It’s remarkable—and that means “worthy of remark”—how human beings can justify immoral behavior through their choice of values. For example, I greatly admire certain qualities (like the music!)of the gypsies—or more correct these days, the Roma and the Sinti people. But the only time I was ever robbed in public was from such a group (long story, but short version is it was in Rome near the Coliseum and a police car just happened by and they intervened and sent a boy running two blocks who came back with my wallet and the money intact). It’s no secret that these folks can be fiercely loyal to each other, but rob an outsider blind without a single pang of conscience. Loyalty to self, to family, to extended family, to chosen religious or inherited ethnic or national group or economic class can breed a person who’s loyal, trustworthy, helpful, kind within the group and brutal, uncaring, untrustworthy to any one perceived as outside the group.
Well, welcome to history. We’re all gypsies when we say God Bless America and screw the rest of the countries, when we make decisions to keep the privileges of the good ole boys clubs with sanctioned tax breaks or feel solidarity only with our soul brothers or affinity group and so on. I remember a gathering with my Jewish relatives and my Uncle Harold justifying some generosity with a Jewish stranger with the remark, “They’re family. We take care of our own.”
But the thrust of an evolved awareness and consciousness is toward the idea that this notion of “family” and “our own” not only morally should be, but practically must be larger if we are to survive. From multiple angles, the atom bomb, the global economy and climate change changed the notion of winners and losers. Radiation does not pass over the “chosen people,” an economic decision here directly affects an economic condition there and global warming does not discriminate between groups or nations. If anyone needs to be convinced that we’re all in it together, shouldn’t that be enough?
And family needs to be larger yet than mere homo sapiens. The Gaia image of an interconnected world suggests that we also need to bring turtles, watersheds and bees to the decision-making table. Of course, mystics, poets, Buddhists and more have been saying this for centuries. Not that we have to be compassionate to viruses or naïve about tigers or accepting of the mosquitoes making us miserable (though the Jains do practice an extreme form of non-violence called Ahimsa that includes wearing face masks to avoid killing inhaled microbes). But that if we truly feel ourselves intimately and spiritually connected to each and every thing in the world, then the act of mindlessly excluding groups based on ignorant and self-serving fantasies of racial, economic, gender, national, species superiority is not only hurting others, but handicapping some of the limbs of our own spiritual body. “Love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t mean just being nice, it means recognizing that your neighbor is yourself. Much as we hate to admit it.
But let’s face it. That level of consciousness and awareness and high moral character is simply beyond the average and even above-average human struggling to survive. If we can’t appeal to our higher nature, then let’s accent that survival instinct and remind people about non-discriminating radiation and climate change. I used to think that an alien invasion would unite humanity instantly and we’d all be holding hands singing “God Bless Eartherica” against those evil Martians. And I think that’s true.
But now instead of alien-invading forces, it’s the forces set loose by our own purposeful ignorance to try to boost our self-esteem (white privilege, male privilege, money privilege, etc.), our misplaced intelligence (building nuclear weapons, exploiting nature to hold dominion over all living creatures), our insatiable greed (unregulated capitalism, rampant consumerism). We are the alien force threatening our survival. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.
But swallow it we must. However you can do it, however small the steps, do your part to enlarge your notion of family. God Bless Eartherica.