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Questions you might ask yourself as you contemplate 2019:
Those questions and others like them remind me of one asked of the Dalai Lama by a member a group I led to India a number of years ago when we met in the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamshala. The questioner referenced a call for everyone around the globe to pray for peace on a certain day.
“Praying for peace is good,” the Dalai Lama responded, “but if that’s all you do, it’s a waste of time and may be counterproductive.” He went on to explain that if you walk away from such prayers feeling that you’ve done your part, you’re deceiving yourself. You must (in his words) “take appropriate actions every day.”
So, if you choose to answer “Yes” to the three questions above and to similar ones, it is important to understand that such actions may be effective because of how they impact you and your perceptions; however, by and of themselves, they are insufficient.
Let’s explore those three questions by asking three different ones:
Giving up tea and cigarettes and defying the draft might have been significant steps for George, dad, and me. However, they weren’t enough; we and others had to participate in concerted efforts, consumer movements, demonstrations, and political actions, to make the desired changes.
An acquaintance who quit smoking in college found that it was so good for her personally – and such an inspiration – that she then went on to organize one of the successful legal campaigns against Big Tobacco. Both actions, giving up smoking and organizing a movement, were important – the first because it changed her life and her perceptions and the second because it led to new public perceptions that changed the law. However, had people like her simply stopped smoking it is unlikely that the laws would ever have changed.
Today, movements that alter perceptions – what we might call “consciousness movements” – are easier than ever before. Whether the issues revolve around Facebook, Amazon, plastic bottles, smoking, war, or something else, social media offers amazing opportunities to organize, to alter perceptions on a large scale, and by doing so, to change the reality of what it means to be humans dealing with these issues on this planet.
It seems like poetic justice that postings on Facebook have highlighted two recent actions aimed at reigning in Facebook’s power. Bipartisan reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts, through Facebook, to turn African American voters against Hillary Clinton inspired the NAACP to launch a Facebook boycott. At about the same time, the D.C. attorney general sued Facebook for allowing outside companies to access user data and mislead users on the privacy of their data. Legal actions, boycotts and other concerted movements multiply individual actions on a scale that can be highly effective.
So, as you enter this new year, you may want to ask yourself questions about your buying habits and your life-style. Perhaps you will decide not to purchase water in plastic bottles, use plastic straws, or do other things that are inconsistent with your values. But don’t stop there. Take the next step . . . start or join a consciousness movement. Change your reality and then change the collective reality.