The rallies and protests occurring in the wake of Trump’s election victory are understandable...the aspirational future of the millennial generation has been shaken to its core.
Electoral Map based on voters 18-25 of age.
In this Presidential election the following happened:
- The Democratic party sacrificed its legitimacy by looking to create a future based on the past and by selecting a candidate that, however much she was qualified, did not connect the present to a future that was inspirationally different for those that needed to hear it.
- The Republican party embarrassed and immolated itself by aligning behind rhetoric and ideas that were designed to appeal to the lowest emotional denominator (fear, loss, and anger) and by “aspiring” to maintain a rigid ideology based on exclusion, control, retention of power, and dominance.
- Trump sacrificed the country’s ideals and its standing in the world by claiming the ability to recreate a future based on aspects of the past that are not only not sustainable but are also no longer tenable.
- The disenfranchised rural white voter who made Trump’s election possible sacrificed their children’s future by looking to create a future based on elements of a past that is not retrievable and that, if achieved, would doom their children and grandchildren.
- The millennial generation (18-25) put its future at risk by allowing it's future to be defined by the past (Make America Great Again). Clinton’s message, while in many ways aligned with Bernie Sanders’ message, was not inspirational or even appealing.
- The 4th and 5th Estates (the media – both traditional and social) lost their legitimacy by abdicating their roles as a check and balance to political pandering. They have essentially becoming unabashed propaganda tools.
The country is in great danger of losing its connection to the ideals that truly make us great by allowing its future to be defined by others using hoary platitudes about its great past. What makes this country great – what’s always made this country great – is its forward looking aspirational ideals of inclusion, innovation and the possibility that anyone can realize their dreams. We are a nation of immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants who aspire to greatness. We aspire to greatness by dreaming of futures that don’t currently exist. We don’t aspire to greatness by looking backwards.
The “past” has had its time. The “past”, while creating much that is positive, has screwed up far too much in the last 75 years to be a place to which we return. A return to what was ensures a continued slide towards the eventual annihilation of ourselves as well as many other species. Current estimates are that 50 percent of all species on the planet are possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century unless something is done immediately. I’m mindful of something Eihei Dogen, the founder of Japanese Soto Zen, said. To paraphrase…we are living out “one continuous mistake.”
Today, there are four major trends that are in play and that we need to become acutely aware of:
1) For the first time in 500 years being born white no longer confers privilege
2) Gender equality is here and males, particularly white males are no longer the default dominants
3) Western culture no longer dictates world affairs
4) The locus of real power has essentially moved from nation states to multi-national corporate states
Without doubt, these trends have evoked great fear, anger and resentment. One of the hallmarks of all change is that it’s far easier to identify with what is being lost than with what may be gained. It is precisely why white rural males feel they have the most to lose. And, not just them. These trends directly affect how we answer fundamental questions of identity – “who am I?” and “where do I belong?”.
The brain process information in very specific ways, sorting for indications of status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. When the answers to these questions of identity are in doubt behavior is often reactive. The biology of the organism is always defaulting toward survival and away from perceived threat. BREXIT is a British version of the same processes, as is France’s Le Pen and the rise of the Identitarian movement.
In the words of futurist Stephan Schwartz, “the only thing that will diffuse these trends is for group consciousness to recognize that we must make wellbeing our social priority, and each of us must consistently take the life-affirming compassionate option in the quotidian choices of our day.”
I take encouragement from knowing that almost 50 million Americans embraced the message of moving forward together, seeing the importance of equality, inclusion, dreams and fairness. More people voted for that message than voted for Trump’s message of fear, regression and division. The challenge ahead of us is to ensure that wellbeing for all is our social and political priority. March and protest if we must. Our collective futures are at stake. While doing so, we must find ways to bring the hard edge of compassion to bear in our defense of the ideals that make us great. This requires inclusion and heartful listening. It’s difficult to be inclusive and to find common ground with those that seem and behave so fearfully – and this applies to be both sides of the issue. It’s here that a Sufi saying makes great sense…"a master finds great excitement in great disappointment." We need to become excited masters of our ideals and not victims of what we think is wrong.
The Governor asked a teacher: I have read in the scripture the following and I do not know what it means. “A boat driven by unfavorable winds drifts towards the land of the demons.” Please explain it to me.
The teacher responded: What kind of ninny asks such a stupid question!
The Governor visibly stiffened and turned red with rage.
The teacher said: A boat driven by unfavorable winds drifts towards the land of the demons. The Governor’s demeanor suddenly changed as he got some understanding.
I’ll conclude this blog post with an invitation to take a moment and listen to this old 1973 song from my favorite singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen who died on November 10…