More frequently than I would like, people I know tell me that I should get with the times, that I am resisting progress. Sometimes that feels like a message that I am resisting the Divine, which has brought this progress about. I admit that I am deficient in computer skills, have no desire to spend the greatest amount of my time in Cyberspace, and am not particularly observant about political correctness. However, it isn’t simply resistance to change, though some element of that exists. Learning is good, and adapting is a necessary skill. It is that what is commonly perceived or accepted as progress is built on several assumptions which do not seem to be well-founded, and which in some instances are even counterproductive.
One of these is the assumption that in order to be equal, we all need to be same. Distinctions that differentiate us one from another must be broken down so that we all may be equal. Thus, the assumption goes, we will have a just, friendly and better world. However, the fact is that creation is accomplished by distinguishing one thing from another. Without such distinctions, creation dissolves into an indistinct energy mass reminiscent of the Dominion of Deep Space Nine renown. There is no movement of energy, no effort to expend, nothing more to discover, just a conglomerate of (hopefully) touchy-feely mass. We can see some of this effect in our film making industry – many remakes, many new films that rely on violence or outrageous acts to interest people, and a diminishing of true creativity. We are NOT same. Take women, for example (forget the unisex sameness being promoted for women and men). We have women who are born as women in female bodies and who like it that way. We have women born as women who are attracted sexually to other women, or who prefer to act as men. We have women born as women whose inner self is that of men, and who do not wish to be in the bodies of women, and we have men born as men whose inner self is that of women, and who definitely would like to have the bodies of women. These are not all same. There are distinct differences. The key to equality is not sameness, it is valuing. Whatever the differences, each individual is a valuable part of the One that makes us all, and in which we are all united (but not same). Therefore, each individual needs to be accepted for what he/she/it is in this given moment; each individual needs to be included in a common respect for each other, and the needs of each individual need to be fully recognized and provided for out of the abundance that exists, without resorting to common panaceas which give everyone the same remedy. Everyone has needs and something to give. This is what needs recognition, not political correctness. Yes, we need to learn to not discriminate against those who are not like us (another manifestation of the assumption that everything needs to be same). and we need to not only learn to share from our abundance, but to be open to that abundance in the first place. All of us, not only some of us, have the right to exist and to have the needs of our conditions met or to make our contributions to the whole. However, laws that reinforce the sameness of all do not teach those concepts. Instead, they make us increasingly less.
Another assumption is that there is no more personal responsibility. In order to be free, we should be allowed to do pretty much what we want without taking personal responsibility for our actions. Somebody else, the government perhaps, should be taking responsibility for us and making sure that there are not consequences for our doing what we wish. That there ARE consequences, some more obvious than others, is simply disregarded. If we break the law (traffic violations to murder), we feel violated if we are caught. The cops are bad, the justice system (which does need improvement) is to blame, we had a bad childhood. We can abort that baby, the medical system should cure us of diseases caused by our actions and lifestyles, we can sue almost anyone for our misfortunes – the list is endless, from small actions to large ones. The truth is that responsibility exists, that there are results to our choices, thoughts and actions. These choices, thoughts and actions can affect others; no one else is responsible for what we think, choose and do, and we can always do the work of changing what we think, choose and do, if we are willing to make that effort. The current system of belief that someone else must take care of us and be responsible for what we think, choose and do actually interferes with our power to choose, and weakens us and our society. I am not arguing about agreements or lawful order, or about the help we give to others, but against the thought that if we act inappropriately or run into difficulties, then someone else must be responsible.
A third assumption is that technology is God (if not by name, then in estimation) and will save us. The truth is that technology is a powerful tool that must be used with caution and in full consciousness of possible and probable results. Early people sometimes thought that fire (especially the sun) was God or of the gods, and they worshipped fire or the sun, often treating it as a sacrament. The truth about fire is that it, too, is a powerful tool that must be used with caution and awareness. Just as fire draws to itself and consumes the oxygen around it, using that oxygen to spread, so the technology of today seems to be doing to our energy and awareness. People’s time and attention tends to be focused in Cyberspace, as more and more of our thought and endeavor are done via increasingly complex technology. The more we are drawn into Cyberspace, the more we seem to be required to run faster, to generate more physical and mental energy to feed an intertwined and nonhuman system. The deeper we progress into Cyberspace, the more we abandon our Earth, and the physical life around us. We pollute, we tear apart, we neglect, we attempt to conquer, we rape our Earth, we do not care. We take less and less pleasure in visiting the remaining pristine natural spaces, opting instead for the newest on-line game, virtual reality or on-line social connections, which connect us but which limit our ability to touch each other. Why, indeed, do we need an Earth and bodies, when we have this marvelous virtual world of Cyberspace, a world which becomes more complex and more fascinating each day? There is an old folk tale of the Pied Piper, who, when the villagers would not pay his fee for exterminating the rats in the town, entranced the children with his pipe music into a mountain, from which they did not return. The analogy is not exact, but it is compelling.
Yet another assumption, the fourth, is that progress is linear, that in order to go forward, one must abandon or destroy that which went before. The truth is that progress, like life, is circular. It moves as a spiral, circling back to what went before as it continues forward. To think that the traditions, discoveries, thoughts, literature, relationships and patterns of human history must be destroyed before progress can be made is a false assumption. True, destructive behaviors of the past must be modified so that they do not consume the society in which they exist, as does a cancer. However, the expectation of destroying them is as about as useful as chemotherapy is to cancer. They are destroyed for a moment, and then return, because the remedy does not address the source of the malfunction. The truth is that what has come before now must be included in the restructuring of our fleeting present and our future. The baby must not be thrown out with the bath water. For example, although the concept of a recognized and appreciated, committed, and hopefully loving union , present in marriage must be expanded to include people who are not same as heterosexual couples, the concept of marriage as a safe space for the procreation of and rearing of children must not be destroyed. That redefinition (destruction) of marriage by negating what marriage has been, perfectly or imperfectly, changes it into that which it is not. We are capable of solving this issue without recrimination or aggression, and including everyone’s needs. But it is not solvable by legislation which tosses the baby out with the bath water. The understanding of what has been must be incorporated into the concepts of what is/will be.
A related assumption is the prevalence of a form of doublespeak. It seems that many words do not mean what they ostensibly mean, that they mean whatever one wants them to mean at the moment. The malleability of our vocabulary results essentially in words that are meaningless, as they can mean any thing at any time. This is observable from official jargon, such as legalese or bureaucratese (which can be debated even among its proficient speakers) to current slang (hot does not mean hot, cool does not mean cool, fly has nothing to do with flying, and the like) to the latest proliferation of alternative facts. At the same time, the avalanche of advertisement geared at motivating people to buy things or donate to things or get on political bandwagons makes it difficult for the average person to figure out what is going on and exactly where truth lies. That is not to say that some things are not worth buying or some things not worth donating to or some causes not worth supporting – just that there is something askew with our communications.
These are some of the assumptions which, until they are well thought through and balanced, will continue to cause instability within what we call progress. My hope is that we will address these before they topple the tower of our progress, casting us into unknown states of existence. To those who say I must get with the times better, I agree with you. And, I also challenge you to get with the times, to look at them closely and observe them critically – as once, and I hope also now, we were taught to do in school. Smoothing the surface does not work, as all is rarely what it appears to be on the surface. May we all take time to think.