Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Are we capable of Great Change?

I had a conversation with my best friend in a bar in Prague about the desperation, and whether or not it is necessary to understand it in order to be a great catalyst of change. Over a few beers (including an incredible chocolate beer that could have rivaled Willy Wonka’s chocolate bars as the best version of chocolate imaginable) we circled around to the familiar conversation of what we hope to become and how we plan to get there. My friend and I both fancy ourselves artists, creators, lovers of the unexplored and would-be archaeologists of truth, and we often find ourselves pondering our futures together. And so we stumbled back to this allusive topic like a drunk stumbles to his favorite bar stool, and our recent evolutions began to show. My best friend has a big heart that matches his big brain, and sometimes I have to wonder how he has the ability to carry so much love and intelligence in one body without getting exhausted from the combined forces pulling him in all directions at all times. He wants to know what we’re going to do, what’s the next step into creating something real, important, and helpful to others. We need to figure out how to start changing the world and it needs to be big. I say, Yes, but we have a big problem. Our world at this time is facing the greatest and most difficult problem that has ever been faced, because our greatest enemy is faceless and voiceless. As energetic as we are in our passions, as learned as we are in the ways of revolution, as eager as we are to implement great change, the truth is that Apathy and Senselessness having buried themselves in our lives because there is nothing setting fire to our souls. The great monster we are trying to kill is ourselves. We’ve been too fortunate and too well-taken care of to understand the deep need of change. Yes, we see the problems. We see the homeless and the hungry, we watch the oppressed enact violence on each other, we read about government attempts to kill and dishearten truth. We do all of this as we collect our textbooks, attend classes, interact with people who are exactly like us, and then go home for the weekend.

And this brought me to my thoughts on Occupy Wall Street. I think Occupy Wall Street is a good sign that we’re finally getting riled up enough to really try to expose the consequences of our apathy, and I think our government is as good as a target as it has ever been. What I find disconcerting and frustrating about Occupy Wall Street, however, is the lack of focus. It seems that The Problem is actually a myriad of thousands of problems, and each discontented person can pick and choose which is most important to him, make a sign for it, and join the large symphony of voices shouting over each other to be heard. According to HowToOccupy.org, a website dedicated to spreading the practices of civil disobedience and occupying public spaces peacefully in protest, their goal is establishing “a universal and accessible database made up of documents related to peaceful civil disobedience and grassroots practices, spreading it physically and on-line to the very assemblies, occupations and groups around the whole world.” The website acts as a meeting place for anyone interested in getting involved to find some capacity where they fit in, and it seems there are a lot of interesting groups and forums that people can get involved in. I think Occupy Wall Street has served as a good starting point for people who really want to do something about something but can’t figure out what it is that needs to be done. Now people can go online, look up Occupy Wall Street, and find tons of other people just like them trying to do something about something. That is cool, but I don’t think it’s enough. But at least it’s something.

And this is why I think desperation, hopelessness, and, ultimately, recklessness are vital experiences one must have in order to really make a difference. When you think about the great artists and activists of the past you have to consider the time and place in which they found themselves that drove them to do the great things they did. Even people who may not have made a great difference in their societies but where considered a genius in their craft usually had some adversity to face, something in their lives or in their minds that created a deep need to create something that made the world at least slightly different in order to bear it. My worry, and my blessing, is that we have not been forced to change our world in a drastic way because, deep down, we are really comfortable and content with the way things are, as much as we are truly angered by the way the system treats others. It’s one thing to see desperation; it’s another to truly understand it.

And this is what I mean about finding that real desperation, something big and fatally important that absolutely forces us, beyond any ability to doubt or hesitate, to really do something. To think outside the box and come up with something radically different that radically changes the world for the better. I think what will end up happening with Occupy Wall Street is that these young, passionate, fiery protesters will keep pressing the police resistance, pushing them to further limits, until something really terrible happens. If this movement doesn’t die out from lack of momentum soon, it will scratch and crawl to a point of starvation and exhaustion and erupt into something unhealthy. And perhaps that is what I’m saying is what we need.

Maybe if change really must happen, it will happen organically. Those among us who feel the calling will rise to his/her potential and take charge, but I find it a little frightening that our generation hasn’t yet produced any outstanding leaders. Is it possible that there are no Che Guevaras, Martin Luther King Jr.s, Joan of Arcs, or Gandhis left? Has the Universe exhausted its resources of Greatness? Are we doomed to our quiet contentment, as much as it disturbs us? I think the only thing we can do is continue to search ways to push ourselves in all ways. To higher understandings, to better views, to deeper love, to crazier ideas, to wider tolerance. Find the ways in which you are comfortable and do things that make you desperate. Bring yourself to hopelessness and then fight to get your hope back -- it is a valuable lesson that might help you make the world a better place.

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