As you move through your daily life, listen closely to the words and to the kinds of experiences those people with whom you associate are expressing. You will probably hear about fellow employees that were”let go”from their job in which they received very satisfactory evaluations by the company, and the reason given for the termination was “needed cost savings, know that there is nothing personal in this decision.” You will probably hear about someone in the company whose medical coverage had a hidden exclusion clause for their particular illness, and found out about the clause only after incurring the expense for treatment, leaving him with medical expenses well beyond his ability to pay. You will probably hear about someone who had fallen victim to a violent crime: murder, rape, assault. You will probably hear cruel and debasing words, directed at particular races, sexual preferences, and religious faiths. You will probably hear words impregnated with emotions of disgust and unfulfilled rage coming from someone talking about the abandonment of the public trust by political representatives. You will probably hear about schemes directed at employers, institutions, relatives or friends with the intent of personal profit, ambition, or fulfillment of hatred, revenge, or jealously. You will probably hear stories of excess in all manner of sensual behavior.
After your listening, what conclusions could you draw about the general, psychological and moral health of your associates? One obvious conclusion, is that the kinds of experiences your associates are expressing are of a low moral quality. Another basic conclusion you could make is that the frequency of low quality experiences seems to be very high among your associates. These conclusions probably would not surprise you, but would conform to your empirical judgement.
Your listening however, may have provided a surprise. It may have sparked an insight, that the problems expressed by your associates and the problems of our nation are identical in essence, and differ only with regard to scale. For instance, when you see race riots in our cities, and when you hear racial prejudice and hatred coming from your own associates, you should then understand that the problems are not contained exclusively in the cities, but are also rooted in the hearts and minds of your associates. When you see and hear local, state, and national politicians, governmental institutions, and business men and women, invested with the public trust and civic welfare, flagrantly disregard that trust for their own ambition, power, and profit, and when you see and hear your fellow employees scheming to cheat their employer, you should have understood that the problems are not confined to a few greedy men and women, but are also rooted within the circle of your acquaintances. And there may even be a larger surprise waiting for you, if and when you are courageous enough to take the measure of your own conduct and personal prejudices. You should then understand that the problems are not exclusively centered with our nation, our cities, or our acquaintances, but are also rooted within your heart and mind.
In Shakespear’s “Juluis Caesar,” the scene where Cassius is speaking to Brutes about Caesar’s high renown as compared to their low regard, he says, “The fault dear Burtes is not in our stars. But in ourselves, that we are underlings”… In like manner, the fault dear U.S. Citizen is not in our government or institutions, but in ourselves that as a nation we are in grave trouble.
Little by little, generation after generation, we have been moving at an increasing rate away from the greater good of the commonwealth, towards self-satisfaction, while at the same time rationalizing that what is good for us as individuals must be good for the commonwealth and that our governmental system has a structural ability to automatically correct itself towards the general good of the nation. Thus, with our heads filled with “getting and spending” we have shamefully neglected our responsibility as human beings and as citizens. By allowing selfish impulses to dominate our minds we corrupt and falsity those lofty and grand principles which cornered stoned the creation and development of our country. Now in our false display of freedom, we gives prizes and honors for every best thing: the fattest hog, best pie, the strongest man and woman, the best pornographic actor, and on and on, while proclaiming our nation’s principles far and wide to be of the highest value. Yet, we allow vice in every form to flourish in every city and community. We have become slaves to our own customs and cultural thinking. This is a form of moral and mental slavery of the most pernicious kind. The fault dear Citizen, is not with our system of government, but in ourselves, in our own hearts and minds.
“But!” you may protest, “I live a moral life: I don’t injure anyone, obey the laws, even recycle, and I know there to be many others just like me.” “But!” what did you do or say when a woman in your work place was sexually harassed? How much time do you allow, apart from “getting and spending,” job responsibilities, and your entertainment, for the development of your children’s physical, mental, and spiritual needs? When you see or hear acts or words of racial prejudice what is your response? “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.” This statement by Edmund Burke, clearly portrays the weakness of the above protest. Silence or non-action in the face of unethical acts or words by good men and women, even though they hold intellectually to ethical ideals, is an act of complicity. What good are cherished ideals not acted on or unspoken. Every American citizen is responsible, either by overt thoughts and actions or by silent complicity for the morally degraded condition of our nation. The fault dear Citizen is still in ourselves.
When as a nation we chose to focus the majority of our mental and psychic energy on selfish impulses, the result is a repression of our moral conscience, and a corresponding weakening of our moral resistance. We lose our ability and the strength to do what is right for the Commonwealth. Under the influence of our selfish thoughts and conduct we see no urgent or compelling reason why we should do right, when “no one else is doing it,” and when what is right conflicts with personal profit, material ambition and power, and sensual satisfaction of all kinds.
Citizens, in order to bring harmony and truth back to our nation we must unencumber our conscience, and begin to heed its voice. Good men and women everywhere must speak out and act in the face of prejudicial words and unethical conduct, where ever, and with whom ever it appears. We cannot allow silence or inaction to be the answer to unethical spoken words or conduct. We must cultivate, foster, and praise expressions of moral value. We must expand our definition of our lives to not only encompass our immediate community, but also the entire planetary community, and must learn to express and live with that new definition. We are in truth, sons and daughters of the Cosmos, and as such are intricately involved and connected in a most primal manner. As the poet Frances Thompson said, “You cannot move a flower without troubling a star.”
We are not beings thrown haphazardly into the eternal expanse, and there to dwell as worthless specks until physical death takes us, but are a complete living analogy of the entire Kosmos, a magnificent participant. The same forces and qualities that uphold the Kosmos, uphold us; we in it, and it in us. We are a microcosm of the macrocosm. We straddle two distinct but unified and harmonized realms: the realm of space and timelessness, and the realm of manifestation and time. This unique position of ours grands wonderous potential, awesome enough even for the comprehension of the principal causes of Universal Nature.
Citizens, the fault still lies in our hearts and minds for the poor condition of our nation, but therein also resides the remedy. We can but look in our own reflection and inner consciousness to find that which will convince us that we are more than we seem. Can you go out under the night sky or read a line of beautiful poetry or listen to beautiful music without being awakened to higher possibilities? It is as Gandhi says, ..”be the change you want to see in the world.”
Cosmicly we are all related and cosmicly none of us is ever over looked or forgotten in any situation, from the most important to the most trivial. There in the chamber of our hearts we can begin to know our true Kosmic heritage, one that lies beyond mere color, race, gender, or creed. and the knowledge of which leads not to self-importance, but to great compassion, balance, and universality.