Making a society : doing the work

 

I don’t know if there is a part of the world that was untouched by the results of the U.S. elections. My friends and family in Nigeria, the U.K., Canada, passionately followed it, maybe more than me. I want to try to find a way to reflect on this by taking a step back and looking at it with America as only an example, not the centre of the world.

A few thoughts:

  • Everyday as humans we are reckoning with both our basest and finest. We are walking contradictions and isn’t it even a miracle that we manage to organize ourselves into any kind of functioning society that at least tries to aspire to ideals?
  • I have to say that I am not so much concerned about the election of one person as I am concerned about the narrative being legitimized. I am concerned that this is a narrative of tribalism, a narrative that dangerously conflates charisma with character, a narrative of drama and scapegoating instead of deep dialogue and thought.
  • It is an era of the next click bait, the next outrage and it is so hard to really completely check out of it, to be thoughtful participants and also to reflect on how we can act seriously rather than just be led by momentary emotions. The mantra of going high when they go low was hardly sustained. We all participate in this and are also victimized by it, so what is the way out?
  • Since democracy has the final say and this was the will of the people, I don’t know if Americans are more afraid that this is who they are being reflected at them or that this is who they are. If it is the latter, then unless we haven’t been listening to the people around us, it would have been obvious that beyond the artificial gloss, all has not been well in America for a while.
  • The shock on the faces of so many makes me realize that we cannot just check out from societal issues. Doing nothing is a statement in itself and we will be led by those who actually do something. Now the question is if we will like their choices or not, but by checking out we have made a choice to be followers not leaders.
  • To the extent that this is the time to see the shadow of America and the division that has long been covered, maybe this is an opportunity. The sense that America is deeply divided, that people are attacked for being different, and equally that there are good people going out of their way to be kind are all being heightened. The mourning and all the anger and hatred coming to light are painful but it is a reckoning too.
  • Regardless of who won the elections, there would always be work to be done. There is no shortcut to hard work is there? If we want a good society we cannot wait for the periodic legitimation politics grants. Culture takes long hard work to refine and nurture and it is tempting to go for shortcuts. We can’t expect one day to change everything we were supposed to be working on for four years. Four years, if we were to look at it politically, but actually our whole lifetimes is more like it.
  • We must do it everyday by looking at ourselves first. Who am I? What body of work am I creating with my life? Who do I want to be? What am I afraid of? Why? To what extent is my worldview a reflection of reality and my best aspirations and to what extent is it a reflection of my conditioning, my fears?
  • Like America, who really wants to look in the mirror? That is hard but we cannot just project this work on our political leaders. We have to do it too. Were we to attempt to do it, we would be so humbled by our failures in achieving it that it would keep us so busy and maybe contribute in its little way to changing our world. And that’s the thing, if we don’t want to contribute in our little way but are looking for magic and magicians, we will inevitably wind up fooled.

We all have our work to do, and it is personal. It is also easy to be distracted away from. I believe that our lives as a body of work, and not in a simplistic career sense, refine us and our society. So engage in the drama of our times, no problem, but we must also keep perspective and do the work cut out for us.

Leonard Cohen comes to mind when I think of making a deep and timeless body of work. Please enjoy:

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