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Recalibrating the System

System is the word I use to describe that collection of values and habits that form our society. We could call it - the world, truth, reality, democracy or capitalism - but whatever we call it we must engage with it. 

It isn’t always fair. The system seems to be indifferent towards our needs and wishes but we are not free of it until we die. Anger, love, hate, indifference, are some of the emotions we feel but we learn to adjust our responses for the least pain possible. 


Sometimes we will not submit and we find ways to change the system by talking, listening and planning to recalibrate. This is the politics that rarely gets covered publicly, although there are voices quick to claim failure or success at the end of all our work.

This post reflects on some of the initial stages of making changes. 

  1. Examine Anger

Anger is a natural response to feeling threatened. Injustice, racism, phobia toward any gender or sexual orientation, religious intolerance, war, crime, all make me feel threatened. The retreat from civility to targeting (blaming) means I am not protected by principles of law or compassion. Any cruelty towards living entities and nature, means our system is moving towards brutality and away from civil society. Any fundamentalism or ideological authority means we are all at risk of being pushed through a mincing machine to produce a brand.

What makes you angry, what caused the source of your anger? To examine this question is to own your anger.

  1. Choosing Hate is Not a Way Out

When does anger turn to hate? What thoughts lead us to find blame and to invest in violent “solutions”? What feelings enable us to feel sympathy for those who have chosen hate?

I have felt hate towards others when I fear, but hate for me has never led to a resolution. Hate makes me feel powerless, unable to move forward. It just makes me feel bitter and cynical.

If hell, as the saying goes, is other people, if all the problems I face are the fault of others, the biggest problem is that I have no agency. It's all the doing of the other who is entirely separate from me.  Hate doesn’t have a way out, an exit.

What hate does achieve is centralized power for those who seek to gain by violence. Hate enables the war strategist to blame the people for the conflict.

  1. Invite People into the Conversation

Recalibrating the system is not about what any one person thinks the problems are. Rather it’s a conversation where friends and neighbours have a space to express their thoughts and to hear what others have to say. Some rules are necessary for participants to feel safe: (a) we agree not to share what is said in the circle outside the circle; (b) allow everyone the opportunity to speak, (c) be clear in establishing all participants are equal and valid members - there are no experts, (d) no personal insults or attacks, (e) don’t define others by their opinions, i.e. sexist, racist, bigot, snob. 

  1. Plan 30 Years Ahead.

It took centuries to be where we are today. Each decade came out of the decade before. It took the current system thirty years to move from a general acceptance of social justice as a basic level of protection, to the market driven neoliberal focus that says the arbiter of all things is dependant upon “jobs and the economy”. 

Self interest is in our human nature. What are we willing to give up for our own interest? If we see a continuum where at one end there is security and peace, and at the other, we are free to do whatever we please as long as we keep a gun in the night table, we need to ask ourselves where we sit on that bench and where we would like to sit. 

To draw that bench and ask people to label the different stations from left to right can elicit a conversation about where their preferred place would be, and how can we move towards that?

  1. How Will Anger Lead Us to Truth and Beauty?

O Attic shape! fair attitude! with brede
 Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
 With forest branches and the trodden weed;
 Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
 As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
  When old age shall this generation waste,
 Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
 Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
 Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

How have we personally endured the last three decades? What gave us hope and courage to choose integrity over despair when faced with personal crises? What have we learned about our own strengths? How have our views of beauty changed?

These are timeless questions for those of us who shall not live as long as Keat’s  Grecian Urn.


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