If you’ve been watching the news the past few weeks, you might have noticed that there’s a nasty virus going around.
There has also been an explosion of narratives vying for our attention, the latest of which was a movie called “Plandemic” that went viral a couple of weeks ago, and has by now been largely debunked.
Each of these alternative narratives spins the same story with slight variations: there is a powerful, evil elite who is willing and able to cause harm to the rest of us. We are the less powerful, good and innocent lambs, now emboldened to fight back against this elite and make things right. If you doubt or question this narrative in any way, you are by default a “sheeple.” You are an obedient follower with no mind, and not awake.
There are a few fundamental problems with all of these narratives, which, if we are not aware of them, make them very seductive.
The first problem is what Ken Wilbur describes in his body of work as the pre/trans fallacy. This error of thinking assumes that a less-developed state is the same as a more developed state, if they have qualities in common.
The most frequently quoted example is a preverbal child, who has big wide-open eyes, an innocent trusting heart, and giggles a lot. A wise old sage may also have big wide eyes, an innocent heart, and also giggle, and therefore the small preverbal child and the wise sage are the same. Of course that is not true, because what goes between is an entire human life, in which you learn, get entangled, make mistakes, and finally transcend it all.
What looks similar is actually separated by a massive span of evolution and maturing.
Another frequently quoted example is the reverence many people bring to indigenous people, living in the Amazon or Borneo, for example, and the assumption that those people who have not been affected by industrialization hold the key to solving our environmental problems. Indigenous people live close to the Earth, they are grounded and sensitive to the Earth’s rhythms. Equally environmentalists and permaculture experts are connected to the earth, and have learned to listen to Earth’s rhythms. But it would be a fallacy to assume that someone with a PhD in Environmental Studies and an indigenous leader would be equally equipped to solve the complex environmental problems caused by industrialization.
A small child will tend to obey their parents and authority unquestioningly. Besides a brief period known as the “terrible twos,” small children tend to follow their parents direction, because it is necessary for physical survival. Obeying the people who provide you with food, shelter, and safety, is an intelligent response.
A teenager rebels against authority unquestioningly, even when that authority is benevolent and trying to help. A teenager will say, “I’m not going to do it if you tell me to to!” and then throws their eyes at the ceiling.
An adult has learned to recognize and develop grounds for cooperation. Once an adult, you can develop a relationship with your parents characterized by a new understanding, “You did your best, I’m doing my best. You had your challenges as a parent, so do I. We can find common ground and be friends.”
From a teenage perspective, it is easy to confuse the child with the adult. Through teenage eyes both the child and the adult seem to be not adequately rebelling against authority; so it is assumed they are the same. This is the pre/trans fallacy.
That is the assumption that conspiracy theorists often make. If you’re not with me in rebelling against these evil people, you are being an obedient child, or a sheeple.
Some people are caught in obedience for their whole lives, and just do what they’re told to do: work where they are told to work, spend as they are told to spend, believe what they are told to believe. There are equally people who spend their whole lives caught in rebellion, and become obsessed with authority figures who need to be overthrown. But there are also plenty of people who grow beyond both of these dispositions, who become adults, and who are able to see grounds for collaboration everywhere.
The second problem with conspiracy theories is that they assume that there are just a few bad apples in positions of power, and if we could just remove those bad people and replace them with better people, everything would be okay.
These days, some people are saying we just need to replace Trump. (Now that’s probably a good idea, for various reasons, but still, you think if we just replace Trump, everything will be okay? Really? Do you really believe that if we can put Joe Biden in the White House, we will suddenly live in Utopia?) Now many people want to depose Bill Gates, or Tony Fauci, or Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan.
But suppose that the problem is not with these few bad apples, suppose that the problem is with the nature of homo sapiens itself? In other words, what if the roots of what challenges us and our collective well-being is to be found in you and me and everyone we know, including Tony Fauci, and Bill Gates, and everyone else.
You and I, we are all trapped inside a homo sapiens body suit, like a virtual reality headset you can’t get off, or a somewhat absurd and grotesque Halloween costume for which you can’t find the zipper to remove it.
This homo sapiens, in its animal instincts, is subject to various innate tendencies. A deer is timid. Deer eat grass, they are not carnivorous. Hyenas, on the other hand, are very aggressive. You don’t want to get into a remote location with a pack of hyenas, you will be meat.
This homo sapiens, which is a kind of monkey, also has inherent qualities, particularly in the way that it has developed a “mind.” It is subject to greed, and fear, and rigid thinking: “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It is subject to narcissism, to righteousness, and above all, it is extremely subject to finger pointing.
It is a very deep quality inherent in Homo sapiens, not just in our conditioning, but in our DNA, to point fingers. Yusaf Noah Harari’s book “Sapiens,” offers suggestions from prehistoric evidence that this is true. Anthropology tells us that human beings have always tended to point the finger outward and say “You are bad, and I am good. If there is any mistake on my part, I have a story to defend and explain it. Now I will kill you.”
Of course, there is massive corruption and dysfunction within all the systems human beings have made—government, finance, the medical system. The whole infrastructure is corrupt, because it was created by minds oriented towards “me vs. them” and separation.
For sure, we need to change the medical system. Particularly within the US, you don’t have to be a Pulitzer prize-winning writer to realize that health care is deeply broken. But that’s not because of one or two bad players. It’s because of systems that have been created out of the collective unconscious human psyche.
The financial system is deeply broken, based in usury and slanted towards the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The problem is not with currently rich people, the problem is the system. If you, whoever you are, became a richer person, you would find excuses to invest in the stock market and increase your wealth, everybody does! Everyone who gets a lucky break starts to ride their luck. The problem is systemic, not personal.
A third false assumption that conspiracy theories make is that nobody is doing anything about this kind of widespread corruption. But this is not true. Corruption created by the baser instincts of human nature is constantly being rooted out and corrected, when it is done properly, by people who know what they are doing, and have the credibility and the training to do it.
For example, a team at the Boston Globe spent a year investigating and unearthing pedophilia in the Catholic Church, and their investigation led to multiple cases and convictions. It was the subject of the 2015 movie “Spotlight.” The problem was not personal: a few bad priests. The problem is inherent within Catholicism itself, it is systemic. If you create a system that says, “Sex is wrong, priests should not have sex,” you will inevitably make priests into perverts. Because they have sexual instincts, like all animals, if you tell them “You better believe what I say, and you are not allowed to question it,” what are they going to do? Imagine, if overnight Catholic priests were encouraged to enjoy a normal healthy sex life with other consenting adults, do you think we would still have the same problem with pedophilia?
In the same way, Nixon was overthrown by the highly professional reporting of a team at the Washington Post. Again, the problem wasn’t personal. Nixon is not the only corrupt politician we’ve ever had in American politics; corruption of power is inherent within our two-party system. If all of our politicians were independent, if there was no party affiliation allowed, if each candidate was encouraged to stand for their own values, do you think we would still have the same kind of organized corruption? When people band together, and develop the “us versus them” ideology of a two-party system, corruption becomes inherent to the system, not to any particular individual.
Corruption and systemic imbalance is getting addressed repeatedly by professionals who know what they’re doing, and know how to fact check unemotionally. It’s a skill and a discipline, and when it’s conducted properly, we all evolve. We could spend all day listing things we’ve managed to take care of through professionals doing their job properly.
Amateur sleuthing doesn’t just create chaos; it shifts the attention from the very perilous situation in which we find ourselves. You don’t have to be very smart, or do a lot of research to realize that we are on the edge of making ourselves extinct, in multiple ways. Global warming, the melting of ice caps, rising sea levels, pollution and depletion of just about every resource we have, increasing financial inequality which leads to fanaticism and terrorism… the list never ends… We are on the verge of making ourselves extinct and putting every other species in danger.
What a shame! This is a beautiful, gorgeous planet, with flowers and bees and sacred geometry inherent within its very design. It’s a wonderful place to be alive. It is a shame, isn’t it, that when we have this potential towards greatness and collaboration that we have to do this to our home. We are on the edge of self-imposed extinction.
The solution to these big problems, as we’ve seen time and time again, is not to overthrow a few bad guys within a powerful elite. We’ve done that, multiple times! It doesn’t produce the results we think it will. In Russia, they overthrew the czar—great! What was the czar replaced with? Lenin, Stalin…. a whole other wave of problematic leaders. The French revolution, which shifted France from a monarchy to Napoleon, didn’t suddenly produce a utopia. Every time we have an election in the U.S. and go from one party to another, it’s not as if we solve all our problems. The issue we face is not a few bad apples. Its not Fauci we need to worry about, or Bill Gates, or even Trump. We need a mutual recognition of problems deeply inherent within the nature of the homo sapiens monkey.
The solution, then, is something that you can I can take into our own hands right now, and it doesn’t require pointing fingers at people who are completely outside of our sphere of influence and control. You don’t even know Bill Gates personally! Get over it. **Maybe** he is the arch enemy, maybe he’s an evil hamster dressed in a nerd suit, perhaps… very unlikely. He might just be misguided sometimes, or narrow in his thinking (just like you and me).
The solution is something that you and I can take on, starting today. It rests in self-awareness and honesty. It means to wake up — not just “spiritually,” to your true nature as infinite and one with everything — but to become acutely aware of all the littlest insidious habits of self aggrandizement, of “poor me”, of pointing fingers. Becoming self-aware becomes palpable and infectious.
We need to do this urgently. We need to shift our view from an “us and them” narrative to an “us” narrative. We. We need to grow up together; we need to wake up together; we need to stop pointing fingers and recognize inherent flaws within the genetic code of human beings that we can transcend once we become aware of them.
When you become aware of any tendency, now two things are here: the tendency, and also the awareness. Let’s take greed. Before, you just had the greed running you, making decisions. When you become aware of greed, now you have both: greed, and the awareness of it. The greed is part of this flawed human nature. The awareness transcends the human. It is able to observe the human. The awareness has all the qualities of consciousness without boundaries. It has authority. It has author-ship. It has inherent within its nature the capacity to create a life, instead of reacting to it. It has the capacity to co-create.
As soon as you are aware of any habit, your center of gravity shifts from being run by that habit to being the awareness itself. If you take the time to hover with this awareness, as this awareness, you will discover that awareness was never born, it can never die. It is not physical. It is not subject to emotion in the way that the homo sapiens animal is. Awareness sees its own nature in others. It doesn’t point fingers and yell “Them!,” it sees Oneness.
Shining awareness on the external world is called science. Shining awareness on the internal world is called mysticism. These are the two pillars essential to our survival.
If you and I can shift in this way, we will shift from an “us vs. them” narrative to an “us” narrative, co-creating together. All of us, or none of us. There is no in-between.
A child will say, “Daddy will fix it for us. Daddy says put on a mask, daddy says keep social distancing.” The child interprets this as an authoritarian rule, and follows without question.
The teenager rebels without question, says “You can’t trust daddy, we have to overthrow daddy. Daddy can’t tell me what to do. If daddy says wear a mask, I’m damn well going to do what I like. If daddy says to keep social distancing, I’m gonna hug whenever I want to.”
The adult says “We can fix this together. We have the capacity together, as adults, to find solutions.” Now there’s no Daddy. There’s just you and me, adults, doing our best.
I have a fantastic relationship now with both my sons. My oldest son was just here with us, in quarantine. He’s 27. Between us, we have put aside the daddy/child dynamic. We are friends. We share private thoughts, we laugh together, have compassion for each other’s frailties as well as admiration for each other’s gifts. It’s no longer a Daddy and child relating to each other, but two adults.
That’s what we’re going to have to do, people, if we want to see a future for our children and grandchildren. If we want to see this Earth preserved with all of its beauty, that’s what we’re going to have to do. We need to find an “us” narrative in which we, together, create a better future: One in which we stop pointing fingers, where we have mutual recognition for the weaknesses inherent within all of us—greed, fear, self-aggrandizement, victimization —while also having mutual admiration for each other’s strengths and capacity to collaborate.
That’s how we will create a sustainable future. Not by creating slick, righteous, pious, “poor me” videos pointing the blame at authority figures, who simply represent a “Daddy” that we never quite forgave.