Walls

I’ve been watching with interest the developments this week in Europe and comparing them to the populism sweeping through the United States this election season. The referendum for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is not surprising, any more than it is surprising (anymore) that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for the President of the United States. We live in an age of fear.

In the last 20 years, and even longer, the world has become smaller. Radio and television did enormous work throughout the 20th century to bring together the disparate global populace, but that is nothing compared to what computers, and specifically the internet, have done in the last two decades. We are all connected at the speed of thought now.

In a connectivity so broad, we have choices. One, we can learn and adapt, embracing the beautiful diversity that has sprung from the planet and evolved – physically and culturally – in such a variety of manner. Or, two, we can look deeply into what we see and shudder, turning away from sights so different and thinking so foreign. As we become interchangeable we can embrace change or we can build walls.

We are building walls. In Europe and in America, we are building walls.

It’s a natural thing to do. Nationalism itself was a logical progression. As city-states gave way to nation-states in the evolution of mankind it was sensible to form bigger pockets of pride, to run in ever larger packs. But just as cities combined into states and states combined into nations, nations will combine as well. The walls will come tumbling down.

But because we are so early into this transition we are still building walls. We are finding disparity in our union. With every new coalition comes new enmity. Fear is winning. Demagoguery is igniting the discontented. Isolation is gaining favor in the waning age of nationalism.

This populist backlash was anticipated. The people, once again, have been betrayed and they are fighting back with the only resource they have … the vote. Without a greater understanding this backlash takes the form of regime change and a rejection of ideals, however lofty. The people will run to safe ground, the ground that they knew, and there are propagandists and opportunists ready to lead that charge. We were taught to cherish our homelands, our faiths, and our likenesses, and those things become our shelters.

England rose up this week, and in an instant they made a statement that the world has heard. We are not ready. We are afraid. In America, the same popular statement is being read … give us the same thing we’ve had for a generation or give us somebody who will shut out the world and put America first. Don’t give us change. Don’t water us down.

But the world has already changed. We are already assimilated. We are one people now, networked at light speed. The leaders are still finding ways to manipulate our uncertainty, to play on our fears, but in the end the change will come. Evolution is a certainty. So many walls have already fallen. The new walls we build are made from brick but this is the electronic age. Isolation is impossible.

The vote in England was a victory for nationalism, for isolation, and for fear. It was a response to a vision of unification that turned into a union of greed. My hope is that this referendum does not become a rallying cry for division, but a chance for all of us to unite with a new message. We want to be together. We want to embrace change. To overcome fear. We are ready for the new world. We are ready to tear down walls. But we are not doing it to line the pockets of the leadership or to grease the wheels of commerce. We are doing it for us, for mankind.

Try again, guys. Set your greed aside and try again. This time, get it right.

Resolve

Last week I spoke at length here about my undying optimism and faith in humanity; humanity answered with a madman and a hail of bullets less than 24 hours later. In Orlando, 50 people lay dead in a pool of their own blood in a nightclub in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, leaving all of us to wonder why. Some are blaming terrorism, others are blaming guns; some think religion is at fault, some think it is lifestyle. Others blame society and the fragility of mental health and our inability to address that epidemic. Some blame God.

I don’t know.

We are living in troubled times, with a pall of uncertainty about us. The American empire falters under the weight of its own partisanship, its own inequality, its own imperial reach. Our leaders are ineffectual in bringing about true cultural or economic change, so we prop up clowns and criminals for our electoral choices. We want change so badly we’ll ignore the pitfalls of demagoguery and allow ourselves to believe in fools. As the evidence mounts that free access to unlimited caches of weapons degrades society ever further, we stock up on more weapons. As evidence mounts that our own lack of understanding and dearth of education slides us ever further off the precipice, we while away our hours on diet fads and junk TV.

As Rome burns we play fiddles.

When I wrote the words I did last week I was not blind to the current state of the union, the current status of the planet, and the loathsomeness inherent in human action. Quite the contrary I pointed out the evil I see in the world every day. I saw it and remained optimistic besides.

These are dark times, make no mistake about it. As we learn to use this rapidly advancing technology we have brought forth upon humanity in so short a time – this global connectivity, these ozone-shattering byproducts, these weapons of mass destruction – we are stumbling from the darkness into a light so blinding we are losing our senses. We are learning to see again, we are learning to hear again, we are learning to feel again. We are learning that blindness is not an option.

As humanity lifts ever further from its ignoble origins we are casting away the lower base of ignorance, and ignorance is fighting back with all its might. It is clasping at the feet of humanity as humanity rises and it will not rest until everyone is equal again in the dark. Our quest is to fend off their clutches below us and continue to climb. Our goal is to find equality in the light.

Our leaders are corrupt. Our enemies are insane. We are all dissatisfied with our lives. This is the rite of passage. This is the time to persevere, to continue to seek enlightenment, to evolve, and to never accept this as “the way it is.”

I remain optimistic. I believe we shall, still, flourish. We will break down borders and we will lift the downtrodden. We will understand that the human condition comes in every color, in every creed, in every sexual orientation, and in the strong and the weak alike. We will come through this fire forged with renewed purpose.

You and I may not see that time but it is coming. This is our time to learn, to let go of the traditions that have caused only division and to hand down to coming generations a spirit of enlightenment and cooperation. A spirit of peace. Of equality. We can be the last martyrs in the bloody evolution of humankind. But we have to keep fighting against the ignorance that kills us, daily, by the dozens and by the thousands.

A lone gunman does not change our heart. He does not steal our spirit. He only steels our resolve.

We must resolve to stay united. We must resolve to make it better. Not for us alone but for everyone, everywhere. The only reason that the few enjoy the gains while the many struggle is because we allow it. The only reason we are divided by the lines that have been drawn by generations past is because we allow it. Don’t allow it. Resolve to be a leader. Resolve to be an example. Resolve to change the world.

I dare you.

My Faith Is in You

I’m a level 9 optimist. I’m not even sure that they label optimism in levels but if they do I’d be a level 9. I would say that 90% of the time I believe everything is going to be just fine, or better. The other 10% of the time I think things might take a turn for the worse but I’ll deal with it and bounce back. I guess that might make me a level 10, but nobody’s perfect.

My optimism stems from confidence – confidence not only in myself but in the abilities and the good nature of those around me. I believe in people. That isn’t easy to do in this day and age with up-to-the-nanosecond internet reporting on all the bad things people are doing all the time. People can be rotten. Despite that I believe that people are, in general, good-natured and want the best for most other people. I think we just hear about the exceptions to that rule more often because they make better stories. Well, not better, but more scandalous. We feed on scandal. That’s probably because we’re primarily good people so we generally avoid personal scandal. The other side is fun to watch. I don’t have any science to back that up, that’s just what I think.

I believe in humanity. That’s even harder to do, but I do. I believe we’ll solve the problems associated with the bad parts of humanity before we destroy ourselves. We’ll get a handle on climate change. I think we’ll end scarcity in my lifetime and put a stop to poverty worldwide. It’s not far-fetched, we already have the means to provide every living being with food, shelter, clothing, education and health care and we just don’t. Greed is the reason why, but I believe as we create universal abundance through advancing technology we can end the need for greed. I believe the age of capitalism is almost over.

I believe the biggest threat to the future of mankind is ignorance. In an age of advancing science and perpetuating knowledge we are too quick to hang on to the ideas of the past, ideas that have created divisiveness in our species. We have created imaginary geographic borders, imaginary theological borders, and imaginary racial and ethnic borders. I believe we are all one people. In time, we will overcome our nationalism and prejudice and we will unite as one human race. I believe the only thing stopping that is ignorance. Ignorance will rise up again and again and divide us, and brother will continue killing brother in the name of race, creed, and country for decades and maybe centuries to come until we evolve. But I believe we will evolve. I’m optimistic.

Every day I wake up and I read the news. I read the atrocities being committed across the globe by people who want land, who want oil, who want money, who want revenge. I’m not blind to the hate I see. I understand it. I read beyond the words being printed about these atrocities and I seek to understand the reasons why. To understand a way that we can make it stop. It will stop when we move beyond the era of greed. It will stop when we move beyond the era of selfishness and national pride. We can use the coming technology and the technology we already have today to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to heal the sick and to educate the masses. We can break the monopolization of resources by the few, and shake that money tree. It will stop when we cut it down.

It will not stop until then. The promise of a better tomorrow does not come from the accumulation of wealth and the hoarding of resources, but from the sharing of the same. A better world does not come from divisiveness but from unity. The promise of a better future does not come from ignorance, or from clinging to the broken ideals of yesterday, but from knowledge and from the new ideas of tomorrow. There is not but one way, but there is a way. We can have a better world, be better people. We will.

I believe that.

Beer … and Running

summer beer

Summer is, by far, the very best and worst time of the year for me. I love the rising temperatures, the warm mornings, the 80-degree nights and the fact that I don’t have to bundle up or even wear pants virtually any time. It is the season of my birthday, and the season of BBQs and pool parties and family reunions. It is the last three months until football.

But it has its drawbacks. It’s a terrible time for resolutions.

A couple of months ago I set some goals, or rather some intentions. If you’ve been reading a while you know they weren’t particularly stringent but they went like this: spend more time with the missus, get in shape, read more, get more done, and drink less. Noble goals, all, and I can say that over the course of the last couple of month I have, by and large, stuck to those goals. The missus and I have caught a couple of movies, gone out to dinner a few times, went to lunch a few times, and committed to even more. We’re in the middle of a move, so that kind of forces us to do more together, too. It also forces us to get more done. Bonus time with the wife.

I hover right around 180, though some weeks I see 179. Being on the right side of 180 is important to me. I’m not at my 175 goal, but I’m not feeling big at 185, either, so that’s nice. I decided to do something this morning, though, that oughta fix the difference. More on that later.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately and I read even more when the weather is good. Deck time is good reading time and when the morning and evenings are warmer there’s more deck time. So, honestly, the summer time is pretty good with most of my spring-time resolutions, but really bad on the other two:

  1. Drink less
  2. Stay in shape

Really bad. I mean, who wants to come home after a sweaty day in a steaming swamp-cooled showroom and not have a beer? Show of hands? It’s particularly unlikely that over the course of the next few months my unit count won’t increase. There is no way to resist the ice cold mug, the perfect pour, and the sweet taste of indulgence.

So I won’t.

And it’s likely that count won’t get particularly better after the summer either, because #football.

So I’m gonna go ahead and make my peace with that now. It’s summer, it’s hot, I’m thirsty, and I’m gonna drink some beer. Gosh, that was an easier resolution to make than I thought. 😉

But if I’m going to make that commitment, I’m going to have to counterbalance the weight. Literally. If I don’t counterbalance the weight then I’m going to get heavy and the next blog will be about how comfortable I’ve become at over 185. And I’m going to have to shop for pants. I hate shopping for pants.

So here’s my new resolution. Bear with me, I’ve never done anything like this before.

I’m going to run.

I’ve been walking for years, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I mean, you put one foot in front of the other and you go a certain distance at a pretty good pace and before you know it you’re somewhere else. Then, you walk back. I burn some calories, I build some energy, I feel good about myself.

Now I’m going to feel better.

This morning I’m going to download an app that gets a human body from couch to 5k in about 9 weeks. The guy who used to be Wesley Crusher has been talking about it a lot on his blog, and his blog is one of my inspirations. I’m going to start today.

That last line was the hardest one of all. If I start “tomorrow” it’s a resolution, and I have 24 hours to come up with good ideas on how to procrastinate. If I start “today” it’s a commitment. I’m making the commitment. It’s for my health, it’s for my pants, and … most importantly … it’s for beer.

And in the long hot summer, that’s the most important motivation of them all. 🙂