On the right side of history

He seems to be on the right side of history.

– Sarah Silverman

I assume we all think that we – our views and the policies we support – are on the right side of history. Hitler must have thought that, as well as Gandhi and just about anyone else of us.

I think that too. When I see Bernie Sanders and the policies he promotes, I see it as being on the right side of history.

It’s a bias most of us have.

And yet, progressive policies tend to actually be on the right side of history. Over the last 200 years or so, later generations tend to see the progressive policies of earlier generations as good, right, and on the right side of history.

It seems that in a society where most people have their basic needs met, the tendency is for it to move in a progressive direction. (Of course, if most or many do not have their basic needs met, it may go in the opposite direction. Germany in the 30s is one example.)

And with progressive, I mean things like:

Expanding the circle of “us” to include more genders, more minorities of any types, non-human beings, ecosystems, and future generations.

Changing policies, economic systems, production, transportation, education and so on to benefit ordinary people, nonhuman beings, ecosystems, and future generations. For instance, changing our economic system to take ecological realities into account. Changing international policies to benefit ordinary people and ecosystems rather than the narrow interests of multinational corporations.

Increased rights and real influence of ordinary people, minorities, nonhuman beings, ecosystems, and future generations. Giving a voice to the voiceless in our political and legal system.

These are just a few examples.

If we look back at history, we see that there has been this tendency – at least in the western world and more industrialized countries. We also see that this is an ongoing process. We haven’t yet included some minorities, nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations in a real way in our circle of “us”, and as significant stakeholders in our political and legal systems.

So in one way, I know that none of us can really claim to be on the “right side of history”. At the same time, I would say there is a good chance that supporting and implementing progressive policies will be seen by future generations as being on the right side of history. Also because these policies not only benefit people now, but also these future generations….!

After writing this, I realized something obvious: Another way to be on the right side of history is truth or reality. When Bernie Sanders – along with me and many others – were against GW Bush’s Iraq war and the fabrications used to justify it, he was on the right side of history since he was on the side of reality. The justifications were fabricated. When I and many others promote sustainability and systems changes (economy, production, food, transportation, energy, education) that take into account ecological realities, we are on the side of reality and history. We can even say that about inclusiveness and policies favoring ordinary people and life rather than corporations since these policies take the reality of people’s lives into account as well as ecological realities. (What actually benefits people and life.)

Update March 28, 2016

I thought I would share this one too. I think it’s good because she is saying what I am thinking. (That’s usually why we like something.)

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Not just you

It is difficult to avoid the continuing saga of the McCann case, and from the beginning it brought up a few things for me.

It is obviously terrible for the ones going through it, and especially the parents. It is easy to empathize with them and wish them all the best.

But I also notice something about how they go about the case: they treat it as if it is only about their child, and it is a unique case.

It is true of course. It is about their child, and they are willing to do anything to get her back or at least know what happened to her.

At the same time, presenting it as only about them tends to backfire in a couple of ways.

It creates even more suffering for them, because it tends to make it appear as their situation is unique. It creates a sense of isolation, even in the midst of all the support they have. As they themselves said, they feel that they are the most unhappy people in the world. Nobody is going through something quite as terrible.

It also tends to erode or make more precarious the sympathy they receive from the general public. It is easy to think, well, lots of kids go missing every day. Why is there so much attention on just this case? Why do they get all that money from the public and wealthy folks, while others have to struggle through it on their own means?

An alternative approach, which some others take in similar situations, is to see that it is not just about me.

This is a shared experience. Everyone experience loss in life, including the loss of a loved one. Many experience the loss of a family member without having the resolution of knowing what happened to them. And many also have a child who goes missing, as they do.

They could take this to heart and use the publicity they receive to focus on missing children in general, and even use some of the money they receive to set up or support an existing fund or an organization to help find missing children. It is surely needed.

This would help alleviate their suffering. The loss would be the same, but the added suffering from feeling that they are alone in it would diminish or fall away. They would have a sense of their loss being an universal experience, shared by anyone alive.

And they would receive far more sympathy from the general public, including money if they set or supported an existing fund or organization.

These are two alternative ways of approaching the situation, but it is of course not always a choice.

If we generally have a smaller circle of care, concern and compassion, or take whatever happens to us as intensely personal rather than a flavor of an universal and shared experience, we tend to act as they do. And stress tends to make our circle smaller anyway.

If we have a wider circle of care, and see & feel whatever happens to us as an instance of an universal experience, we would tend to broaden our focus. We can put our effort into finding this child, within the context of it being something many experience. And this could even be more effective in finding this one child because it would tend to generate more interest and active support.

It seems that this also has a cultural component.

In some cultures, there is a tendency to more of an individual focus, as in Britain and many countries in the west. Something happens to me, and it is intensely personal and unique.
In other cultures, including some European ones, there is more of an emphasis on the collective and the shared. If something happens to me, it is within the context of it also happening to many others.

Love filtered

One way to look at our lives is that it is all love filtered in different ways.

Mainly, it can be filtered through a sense of a separate self, in which case it takes the form of love for self with some glimpses of a more selfless love coming through now and then. The love for self is expressed as attraction & aversion and all their flavors such as possessive love, anger, sadness, grief, joy, happiness, and so on.

Also, it is filtered through widening circles of us, of the ones included in our circle of care, concern and compassion.

When these circles leave just about nothing out, there is a more clear expression of Big Heart, of a natural love for all there is, recognizing that it is not separate from this separate self, or that there is no separate self here in the first place.

So we can say that everything expressed through our human life is really Big Heart filtered in different ways. If there is a sense of a separate self, Big Heart is filtered through aversion and attraction. As our circle of us expands, more beings and situations are included in our circle of care even as there is still a sense of a separate self. And as this sense of a separate self thins, Big Heart notices itself more easily and is expressed in a more clear and direct way.

Widening circles of care, and beliefs

In writing the previous post, I thought again of the relationship between widening circles of care, compassion & concern, and beliefs.

Many developmental psychology models use a framework of ego- (individual) to ethno- (group) to world- (universal) to kosmocentric embraces in terms of our views (cognitive) and compassion (heart, empathy).

And in terms of beliefs, these reflect changes in (a) the content of the belief, and (b) how tightly it is held.

At earlier stages, there is more fear, a stronger sense of separation between I/Us and Other/Them, a more narrow, exclusive and immediate concern about ourselves and our group, and less concern about (and awareness of) the wider reaching and longer term impacts of our actions and decisions on ourselves and others. Our beliefs tells us we have to look out for ourselves and our own, that others are less important, that what is good for us may not be good for them and the other way around, that life is hostile, that people are looking for ways to take advantage of me, and so on.

At later stages, there is less fear, a reduced sense of separation between I/Us and Other/Them, and a wider embrace which includes awareness of and concern with far reaching and longer term impacts. Our beliefs tells us that all of life is interconnected, one seamless system, that our own life and well-being is intimately connected with that of the larger life system, that we are all in it together, that all life has inherent value, and so on.

Similarly, at the earlier stages, our beliefs tend to be held tightly and take an either/or form, excluding the grain of truth in all of the reversals of the belief. I am right, you are wrong. The mind/heart is generally more closed. The mind is less receptive, making others wrong. And the heart is less receptive, allowing for less empathy and even for dehumanizing the Others.

At later stages, the beliefs are held far more lightly and in a both/and context, with a receptivity to and interest in the grain of truth in all of the reversals of the initial story. The mind/heart is more open and receptive, acknowledging the validity in views expressed by others, and with a natural empathy for others, finding in ourselves what we see in them.

Most (all?) of us can find each of these in our lives, even in our daily lives, cycling from one to another in different situations and depending on what is triggered in us. And it can be helpful to recognize where we are coming from and what is going on, and also know a few ways to explore it further, allowing knots to untie over time.