The Age of Compassion

Things are always changing, society’s pot is always bubbling. Sometimes it bubbles more than others, but the pot is always cooking. The direction, over the long term, is clear. We are moving towards greater individual freedom and compassion and away from the tyranny and oppression that have dogged humankind for centuries.

It is rarely an easy process and smoke from the tumult may obscure the direction for a time, but if you stand back from the rush of events, the trend is clear. The question isn’t whether there will be change, but rather how fast and in what form the inevitable will occur.

The new overtakes the old.
(Jacques-Henri Lartigue. Paris, Avenue des Acacias, 1912.)
Often clumsy and unwieldy at first, the new idea eventually sweeps away the old.

We have left behind kings, slavery and the all powerful Church, have broached racial and sexual equality and stand perched on the edge of LGBT equality and the watershed issue of animal rights. I will offer a series of examples that I hope will illustrate the groundswell of change that is beginning to break through to the surface of society.

Whether a particular change will occur as I predict, is irrelevant, but the trend is not. Social change is always a messy process – there will inevitably be conflict from those who are invested in the present order as they attempt to protect their interests by stalling the inevitable.

Although change can appear to be cataclysmic, what often happens is that, like a tsunami, the forces of change gather momentum quietly beneath the surface and then burst forth against the shore, wreaking havoc against anything that stands in its way. The the pot boils over from the release of built-up pressure and simply overwhelms any resistance.

Woodstock, 1969

The 1960′s and ’70′s were such a time in America. We witnessed Black people successfully challenging segregation, the women’s rights movement, the hippie revolt against the rigid social conformity of the 1950′s and ’60′s, the anti-war movement and the growth of environmental consciousness. The Kennedy election brought a breath of fresh air to the White House, teachers from India encouraged us to expand our consciousness and Elvis and The Beatles brought popular music into the mainstream.

And there was, and will be, resistance. Those in power have arranged (rationalized) things so that they accommodate their values and beliefs and as always, will have a difficult time supporting different values. The new order will upset what they have created and reorder social priorities.

A telling indicator is the present conservative over-reaction to all things Obama. Conservatives sense the coming change and are threatened by the shift they sense in priorities. Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio – are all fear-based throwbacks to the politics of domination and Anglo entitlement that re-emerged during the Reagan-Bush years.

During the Reagan – Bush eras progressives lost ground, but it would appear that we are perched on the precipice of another round of massive social redirection. In the ’60′s and ’70′s the focus was on reforming social institutions – more “top down” changes – segregation, the Viet Nam war draft, laws and policies governing sexual equality and marriage, civil rights and voting rights, etc. These changes would eventually trickle down to the individual, but personal change was sort of an afterthought. The “herders” were pushing the cattle in new directions.

The revolution that lies before us will be more “bottom up.” It’s base philosophy will be compassion. “Care for each other” will be its guiding ethic. Compassion is going to replace greed as the dominant force in society as materialism has failed to deliver the peace of mind that people had hoped it would bring. There will be a fundamental shift to redefine what “success” is and movement away from the tendency to devalue those who do not ascribe to the traditional values of capitalism.

The process will originate with changes to individual consciousness that will eventually spread throughout society. As an analogy, as opposed to being driven, the thirsty herd has smelled the water and will head towards it of it’s own volition, herders be damned.

One visible evidence of this shift was the sweeping election of President Obama in 2008 and the massive frustration with the political system ever since. A hallmark of the present system – secrets and data manipulation, will be overcome by the role of social media, an important player in the coming transformation. The Trump years represent a reactionary backlash, but that will not last.

When a social shift of that magnitude occurs, the impact on the society is massive and somewhat interestingly, rarely heralded. For that reason, some will view what I am going to present as naive. That is one of the typical reactions of the establishment to new ideas. And of course, as I said, there will be resistance.

People will end up dragging social institutions like the government, the military, religion and the educational system into the future. (Perhaps it is always this way. The hearts and minds of a critical mass of people shift, causing a groundswell in the society. Social institutions are then obliged to follow.)

The greed and materialism that drive corporate society today will eventually give way to a more enlightened and embracing – inclusive and compassionate – concept of business. The venerated corporate job – the hallmark of previous generations – is already gone. People more and more are going into business for themselves, consulting instead of being employed and connecting to projects that speak more to their hearts and their social consciences, rather than to their incomes.

The exploitation of cheap labor, one of the hallmarks of capitalistic society, will have little place in a global culture that cares about oppressed workers, wherever they live. More and more we will witness the wealthy donating their fortunes to help the less fortunate. The tax system that today favors the wealthy will be returned more to the way things used be, where the rich paid for a significant part of the government, instead of just being able to buy it.

This Revolution is going bring individual consciousness to preeminence. Where the revolution of the 1960′s sought to change the direction of government, the Consciousness Revolution will make government less relevant, as various groups assume responsibility for previous governmental functions, crossing boundaries that established groups could or would not cross in order to bring new solutions to social problems.

The hallmark of the new movement will be on the individual valuing themselves rather than being a cog in a giant machine. The social and economic focus will be on “doing the right thing” rather than what is legal, sanctioned or traditional.

Present societal failures like the War on Drugs, gang crime and gun violence will give way to a more enlightened perspective. Consider the Boston based program called Operation Ceasefire. Operation Ceasefire was a successful collaborative effort between Boston police, black ministers and social scientists, who came together to curb rising youth homicides.

But instead of focusing on a top down police crackdown, the group in Boston looked at the human side of the problem. Research told them that a small number of young, gang-related men were responsible for the majority of murders. And so, the coalition of law enforcement and civil society leaders began by identifying these men – the “small groups of young men most likely to shoot or be shot.”

Ceasefire’s leaders then used a carrot-and-stick approach to confront the at-risk individuals in person. They “promised an immediate crackdown on every member of the next group or gang that put a body on the ground – and immediate assistance for everyone who wanted help in turning their lives around.

The approach yielded such dramatic results it earned the moniker “The Boston Miracle.” Over the next two years, the average number of youth murders declined by 63 percent. The Department of Justice gave the program high marks, characterizing it as one the few crime prevention programs with a proven record of effectiveness, even while attempts to during the same period to pass national gun legislation failed. The program has been tried elsewhere and has met limited success because of police resistance to surrendering their power, however.

Years of entrenched hard-knuckle (largely white) policing will give way to a more enlightened approach as a direct result of the Black Lives Matter movement. Society will finally accept that a black or brown mind is worth investing in too, and that training and a good education are important weapons against the debilitating effects of poverty and ghetto life.

The dismal failure of the criminal justice system to do anything other than warehouse criminals and further harden them has led to an incredibly large prison population and recidivism rates that are obscene. Combined with the ignominious failure of The War On Drugs, this is likely to lead to a radical overhaul of the criminal justice system and efforts to change the culture of America’s ghettos where crime culture festers.

The public will come to realize that many (not all) criminals need and will accept a helping hand rather than an iron fist. This will lead to programs of education, job training and rehabilitation being offered to all but the most hardened convicts in order to reduce today’s incredible rates of recidivism and reduce the nation’s ridiculously large prison population. Drug programs in countries like Portugal have already established that offering help to drug offenders works, with very dramatic results.

The educational system in America is already seeing a shift in consciousness. Because the present system has failed so miserably and seems beyond repair, other groups have begun to assume responsibility for our young people’s education. The availability of virtually all knowledge over the internet has also made alternatives viable. We see the seeds of this in both the home schooling and charter school movements.

Today there are more than 2.5 million students attending nearly 6,500 charter schools. Over the past 10 years, charter school enrollment has risen by 225 percent and the number of new schools has risen by 118 percent. The number of homeschoolers has risen from 360,000 in 1994 to 850,000 in 1999 (many experts put the figure closer to 2 million). These new groups will insist that laws and rules be changed to fit their needs. The present educational system is likely to resist strongly, as it loses it’s present position of power.

Being awakened to the true costs of war, people will begin to insist on finding other ways to resolve international disputes and disagreements. After the debacles of Viet Nam and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the public will not be so easily duped into international adventurism at the point of a gun. As Woody Guthrie sang, “I an’t gonna kill nobody today.” Connected to this, there will be a substantial restructuring in spending priorities from the gargantuan 60+% of the Federal budget that today goes to the military, shifted to long neglected infrastructure and social services budgets.

There are a host of other changes that are likely to come to pass. Amongst them may be: adequate funding and care for the homeless and mentally ill, meaningful help for those in need, regulation of drug pricing, dismantling of the massive heath care bureaucracy, Congressional ethical oversight, reconceptualizing the role of college education, acceptance of global warming as a national priority, a return to local agriculture and rejection of both factory farming and the widespread use of agricultural chemicals, rejection of GMO’s and processed food generally, and finally, a re-emphasis on individual spirituality.

As I said, predicting particular occurrences or their timing is difficult. After all, we still don’t have flying cars, but the trends are unmistakable. We are clearly moving to a culture of greater compassion and all that comes with it.

Note; for some additional thoughts, see Johnathan Taplin’s excellent article: “The Establishment’s Last Gasp”

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2016

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