Dealing With a Frightening World
by Chas (Chip) August
Dear Mr August,
There is a lot of unease around where we are going as a nation – and in the world. Terrorism. The impending war in Iraq. How do you deal with it, respond to it, purpose your life with regards to it?
A Concerned HAI Grad
Usually I like to leave the “political” questions to NorCal@hai.org, but something about this question caught my attention.
As you know, HAI does not espouse or advocate for or against any political party or policy. Our work deals with love, intimate relationships and human sexuality. There is no official HAI position about anything beyond our mission statement:
The Human Awareness Institute (HAI) empowers individuals to be potent, loving, contributing human beings. HAI promotes personal growth and social evolution by replacing ignorance and fear with awareness and love. The Human Awareness Institute aims to create a world where people live together in dignity, respect, understanding, trust, kindness, compassion, reverence, honesty and love. HAI is committed to creating a world where everyone wins.
There are many who argue that if HAI is trying to “create a world where people live together in dignity, respect, understanding, trust, kindness, compassion, reverence, honesty and love,” then we must be opposed to a war in Iraq, or bombings in Afghanistan, or federal policies that abridge US citizens right to privacy, or Capital punishment, or the WTO, or many other causes that seem to treat people less than respectfully, less than compassionately.
And there are those who interpret the mission statement to mean that HAI must support the war against international terrorism, or restoring the rights of Afghanis, or our right to be protected from terrorists at home, or the democratic fall-out from policies that encourage worldwide trade, or many other causes that seem to promote a world where more people will have more freedom,
Recently I was listening to an impassioned speaker making the case that “George Bush says Iraq is our enemy. George Bush says international terrorism is our enemy. Well I say George Bush is our enemy!” Creating a world where everyone you disagree with must be fought?
At a workshop, during a break, a friend was urging me to support a US embargo on aid to Israel, on the grounds that the atrocities done to the Palestinians far outweighed the atrocities done to the Israelis. There we were, arguing which body count was more tragic, who was more deserving of “victim” status?
How do I deal with unease around where we are going as a nation? How do I deal with the ever- present threat of terrorism, at home and abroad? How do I deal with the situation in Iraq?
Certainly I’m frightened and saddened by the violence that seems ever-present in our lives. I don’t want anyone to be fighting any wars. And I don’t want to ignore real and present threats posed by fanatics with access to weapons of mass destruction. Most of these events are beyond my direct control at this time. My sense of personal potency must come from within me, else I I’m stuck with impotent rage and feeling like a victim. To paraphrase Gandhi, my real power lies in being the change I wish to see in the world. And the HAI mission statement gives me a great blueprint for action.
It seems to me that the mission statement asks me, me personally, to treat everyone with dignity, respect, understanding, trust, kindness, compassion, honesty and love. I’m asked to treat George Bush that way. I’m asked to treat Saddam Hussein that way. I’m asked to offer to people I agree with and people I disagree with dignity, respect, understanding, trust, kindness, compassion, honesty and love. To me, the mission statement describes a personal course of action, not a political agenda.
The orator who encourages his audience to believe that President Bush is “the enemy” is, in my opinion, actually telling us he feels powerless and afraid. George Bush is the person he wouldn’t choose to open his heart to. George Bush is the person he might avoid or judge if they found themselves at the same HAI workshop. That speaker is replacing his ignorance and fear with distrust and enmity, not awareness and love.
The friend urging me to choose sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, to declare one side less deserving of love than the other side, is trying to create a world where everyone wins by punishing the “side” he thinks is farthest from the values stated in the mission statement. And there I am, strongly arguing an opposing point of view, that is to say, trying to create a world where everyone wins by punishing the “side” that I think is farthest from the values stated in the Mission statement. Ugh!
A.J. Muste, pacifist, Quaker, peace activist, trade unionist, once said “there is no way to peace, peace is the way.” In this very un-peaceful time, with the threat of war looming before us, with the gulf between rich and poor widening, I look to the mission statement and the serenity prayer (grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference) to guide me through. I look for opportunities to replace my ignorance and fear with awareness and love. I look for my opportunity to treat everyone with dignity, respect, understanding, trust, kindness, compassion, honesty and love.
Chip August is a HAI Facilitator, Personal Growth Coach, and hypnotherapist. He helps individuals, couples, and families transform their relationships with each other and with their thoughts and feelings. He lives with his life-partner and their children in Menlo Park, CA. He can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.