Like many recent tragedies, the heartbreaking scene in Boston has left us in a cloud of mystery. People are congregating to ask questions on nearly every website.
To be honest, I don’t know what the proper etiquette is on how long we should wait before we try to figure out solutions. I don’t even know if such a thing exists in this day and age of instant information. Naturally, it does seem like everyone wants a solution as soon as possible. With that in mind, I believe that as long as we are willing to be respectful, caring, and thoughtful in what we say, this is a discussion worth having.
In comment sections and news feeds everywhere, the most common sentiments seem to be: “Why is this world so crazy? Are we safe anymore? How could anyone do this? I don’t understand.”
In order to answer these questions, we’re going to have to dig deep. Really deep. We cannot fix a problem we do not understand; and irrational knee-jerk reactions that address the symptoms rather than the causes often only make things worse. If we want to make things better, we need to make the strongest effort we can to try and understand exactly what is going on at the root of the problem.
We need to dissect the label “crazy.” You’re crazy. He’s crazy. The world is crazy. What does this all mean?
We have a natural desire to interpret the world around us in order to be able to orient ourselves within it. Crazy is a label we apply to people, ideas, and phenomena that we are unwilling to take the time to understand. Why? Because it makes our lives easier. When something doesn’t mesh with our current paradigm of reality, calling it “crazy” is a shortcut that allows us to not have to do something that we find to be extremely difficult and uncomfortable:
To think for ourselves.
The word crazy allows us to find a logical end to the story. Why did that person do that? Oh, they’re just crazy. Labeling everything we don’t understand as crazy gives us a way to maintain our current worldview without having to examine anything that might challenge it. It’s quite scary to rattle the foundations of our belief systems. If there’s any chance they’re built on a foundation of quicksand, we don’t even want to know about it. But this blind ignorance is what causes these problems to get worse.
When a cluster of seemingly illogical events continues to happen, it becomes obvious that we need to throw out the word crazy and start figuring out what factors are leading people to take these actions.
So, let’s go right to the core.
Anyone who intentionally tries to bring widespread harm to a group of random individuals has lost faith in humanity. We think of mental illness as a black and white issue, when in reality there’s a lot more grey. There are genetic factors that come into play, and I’m not a neuroscientist; but when people snap, it’s often because they feel an overload of pain and stress, and a lack of love and kinship. This is at the very root of why people treat other people poorly without an obvious reason.
It just so happens that right now, in the wake of all of the financial global instability, there is an overload of pain and stress on everyone. Peoples’ fuses are shorter. There are more people living below the poverty line without access to basic necessities. There are more involuntary multi-generational households. Automation and outsourcing causes more people to compete over less jobs. Employees work more unpaid overtime, in less humane conditions. Children spend less time with their parents. Marriages become more stressful. People have less time to socialize within their communities. The television sprouts messages of fear, hatred, debt ceilings, fiscal cliffs, and sequesters. Inequality continues to increase. Put this all together, and formerly civilized societies can begin to fall apart at the seams.
These conditions make it increasingly more likely for people to feel trapped and dismissed by the world they live in. That they’re powerless. That there’s no way out of their misery. That everyone is out to exploit them. That no one cares about them. And it is only through this type of thinking that someone could dehumanize others to the point where they’d be willing to commit some of the acts that we’ve been seeing.
In a society where independent and deep critical thinking skills are not taught or even emphasized, we completely disregard all of this when we try to fix the problems.
Our default answer, for lack of a better term, is the “gated community” solution. Too many immigrants? Build a fence! Too many terrorists? Search everyone excessively! More police! More security! More surveillance! Bigger military! Less freedom! Less rights!
The world already spends over $1.7 trillion per year on military, with the United States representing more than half of that.
Let me ask you a question.
Are we any safer than we were 10 years ago?
The answer is an obvious no.
You cannot sweep problems under the rug and expect them to go away. It’s the equivalent of seeing a cancerous tumor on your body, and just covering it with a shirt to pretend it isn’t still there. It will multiply until you properly diagnose it and have the best minds come together to find a solution to eliminate it.
Yet we continue to apply these same fear-based solutions.
Let’s say, hypothetically, that we were to go all out in paranoia-defense mode (in my opinion, of course, we already have, but let’s take it a step further). Imagine we were to cut out all social security, all welfare, all teacher salaries, all public parks and street maintenance work. Through these measures, we increase our military, police force, drone and weapon supplies, wiretapping operations, and public surveillance cameras by a factor of ten.
Would that make us safe? Would illegal immigration drop to zero? Would terrorist attacks drop to zero? Would school shootings and public bombings drop to zero?
Once again, the answer is no.
In fact, I believe that this would actually increase the level of domestic violence and have the opposite effect, due to the increasing stress levels and plummeting quality of life for the general population.
Let’s face reality. No matter how hard we try to use these fear-based defense tactics, there is absolutely nothing we can do to ensure we are completely safe and protected from having these awful things happen to us and our loved ones. That’s a very sobering thought. None of us are, have ever been, or will ever be, totally safe. It is an illusion.
So now what? What then? If there’s nothing we can do to stop people from hurting us, what can we do?
We can love them.
That’s all we can do. We’re so busy judging and demonizing everyone who is different from us in the paradoxical attempt to create a better world. In this process, we have become divided, lonely, angry, frustrated, and have lost our humanity.
As simple and obvious as it may sound, love is the only solution.
Pointing fingers at each other has gotten us nowhere.
So what if the person you’re speaking to believes something different from what you believe? Does that mean they are your enemy?
We need to try something different. Be a friend. To everyone.
Pay for the cup of coffee for the person behind you in line.
Give up your seat for the elderly woman.
Smile at people.
Write inspirational things.
Throw parties to celebrate life, and invite people who you wouldn’t normally invite.
Send an anonymous Tumblr message to someone who is obviously depressed or angry, and give them the most sincere compliment you can possibly think of.
Take $100 out of your bank account, and give it away to one hundred people on the train for no reason.
Shovel the snow off of someone’s driveway and leave before they know who did it.
Let that person in front of you in traffic.
Sit down for a meal with that homeless person. Ask them what you can do to help them get into a better place in life.
Volunteer. Start a project that makes your neighborhood better.
Care about people. Care about those around you. Care about everyone.
Support people who try to better themselves.
Have compassion. For everyone. Regardless of the color of their skin, or their political affiliations, or whether or not they are from your home country.
Stop doing things that add to the pain of the world. Don’t work for a company that hurts people or the environments they live in. Don’t invest in companies that do. Don’t buy from companies that do.
Stop wasting your money on things you don’t need. Put it towards creating an idea that empowers other people and solves their problems in a sustainable way.
We have created governments and economic systems in order to serve and protect us. At this point in time, it is obvious that this is no longer what they do. The global systems that run our lives are so complex that they cannot keep up with the rapid evolution of our world. We cannot wait around for someone else to save us. The only way out of this mess is to take responsibility and do it ourselves.
Do the very best you can to be an amazing human being who does as many amazing things as you possibly can for everyone else.
The people you touch will feel the love. They will be encouraged to do the same for others. And guess what? Those people are not the ones who are going to harm others.
We’re all in this together. We are all we’ve got.
Frozen In Time
Stranded Island Dilemma
In the World I Envision
Exploitation Versus Liberation
It’s Already Yours