“Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
As a 29 year old man with liberal leanings and the the son of a union official, I whole-heartedly understand the tendency to take to the streets full of righteous anger, but I think it is so important to remember that we are at a crossroads. We have reached a place in our history as a species where the working class (99%) can no longer stand on the sideline and apathetically watch as the rich (1%) continue to deepen their pockets at the expense of the environment and everyone else. The time has come to stop pretending that some do not have more than their fair share, while others struggle just to get by. However, our aim must not become to defeat or humiliate the rich. We must always seek their friendship and understanding. We must never forget that the end we seek is a society that is at peace with itself—an enlightened society. That will be the day, not of the rich man or the working man, but the day of man as man.
We have to look beyond bank accounts and tax brackets to something more essential—the basic humanity present in everyone. To see through such superficial distinctions as class, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or politics would be a crippling blow to the discriminatory system that calculates the value of a life by measuring it’s capacity to serve the economy. Beyond such distinction we will discover a self-existing, universal standard, inherent in nature where Life itself—not “this” life or “that” life, but Life—proclaims its own worth as priceless.
Whether it is rich or poor, the 1% or the 99%, us and them are mere words meant to create relative distinctions within a single family. I am the 99% and the 1%, because the 99% and the 1% are nothing more than categories created by economists and politicians. I am the 100%. And so are you. In order to address the underlying issues we have to move beyond political activism, because the problems we face are created by the political system. We cannot continue to try to solve a problem using the problem. We have to go deeper and reconnect with “the power of being in which we all participate.” There we will find the secret to revolution.
The secret of revolution is that it takes places within. That is where true freedom is to be found. Work with your own mind and you will discover Truth. Proclaim Truth and change the world. Try to change the political environment without working with your mind first, and you will impregnate the political system with your insanity.
We are called to be representatives of Justice—not social justice, or economic justice, but Justice. The task is difficult, but difficult circumstances demand nothing more than patience and perseverance. We have to be willing to selflessly or lovingly proclaim Truth, and afford others the necessary space and time to reconcile their own conscience with the uncompromising facts. The opposition is not the other person. Within the spacious atmosphere of Love the other person is revealed to be our brother or sister. The real obstacle is ignorance.
The only obstacle we face is ignorance. By ignorance, I do not mean a lack of education, but a lack of awareness, ignore-ance. Ignorance here is like an internal blind-spot that enables superficial classifications like black and white, rich and poor, the 99% and the 1% to divide us as a people. Such distinctions are like lines on a map. When we turn inward and experience the humanity from which we all emerge, it is like looking at earth from outer-space—there are no borders that divide us.
Since ignorance, not the other person, is the opposition there is no need to aggressively attack anyone, verbally or physically. The goal of an effective protest is to unravel the confusion that created and sustains the oppressive system. This is accomplished by revealing the contradictory nature of the stance taken by the legislating body, which, in a democracy, is an extension of the electorate. As the celebrated Catholic Theologian G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Contradiction is just truth standing on its head in order to get attention.” Simply by giving due attention to contradiction we reveal truth.
We must search within ourselves for the answers to our problems, because this is where we created them. We must all be “lights unto ourselves,” lest we continue to wander in darkness. This way is the only way, precisely because it is not “our way” or “their way”, but the Way. It is an exploration of self-existing truth, dependent upon no one side’s commentary. No one can do this for us. We can no longer afford to sit back and listen to inspiring speeches by politicians and reformers. The time has come to mute the incendiary rhetoric of news pundits. This cannot be accomplished with posters, petitions, or chants. It is a silent task.
In silence, Truth proclaims the basic dignity of Humanity. This dignity is our inheritance as human beings. It is this thread of integrity that binds the human family in a way that is unimaginable. Everyone—the 99% and the 1%—can tap into this quintessential intelligence, because it is who we actually are as human beings—the 100%. The 99% can seek the friendship and understanding of the 1% by inviting them to share silence. In silence, there are no disagreements because there is no division. Upon this ground true revolution can take place, because on this level we cease to be conservatives or liberals; there are no economic policies because there is no economy. There is only humanity and the unavoidable responsibility to acknowledge and respect this basic dignity in everyone. This is the enlightened potential of humanity that lays dormant in our society.
I am not saying that all of the Occupy Protesters should go home. But I am saying that they should sit down, where they are, together, and watch their own mind, because this where the situation they are protesting was created. The economic condition of our country was not created on Wall Street or Pennsylvania avenue, but in the minds of men.
In order to create a true revolution—a revolution inspired, not by the truth of the 99% or the 1%, but by Truth itself—we have to be the 100%. We have to be our Self. Do it in the streets. Lead the human revolution by example. It is not some laboring task with results in the distant future. It happens right now. There is no other time. Nor is the task idealistic. It is the most pragmatic and realistic approach imaginable, because it is a path established by Reality. If we continue to put it off, the revolution will never happen. We have to come forth as complete people, comfortable not only with our own humanness, but the humanity of everyone around us, lest the protest end in violence or futility.
Any attempt to convert the 1% is a violent attempt to transplant our self-image into the minds of our perceived opponent. So long as we continue to seek a political solution to a problem created by politics we will remain caught in a vicious cycle of violence, often times masquerading as non-violence, forever proclaiming our “way” to be the right way.
As a Buddhist practitioner, I am always surprised to hear someone say that Buddhists are politically disengaged. Buddhist practice is the greatest protestation of injustice, because it is a refusal to participate in the insanity that creates injustice. I hope more people will realize that the most potent political decision they can make is to invest in their sanity, which consists of nothing more than observing their own confusion. The observation of confusion is the revelation of wisdom, and wisdom is the fuel of a revolution. When we take the time to appreciate the gap between thoughts, we allow thought to touch the present moment. Then, our thinking is inspired by Reality. In this way, we cease to be pundits and activists, and become prophets. This is Buddha activity. An awakened nation proclaiming Truth with a single voice is sure to bring forth an Enlightened Society.
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