I love the energy of the current wave championing equality for black people. If I peer through the baiting, the defensiveness, the “I am right and you are wrong” rhetoric (coming from all sides), I can see and feel the power and the hope for a more equal, loving way of being and my hope is it doesn’t end with racial equality, that the energy gains momentum to also address inequality and disbalance in other dimensions of our society – climate, class, gender disability and more (especially climate). Without an inhabitable climate we do not have the luxury of having other problems.
Everything we eat, drink and wear, every building we inhabit, the ground beneath our feet, every thought and feeling we have sprouts from the decaying matter of history. A history inseparable from racism, exploitation and prejudice.
If we are to build a future, free from prejudice and exploitation, I can’t see that attempts to erase history will significantly help us, but the way we tell the story of history would surely help. As far as the future goes, I am not opposed to the radical approach of dismantling our institutions and starting afresh: states, nations, financial hierarchies, currency, social media algorithms and lots more. We can never guarantee that we won’t repeat the same mistakes, but so far, half-measures have clearly fallen short of achieving sufficient and authentic change. History has taught us this.
If we are to do this we must be very cautious. It could so easily become counter-productive. I do not believe that forcefulness, guilt, shame and virtue signalling are particularly useful tools to use here. These tools alienate the very people we want to reach the most.
When people have to explain that Black Lives Matter (BLM) does not mean that non-black lives don’t matter, this indicates to me that the message is not getting through. After all, the meaning of your communication is not what you intend to say, it is the response you get.
At the moment I see too many token gestures made by corporations, celebrities and influencers, aligning themselves with BLM for, let’s face it, little more than a boost to their brand image. I see white people going out of their way to signal that they are not racist, myself included, because if you are not with us, you are against us. All of us, following the steps, going through the motions, whether we believe in what we are saying, or not.
Sure, not all celebrities are entirely disingenuous, many white people are comfortable that they are not racist and there are plenty of CEOs with genuine intentions, but compelled reform is no reform at all. The danger with this is that our true feelings become further buried. At the moment we are not asked to BE well intentioned, only that we appear well intentioned and these superficial gestures are perpetuated by our social reward system.
The way this wave appears to be unfolding seems all too familiar. I feel like I’ve seen a story like this before, that hijacks our amygdala, occupying our consciousness for just long enough for the ruling class to get their stuff done, without interference, then back to business as usual. This is a tried and tested method for influencing human behaviour and in this story, another big, but significantly different story is just around the corner. Soon we will all but have forgotten about George Floyd and BLM, just as we all but forgot about the coronavirus for a while and we all but forgot about Brexit before that.
So the way the message and the prominence of BLM is communicated, like with any other movement, is not so much controlled by BLM. It is distributed by the mainstream media and the big social media platforms and controlled by the ruling class.
The cure for division is blindingly obvious: CONNECTION! Experiencing ourselves as part of the whole, being conscious of what brings us together over what separates us. It is slow and soft, meaningful connection to meaningful connection, embracing and holding dear our similarities above our differences, catalyzing genuine empathy and compassion.
So what can we practically do to achieve this connection? I don’t have all the answers, I only know what is in my sphere of experience, but there are many examples among us that are growing in popularity: meditation, spirituality, therapy, counseling, coaching, yoga, tai chi, psychedelic medicine and quiet contemplation, for example. All of these practices, when taken seriously, have the potential to help us nurture our transcendent ability, to help us genuinely feel the pain and the joy of others, bring us together and develop our compassion and empathy. They help us to see the world as a complete system, of which we are one constituent part, with the capacity to positively influence the whole.
So yes, changing the structure of our institutions is important, but we can’t do that without closing the gap, connecting with the people who are fundamentally different to us. Left with right, conservative supporters with labour supporters, democrats with republicans, climate change deniers with climate change believers, genders with different genders, black with white.