Alphabetterment (5 of 7)
Values O, P, Q and R
Openness or Opposition
Somewhere, early in the evolution of human consciousness, we developed this unfortunate idea that “I’m better than you.” When we were tribal hunter-gatherers, this idea was a matter of survival. But now, as a global tribe, it’s a matter of dominance — who holds the power, who’s in or out and who can be who they want to be.
The truth is that no one is better than anyone else. We simply are where we are on our own evolutionary path. To be open is to understand that truth and apply it through tolerance and support of diversity, which brings the best out in everyone. Those who seek to oppose or control others’ basic rights continue to repeat the mistakes of the past. Each instance of oppression doesn’t just restrict a single person or group, but our species as a whole.
People or Politics
It used to be said that religion and politics weren’t suitable topics for polite society. Not that everyone needs to be agreeable all the time, but politics is a bit too much in the foreground for my taste. The main issue with political discussion is that it’s not a discussion at all — it’s a volley of insults lobbed against imaginary ideologies divorced from any real, nuanced set of beliefs. For or against, us or them, red or blue.
Not only is this reductionism tiresome, but it distracts us from compassion for each other. The true role of government is to serve people through sensible policies, not to leave them behind while grappling over power. We may not always agree in the Senate or in society, but we must debate to decide, not to divide.
Quality or Quantity
We’re already stuffed with too much stuff — prototypes, products and packaging are ever-abundant. Yet more and more keeps coming, and a lot of it is stuff we don’t need. Part of it’s the pacing — we’re moving too fast for comprehension, driven by competition and tribalism. Unfortunately, that unreasonable pace is artificial, and on a troubling trajectory of extraction and destruction.
I’m a big proponent of focusing on quality as a means of slowing down our pace, reducing waste and of serving the needs of all. In an era of customization, it’s surprising that we’re still producing so many unnecessary and misguided things. It’s important to cultivate quality, not only for the sake of the environment but for our experience within it. Even if we shift the focus from quantity to quality, it’s still possible to feed, clothe and otherwise nurture everyone in need.
Responsibility or Racism
No matter what you believe about how we came to be here and where we’re going, each of us is responsible for what we do and say on this earth. No one else but yourself is responsible for your behavior, and no amount of blame can ever shift that responsibility. We may not feel that we signed up for this, but you and I have a duty to be custodians of civilization — caring for others as we do ourselves.
One of the most sinister hangers-on of humanity has been racism. No one should have to be afraid to be, just because. But that idea still persists, because of a lack of accountability for personal and collective growth. When one creates a false sense of superiority, there’s no need for awareness or self-improvement — only the rewriting of rules to keep others down. The reality is that there’s no better race, just like there’s no better person. We can only become better by being better ourselves.