Saturday, 11 December 2021

Grace and Equanimity in an Uncertain World: Harmonizing the Left and Right Brains

The human being’s primal instinct is for self-preservation. Basic emotions like fear, worry, disgust, anger and even jealousy ensured that we did not get eaten by a predator, fall off a cliff, eat poison, protected the offspring so we are all here today.    

That survival has required both the left and right brain combining our reptilian, limbic (emotional) and the neocortex (the executive function) to work in harmony.  However, to survive in the modern techno industrial world, the human has been forced to move towards the left part of the brain.  

Even though the brain is extremely complex and hard to distinguish in a simplistic way - new findings about our cognition and the Dorsal (above and below the midbrain), Ventral (the lower part of the brain and body) and Daniel Kahneman's writing on fast and the slow brain - Harvard Neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor has brought the attention back to the left and right brains.

Her latest work shows how the left brain has dominated us in the 20th century, which informs how the modern world evolved socially, economically, politically with science and technology driving a consumerist world. 

Left brain thinks linearly in the past and future tense, structured and certain, analytical, detail oriented, seeks differences, happy to separate, critical and judgmental, can be fear-based and righteous.  This is essential to survive or even thrive in the modern-techno-industrial world.

When anything unfamiliar and uncertain appears, the emotional side of the left brain sends us into a fight-flight-play dead-fear response, arousing the sympathetic nervous system – which is reptilian and primal.  This is what we see in the global fear psychosis - driven by governments and media in the last 2 years, paralyzing and separating people in the efforts to stop the pandemic.

Psychologist and Conflict Mediator, Marshall Rosenberg observes that the left- brain dominance of the modern human has resulted in the following;

“Most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand, diagnose, - to think and communicate in terms of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ with people. At best this way of thinking and speaking hinders communication, creating misunderstanding and frustration, at its worst - it leads to violence”.

Anxiety and fear can trap us in the left emotional brain – to judge and demand in terms of what is right and wrong as Rosenberg states.  This fear psychosis separates and creates conflict, as we see today.

Many today are stuck in the sympathetic nervous system where cholesterol triggers stress hormone such as cortisol and adrenaline  – to fight or flee and worse still, it stops the blood flow to the digestive system. 

The emotional and physical fallout from the allostatic load buildup of stress during the last 2 years can manifest disease and a mental health epidemic into the future.  

The Three Arrows

The Buddhist parable of two arrows illustrates how we can get a hold of our emotions as it triggers.   

We have no control over the first arrow that triggers an emotion as it comes from the outside, yet when we are not mindful and unaware, the second arrow hits, giving rise to an emotion(s).  

 

We do have a choice with the second arrow though, as we can respond rather than react by catching it before it hits the ego driven emotion.   

An elegant way to catch the second arrow is by becoming mindfully aware – take a deep breath and say ‘observe’ to stop the emotion - the feeling that arises.  This pause creates space to connect the mind and body to become present, rather than stay on auto-pilot to get caught up in the arising emotion of anxiety, fear, anger or frustration.  

With skill and mindfulness, we can pause to move ourselves in a few seconds to the right brain to catch the second arrow, to acknowledge the arising emotion, but not react to it on auto-pilot.  This space enables us to become open, fearless and resilient to receive even a harsh criticism with grace, put it in perspective and respond. 

If we allow the second arrow to penetrate and the emotion remains, it could open us to a third arrow - a mood we may fall into from ruminating on the emotion.

It Takes Practice

With practice we can learn the skill to stop a feeling - the emotion and the arising thought when the first arrow hits – the trigger - by simply taking a deep breath and saying ‘observe’.  

That may take 5 seconds to break the emotional trigger and the ego getting dragged into the arising sentiment.  Those 5 seconds are invaluable to gain the space, pause and respond with awareness rather than react on auto-pilot, which may burn bridges to be regretted later.

Focus on the Breath

This is not easy to do.  It requires us to learn to become aware of the breath at the heat of the moment, especially as our power is being taken away. 

Like anything else, it takes a commitment to a regular meditation practice (focus on the breath is the easiest) to become mindful and present.

Focus on self to go inward to become familiar with the busy mind and learn to manage it by moving from thought to awareness.   

Taking a deep breath with an intention to let go of trying to fix things, enables us to move to the right side of the brain to become expansive, open to possibilities and fearless - to not react to the immediate triggers, find space and some freedom to put things in perspective to respond . 

Pandemic Response

As we work through the pandemic, the ‘cognitive dissonance’ arising from confusing messages from the experts on one end, conspiracy theorists on the other and everyone in between - as goal posts change, can render us helpless in fear to be stuck in the left brain.  In times of uncertainty, our mental faculties can distort the realities to lead us into despair. 

In desperation, to make sense of the dissonance, we seek anchors by finding scapegoats to blame.  Anyone who seems outside the mainstream narrative becomes a threat and lines of separation are drawn between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – this self righteousness hinder communications that can lead to conflict. 

When we understand how our brains and minds work, and learn a time-tested practice as mindfulness, we can be more skillful in dealing with such an untenable situation.

Balancing and Harmonizing the Left and the Right Brain

In her new book Whole Brain Living, Bolte-Taylor reveals to a left brained world the more expansive holistic right side of the brain, which thinks experientially in the present moment.  It is fearless, loves unconditionally, is kind and compassionate, flexible and resilient, creative, seeks similarities to connect in the way we experience our behaviour;

“If we live with the belief that there is only one group of cells that process our emotions, our mixed emotions can be confusing.   At a neuroanatomical level, when we experience conflicting feelings, it is because we have two groups of emotional cells that are separate from each other.” 

We have a choice to harmonize the two brains by taking a deep breath to pause and say 'observe', to gain some space to think critically.  

When we take responsibility for ourselves and open our minds to balance the left and right brains, we can become fearless to let go of the differences - compromise, to be gracious, open to consider another person's point of view.

The Evolving Brain

Bolte Taylor cautions us;

“Even though from an evolutionary point of view, our brain is an amazing neurological achievement, our brain is far from being a finished product.” 

Her statement - ‘humanity exists in an ongoing state of evolution’ should humble us to realize our limitations.

An intentional mindfulness practice can help us evolve as we manage our thoughts and narratives to impact our neurological processes.

Jill Bolte Taylor also points to mindfulness-based tools to harmonize the left and right brain.  This important and unusual research and findings can help us to change the way we are dealing with our life's challenges including the current pandemic. 

Otherwise, this pandemic of the virus may turn into a pandemic of mental health and other illnesses.

The 'gaslighting'(1) that happens with confusing narratives - the see-saw of changing rules and mandates, as decision makers are also trying their best to stem the pandemic, is playing havoc with people’s minds with doubt and fear.

The simple mindfulness practice to focus on the breath and say 'observe' stops the thoughts to move to awareness and knowing – to gain the space to invoke the right brain for balance and harmony.   

This is the way we may find that inner power and resilience by enacting the whole brain to deal with the many traumas that we face today and in our lifetime with equanimity.

 I end with a poem inspiring us to honour ourselves by Derek Walcott:


 "Give back the heart to itself

To the stranger who has loved you all your life

Whom you have ignored for another 

Who knows you by heart"

  ----------------

 (1) Gaslighting - a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions

 

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

America Got Under My Skin

I write this as I was smitten by America’s spirit since I was a child.  Now to see it unravel saddens me.  

 As I learn the true history of the USA, I realize how the founding principles got compromised even more after World War II to impact the rest of the world.  Rather than bringing the world together - USA pushed by demagogic, ideological politicians and advisors through 'American Exceptionalism' divided the world in their own interest, ignoring that others too aspire to meet the same basic human needs and more.

The sword of Damocles hangs over the world with the Nuclear arsenal based on a technology that metaphorically and in reality separates, as the destructive force comes from splitting an atom. This contradicts our default mode as humans, which is communion as life begins with a union of two beings becoming vulnerable to each other with trust.   

Does that alone not give us a clue of our true reality of interdependence and our oneness with nature?. 

That is why I write this personal reflection from the heart, based on my own experiences and inquiry to provoke thought at this crucial time for USA and the world.

--------------------------------

It is December 2020 and the United States of America is at cross-roads.  It is not the first time this nation has faced troubles and uncertainty, however this time a combination of challenges and issues are converging, both at a global and local level that threaten the nation. 

It will take an enlightened and a balanced political, civic, religious and corporate leadership to navigate through this storm. 

When I state ‘balanced’ - it is the ‘power of balance’ – to realize that MIGHT; whether it is economic or military is not the way to dominate through these sensitive and complex times.  Doing as one pleases in a globalized and informed world could end in tragedy. 

What is different this time, as opposed to times before, is that the USA then had enormous amounts of power and resources to do its bidding around the world. "Washington Consensus" dominated the world after the cold war with its 'free market' ideology. 

Today, with access to information and global economic power spread among many nations in an interconnected world, that influence especially in a 'soft power' sense, has depleted.    

In addition to the distrust of the rest of the world, this time there are deep divisions within and weak leadership that has decimated many of its own internal control systems could lead to anarchy on their own soil.   

That is why sanity must prevail with a well-balanced leadership coming to the fore to bring the nation together, as an implosion could impact the whole world.

My Childhood Fascination with the USA

My first toy car was American
I used to look forward to two monthly outings with my father to the British Council and United States Information Service (USIS) Library in Kandy, Sri Lanka back in the 1960s. 

Somehow the US news reels were more exciting - full of glamour - the ticker tape parades, big buildings, vast open vistas, fancy cars, sports arenas, huge tracts of agricultural lands, large harvesting machines – in contrast to the staid BBC reels even with the pomp and pageantry. 

 

Pinterest
Ford Wagons - Pinterest
I used to marvel at the colourful ads of happy families around Ford Station Wagons with curious 'wood paneling', the allure of Cadillacs and Lincolns with elegantly dressed people in the National Geographic and Life magazines that came home every month.

Sam Cooke Pic: Vint.ages
I was smitten by America at a young age - even the music in my mother’s record collection in the 1960s – Nat King Cole,
Sam Cook, Jim Reeves, Elvis (I did not know of the racial issues at the time) as I listened to these over and over again in her ‘His Masters Voice’ turn table.  

Movies like Turning Point with Clint Eastwood and his Dodge Hemi Charger,

Bullitt Pic. New York Times
Steve McQueen’s Bullitt and his Ford Mustang, the wild and crazy - Its a Mad Mad World made a strong impression on me as I came upon my teens.

Even though Sri Lanka’s austerity politics was more aligned with Soviet Russia, I was converted to the allure of capitalism by these media influences before I was 10 years old.   

Russia got ingrained in my mind as an evil empire and the space race made this even more exciting.  I remember being glued to radio in July 1969 as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon from Apollo 11 and returning to earth – the exuberance was infectious I wanted a piece of that action. 

Cousins Nedra and Harindra and their Tornado

My quest to leave Sri Lanka started about that time, as our uncle Walter (Wally mama) – my mother’s brother, Aunty Pansy and cousins Nedra and Harindra had moved to Canada in 1963. 

Seeing colour photos of their lovely home and big car pulling a camper over beautiful scenery seemed so idyllic, Canada became my destination (as that was more realistic to get close to the USA).  I would not let up on this quest until my parents relented. 

Arriving in North America

We arrived in Toronto, Canada on the evening of 13th November 1973. I recall sitting in the front seat of my uncle Reggie’s (Raja mama) Chevrolet, reveling in a high speed ride from the airport on the multi-lane Highway 401 marveling at the lit buildings that extended to the sky – everything was such a stark contrast to the quiet hillside town of Kandy - it was surreal.

As it snowed the next morning and I went for a long walk along the Ellesmere Road in Scarborough, it was everything I imagined – the vast spaces, the huge cars, clean air, yet I was amazed there were hardly any people out and about.

As we were settling in, I was beginning to understand the dynamics – the similarities and the differences between Canada and the USA.  The first glimpse into American life came through the television – the Brady Bunch, Green Acres, All in the Family with Archie Bunker, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son with Redd Fox, even the Flintstones cartoons gave me some insights into the diversity and even the differences and nuances in American society.

I was intrigued by Irv Weinstein on channel 7 - WKBW TV - starting the nightly newscast with - “Its 11 o clock, do you know where your children are?”.  I realized that Buffalo – the American city across the Niagara Falls border seemed a stark contrast to Toronto for its crime and homicides.

My first trip across the border on a Greyhound bus to Cleveland via Buffalo in 1975 confirmed this contrast.  I was surprised to see such poverty and disparity in the country that I so admired from far.  

In the affluent Cleveland neighborhood of Shaker Heights among my mother’s pen friend Polly Fine’s family and friends, I realized the deep divide between the have’s and have nots in America.

The Pioneering Nation of the United States of America

North America received hundreds of thousands of European settlers getting away from religious persecution and social subjugation from the mid 1600s. These free people wanted to create a society based on that very liberty they had acquired from venturing across the Atlantic. This liberty based on individualism bred self esteem, confidence and a contentiousness that fueled an ambition to succeed over the overbearing motherlands of Europe.  

One of the founding fathers of the revolutionary republic of the United States, English born

Thomas Paine Pic: The Peacemakers

Thomas Paine painted a vision for America to move away from the class-based system of England to the power of the people.   

He decried Britain’s 'Fiscal-Military State' where he stated “Britain’s reliance on war as state craft created a vicious cycle of increasing debt and heavier taxes on the common people and the mixed constitution of democratic, aristocratic and monarchical elements served that vicious cycle.”   

He expected that America, with its commercial population freed from the depredations of the British government would be different.[ii]   

Eventually, ingenuity improved upon the industrial age developments of Europe, especially in significant areas of steel production, electric power generation and industrialized farming unhampered by a class system was showcased to the world at the Chicago Exposition of 1893.  America was emerging as a distinct, swashbuckling free-spirited culture - it was exciting and contagious.

Two primary blemishes that continues to be a drag on the nation is the history of the stolen land from indigenous native Americans and African Slavery.  

Notwithstanding these, America forged ahead with a vision to dominate the world differently from the colonial British. 

Coming out to the World: The Two Wars

World War I brought America to the world stage, but it was World War II that made a real difference in America’s attitude and dominance in the world. 

Ironically, that started with war time scientific joint innovation between the US and Britain when Prime Minister Churchill dispatched the then Rector of the Imperial College Sir Henry Tizzard in 1940 (The Tizzard Mission) to join with President Franklyn D. Roosevelt’s team. The British were ahead in wartime technological developments at the time.

American ingenuity took over and soon developed new technologies for the war including the nuclear bomb.[iii]    

President Roosevelt who saw the nation revive from the 1929 economic depression had a challenging task again as America grappled with the complex World War II.  (Ref: "Untold History of the United States" documentary by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick).  

There was a delicate balance required to manage between communist Russia, Britain and its allies with a mixture of ideologies to go against Nazism, Fascism and Imperialism of the Germans, Italians and the Japanese. The US, Britain and the Soviet partnership rose to the occasion and eventually led the way in beating both Germany and Japan, yet the USA came out on top for several reasons.

In the end Soviet Russia lost 27 million people to the US and Britain losing 500,000 each.      

USA turned the tide with huge strides in technology, weaponry (nuclear and the hydrogen bomb) which changed the global stakes for humanity.   

It would then become America’s responsibility to ensure that the enormous power they gained was not misused.  At the time, there was enlightened leadership with Roosevelt and his Vice President, the spiritually intelligent Henry Wallace who sort to create a middle ground and not dominate the world.

Roosevelt and Wallace Pic. NY Times
Wallace was a systems thinker - a farmer who also studied eastern philosophies and understood the human mind and psyche – which to the average war monger meant a pacifist – a weakling.

Ideologues Take Over 

Wallace was eventually pushed out of the running for a second term with Roosevelt by hard liners and hawks who looked at him as alien for his spirituality and open-hearted worldviews.  An unknown Harry Truman was brought forward by the hardliners to which an ailing Roosevelt caved in. 

It was during Truman’s time the US changed itself into a fiscal-war economy like Britain was and created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to do its bidding overseas, especially as its animosity with the Soviets grew to fuel the cold war.  Truman was driven by zealots like the Secretary of State James F Byrnes and James Forrestal (Secretary of the Navy), Dulles brothers to become anti-Soviet wielding the power of Nuclear weapons. 

By this time, a war in Korea had started to stop the communist expansion and US was exerting its power to take control of the world.  This led Soviet Russia to develop and test their own nuclear bomb in 1949 fueling a nuclear arms race and the cold war.  

George Marshall
Leaders like former General George Marshal (Marshal Plan) kept the US from going completely hostile to the world, even as the likes of obsessive demagogic Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade attacked, as America forged a path of fear and paranoia.      

With General Dwight Eisenhower taking Presidential office in 1952, USA had become the anti-communist policeman of the world.

At the end of his career Eisenhower’s conscience kicked in and spoke against the military industrial complex he had helped to propel and consolidate. 

It was too late as the young John F. Kennedy inherited a militarized hawkish nation which went to the brink of a nuclear Armageddon with the arch enemy Soviet Russia.   

As President Kennedy battled with the old military generals and the likes of the self righteous head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover to find a middle path and a truce with the then Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev - his position was in peril.  Who knows which of his enemies got him at the end in Dallas, Texas in November 1963 with USA losing a chance at a new more peaceful direction for the world.

President Johnson taking over was not a patch on Kennedy in his vision for a new world order. He continued to fuel the fire in another war to stop the communists in Vietnam. 

If only these American leaders had read the history of China.  John Kaey’s book China: A History chronicling 5000 years of history shows over and over how Korea and Vietnam were never conquered.  

That should have given a clue to hawks like Kissinger and later Presidents Nixon that the Vietnamese had a certain tenacity not even millions of tons of bombs dropped from above could stop.  Nixon ended this losing war in 1973 which showed America that might and fire power cannot overcome the human spirit.

About to depart on the Black River  
I have seen with my own eyes in Vietnam, as I traveled by boat to remote communities on the Black River reservoir of the Hòa Bình Dam during my time as a rural and renewable energy consultant in the 1990s, large tracts of land bare of any vegetation poisoned by Agent Orange sprayed by US warplanes between 1961 and 1971.

This was done to defoliate the land so the Vietcong fighters could not find cover.  I also sadly came across so many families with deformed children in these remote villages even 20 years later, with these stories generally unknown to the world.[iv]

Even the genial President Carter got caught up in promoting the military industrial complex in his struggle with Iran and losing to President Reagan.  Reagan continued US's hegemonic politics advised by religious zealots like CIA’s William J. Casey, continued to impose the American will in South America and the rest of the world. 

George Bush Snr. continued on his military adventure in Iraq and Kuwait and later his son George W took the cake after 9/11 in the biggest deception and lie to the world.  

The phantom weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was concocted by the reptilian threesome of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz - even the respected Colin Powell was dragged in - along with oil industry executives and the British PM Tony Blaire - hatched a plan to take over the oil fields and water reservoirs of Iraq.

All that backfired on the world with the resulting Islamic terror that was unleashed, yet no one repents.  

One would think that this hawkish behaviour was republican alone, but Presidents Clinton and Obama continued this crusade of US exceptionalism.    

I was so impressed by reading of Barack Obama’s humanity in his book – Dreams of My Father where I thought America will change and so will the world.  I was too naïve and I presume, he was too.

I was so disappointed to hear there were ten times more air strikes in the covert war on terror during President Barack Obama’s presidency than under his predecessor, George W Bush.

Obama developed the Military Drone program, making it worse than dropping bombs from planes. They wreaked havoc from a safe control room far away with 563 strikes targeting Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen during Obama’s two terms, compared to 57 strikes under Bush.  It is reported that over 1,000 civilians were killed in those countries, according to reports logged by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.[v]

Trump steered well clear of any costly new military blunders like the war in Iraq or the 2011 Obama’s intervention in Libya.  Even some of Trump’s fiercest critics acknowledge that the administration has notched some important foreign-policy successes—most notably on China and in the Middle East.[vi]   

However, the drone warfare has continued on his watch too, but I doubt he has been kept in the loop of what continues through the system as a part of war against terror.

Trump did meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-un which took the mystery away of Jong-un's infallibility.  Nothing like sitting in front of a person for an eyeball to eyeball conversation to neutralize a long-held animosity.  Trump’s efforts, in the eyes of the world, declawed Jong-un who seemed scary and mysterious before.    

Even as erratic and emotionally unstable Trump is, he has been less of a menace to the rest of the world. He has in fact rattled the existing world order of alliances like NATO and even put the UN on notice. 

I do not think Trump’s actions are in anyway strategic, but rather erratic due to his 'hubris'. He has been consistent though in pleasing his support base who voted him in to "drain the swamp".   

Sadly he has separated and polarized the country to a dangerous "us vs them" mentality where it is difficult to have a conversation to find common ground.  

Trump has gone through many advisors but has been consistent with Stephen Miller’s right wing, anti-immigration stance (ironically grandson of Jewish immigrants from Russia).  

Obama becoming the first African-American President drew a line across America. Trump has taken that line to a different level to separate America along racial lines.

Trump’s actions are dividing the nation along the European origin Americans and everyone else, starting from African and Latin Americans and others.  It is also dividing the nation along economic lines, except many of his support base ironically are the ones that could get most hurt by his health care and taxation agendas.   

America at Crossroads

At the end of the day, as I look back at my own education on America, the America that enamored me, that had me obsessed as a child to move closer to for all its allure, the reality has set in that even great nations, that seemed infallible can fall.

The United States of America is at crossroads – caught up in its own creation and fueling a neo-liberal globalized world to see that these economic policies have not served its own people.  Rather it has emboldened the free market and enriched a few people around the world making the gap even much wider.

As Mark Carney, the former Governor of the Bank of England stated in his Reith Lectures on BBC  on 2nd December 2020; 

“How we have come to esteem financial value over human value and how we have gone from market economies to market societies… has contributed to a trio of crises: of credit, Covid and climate.” 

America led the way to create a consumerist world egged on by public relations gurus like Ed Bernays (author of the book Propaganda) at the turn of the 20th century where the market dictated and humans lost the plot to forget humanity.  

They followed Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations in shaping a 20th century market society and forgot his book Moral Sentiments about human ethics and values.

The Great Transformation

The point of the story is that America and the world have to change from a fiscal-war mongering economy to a more sustainable, stable one that does not bring misery and mayhem to people of this world.  That can only come from enlightened leaders who will let go of demoniacal focus on power and profits for America at the cost of global human well-being.

Diffusing the Nuclear Threat 

I understand the need for America to build the nuclear bomb at the time as Hitler was also moving in that direction.  I am so happy America got it at the time rather than Hitler, as he would have used it liberally in his ego-maniacal madness to rule the world.

The onus was then on the guardians of the deadly technology.  Nuclear arsenal should have been locked away soon after the war was over.

I even wonder whether the USA really had to use it at the time in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as by then the Japanese war machine was waning anyway. 

The USA as the gracious victor, by putting the nuclear bomb away, could have followed a path of world peace by building relationships, especially with Russia.  

Instead, Russia lost the most (27 million people) fighting on the same side and ended up the enemy in an unnecessary Cold War.  

Ill advised, Truman went the jingoistic ideological route without getting the potential adversary close to him.  Rather than continue to cultivate a relationship with the insecure Stalin, Truman alienated him. 

Millions more people died in the next 40 years around the world with the ripple effects of USA’s anti-communist fear based global politics and the cold war.  

To add to that, the nuclear bomb is in the hands of many more nations - India, Pakistan, Israel, China, Iran, North Korea and others pitching humanity into a perilous state.  

Imagine how the world would be different if the Marshal Plan to resurrect Germany and Japan included Soviet Russia – the world would not have such a wasteful nuclear arms race and put the entire planet at risk of Armageddon.    

America can still lead the way to a new kinder, gentler world order;

Navy Pier - Chicago

America – you defined the 20th century, gave the world a lot of things to celebrate for, but there was a price to pay in the old model.   

It is time now to realize that there is a world of people out there who aspire for the same - to live happily, to love their children and hope for their best and to die in peace - as we are equal in birth as we are in death.  America you still have the power to change the paradigm to move away from being a Fiscal-Military state. 

America's founding principles - all political power emanate from the people and people have fundamental rights of liberty, free speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and freedom of assembly, which gives rise to the American dream.  That is not only an American dream - it is a universal dream for most human beings on this planet.

The economic collapse of 2008 was a call to action on the free market; electing of President Trump was a call to action by a disenfranchised people; Black Lives Matter is a call to action for equality and finally COVID is a call to action by Mother Nature - as that is a biological response to an ecological crisis that threaten all of us. 

Some Humble and Idealistic Thoughts as a keen Observer

I have been told over and over again that Idealism and Capitalism do not mix.  I do not agree.  The UN's Sustainable Development Goals <https://sdgs.un.org/goals> are both idealistic and pragmatic.  SDGs are a good place to start as we find that balance or else Mother Nature will find homeostasis on this earth without us.

I also realize that hardened institutionalized structures and worldviews over the last 150 years cannot be wished away overnight. Change has to be paced and sequenced. COVID has shown us that we can adapt, so there is an opportunity.

America still is the most influential and powerful nation in the world (it may soon change and everyone has to come to terms with that too).  Therefore, America by rallying others too still has an an opportunity to set in motion some fundamental changes needed in order to create a kinder gentler planet. 

I am going to be audacious and put these thoughts out there as a wish-list to consider as I resonate with Martin Luther King Jr. when he said something like  - "Our lives begin to end when we keep silent about things that matter".   

Here are my thoughts and ideas to ponder on;

 1. Move away from the fossil fuel economy, hence temper the alliances and interfering with oil producing countries, especially in the Arab world.  Move towards a renewable energy economy.

2.  Move away from the Fiscal-Military economy and change from foisting liberal democracy to the rest of the world through the barrel of a gun. Redirect those funds to education, healthcare, institutional and social structures for well-being of the people instead of guns. Work towards global agreement to stop the Nuclear arms race.  

3. Transform education policies to become inclusive as every citizen is an asset to the nation. Move towards a more introspective education for self awareness and a critical thinking learning process to complement teaching of economics, math, sciences and IT.  

Provide creative arts, sports programs, martial arts, mindfulness and yoga (call them different names - breathing, stretching and calisthenics) and more inquiry based experiential learning in the curricula. This helps put perspective and context to realize the learner's place in the world.  

Action research and inquiry based learning raises self-awareness, esteem and confidence so the new generation gains inner strength and power to think critically and take responsibility for themselves.  

Work in partnership with parents as allies to the education system.

4. Slow the globalization in the production of goods and rebuild local production capacity and economies.   

5. Rethink the limited liability corporation to a more socially responsible charter for businesses. Redesign the stock market to move away from quarterly profits to a more robust way of measuring real value of companies. Regulate the stock market away from operating as a casino.   

6. Encourage organic farming and sustainable agricultural practices to protect trees, land, soil and water.  Listen to and learn from the Native Americans about living as one with nature.

7. Change the narrative, policies and funding for War on Crime; War on Drugs; War on Terror, which are inherently violent and costly - rather fund local and global initiatives to solve the root causes of these issues. 

8. Encourage the media to use positive psychology and appreciative narratives in stories.  Democratize the media from the current 5 corporations to let go of control and biased political narratives that polarize the nation. Bring back the true spirit of journalism that holds anyone accountable. 

9. Curtail political patronage, lobbying and influence of big pharma, big oil, big-agro and arms monopolies which hurt people and the environment and not accountable to any.   

10. Open up the health care system to be holistic to marry Allopathy and natural approaches for good health and well-being.

11. Move away from the narrative of American Exceptionalism. Create global alliances to cooperate on the environment (honour the Paris COP agreement), preservation of forests, natural habitat and water; on poverty; healthcare and well-being; education; technology development, space exploration and many other shared issues that need global cooperation with an open mind.   

12. Elect emotionally and spiritually intelligent political leaders who speak to these transformations - leaders who understand the power of balance - in 2020.  

Leaders finding the Power of Balance

America was founded on the Protestant ethic of hard work and discipline ennobling the individual certain rights and freedoms. However, prudence, integrity, humility, simplicity and community were also a part of this Puritan foundation. 

All that got lost as consumerism appeared in the 20th century's modern techno-industrial complex.  Hard work and discipline were combined with unfettered growth, greed and profit at any cost as corporations define political, social and economic agendas.  

The new generation of political leaders can take back the power and influence from corporations driven by markets - to hand the power to the people, to govern in the spirit of those founding fathers as they intended in July 1776.  

That requires the captains of industry to become mindful, as the human being is wired in default-mode for empathy and fairplay - to become aware of nature's laws and all of humanity's basic needs to live well.  It does not mean, we stop innovating and trying to conquer the universe, as that is the human spirit.  

With all the resources and ingenuity we have, there is no reason for a single human being on this planet to starve or live without dignity.  For that, we have to preserve our planet's ecosystem too, as we are all one.  

If America is able to find that 'power of balance' - and I see this being played out as the US Supreme Court stacked with republican judges ruled the 2020 election free and fair - through an independent judiciary, a solid bureaucracy and enlightened political leadership - it can anchor the nation to lead the way in partnership with other countries to flourish in a new world order for 2021 and beyond.

God bless America to help forge a kinder gentler and a more resilient world for the 21st century.

 



The story was also inspired by Oliver Stone's "The Untold History of the United States" documentary series.    

[i]                       https://www.wired.co.uk/article/manhattan-project-robert-oppenheimer

[ii]                      Tom Paine’s Iron Bridge: Building a United States; Edward G. Gray; pp 119-123

[iii]                     Let the Cat Turn Round: Alexander King p 119

[iv]                     http://www.ipsnews.net/1999/05/thailand-toxic-legacy-of-the-vietnam-war/

[v]                      https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2017-01-17/obamas-covert-drone-war-in-numbers-ten-times-more-strikes-than-bush

[vi]                     https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/10/14/trump-foreign-policy-wins-losses-over-four-years-china-middle-east-coronavirus-pandemic/