The Will to Fight Doesn’t Hurt Us too Bad; The Will to Kill Does
The Umbrella Project for Radical Honesty 2019 forward, is to save the world of human beings from human beings. We can do this by interrupting ourselves from further poisoning of ourselves with the disease of self-righteous moralism. This disease of moralism varies slightly in intensity, but exists throughout the world. Regardless of what religions, values, ideas and ideals that true believers of all the human cultures hold to be important, the intense attachment to righteousness to the point of killing people to make a point, is a collective, almost universal, human mental illness. We all suffer from this disease of moralism.
The will to kill for the sake of proving we are right dominates the world wide economy and is killing us. The will to fight is O.K. but has to be handled differently or we will soon all be dead.
The will to both kill and make a profit from it is almost already an unstoppable terminal disease for humanity. We are all Saudis. And they don’t call it “Dead Right!” for nothin’. You might say it creates simply the wrong climate for a successful resolution of conflict. That seems to be what my friend Hank Stone seems to imply.
The world we live in is real. But closer inspection shows that we live in different interpretations of the real world. Our cultural stories (our socialization since birth varying by family, religion, culture, and country), modify the world we see.
The climate crisis demands that we change direction. Global cooperation is essential and urgent.
People strongly resist believing that our society has to radically change, yet Band-Aid measures won’t do.
We must get along. We must overcome cultural stories of “good guys” vs. “bad guys.” We are all crew of Spaceship Earth. We all share one Earth, and one future.
That is the real world.
The Real World
We “know” there is one real world, and we “know” that we live in it. That is the direct and compelling experiential reality and sensational world in which we live. We can feel its reality. It is the real world!
(Brad: We have a bumper sticker about reality versus interpretation: “Life is Just Sensational!...When Life is Just Sensational!”)
Newborn babies begin to experience and learn from the experience of being here, but do not “understand" the real world. As they grow, they learn language, how to walk, and how to fit in with their families and cultures. Each person has to learn what they are supposed to do, say, and believe; what is OK, and what is not OK.
(Brad: Being more and more grounded in reality is the prize. Understanding is less of a prize. Understanding is the "booby prize." Interpretations are of generally less value than most of us in the world have been taught to believe.)
Our learning of cultural stories (traditions, beliefs and mores of society) is automatic. What people learn depends on the family, and culture, they were born into. Christians learn Christianity. Muslims learn Islam. Americans learn the ways of their community. Members of every society learn the ways of their society. Children believe what the adults around them say, and do what they do.
(Brad: “All beliefs that do anything other than point to experiential reality can be considered equal with one regard, and covered by a quote from the late George Carlin: "it's all bullshit!” Some bullshit is a little more helpful than other bullshit. But it is all more usefully to be held as bullshit. That very previous sentence is an example of a better brand of bullshit.
“As Yuval Noah Harari has clearly told us (in his book, Sapiens), our ability to believe bullshit in large numbers is how human beings took over the world.”
“And also, belief in bullshit in large numbers is how we are destroying the world now as we speak. Evaluations based on comparative interpretations of “reality” are not the same as reality. Period. Large groups of believers substitute the “reality” of some bullshit belief or other, for reality itself. That’s how the pyramids were built—and the cathedrals and the corporations, etc. That is the secret to our great success and our upcoming great failure, the entirely predictable "accidental suicide" of humanity itself.” )
As we grow to adulthood, our personal experiences may change our cultural stories, and consequently the world we live in. Our cultural stories depend on our personalities, our families, our communities, our schools, our co-workers, our news sources, our friends, and our ongoing experiences.
Later, as we grow, and travel, we may observe that not everyone sees what we see, or believes what we believe. We are likely to interpret these differences as we-are-right-and-they-are-wrong. Especially in primitive societies, interpreting differences as threats was reasonable.
Different cultural stories require a key understanding: we all live in different (though overlapping) worlds. Our unconscious memories and beliefs limit the world we see (and can see) around us.
Our cultural stories, our beliefs, exist in our unconscious minds. Our stories mold our reality because everything we see and sense is filtered and interpreted by our unconscious minds before entering our consciousness. Our unconscious minds continuously sort through a flood of sensory data, only showing us what is consistent with our beliefs, and relevant to the business at hand. Our cultural stories determine the kind of “reality” we live in.
We can know about these perception filters theoretically, but still fail to cooperate with others who believe differently because our own beliefs feel right, while opposing views feel wrong. Forgetting our filters makes it easy to see others as bad.
Sometimes our beliefs, and the assumptions we make, can be wrong, even if we all agree. For example, suppose a hurricane is predicted, and residents are urged to evacuate. Suppose many do evacuate, but others do not. They have different beliefs about what will actually happen.
If a Muslim family moves in next door, some neighbors may be accepting, some fearful.
Two people can get into an argument and both can, without malice or mischief, each see clearly that they are right and the other is wrong.
The point is, the same objective situation may be interpreted very differently by people living in different cultural (and psychological) stories.
Good Guys Vs. Bad Guys
Because of our human tendency to have our interpretation of reality as more important than reality itself, being right (while those who disagree are wrong), we fall into the stories of good guys vs. bad guys.
Of course, good-versus-evil is a staple of our fiction, but also of our public life. Our politics and sports competitions favor opposition. War requires the story that we are good guys fighting bad guys.
However tempting it may be to believe there are good and bad people, or good and bad societies, it makes more sense to believe there are more or less helpful cultural stories. We are all flawed, but are doing the best that our bodies, our minds, our gifts, and especially our stories allow.
Some people tell the truth. Some lie. Some can’t tell the difference, or don’t care. Some people behave thoughtlessly; some behave unkindly; some bully; some steal; some do violence. People may betray our trust, or betray our country. Some exhibit mental illness. Some are mistaken, or deluded. Some are ignorant; some are unintelligent; some are unwilling to face the truths they can grasp.
People can be inconsistent, not believing in science, yet still fly on airplanes and speak on cell phones.
People may believe in religious ideas that fly in the face of science, or scientific ideas that fly in the face of religion. People may get their news (or fake news) from untrustworthy sources.
Yet if we judge people as bad (or unworthy) for their characteristics or their behavior, we are allowing our own cultural stories to interfere with our lives. For example, if we call people “greedy,” we are saying that our own cultural stories are right, but theirs are wrong.
If we feel that we are right, or good, or worthy; while others are wrong, or evil, or unimportant; we may be distracted from the business at hand, which is to protect the human future.
Now the world has become one place. Scientists have determined that there is only one human race, to which we all belong. We are all in this together. We all need food to eat, resources to live, love, and systems, understandings, and agreements that will allow us to live here successfully, long term. We are all planetary residents, equally dependent on the same Spaceship Earth. For our civilization to succeed in the future, everyone must win.
People certainly have different gifts. Like the cells in a human body, the trick is not for everyone to be the same, but for us to work as a team, for human success.
The cultural stories we have grown up with, for “growth and progress,” have led us to behaviors that are destroying the climate, threatening doomsday war, and growing the human population beyond sustainable carrying capacity.
The Need To Go Big
Now the climate crisis is forcing our hand. The problem set is immediate, urgent, and global. Earth needs cooperative solutions, which require new cultural stories. Humanity has become interconnected. Cooperation requires trust, respect, and valuing others. Believing in stories about good guys vs. bad guys can make solutions hard or impossible. A new story with all humankind on the same side – has become a practical necessity.
Our Earth is finite and interconnected. Global problems must be solved at the Spaceship Earth level.
We have to change direction, but as soon as we talk about the need for profound, transformative change, people retreat into familiar and comforting stories, look for someone to blame, think of symbolic adjustments that would leave our way of life intact, or just change the channel.
We have problems caused by technology, growth and progress. We are tempted to double down, hoping that technology, growth and progress will solve them.
Ready or not, we have to evolve our different religious and cultural stories to support the cooperative solutions we need. The entire notion of good struggling against evil has become obsolete.
We have to abandon fossil fuels, even though virtually our entire way of life is based on using them, in vast quantities.
We believe in the war system, but can’t afford the global threats. We’re at war with ourselves, but can’t face the truth so we demonize each other. It’s time to learn, and teach, conflict resolution. It’s time to use the massive military budget to fight the climate crisis rather than each other.
Since just a century ago, global communications, telephones, radio, TV, internet and jet travel have brought together millions of people whose cultures have had minimal contact. Still, our understanding of cultural differences has not caught up to the realities of the present world.
Now we are all in one single global problem, and need to work together. Like it or not, our futures are entangled. We have become the crew of Spaceship Earth. This means that loyalty to country, or religion, or race, or economic system is not enough. We need to discover that the whole Earth is our in-group. Religions must evolve. It’s time to recognize the oneness of the human family.
To cooperate, we need new cultural stories. We don’t all need to believe the same thing, but we need global cultural stories that unite us to create a peaceful, just, sustainable future for humankind.
Change requires humility. If we can enter into respectful discussions across cultural divides, remembering that we all have filtered perceptions, we can compare notes. Where we agree, we can go forward together. Where we disagree, we have more to learn.
Consider this new cultural story: We all live on the same planet. We have to work out how to live together successfully. If we can do this in time, we can share a future of harmony, justice, peace, and plenty. We can see that though our worlds are real, other people’s worlds are equally real to them.
People behaving in ways alien to us are not our enemies, or trying to threaten us. They are doing what is in front of them to do, just as we are. Those who say we should keep enemies, may have unhelpful agendas.
Be generous in your judgment of others, remembering our flawed human perspective. Our problems come not from evil, but from unresolved differences in our cultural stories.
I submit that Donald Trump is living the stories in his head just as authentically as we are living the stories in our heads.
(Brad says: I submit that Donald Trump’s bullshit is not nearly as good as my bullshit, even though it is all bullshit!)
All human beings need air, water, food, shelter, love, community, freedom, and some measure of meaning in our lives. We are not different from each other in the ways that count. We have a shared need for Earth protected, society protected, and mechanisms to supply the necessities of life.
To heal the global future, we need new, cooperative and generous cultural stories. We don’t have to become alike, or join one religion, but we must close ranks to protect our Earth home.
It’s deceptively simple. We can have the future we want. But we must change our stories, to change our direction.
(Brad says: AMEN! Namely, we need to change our stories to include more of our current mutually shared reality of greedily consuming the earth to maintain our delusions. And change our direction to cooperation on a transcendent level with our whole world full of biased self righteous bullshit artists like ourselves!) (and let them know that we might somehow get over..."my distorted reality is better than your distorted reality! So there!")
That is the real world.
(Brad says: I love this! We agree completely on where we Sapiens have to get to in order to survive. I see it as a process of discovery through honest conflict and honest conflict resolution along with the adoption of an attitude or acceptance based on reason.
The most efficient is a process in which you first express your anger and your judgments completely and in detail, and you do it face to face and raise hell and experience what occurs, and then pay attention while you have your feelings change, together, because of the experiences of change and appreciation for the honest exchange. So you call the greedy motherfucker a greedy motherfucker until she is not a greedy motherfucker to you anymore. And she calls you a selfish bastard who is full of shit until you aren’t that to her anymore.
Peace is the result of transformation of hatred…and it comes not from an intellectual assertion of love as an alternative, but because of the context created and sustained through honest self expression. By the way Hank, I love what you have written here and I love you for writing it.)
P.S. So we need a new organization…an AA for self righteous Pricks: “My name is Brad Blanton and I am a self righteous Prick.” “Welcome, Brad. You are absolutely right! We are sure of it! And we ought to know! We are always right about that!”
The next people we elect to power all need to be comedians.
Hank Stone is a retired engineer and long-time peace activist living in Rochester, NY. Hank believes time is short to come up with a sustainable cultural story for the Earth. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad Blanton, Ph.D. Author of Radical Honesty, Practicing Radical Honesty, The Truthtellers, Radical Parenting and other books.