To withdraw, is easy.
In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned that I have a tendency to opt out of social and broadcast media when the current news of the day turns particularly tragic and explosive in human casualty and anger-filled emotion. Sadness, alarm and despair are emotions running rampant lately, and I want no part of them.
I withdraw, and I focus on ‘my own.’ My family. My partnership agreements. My work with Managing with Aloha. I tell myself that I serve our world best, by doing what I know I do best—culture-building in the workplace, with Aloha.
Hawai‘i makes my withdrawal pretty easy. We are, after all, living on the most remotely populated islands on the face of the earth. We have challenges, however we have been able to maintain our civil peace—so far. My brand of so-called white privilege is what we describe as “locals living in paradise.”
Yet there are times when residuals of the global news of the day linger, and nag at me. We are geographically remote, yet we are virtually connected. We are not oblivious to the world, and we remain fellow humans, compassionate for our distant neighbors. We empathize with their pain.
Thus, opting out alone is ineffective, and it is no longer easy. My values challenge me, saying, you can do better; you know you can.
This is one of those times.
When my curiosity gets the best of me, and I do opt back in to media bombardment, I learn more, and my discomfort grows.
I take the time to navigate the political and dogmatic clutter carefully, and read more by independent citizen publishers who are thinking out loud as they explore their own values: I read articles, essays, and blog posts written by thoughtful, intelligent, caring people who will not be quieted.
Thank goodness they won’t.
Thank goodness, that people with good values, and strong beliefs in better hope for our world, won’t be quieted.
Thank goodness, that they call for what we know as Ho‘oponopono problem solving, calling for it on a societal scale.
Left unsolved, problems do not disappear on their own accord.
Our civil problems may be temporarily put aside, and even forgotten as their precursors become less explosive or timely, however they do not disappear.
Problems become smoldering issues.
In recent weeks for instance, one news event, has flamed the fires of another, and yet another:
“It’s been another bad week. Coming on the heels of shootings by police in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, the killing of five police officers in Dallas, the intentional mowing down of dozens in Nice, France, and the unrest in Turkey, one could perhaps be excused for being a little worn out by the whole thing.
But the tragedies seem to keep coming.”
—Edwin Aoki, Make it Stop
For an unsolved problem to disappear, and go away forever, we have to solve it. That means we have to solve its root cause, or its single point of combustion.
“…to tackle any large problem, you start by looking for a single point of failure. In any broken system there is usually one main issue, a fulcrum around which all other breaks and faults emanate.
So what is the one thing that you can trace these problems back to?”
—Dain Saint, We Can Be Better
Fear is an untamed fire.
Fires start, because three elements are present: Heat, oxygen, and fuel—something to burn. What are the elements of our present societal unrest?
In his article, Dain Saint says our ‘single point of failure’ is fear, and that “People hate what they fear, and kill what they hate.” He offers a solution—hope—yet I think he does an admirable job in trying to be more pragmatic, suggesting actions to make hope materialize, to make it real.
In his article, Edwin Aoki advocates gun control, and writes, “the ready availability of firearms in this country makes any spark far more explosive.”
“We may not be able to make short work of the very real systemic issues that divide us, and certainly reducing the number of guns on the streets will not be a panacea that reduces gun violence to zero. But we must recognize that our current policies really do turn guns into weapons of mass destruction, capable not only of tearing apart families and communities, but potentially our very values and societies. We must have a true conversation on gun control that does not instantly resolve into personal attacks and hardened battle lines. We must allow research into gun violence to make firearms safer to own and use. And we must create the conditions that allow people to feel safe in their communities and have trust in their leaders.
We must get away from police vs. blacks; the left vs. the right; us vs. them. We must make this stop.”
We need an entire movement focused on Ho‘oponopono problem solving.
Count me among the advocates for tighter gun control, yet I think we must dig deeper into those “very real systemic issues that divide us” and work diligently to solve them.
My deduction, from these readings and more, is that our current fire burns with these three combustibles:
1. Fear which results in people feeling they have no control over what’s happening. When filled with fear, people succumb to the victim mentality, and feel they cannot buck ‘the system,’ just survive within it, somehow.
2. Inequality and exclusionary thinking. There is a lack of Kākou Aloha, the all-inclusive unconditional love and acceptance of our fellow human beings. We feel we don’t need everyone, we just need ‘our own.’
We do not gain diversity’s benefits when there is inequality either; we align with either the haves or have nots and perpetuate exclusivity’s damaging effects.
3. Lack of involvement from those of us who are ‘comfortable enough.’
Honestly? We have no reason, no right, to remain comfortable in any privilege we may have.
I think that addressing number 3, and becoming better humans who get involved with civic engagement, can move us closer toward curbing our fears and embracing diversity as well. By getting involved, we seize more control of what happens in our world, and allay our fears. By getting involved, we enlarge the conversations which need to happen, and trigger more problem-solving.
Our Ho‘ohana Community can better engage, using what we know to be true.
Not dogma we know to be true; value-aligned lessons learned.
There are two things, relevant to this discussion, that over a decade of working within the Managing with Aloha philosophy has taught us.
Lesson One, is how good we really are. Inherently good.
People will always find a way to fix broken systems and processes. We excel at it, when we are free to tackle problems without baggage (i.e. without being blinded or shackled by ideology, politics, compromise), and we do so with courage.
The very best systems and processes however, do not ‘fix people,’ especially when their spirit has been broken, and their hope flickers and dims.
People fix themselves: All values work their magic via Kuleana, when people take full, personal responsibility for all the circumstances of their lives, and refuse to be anyone’s victim. Yet these people do not go rogue and go it alone: They engage and participate.
Lesson Two, is that we build from bottom up.
We see this over, and over again: The most effective culture-building —and by extension, society-building— happens in a groundswell on a grass roots level. Leaders may come and go, moving onto their next big idea, however those invested in sustaining a culture remain, and they work to make that culture grow and flourish—they are the community builders, and they are the convicted ones who stand tall for shared values.
To think about our world on a ‘societal scale’ is daunting, I know. However, everyone you may now think of as a major player started with a small entry point, and then steadily enlarged their circle of influence. It’s something every single one of us can do, and we can do it with Aloha.
Protest is not enough.
I have never considered protest a very good form of civic engagement. Protest lulls us into thinking we are exercising our voice, however we normally are demanding action from others, and not from ourselves.
We rarely take the next step, and get personally involved with intensive problem-solving. Worse, protest saps our resources: Police and the National Guard engage to stop riots instead of being deployed to the more noble pursuits of building culture, not knocking it down.
One of my old bosses had a favorite saying, one I’m sure you’ve heard before: “Don’t be part of the problem. Be a part of the solution.”
It rubbed off on me, and I believe it too. If you don’t want to contribute to a problem, you must be a part of that problem’s solution. If more involvement and more courage is required, so be it.
I know Ho‘oponopono starts with me.
I started this essay admitting to my own withdrawal, and as I write this, I am deliberating about how I will get involved. Will it be in my neighborhood board meetings? Will it be in one of the town hall sessions scheduled between the primary and general elections? Will it be with a specific community initiative championed by my business, Say Leadership Coaching?
I write this, to walk my own talk as my first step: To commit to not withdrawing into my comfortable island shell anymore, and be more involved.
As civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi had said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
As I myself had written in Managing with Aloha, “Speaking your own good word, will force you to make it so.”
Will Ho‘oponopono start with you too?
People are more apt to invest in and be committed to their own decisions, than they are to following the marching orders of a leader—even a leader they admire and trust to make decisions for them.
Please; honor your Kuleana, and decide to get personally involved. People are wailing, that “Thoughts and prayers are not enough!” and I have to agree. Define what civic engagement means to you, and get involved, starting with your own community.
We can erase hate, when we promote the Kākou beliefs within ‘Ohana, for a global ‘Ohana is what we are.
Issues, Actions, Opinion, and Self-Managing with Aloha (April, 2015)
By Clay Shirky: There’s No Such Thing As A Protest Vote (August, 2016)
Postscript: The Definition of Civic Engagement
Excerpts from Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000 (source):
“Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.
– Preface, page vi
A morally and civically responsible individual recognizes himself or herself as a member of a larger social fabric and therefore considers social problems to be at least partly his or her own; such an individual is willing to see the moral and civic dimensions of issues, to make and justify informed moral and civic judgments, and to take action when appropriate.
– Introduction, page xxvi”
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