One of the plays we had to study and learn lines from in high school was Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Come recitation time some of us did the "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" elegy; some noted that "Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much: such men are dangerous"; and some intoned the soothsayer's foreshadowing cry to "Beware the Ides of March!"
Before long around the school we kids were yanking our ears at each other, pulling a long face to look 'lean and hongry', or wagging a finger and wailing portentously, "Beware the Ides of March!". That last one happened a lot after the winter break and leading up to the 15th of March. The Ides.
Ides, by the way, were in the ancient Roman calendar the 15th day of March, May, July, and October and the 13th day of the other months.
So what's this got to do with anything today, this 15th day of March? Other than perhaps it's time for some serious Spring cleaning. But there are good and not-so-good ways of affecting change.
Roman Senators took down Caesar [on March 15th] because he was seen as a threat to the Republic. Heads of state have been replaced over and over again throughout history by people who strongly disagreed with their policies. Mythology is filled with similar stories, often about wars between different groups of immortals. The churn of cultures and civilizations often looks like rotisseries of ideas and actions endlessly revolving round and round between two sides of an issue, an ideal, or a way of life. Change is too often sought and brought by revolution, coups, assassinations, 'regime changes', and civil wars.
For examples see Egypt's rebel monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaton who was erased from the records when the next pharaoh re-installed the pantheon; the French Revolution and then subsequent see-sawing between the Republic and the Empires; the CIA who overthrew Iran's democratically-elected Mosaddegh and installed Shah Reza Pahlavi, who was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini, whose legacy rule now seems pressured by those fomenting another revolution away from theocracy. Then there's continuing turmoil in Iraq after a so-called regime change, and Venezuela's current struggle over rulership complexified by outside interests in the country's resources.
The American Revolution from Britain was in part to get away from rule by aristocrats and monarchies yet here we are now, the subjects of aristocrats aka oligarchs in tech, energy and trade, including a number of family dynasties.
American's political Left and Right are tearing at each other under what sometimes looks like media and demagogic encouragement, all while bemoaning the lack of civility.
And do we even want to mention today's socio-political turmoils in places like France, the Philippines, Hungary, Syria...and (shudder) Brexit?
Does this pugnacious polarity never work to bring about a better world?
There's a problem inherent in Revolution and it's at the root of the word = revolve. Political scientists, historians and people who actually live through revolutions note that after a Revolution comes a Counter-Revolution and that usually does not bode well.
As the world is spinning dizzyingly and dangerously around populism, democracy, dictatorships, tribalism, predatory capitalism, the stultifying remains of communism, pay-to-play politics, regulations, and laissez faire policies it's increasingly obvious that revolutions are not always the best answer for increasingly untenable situations. Within the birth of a revolution lie the seeds of its own destruction.
An excellent film example is the Marlon Brando movie Viva Zapata. He plays a righteous revolutionary leader who once the oppressors are overthrown, takes office himself and becomes the reincarnation of the oppressor.
We need not play out the Ides of March that sent ancient Rome into turmoil. Instead of staying on the engine of divisive polarity, playing out the old divide-and-conquer tactic to the detriment of most - and with climate catastrophe looming, the possible extinction of all - it's way past time for us to try something else.
Here's a thought - Evolution!
The Wisdom Teachings of many systems note that humanity's progress of consciousness is to go from Tribal to Individual to Group Consciousness.
We've been thrown-dragged-seduced back down into Tribal with
all it's detriments, rather than maintaining the Tribal benefits of close communities with shared concerns who work together for a greater benefit. We've seen Individualism which at its ideal fosters critical and creative thinking, independence, and innovation corrupted by rampant and dangerous narcissism. Though the paradigm for Group Consciousness is echoed in the internet - where you maintain your individuality but are connected to the entire group - that paradigm too has devolved into a narcissism and tribalism that fosters hateful competition and deleterious falsehoods. Who wins here? Not many, that's for sure.
Too often it's a battle between the Emotions of the masses and the Minds of the controllers, and there are plenty of stories about this from myths to modern media.
One of the main problems is that too many of us humans don't really have thoughts: what we have are opinions about our emotions. Emotions can be manipulated by others - see more at advertising, seductions, and politics. One way to evolve is to work at developing critical thinking skills and also allowing your own creative thinking to freely innovate, see and create positive patterns, and be an example to others.
There are millions of individuals and organizations who yearn for a life and a world where inter-connectedness is a positive thing, where freedom co-exists with responsibility, where innovation and expansion serve all and not just a few.
Most of these seem to be working towards an Evolutionary rather than Revolutionary approach.
The most effective and most long-lasting change comes from within. It also tends to come from the bottom up, altering the landscape and the climate such that even those at the top of an imposed system simply must change, too, because it's now a different world. Working consciously to move to a 'Higher turn of the Spiral' tends to affect positive transformation for individuals and for groups.
But there's always a backlash against this because unfortunately a higher position does not necessarily mean a stronger position. The thoughtful ideal is too often subject to the battering of reactionary emotions. It must be expected.
We need to concentrate on the higher ideals because the lower arenas are where they will focus their attack - see more at ad hominem, Latin for mud-slinging. We must find better and better ways of countering resistance and creating attractive alternatives that can lift us all up.
Fear wins out over intellectual prowess if we let it. 'It'll cost jobs', 'that's dangerous socialism', 'our nation is at risk', 'our people are being overrun by those people'. Those are all narrow and narrow-minded fear tactics. We must seek, take, and hold higher perspectives and keep on promoting them and working to find policies to implement them that are inclusive and that (without sounding too utopian) bring about "The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number".
In mythology we find change-agents, typically the Teacher Gods who bring useful tools and concepts down to humans. Some brought fire, agriculture, navigation, brewing, rule of law, architecture, etc., and in Egyptian mythology there's even a deity who brought the arts of cosmetics.
Sure, we can look to myths for example and inspiration, but these changes for today must come from and through mere mortals - us.
Democracy is a higher level idealism; uncontrolled capitalism is a lower level me-first-ism. What our world could use now is a serious dose of real democracy that serves the actual real people, not just corporations.
Perhaps a combination of managed capitalism and individual-embracing community-ism could bring about an enlightened socialism. There are a number of places where this is already working well, such as in Scandinavia and Mondragon Spain.
It's encouraging to see more of this happening all the time in marches for women's rights, for seriously addressing the climate catastrophe, social and economic justice programs, Benefit Corporations, the principles of a Green New Deal, collaborations across borders and ideologies, embracing the home truths of Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, story-telling for positive change, and a growing awareness of and concern for our global inter-connectedness - all great steps towards transforming our world.
So as we collaborate to move away from Revolution, to avoid Devolution, and to bring about Evolution, we'd do well to consider another quote from Julius Caesar:
"There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures."
Let us take the current!
Event creator Timothy Duquesne wrote the book "The Future of Pixels" about 'how we can improve the way we all live together'.
'The Power of Story to Shape Our Future'. You can watch our international panel video here.
Three things from the mythic systems I brought up relative to making change:
- Recognition creates Relationship.
- Most people don't have Thoughts; what they have are Opinions about their Emotions.
- We need to look at Systems, not just Symptoms.
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