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Evaluating my contribution

The national election is in four days and, like a lot of people, I don’t know whether to be sick, or just face facts: our electoral process is irrelevant.  Neither Obama or Romney is talking about the issues that are most important to me—and perhaps to the other 90 million Americans who reportedly plan to sit this one out: ending drone strikes, slashing the military budget, addressing climate change in a way befitting its urgency, and building a sustainable economy—one that is not based on infinite growth on a finite planet. 

Four of the third-party candidates were willing to talk about these issues—as well as a Constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, the equality of women and the right for people of any sexual orientation to marry; immigration and GMOs.  Yet these third-party candidate debates were not carried on national television—despite having Larry King as their moderator—but only online.  The reason: they didn’t have millions to spend on advertising.  Or, said another way, our electoral process is broken.

What to do about all that ails our country and our planet is an issue I wrestle with continuously these days.  My PR clients are peace and social justice or spiritual enlightenment organizations, and yet it is a daunting uphill battle to get them any but local or extremely limited national coverage (one to two interviews a year in The Sun, or an occasional post on an online publication).  This is not to say that I’m giving up; just that I wonder whether this is all the impact I’m going to be able to make.  Is this my contribution?  How can I be more effective?  Meanwhile, the income I earn from these clients doesn’t cover my expenses, so my life isn’t even working for me in the long run, let alone the planet.  It’s unsustainable.

I could fling myself at the machine—get arrested with the Vandenberg 15, making them the Vandenberg 16—who will be protesting the next scheduled ICBM missile test launch Nov. 14.  That would certainly complicate my life, but would it constitute being more effective?  Maybe it would.  How does one know the impact of any of one’s actions?  Did Rosa Parks know the impact she would have simply by refusing to give up her seat on that Montgomery bus?  Did Socialist party leader Eugene Debs know how little long-term impact he would have when he gave the speech against WWI that landed him in jail…from which a few years later he ran for president and garnered almost a million votes (in 1921)?

I’ve just been handed a book called The Cultural Creatives: How 50 million people are changing the world.  The book was written in 2000, at which time its authors estimated that 50 million Americans—one fourth the population—fit the definition of their title.  Their unifying values were (and remain): “serious (commitment to) ecological and planetary perspectives, emphasis on relationships and women’s point of view, commitment to spirituality and psychological development, disaffection with the large institutions of modern life, including both left and right in politics, and rejection of materialism and status display.”

 I wonder if the 90 million Americans who don’t plan to vote this election also fit the definition.  Whether or not you agree with their election strategy, that’s a huge measure of disaffection—nearly half the population.

Twelve years after the book’s publication, the Cultural Creatives’ website (www.culturalcreatives.org) now refers to an emerging planetary culture, a culture they describe as a unifying layer beyond national and ethnic cultures.

“As our modern materialistic way of life falls apart, it opens space for a new civilization to emerge. As we track the trends, we see a powerful movement toward a clean, green economy and the restoration of nature. As a wave of change moves through the culture, large populations now agree that a wise culture means taking care of all the children, not just the privileged.” There’s more, but after that beginning, it all blurs into so much “blah-blah-blah.”  Worse, I’m not sure I believe it.  I want to see specifics; specifics that, taken together, create a new paradigm.  A new way of living in planet Earth.

Many of the most hopeful actions I’m aware of come from the people of the Third World, who are, after all, on the front lines of climate change, oppressive economic policies, our war machine, etc.  Tony de Brum from the Marshall Islands, who has seen firsthand what nuclear weapons bring, struggling to rid the world of them.  The people of Bolivia, who wrote the rights of the planet into their constitution and kicked Coca-Cola out.  Indians who block construction of a dam.  These are the actions I want to see more of.

Indigenous people often pay attention to symbolic changes that seem trivial to western eyes, but which indigenous people read as portents of deeper shifts.  The one example I’ve seen play out in my own life is the image of the mushroom cloud that was the “mental wallpaper” I grew up with as a child of the Cold War.  That image was replaced one auspicious day by the photo of the Earth from space that accompanied the lunar missions…One beautiful blue-green planet glowing in a midnight sky.  One earth; one ocean; one people; one biosphere; an image that was seen by millions.  Who knows how instrumental it has been in changing consciousness and policies?  Who knows (not me) what other currents are running beneath the surface of all that is appallingly wrong?

Right now I’m working with Spencer Martin, spiritual leader of the Methow, on finding funding for a documentary called Spirit of the Salmon.  Told in Native voices, it’s a film expressing the Native notion that the health of the land and the health of humans are intricately interwoven, and that caring for the earth is a spiritual responsibility.  As the Hawaiians say, “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”  Will this film become my contribution?  Will I yet write an essay, an interview, or even a book, that will help reverse the current, stem the tide?    

I often take comfort in the fact that “We don’t know what we don’t know.”  Meanwhile, we can rest assured that what we don’t know far exceeds what we do know.  So, just like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the disintegration of the Soviet Union, all that is unsustainable might well be on the verge of collapse…hallelujah…we just don’t know it yet. Yes, we’ll have to invent ways that work, or resurrect ways that used to work, but that will be far more joyful work than throwing oneself onto the gears of the system that is not working. 

I also have to remind myself that I’m not working alone.  None of us is.  In addition to the millions of cultural creatives rumored to be inhabiting the planet, we have unseen assistance from other dimensions; perhaps even other galaxies.  Many prophets, such as Barbara Hand Clow, author of The Pleidian Agenda,  say that planet Earth is important to the cosmos, not just its inhabitants, and that we have spiritual aides working around the clock to ensure the planet’s survival.

That’s a relief.  We need them.

And so it is.


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