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A Broken Operating System

By Deborah Rodney

The bad news is the global economy is failing. Many of us have lost our savings, our homes and our healthcare support or live in fear of losing them. Americans, for example, lost 1.3 trillion dollars in savings, home values and other material wealth in the first 3 months of this year.

The good news is the global economy is failing. The cracks in the system provide an opportunity for the emergence of an innovative, new, creative system based on sustainability -- a task unprecedented in recorded human history.

We can’t continue to take the world’s resources irresponsibly because oil, trees, and usable water are running out or are at risk. A system which measures ‘success’ by how competitive we are, how much profit we make and how many things we have, creates greed as a trained and intrinsic value. Living on mass produced food grown or fattened for the benefit of big agro-corporations rather than for our health perpetuates more high-profit pharmaceuticals like anti-acids and anti-depressants. And as long as the success of the economy rests on a ‘surplus’ of poor, out-of-work people so the world’s sweatshops barely pay a livable wage to the people who make our clothes and shoes, then pain and suffering will be a part of the world’s psyche.

We can envision and create a new way of being in relationship with our environment and each other amidst the massive collective fear perpetuated by media controlled by 6 major corporations. In spite of it, more and more people are taking a leap and dropping out of dead-ended jobs to work at lower paying non-profits which contribute to the collective good, simply to feel better about their lives.

In Paul Hawkin’s book, “Blessed Unrest,” he documents an astounding number of organizations and people in every country, of every ethnicity, economic strata and religious or spiritual belief who are working for social justice or environmental protection without monetary gain, power or publicity. This massive movement is so far under the radar that very few people realize it’s happening. In more quiet places than you might imagine, people are choosing to live ‘off the grid’ by creating innovative, locally-inspired systems of sustainable support. Organic farmers are growing food one co-op at a time. Tool and resource ‘lending libraries’ are cropping up. Underground arts are flourishing in neighborhoods and on the web. These ‘pioneers’ are creating support systems that will provide the kind of resources and cooperation we’ve seen in other crisis’s. For example, remember the kitchen gardens in London during and after WWII? Or the individuals who dropped everything and went to help people and pets when the government failed them after Hurricane Katrina?

The bad news is that those who are loosing their economic power are being ‘bailed out’ to keep the coughing and sputtering going on longer at the expense of the poor and marginalized. In today’s paper, I read that 285 of Oregon’s most troubled and disabled families have just lost their rent assistance and will be out on streets in 30 days. Last month, funding was cut for thousands of caregivers for the mentally and physically challenged.

The ‘operating system’ isn’t working for people who have faithfully worked in it their entire lives and it’s struggling to work for the rich, who of course, are still looking after their profit margins.

The disparities are getting much more obvious, even to the people who’ve spent most of their lives admiring those who have made it to the top of the financial heap. It’s causing many of us to examine how we live in closer detail. It’s leading to an exploration of a new kindness. A report just published by the McClatchy Group’s research team shows the less you have, the more likely you are to give. It affirms the experience I had facilitating a group of people living homeless who wrote a play about their experience. If the sum total of their possessions is two ‘rollies’ (cigarettes rolled from salvaged or “ground scored’ cigarette butts) they will give one away to a fellow smoker. That’s half their monetary net worth. Just think what would happen if Bill Gates, Oprah and other billionaires gave away half their net worth -- without expecting a tax break. The fact that a rare few actually have, adds testimony to the scope of the change in consciousness already present.

The bad news is that transitioning to a sustainable way of living, something that humanity hasn’t experienced on earth for about 6000 years, won’t be easy. Sadly, it will be extremely hard for many people. And we are heading toward it with out a road map or much of a guide book.

Feeling lonely is understandable. Not many people and no government leaders, Obama included, have embraced the idea of creating a sustainable economy. If you feel despair sometimes, you are in touch with the reality that if the broken operating system somehow gets fixed with bailouts for the rich and continues depleting resources at the current rate we will suffer the ramped-up effects of global warming, the destruction of life in the oceans, the depletion of the rainforests, the disappearance of the bees or something else.

The good news is that we have the collective imagination and ingenuity to create new collective relationships with ourselves and our world. People aren’t waiting for governments to solve problems. In unprecedented numbers they are actively working on a multitude of issues from prison reform to the pollution in their neighborhood stream. Social networking and internet news sources can mobilize action across the globe. Cooperation between adversarial groups (including many small groups of Israelis and Palestinians) outside government interference, are forging strong and meaningful relationships. Free and sustainable forms of alternative energy are making their way into common awareness and cob building can provide inexpensive housing without depleting resources. Massive numbers of people working together with a common purpose for a common goal are learning how to effectively work together. We might not have the road mapped out yet, but the indicator lights are blinking everywhere.

During this time, while we’re developing confidence in ourselves and our abilities, and learning how to drive a new operating system powered by kindness and compassion, there are ways to make the transition easier. Here are a few suggestions which make a lot of sense to me:

1. Don’t fight the change, which is coming fast and furious. It only creates stress and dis-ease. Instead, find ways to be grateful for being a part of this awesome evolutionary change coming not from guns and hatred but from a new consciousness and the crumbling of a system that isn’t working for about 99% of humanity and all the Earth’s other inhabitants.

2. Hone your kindness skills. Kindness begets kindness.

3. Turn off the fear-mongering media, including the television. Even if the programs seem to have value, remember that the commercials, created by some of the finest creative minds in the world, are designed to keep you desiring and shopping for things you don’t need or buying things out of fear--like high risk retirement plans, expensive insurance or drugs (with long lists of side-effects, necessitating other drugs). And if you stop watching TV you’ll be amazed at how much more time you have to do some of the things on this list.

4. Stop shopping and start investing your time in telling stories with friends, volunteering in your community, meeting your neighbors, growing a garden, making art, canning fruits and vegetables or even knitting socks. If you don’t know how to knit ask an older person to teach you. You’ll enrich both your lives.

5. Keep your mind free and clear of fear by meditating, spending time in nature, deepening your spirituality and spiritual practices, laughing, hugging and remembering to express gratitude every morning when your feet hit the floor.

6. Find inspiration in music, drawing, painting, theater and dancing. Enjoy the arts that support change rather than dead-ended escape or the perpetuation of the status quo. Remember that innovative art is happening outside the reach of the mass media. You can find and support it. It might be in your neighbor’s living room.

6. Work for change if you can. If not, think of ways to live, eat and play that don’t contribute so heavily to the pockets of the greedy. It will help create change.

7. Respect our resources and the resilient bounty of Mother Nature. If you aren’t already conscious about not wasting, food, energy, water or gas, start practicing now. It will make life easier later.

8. Experience joy, beauty and laughter abundantly. The more you do, the easier it will be to find them in the coming challenging times.

9. Most importantly, remember that this economic change is taking us on the path toward true peace, resource sustainability and the realization of our compassionate human destiny. Remember, even when it’s hard. Build a support system that helps you remember.

10. Share what is working for you with others.

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." Jimi Hendrix