From Anger to Awareness: A Path to Healing America’s Cultural Divide

Q: It appears that many people today just want to blow up the system to see what happens next. I hear and read that young white males especially feel that they have no status, no standing, or hope of any standing. This has pushed them to the point of despair. There’s no purpose for them. And nothing has been set up to help them. So, they think, let’s just torch it all and start over. Can’t get any worse for me.

The cause of all this, we often hear, is the disparity between the rich and the rest of us. It’s a rigged system created by and for the big shots. Most people simply don’t have a chance.

So, my question is, Where do you think spirituality, or a lack of spirituality, fits into this picture?

When someone’s illusion gets destroyed, without a new foundation or preparation put in place for rebuilding, the illusion actually continues on. There’s no sudden awareness that arrives: “Oh, this system was all crazy and empty anyway. Good riddance.” The cultural lie continues to have its power. This person who is upset, pushed to a state of despair, just can’t make that lie work for them anymore. Sure, they can’t make it work because it was always an illusion, but they don’t know this.

The destruction of the illusion of stability and prosperity without a spiritual foundation is always going to leave people feeling angry, scared and defeated. It feels like everything they know is being taken from them. And, because the illusion is not being replaced with anything, the reaction is of great helplessness. But there is often a sense of entitlement that gets mixed up in this. It leads to an an inability or unwillingness to change.

Many have the option to get new job training, move to a another part of the country, or make necessary shifts. But instead we hear them saying: “I shouldn’t have to do any of that. I’m an American white male. Life should go back to the way it was. In the good old days.” With this view, it’s everybody else’s fault. It’s easy to caught up in the blame game: the immigrants are the problem, or the liberals, etc.

When the illusion gets crushed, when there has been nothing prepared to put in its place to cushion the blow, we can get caught in a vortex that is crazy-making. Literally crazy-making.

Q: What’s to be done when everything we’ve been raised to believe in seems to fail us? Getting angry and blowing things up, of course, is not a solution.

We need a way to begin moving away from the illusion, rather than clinging to it, getting angry, blaming, and wanting to reconstruct the illusion as quickly as possible to make it work for us again. Because as long as that’s the treadmill everybody’s on, no matter how broken the illusion is, it’s going to be what everybody clings to. So, until people are taught how to interrupt that illusion, in a safe way, they’re going to feel like their lives are ending and they have no control.

Learning how to calmly take a step back would be a first step. Learning how to control our emotions. Learning how to be present. Learning to see things as they are rather than how we want them to be. So, learning meditation, emotional control, and present-mindedness could potentially help individuals move away from the illusion and find a new perspective.

But I think the only long-term hope is to begin educating our children differently, including meditation, awareness, and connection to nature, as well as reducing reliance on technology. This could lead to a shift away from the illusion.

Q: So it’s sort of a disastrous path the country and the world is on…

The irony is that many would say it’s all the rich people who have brought us to the brink. But I would put it more broadly and say it’s capitalism. It’s a mindset. It’s not that some people have money and some people don’t. It’s the mindset of capitalism that’s a zero-sum game that promotes greed as a good thing. That if you’re greedy and you get it all, that’s the definition of success. Rather than the definition of short-sightedness, cruelty, or lack of humanity. So until we start changing that mindset, nothing’s going to happen.

One of the interesting discussions I’ve been hearing lately is from people who are saying that the world is heading for crisis. Not because of global warming. Not because of the significantly accelerated rate of mass extinctions. Not because human activities are creating habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change. No, not because of anything that are the consequences of our actions. But because there are not enough children being born to keep capitalism thriving. Wow.

At the same time, it’s also interesting to me that the SBNR segment (spiritual but not religious) is the fastest-growing group in the country. I think it’s like 33% now of the population that identifies as that. And that group is starting to have that awareness that this way of living isn’t working. They are saying, we don’t want to blow it up, but we don’t want to participate in it anymore either.

That gives me some hope.

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