October 17, 2011

Going the WRONG WAY! (October 17, 2011)

If you've ever watched the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles starring John Candy and Steve Martin, you'll likely remember one of the funniest scenes ever to hit the big screen.  John Candy's character was driving late at night when he turns into the wrong lane of a divided highway.  A driver from another car going in the same direction (but in the proper lane) yells out of his window, "YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!"  John Candy turns to Steve Martin and quips something to the effect of, "Yeah right . . . he doesn't even know where we're going!"  He then turns back to the other driver and mimes having a drink while saying, "Have another drink fella!"  John Candy and Steve Martin then continue to chuckle about "the drunk" in the other car until they see a huge semi truck bearing down on them. 

It's all fun and games until the same thing happens to us.

Individuals experience "going the wrong way" all the time.  In busy lives with lots going on, it's easy to lose our focus or become unbalanced in our life.  As we continue down a path to our own destruction we get warning signs that we're actually headed in the wrong direction (not necessarily regarding what we are doing, but how we are doing it).  These warning signs may be in the form of the physical - exhaustion, getting sick, or aches/pains; the emotional - getting on edge, being anxious, or otherwise demonstrating that your "reserve" is gone; or the psychological - negative thought patterns, paranoia, or depression.  Sometimes we can get momentary relief to these problems by taking some time off or buying something new to treat ourselves, but the warning signs will keep returning until we really deal with the root of our problem.  If we don't deal with it in time then we ultimately crash (e.g. nervous breakdowns, marriage failures, suicides, mid-life crisis, etc.).  It's very important for each of us to regularly do a self-assessment to see if we are on the right track in how we live our lives and care for ourselves.

The exact same thing happens collectively in groups, clubs, not-for-profit organizations, businesses, and even nations.  We start going down a path, things happen along the way, we react to them (and sometimes institutionalize our reactions), and before we know we are off track.  By "off track" I mean that if we take a step back and look around, we'll find ourselves some distance from our core values, true priorities, or guiding vision.  This can express itself in a variety of ways . . . discord within the group, lagging results for the organization or business, or complete failure of the collective initiative.  With respect to nations and society at large, such a situation can result in economic or political upheaval, civil unrest, and general discontent in various sectors.  Presently, all around the world we see a number of stresses on humanity . . . environmental, social, political and economic . . . that are in fact warning signs that something is extremely wrong.  And, similarly, activists are often like the driver of the other car yelling, "YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!"

Unfortunately, it's too easy to dismiss the activist as a complainer, or with an agenda, or out of his/her mind. "Have another drink!"  And, it is true that some activists fit this description.  However. we must be careful to not judge too quickly; and, even if doubting the warning, it is prudent to take a look around to ensure we are in fact on the correct path.  Failure to do so may leave one in the path of the proverbial huge semi-truck bearing down on us.  And, when the voices are coming in the hundreds of thousands from 80 different countries, then it would be absolutely negligent to not stop and make sure we are going the right way.

The Occupy Movement has been described as lacking leadership, clear and unified demands, and any concrete solutions.  All of this may be true.  However,if it is true then it becomes even more critical to pay attention.  The fact that there is no clear leader indicates a true rising up of the people.  The fact that there are a wide variety of demands speaks to the breadth of issues that needs to be addressed (each representing economic, social and political justice).  The fact that there are not many concrete solutions being proffered may represent the depth and complexity of the issues involved, i.e. there are no easy answers.  A massive uprising by people of all walks of life from all around the world, raising concerns about a variety of complex life and death issues, demands at the very least discussion at the highest levels of society with those who are concerned.

I actually think that the Occupy Movement, like That Poverty Project, is not about specific demands as much as it is about expressing concern regarding the overall direction of society.  Sure, there are specifics but if we treat each issue separately while operating within the same paradigm that got us going the wrong way, then it simply treats the symptoms and doesn't really cure the dis-ease.  We, as a society, need to look at our overall direction and be prepared to make a paradigm shift if such is necessary.  A good place to start is by asking . . . "What is important?" . . . "What are our core values?".  Only then can we embark on a course correction, and follow our true priorities where they lead.

It is my hope that we will collectively come to realize that we can only truly prosper as a people and a healthy society when we have addressed the widening inequality between people and ensured that EVERYONE  EVERYWHERE has food/water, shelter, access to health services and proper sanitation, basic education, and freedom from fear.  It is only from this solid foundation that we can achieve real progress and allow everyone the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

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