Ever the student of history, I’ve kept my ear to the ground over the past few years and especially the past few months. I’ve watched bizarre events unfold in the United States and around the world…and I’m not even talking about the pandemic.
I hear talk of a second civil war in America. I see voting rights eroded, gerrymandering normalized, and empathy at an all time low. I see evidence of a severe disconnect between what is actually happening and what people believe is happening in society.
Of course, we can blame the mainstream media, social media, ‘the rich’, politicians in general, or any president (past or present) in particular for our current state of affairs. And we’ll be right. We can blame, and we can take the shallow, temporary, and pointless comfort of knowing that we are correct and justified. Good for us.
The trouble is, blaming someone else doesn’t solve anything else. It simply closes off our minds to possible solutions. And right now, we need solutions.
Surprisingly, they are quite accessible. It is, as the saying goes, to be the change we wish to see in the world. And that is the biggest, most irritating revolution to start: the personal one. You say you want a revolution, as the lyrics to the Beatles hit song went…
Instead of blaming the institutions, John Lennon advised in one verse, we should free our minds instead. So let’s take a look at how we might do that.
First, we acknowledge. Yes, there is discrimination and inequality in the world, based on race, religion, social class, and income. It has always been with us and will always be with us. Again, blame is pointless. People are human. The world is how we have found it, but need not remain that way.
Second, we look for what we can change. Initially, that’s each individual one of us. There’s a lifetime of work ahead of us if we want to be our best selves by the time we die. Room for improvement is the biggest room in the house, someone once said. After that, we can help our family. We can empower our spouse, inspire our children, leave a legacy for our grandchildren. Then we can look in our community for opportunities to help. Think global, act local, as the bumper sticker says.
Third, we act. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. In order to experience any kind of paradise in this world or the next, we must commit ourselves to a greater good and perform. We must do our work in the full light of day without being ashamed of it or feeling required to justify it. Forget the consideration of something being legal or illegal: is it morally and ethically right? Would it make us proud if the whole world knew about it? In every action we take and every choice we make, would we be content to be remembered by it?
If each choice was carved on our tombstone or forever noted on our Wikipedia page, how would we behave? He compromised on this. She stood up for that. He gave everything he had. She remained neutral in a time of crisis.
Not that our lives are for public consumption, but they are certainly not to be lived in the shadows, dodging responsibility and taking whatever we can get, consequences be damned.
Revolutions are coming, as any student of history knows. They will have their heroes and villains. A personal revolution is, however, a unique opportunity: you can govern yourself. You can make new laws for yourself. You can rewrite your personal history. You can be your own hero.
You say you want a revolution. It’s yours to start.