Life today – it’s a costume party with every conceivable character in attendance. The good, the bad, and the ugly. From simple to complex. From obvious to subtle. From hilarious to tragic. From lovable to despicable.
Trying to wrap one’s head around the vast disparity (in all things) on this planet is difficult. How can a man be sipping wine after a $300 meal, taking in the lights of New York City while an entire village in Sudan is literally starving to death. Those two kinds of realities exist simultaneously, all over the planet. Myself, right now, a fire in the fireplace, soothing music warming my soul, typing on a mobile computer in my home, while a homeless veteran sits in a tent in 44° weather less than four miles from my couch, hoping no one will steal his supplies while he’s gone for food. We exist in bubbles of disconnection, as if the world were fragmented into books, each of us a story unto ourselves.
Yet, we’re not disconnected. Far, far from it. That man’s homelessness is a by-product of complex systems of thought and circumstance that have, at their root, policy and tradition inherited by the public. For example, joining the military because his father had been in the Air Force. An assumption of many concepts, including stability and great purpose. In fact, he experienced state-sponsored murder of women and children in primitive villages. He is damaged as a result and upon returning, no one understands what he’s been through – and no one wants to. He is effectively abandoned by the service, left to heal on his own because military men are strong, resilient. The damage festers and has its way with him until his only relief is found in being homeless with no responsibility, no illusions to maintain, and no one to disappoint.
Yet, he is us – with a mind, a soul, an intelligence, and every feeling that we have. And we drive by him and his cart, dismissive in our passing, a moment of fleeting compassion felt at best. If our taxes are pointed towards shelters and education and counseling, many are put out, complaining those unfortunates are to blame, it’s their choice, etc. But it was our very system of illusions and selective ignorance that failed him. We allow men to be propped up as soldiers, used in the most horrific ways, then let back into the illusion as if nothing was wrong with what he had to do. We allow the damaged to return and melt into the self-absorbed folds of a society that says, “you’re on a your own” regardless of a man’s service or condition.
This model is repeated with our youth, raised into molded expectations without any real guidance on how to manage the inner challenges spurred by society’s trends and expectations. Their very identities are left to chance, their own inexperience tending to draw them into irresponsible modes of thought and valuation, or worse, into dangerous and self-destructive modes where their future and those of others are largely discounted.
There is often little depth at the societal level – and this lack of depth is propagated by the masses by not making it a central priority. Instead they allow the drums of capitalism to fill their lives and that of their children with the importance of status, material wealth, and competition – keeping up with the Joneses is the old saying. This shallowness is at the heart of everything gone wrong in the world. Our lack of spiritual awareness [not religiousness] is both a symptom and a cause of the Great Disconnection in effect. When we discount our empathetic response and replace it with “societal norms” that allow for disconnection, we’re avoiding our very shared nature. This disconnection is a comfortable illusion that allows us contentment with self, allows for satisfaction that we are contributing to the success of our community and country… when in fact we are contributing to its eventual downfall. The numbers have been shifting. The middle class are falling into the lower class and the lower class are falling into abject poverty and even homelessness.
All the while, the upper class have devised a system where they rise. 89% of revenue went to the top 1% of Americans in 2017. That disparity of income distribution is setting up the country for misery and failure. Allowing the kings and queens of the upper class to reside in white castles while the workers choke on the fumes and lose their jobs and retirement to economic downturns caused by greed and profit-taking is a form of unchecked madness. Being part of a society must require a defined moral participation in its workings. It requires a minimum depth of soul, of humanity. Enabling poverty-level jobs while the bulk of profit is horded at the top isn’t moral or ethical. When every business does it, it becomes a form of slavery. And that’s the problem.
So yes, it’s a mad world, brought on by our collective illusion of disconnectedness and self-approval as status-quo citizens “doing our part” and “being good people”. The illusion helps us be comfortable. In the end, it’s an addiction of comfort, as most addictions are, and this one is feeding the madness.