be fear or fantasy.  Whatever you "be" or you "are" is what you will get more of because you are attracting that energy to you by "being" that way.
4) I believe that we must "know the enemy" if we are to have a prayer of beating him. That said, we must not focus on any latent fear, uncertainty or doubt that may appear in relation to that knowledge. We MUST hold our desire for good at the center of our being, because that is the focus that will prevail in our forging of Source energy (of which we too are made - the forging of desire and thoughts of our parents) Source energy is the universal "I AM/ WE ARE" that unifies us all and is in everything. Do not think of electrical energy. Think of another plane of energy, the energy of being, the very energy of existence itself. Think of the Akashic Field.  This is perhaps, our greatest test of faith.
5) Significantly, I believe that we in this physical plane, this particular place and time in the tapestry of life, are facing something that can best be described as a breakpoint change for life on Earth with special impact for humanity, and as such, because we affect everything, the planet. This is inviolate. Nothing we can say or do will change this. Such epochal change has happened at regular (and decreasing) intervals since life began.  It is happening again now. We happen to be the individuals of choice to be here, now, in the final days of old paradigm, of "old viable" for the last epoch. We also have a unique opportunity. Never before in all of Earth's history has any species been in a position to have this awareness, and to act upon it. Within that exists the opportunity to influence either positively or negatively, what emerges as the "new viable". Think about this. It HAS happened a number of times before (each epochal shift) and it IS happening again… now! You ARE part of the opportunity. Act accordingly.

I believe many things, but for this thought, this discussion, one final belief - I believe in emergence. Margaret Wheatley has a great paper about using emergence to affect social change ( and I will not try to regurgitate it all verbatim here. Suffice it to say, that this is where our real power lies. By becoming informed and impassioned, and talking to others we form networks of common interest. As these networks develop, communities of practice emerge, which in turn seek out others and systems of influence emerge, quite suddenly in some cases. As Margaret says "The third stage in emergence can never be predicted. It is the sudden appearance of a system that has real power and influence. Pioneering efforts that hovered at the periphery suddenly become the norm. The practices developed by courageous communities become the accepted standard." Again, in her words, "Emergence is the fundamental scientific explanation for how local changes can materialize as global systems of influence.  As a change theory, it offers methods and practices to accomplish the systems-wide changes that are so needed at this time.   As leaders and communities of concerned people, we need to intentionally work with emergence so that our efforts will result in a truly hopeful future.   No matter what other change strategies we have learned or favored, emergence is the only way change really happens on this planet.   And that is very good news." In a  nutshell, if you get enough people, focused on the right things, working in cohesive morphic resonance, the crystallization of synergy occurs and you immediately get a result that is greater than the sum of the parts.

This is emergence, this is an absolute reality, and this is our opportunity. We get what we focus on, and I am focused on creative, abundant, ecologically functional emergence… but I DO pay attention to where the potential problems are. The transition to a better way of living with ourselves, each other in community, and Earth, will NOT be a "trip to WalMart"! :-)