From Bettering Ourselves to Bettering Our World: Permission to Take a Stand for Something

Editor’s Note: This post is inspired in part by an email exchange I’ve had over the past week with Lynn Fang of Upcycled Love. If you’re not reading her work, I highly recommend checking it out. Powerful and inspiring.

At some point in this Great Change that so much of the blogosphere is concerned with, the person sitting in front of the screen has to turn their attention from gazing into a mirror to gazing out their front door. Shifting from the internal to the external; from bettering him/herself to bettering something bigger.

Yes, personal change is the first step: Digging deep within ourselves to uncover those latent truths and inspirations; the reason(s) for being and loving and working and all those other things that make up our day-to-day. From there, you plot the course for changing those things that we believe can improve our own existence.

But at some point, this new-found awareness begets a bigger, broader responsibility in the world. It requires us to focus on what this innate connection we all have with ALL life calls on us to be and do: To elevate our consciousness and compassion to that of a global citizen… a global being sharing this planet we call home with seven billion other humans and millions of other species.

For if we don’t, the problems that blanket the airwaves will just keep on keeping on. Unchecked. Growing and morphing. Seething.

Most long-time readers of TNP know that we don’t have cable so I rely on radio – and in particular, NPR – for most of my news. But of late, what I hear has just dragged me to the point of utter frustration. It’s just story after story of dysfunction and destruction — the environment, politics, Middle East turmoil, suffering Africans, the tanked economy and markets… the list goes on. I feel like I could almost cave under the weight of the global burdens that befall us.

Yet with all that, I keep coming back to the notion that so many people appear to be unaware or not care. Or maybe they are aware but feel paralyzed by the scale and scope of the problems. Or maybe they don’t know how to channel their energy to help drive the change. My friend Jennifer thinks there are eight reasons why people don’t change.

The problems are so systemic. The system so skewed. The ethics so absent. David and Goliath does not even begin to describe what it is we are up against. Is it an “Us” versus “Them”? Perhaps.

Call it crazy, but I believe that most Americans continue to be ‘zombified’ by mainstream culture and media. The real and tangible impacts of our consumption and lack of global compassion are kept from seeing the light of day. People care more about “reality shows”, entertainment and sports than how the world is going down right outside their door.

I mean, how could anyone who is really ALIVE not care about things like Keystone XL? Troy Davis and capital punishment? Extinction of First Nation people and cultures? How could anyone not want to elevate their consciousness? Connect with the world and universe? Live for something bigger than them? Live in a way so that all life can prosper? Give of themselves to others?

So many people can’t educate themselves about real life — let alone get outraged and act to preserve its sacredness — because they are too preoccupied with the fabricated life (and the pursuit of it) that they have surrounded themselves with. At some level, I think capitalism has architected it this way to preserve its own ideology and ethos. And unfortunately, many governments are in its pocket.

It almost sounds like a radical stance and perspective. Maybe so.

So where am I going with all of this?

I am asking you to find ONE thing to take a stand for. ONE thing to get channel some positive outrage against. ONE thing that you can lend your time, resources, action to changing for the better.

Where to start? Well, right outside your door in your own community. If not there, then somewhere else in this world. Here are some campaigns that have impacted me personally and that I’ve contributed to in some way, shape or form:

To help you get the right tools in your Take-A-Stand Tool Belt, check out these amazing stories/resources:

Earlier this week, I posed the following on my Twitter account:

In one tweet, can you describe your perspective on the state of the world? In a second tweet, describe what you are doing to challenge it.

No one responded. Perhaps people just missed it or glazed it over amidst all the other tweets out there. Or maybe people chose not to reply because it made them uncomfortable. I’m not sure.

What do you think? Feel free to leave your thoughts as a comment below.

Be well,

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6 Responses to “From Bettering Ourselves to Bettering Our World: Permission to Take a Stand for Something”
  1. Carol Barta says:

    Thank you so much for this post. Sometimes it does all feel very overwhelming. In the movie, Dirt, Wangari Mathaii, the Nobel laureat who passed away earlier this week, tells a beautiful story about the hummingbord and the forest fire. Even though it is small, it keeps putting water on the fire, doing the best it can. Each of us need to be hummingbirds. We may not be able to create monumental changes in the world by ourselves, but if we each do the best we can, together we will make those changes.

  2. SherryGreens says:

    Bill you have nailed the issue so eloquently. Everyone is zombiefied, by the ads on TV, the shows on TV, the malls, the shopping… It is artificial. People sit at home on the couch, instead opening themselves to the world around them, to their communities. It makes me so frustrated. Capitalism is not democracy. We are citizens, not simply consumers. How can we get it back? How can we collectively start to care?

    For my part, I am up in arms about Keystone XL. I live in Alberta, Canada, a few hours drive from the disaster that is happening up there. It makes me so mad and frustrated. One in 15 Albertans has a job related to oil and gas, so it is such an immovable force to get anything changed. The PM of Canada lives in Alberta too, so he will never do anything for about it, it is his base of political support. I am just hoping that Obama vetos. I have sent letters to various politians about it, I write about it on my blog, I make my stance known all over the web.

    America, please don’t take our dirty oil. Leave it in the GROUND!!!

  3. Bill Gerlach says:

    Sherry // Thanks; I didn’t realize you were so close to the tarsands. Your perspective on all this must be amazing. There appears to be some great momentum growing for the opposition movement. We are all hopeful that Obama does the right thing; if not, I fear it will be an undeniable sign of where we are headed. If the government just leveled the playing field between Big Oil, Big Coal and the renewable energy sectors, the latter might have a fighting chance of getting a stronger foothold and growing.

    You’re questions about how to get it back and collectively caring are the proverbial million dollar ones. We must change ourselves — not only our behaviors but our knowledge of the issues and their causes — and then turn our attention to what’s outside our door. Making connections with others (just like this) begins to create a thread. As more connections are made — and stories and inspiration and know-how are shared — more threads are created. Eventually those threads will (and are) coming together to weave a new societal fabric that binds us together.

    What do you think? You have me thinking through a post on really tangible things we can do to create that new fabric… Thanks.

  4. Bill Gerlach says:

    Carol // Thank you so much for taking time to comment. I have not seen that documentary but will be on the lookout for it. That image of the hummingbird is beautiful — and hits home as we have many visiting with us during the summer months. They are special.

  5. I cannot watch tv or listen to the new much anymore. It practically gives me panic attacks it’s so awful. I do get the news through my husband and certain news channels I can shut off when I want on the internet. I do believe that the media has a grip far deeper than most realize. It has people sitting, not doing anything and excepting what is going on in our world as though it was a video game. It saddens me, it makes me nervous, it makes me glad I am not young, and that I did not have children.

    What I am doing about it: I do things like join the EcoChallenge and be as kind to our environment as possible. I write about it hoping that there are people out there affected by blogs and articles like yours. I buy way less stuff and encourage others to do the same. I don’t buy water in plastic bottles. These are small things but I try to do as many of these small things as I can while influencing those around me to do the same.

  6. Ingrid says:

    Thanks so much for this story Bill (and Lynn!)… it was just the encouragement I needed to get a story up about the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu river:
    It really can feel like there’s too many problems in the world sometimes to do anything about them… but there’s no point being an ostrich about it either. Thanks again for the inspiration.
    Love your work and hope you’re well