We Need Squishy Feely

Posted on 19 August 2015

I want to save the world. I think probably many people do, given the current popularity in superhero movies.

I grew up in the 60s. I remember the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the green movement, Kent State University massacre, and the Vietnam war…from the eyes of a child. What I want more than anything is a vibrant living world rich in living creatures, and a humanity who can live in peace and contentment with itself.

I remember when I was young thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and how I was going to do it. The world has so many issues of concern. It seemed to me they could only be resolved, not by one side of an argument forcing the other side to do as they were told, but by helping everyone to care enough that they want to cooperate to find a solution. I like saying that I am Gandhi left, not Che Guevara left. Arts seemed to me an excellent way to open people’s minds and open people’s hearts. In an age of cynicism this is seen as trivial. However, I know for a fact that the people of Seattle Washington so value their environment that politicians on both the left and the right must include in their platforms green policies.

At this moment the world is facing major concerns. We are finally seeing the wall we are about to hit, if things don’t change. We are looking at climate change, mass poverty, and increased violence. We are looking at a world denuded of life and a humanity creating its own self-destruction. As such people are angry and scared. Angry and scared people like a simple world of black and white, because then the solutions seem simple. Sadly, those “simple” solutions often involve violence. We are seeing people pointing fingers and saying, it’s all your fault: “it’s the government’s fault, it’s religion’s fault, it’s science’s fault, it’s the immigrants’s fault…” And pretty much any dictatorship that ever was has fed upon this anger, fear, and desire for vengeance.

When the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked in 2001, many people decided that the attackers were crazed religious zealots. In their minds it was the terrorists’s irrationality that made them act in this way. However, the attackers didn’t fly their planes into a single church. They aimed at political and corporate centres. If anyone thought more deeply about motivations, they might have to admit some responsibility. The US has been funding dictatorships and the West has been killing hundreds of civilians in cross-fire in the Middle-East. Peoples in the Middle-East and elsewhere have been facing considerable hardship due to the exploitive practices of Western corporations.

The public should have felt horrified that these people felt a need to commit this sort of violence, looked into the reasons for it, then done what they could to help change the circumstances that brought it about. We should have found ways to ensure the peoples were treated well, outlawed government support of dictatorships, and reduced poverty and suffering. Once upon a time the US sent people such as my grandfather to Morocco, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Vietnam to help them to grow crops for themselves. Instead people sought the relief of vengeance (for which no relief ever eventuates) and began broadly recriminating against one another: “all people who look Arab are bad, all people who have a religion are bad, all people who are poor are bad.”

We are currently crawling around in our reptile brains and engaging our reason to find ways to serve all those fight or flight hormones that are charging our bodies. We are also capable of higher emotions from the pre-frontal part of the brain. Higher affective feelings lead to constructive reasoning. All those squishy, touchy, feely emotions are critical to our survival.

Our brains are structured to bond with babies just with holding, seeing, and smelling them. We love them with all our hearts, even though they can make our lives a misery of hard work and sleeplessness. And how much does a baby give us at that stage? Nevertheless, our feelings of connection with this little being help us to nurture them until they are fully grown and can perpetuate the species. We have evolved to bond with one another for survival. Our creative acts such as dancing, singing, telling stories help us to feel good about one another and more likely to support one another. We have an evolutionary urge to bond with animals. They are also critical to our survival for protection, food, and locomotion. There are reasons why we all feel the need to have companion animals.

Cooperation is key to our survival. The answers to resolving climate change and the gap between the rich and poor are not easy, but the first step toward doing so is at least clear. We must learn how to be better friends with one another and with all the beings of this planet. We need to be mature feeling adults who consequently are empathetic, care, and are willing to take compassionate action. We need to remove the baggage of co-dependency and manipulation from the word “love” and nurture a great love of humanity and life. With that love the giving up the odd gadget or sparkly bling in order to ensure everyone has enough will not be so hard. How much do you give up for a baby after all?

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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