‘If reality is an interaction, an “Interbeing,” how can we penetrate its essence?… Through the activity of looking, reality gently reveals itself. In meditation, the subject and object of pure observation are inseparable.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Political consciousness is intensifying in this country, and progressives are stepping up to be seen, counted and demanding to be listened to. Consciousness is politics and politics is consciousness, for politics is the ongoing discussion of who gets included in the circle of identification and who gets left out, and this is about consciousness. And, as consciousness is the evolutionary trait of humanity, as evolution can be seen as the expanding, ever complexifying circle of identification that humans can hold in consciousness, this is about politics. Politics is the vehicle by which humanity evolves – that is, the circle of identification – of who counts, who is included – what perspective can be included that was previously excluded, expands. Yes, the evolutionary trait of humanity is consciousness – and it is time for an evolution through our politics.
To be a progressive is to be on the side of evolution. To be a progressive is to want the circle to expand, to know that the circle must expand, that if you are not on the side of evolution, you are on the side of devolution and that is death. On the other side, conservatives believe the circle of who counts must not expand, that it has already expanded too much. These have been the basic political battle lines throughout human history.
True progressives look at the world, meditate on the world, and, as Thich Nhat Hanh said, “reality gently reveals itself” as “an interaction, an Interbeing.” Progressives look at the world expansively and see artificial lines of separation causing immoral suffering and seek to dissolve those lines, to include as significant those who had been previously excluded. Conservatives look narrowly, mostly at themselves, meditate on themselves and their own identification group and misguided self-interest, and in fear of reality, erect walls of self-interest. Conservatives fight to keep the circle as small as possible, to keep the barrier between subject (me) and object (other) as high as possible. Progressives, on the other hand, work to expand the circle, to dissolve the barriers between “us” and “other” for they see these barriers to be illusions created by narrow perspectives such as exceptionalism, fear, greed and prejudice.
The good news for progressives is that they always win the war and conservatives always lose. History is the story of the progress of human consciousness. The hard news is that it takes time – sometimes lots of time – for progressive politics is a guerilla war waged against an entrenched conservative establishment where nearly every battle looks like a loss while the overall war inches toward victory. It must be remembered that progressives won the war on the issue of the privilege of monarchy and aristocracy – and so this country was born. Progressives won on slavery – and so this country found morality. Progressives won on women’s and racial civil rights – and so made this country inclusive. Progressives won on labor rights – and so gave this country a dynamic economy and middle class. And the struggles were long and costly, with many victims.
Progressives have worked and continue to work against the indignity and slavery of poverty, another issue of morality. Progressives now work to expand the circle to include the civil rights of all sexual and gender identifications. They work for the rights and preservation of the environment and the world’s other-than-human residents. And progressives currently have to fend off new conservative assaults on protections won in previous battles for middle class, the poor and labor rights, new assaults on environmental protection and corporate and financial regulation and fair taxation. It is discouraging, but these struggles too will be won by progressives.
Yes, progressives always win the wars. It’s just that nearly every battle along the way looks like a loss, and the issue always remains, how much damage will be done by conservatives, how many casualties will there be, and, particularly as regards the environment, can we afford the cost, can the cost be recovered from? How much pain and suffering will conservatives inflict before the unreality of their position is made clear?
The corporate interests that want to maintain an exploitive culture to preserve their own privilege and wealth have powerful weapons. They control our livelihoods, our health care, our retirements, our economy. They own and control powerful instruments of consciousness in the media. They seek to keep the citizens distracted with sensationalist entertainment and propaganda they mislabel as “news.” They set a standard of opulent luxury for themselves and hold any lesser standard in contempt, just as has any aristocratic class throughout history. The corporate interests seek to keep the citizenry addicted to this sensationalism and materialism, feeding insecurities by accentuating “us” and “them” consciousness. They want to convince that only through full participation in (and the continual expansion of) the consumer economy, and ceding of more and more control to the corporate and institutional powers, will security be had. They argue that the problem is immigrants, homosexuals, secularists, Muslims, environmentalists, welfare-ists, labor unions, federal regulationists, progressives, and most of all, socialists. They want to keep the problems identified as “them.” But it is not true. It is not reality. The problem is “us.” The problem is that the “we” is not yet big enough.
“Reality is an interaction, an Interbeing.” And we “must penetrate its essence.” “Through the activity of looking, reality gently reveals itself.” The credo of the progressive is “One world, one people, one future.” This is reality. By looking, we can see. By meditating, we can experience, “the subject and object of pure observation are inseparable.” There is no “us” and “other.” There is only “we.” And the “we” will not be big enough until all interests and participants of this “Spaceship Earth,” as Buckminster Fuller, the mid-20th Century eco-visionary, termed it, are included.
“We” are the immigrant and the established citizen and every human in every country seeking freedom and dignity. “We” are the environment. “We” are the welfare of everyone. “We” are the laborers and the bosses and the investors. “We” are the humans of all races and religions and genders and capacities and sexual orientations. “We” are those who need regulatory protections to prevent exploitation by those who care only about themselves and “we” are the entrepreneurs and inventors who need freedom to innovate. “We” even includes conservatives, religionists, financial manipulators, corporations and those who would misguidedly exploit “others” for their own advantage. “We” are the society – all the human society and the society of nature and the society of all beings on this planet – and all must be included in our circle of identification and compassion for there to be any quality future for any of us.
This is not revolution. Revolution only turns around the “us” and “them.” We need an evolution. “We” are the world, and it is time for an evolution. Join “us” at the barricades – to tear the barricades down.