This August I’ll be speaking at the national Take Back Your Time conference. The conference will address how our choices in how we spend our time effects
our wellbeing, our families and even the health of our environment.
One of the many points of change and growth for me this past year and a half has been how I treat my relationship with time.
I’ve had a lifelong struggle to be a human being instead of a human doing. I have based so much of my identity, my goals and my time prioritization on being productive and delivering in my professional endeavors. Certainly this has been a result of personality, ego and conditioning. However, I think it’s also because, as a lifelong and very passionate environmentalist, I feel such urgency to make a difference, to reverse the tremendous damage we are inflicting on this miraculous blue planet. I never felt like any of my efforts were enough or fast enough to match the urgency so I’d push even harder.
But when my life blew up under the media-driven public shaming my work came to a screeching halt. At first, I railed and thrashed and tried to force my work forward despite the trauma and turmoil but it didn’t work. I finally had to give in and realize that it was going to be some time before my life and my work would resume some sense of normalcy. For the first time, reluctantly and resentfully, I really slowed down. And Holy Smokes, I liked it! I was shocked to realize how hard I had been working and pushing for so long.
During these past eighteen months I have spent hours meditating … unhurriedly. I’ve studied spirituality and consciousness, and made space for lengthy conversations about those topics instead of the “work” that I had been so focused on. I’ve read novels and watched movies. I’ve volunteered building fences for dogs living on chains and rehabbing injured wildlife. I’ve taken time to really be present with, talk and interact with strangers.
Now, my work is moving again and I am super grateful for that! And life is more normal despite the occasional, ongoing media hits. I’m rolling along again.
And yet, I’m not rolling so fast. I’m not working as long or as “hard” as I did before. I’m not allowing my meditation time to be the first thing to go when I feel the pressure of a deadline. I’m committed to maintaining this new, gentler, more open relationship with time.
I now really get it that I can’t do my best work for this Earth just by doing more work. To be most effective in my work to protect Earth’s environment I have to continue to prioritize my own inner environment. For that, and for these new, saner rhythms I am actually grateful for the recent challenges that presented the greatly unasked for gift of forcing me to slow down.
At the upcoming conference I’ll be delivering a plenary about how my “fall from grace” brought me to this more graceful relationship with time. I’m a little nervous about sharing this story publically, and a little nervous that I’ll get emotional while doing so. But I am also really looking forward to putting it out there and hearing from others who are also working on investing instead of just spending their time.
I’ll also be participating on a panel addressing the need to move to a more sustainable way of measuring economic success including valuing the economic contribution of volunteer time, stay at home mothers and caregivers.
A lot has been written about Donald Trump’s appeal to the Angry White Man (AWM) voting bloc. The term was popularized in the early 1990s as wh
ite men coalesced politically in reaction to the perceived injustice of increasing numbers of minorities taking jobs traditionally held by whites. According to Wikipedia the AWM is, “a derogatory reference to a whitemale holding what is viewed as a typically conservative viewpoint, especially in the context of U.S. politics, characterized by opposition to feminism, racial quotas, political correctness, positive discrimination and other liberal policies.”
It is now well documented that Trump’s supporters come primarily from just one major social demographic comprised of male Republican voters who didn’t go to college, in other words AWM. Analysts repeatedly explain that AWM don’t like political correctness. For example they like Trump because he talks about getting rid of illegal immigrants and banning Muslims from entering the country.
Well here’s a bit of political incorrectness. These people like a white bully because they have received the most benefit from a country that was founded by and for white bullies. White explorers and settlers bullied their way across the continent stealing from, raping and massacring the Native Americans. Then privileged white men stole black people from Africa and property-owning white men drafted a constitution that called black slaves only three-fifths human beings. Notice I said men drafted that constitution? That’s because women weren’t considered fit to vote. Are there any more egregious forms of bullying than genocide, mass slavery and relegating half of even one’s own race to the status of servant and broodmare?
Despite the notion that the American Dream means anybody in America can work hard and climb the ladder of opportunity, this has never been as true for women and people of color as it has for white men. But more recently, uber-wealthy white men have manipulated politics and financial systems to create an economy that bullies just about everyone else. I believe this is at the heart of the angst of the working class AWM and they have no idea what to do about it.
One thing I’ve noticed in speaking with Trump supporters is a prevalent longing for the return of American exceptionalism. They love Trump telling them he’s going to, “Make America great again!” They seem not to mind that he offers no concrete policy platforms, flip-flops like a fish on dry asphalt and seems to have learned about foreign relations at the International House of Pancakes. It’s enough to hear he’s going to build a wall, deport Mexicans and ban Muslims.
While this emotional, seemingly uninformed response might frustrate people on the other end of the political spectrum, it’s worth considering that, despite a backdrop of white privilege and perhaps a dangerous response to their current sense of insecurity, AWM do have a legitimate reason to be angry. The majority of them are living paycheck to paycheck and could lose their jobs at any time. According to David Frum, of The Atlantic, half of Trump’s GOP supporters received no formal education beyond high school, many not even earning a high-school diploma. Less than twenty percent have college degrees. Thirty-eight percent earned less than $50,000 per year and only eleven percent earned more than $100,000. Many analysts point out that these people represent the eroding American middle class. Robert Reich has titled them the “Anxious Class.” They’re angry and worried. A whole lot of women and people of color have been living with those fears and stresses for a few decades and it ain’t fun. It’s not just AWM who feel insecure about finances, the direction of our nation and future prospects for our children. Very legitimately, AWM sense that the country is not getting better for them. Reasonably, they want things to go back to the way they were.
But there is no going back. America earned a type of greatness by bullying. We grew vast and wealthy on the devastated lives of conquered and enslaved peoples but tragic opportunities like those are gone. And there is no turning back the demographic trends either. In just a few decades America will have more black and brown faces than white ones. The only real question is how can we find a healthier pathway forward?
In the early 1900’s the word bully meant wonderful, fine or splendid, like a bully lad. At that time President Theodore Roosevelt coined the term “bully pulpit” by which he meant a terrific platform from which to advocate an agenda. Since then the term bully pulpit has been defined as a high-profile position that provides an opportunity to speak out and be listened to.
In the current political cycle Senator Bernie Sanders came closest to addressing the really important issues we must face to move forward as a nation. He too fired up voter blocs, mostly of young people and older progressive activists who wanted something other than status quo democratic party politics. His campaign made an important contribution to what was otherwise an appallingly ugly, mean-spirited political discourse devoid of any substantive discussion or coverage of important issues. He made great use of the “bully pulpit.”
Meanwhile, a privileged from birth, billionaire AWM blustered and berated his way to the top of the Republican ticket for President of the United States. In so doing he gave bully pulpit a whole new and sad definition.
America will not be great because a bully says he’s going to make us so. We will never be as great as we can be if we continue to foment racism and tolerate sexism. But, just as importantly, we will not be exceptionally great if AWM continue to feel erosion in their ability to take care of themselves and their families. They are right that our country is not on a healthy trajectory – it’s not on the right track for any of us.
We are at a serious point in the evolution of the American experiment. We have some challenging decisions to make.
And if you’re thinking about just throwing up your hands and checking out, remember the warning from Plato, “One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
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Today is World Oceans Day, a UN event designed to raise awareness about the world’s oceans and seas. This has me thinking of a recent experience.
Just a few days ago I had dinner with several old friends. One of them considers Oregon her home even though she is currently living in the Midwest due to family issues.
She had been so excited to return to Oregon for a couple of weeks and made a point to get out to the ocean with her two young children. One of their favorite things is exploring tide pools, especially spotting the colorful starfish.
During dinner she told us with tremendous disappointment that she and her children hadn’t been able to find a single starfish. They had looked in multiple places and even gone out at different tide levels to try to find the colorful creatures. No luck.
I and another friend who is also an environmentalist explained that that was because the starfishes had been wiped out by a wasting disease. They develop sores and then just disintegrate into a pile us mush. Scientists know the culprit is a densovirus. However, the virus has been around for decades and the question is why it has suddenly exploded into the largest marine disease outbreak ever recorded? Scientists suspect that warmer waters due to climate change and ocean acidification are likely behind the epidemic.
A relatively small group of us have been trying to raise awareness about ocean acidification for several years now. The oceans are acidifying due to the massive amounts of carbon they have soaked up since the industrial revolution. Yet another reason to aggressively move beyond fossil fuels.
My starfish-loving friend was shocked. She is a smart, highly-educated person who loves the ocean and the coast but she hadn’t heard anything at all about the die-off of starfish.
As a lifelong environmentalist I found the exchange sad and all too familiar. Because we are all so busy and environmental issues rarely rise above the din of media coverage about celebrities, shootings and political campaigns, even highly concerned and educated people rarely realize how much we are losing until it hits them personally.
My friend’s sadness about the loss of starfish is a poignant example of how we often take Nature for granted until a piece of her goes missing. Our oceans are facing a tremendous juggernaut of cumulative pressures including, overfishing, global warming and acidification, tremendous amounts of plastic trash throughout the marine food web and even massive noise pollution. There are ways to address each of these pressures if we, as a species choose to do so.
Oceans cover 70 percent of our planet. As oceans go, so go we.