My Uncle wrote this and I wanted to share.
Follow the Leader
Take a step back with me. Into the past of the human species. Keep going. Further into the past. Keep going until you can see the entirety of human history laid out before you. Now let go your biases. Let go your beliefs. Let go your religion, your politics, your color, your nationality and every other orientation you may have.
Quick, what is the first thing you notice? What do you see? Do you see a glorious panoply of advancement and growing enlightenment? A steady progression from the primitive hunter gatherer society to modern day attempts to live in harmony on this earth? Or do you see a history dominated by war, pestilence, aggression, fear. Filled with Attilas and Hitlers and torturers and genocide?
Has the human race been on a path to peace, understanding and harmonious community or have we barely taken a first small step into the light of day? Have we found new ways to kill larger and larger numbers of our enemies, or merely honed the torturer’s craft? Do we have horrible nightmares in our future? Or beautiful dreams?
In truth, human history is all of this, a grand mixture of monsters and saints. The belligerent greed of the Iraq War and the callous disregard of our poorest citizens in the rescue efforts surrounding Hurricane Katrina show us that our darker impulses are little changed from the Romans or Mongols or the Pharaohs or Aztecs. The valiant effort of ordinary citizens tirelessly rescuing people trapped by the flood show that the impulse to good is undiminished as well.
Some among us are driven to power, to conquest, to dominion over those weaker than ourselves. Others are driven to higher callings, from Buddha, to Jesus, to Gandhi to Martin Luther King. We sometimes follow psychopaths who feed on the suffering of the weak and sometimes we follow our exeplars and become rescuers and heroes. We sometimes die for the greater glory of despots and sometimes we give our lives that others may live.
What is not so apparent is the mechanism that allows the rise both of saints and of corruptors in all human societies and cultures. That mechanism is found in the will of the people being led. The people who become either the “good Germans” of the Nazi era, or the people of \South Africa who throw off the yoke of oppression. The people who either allowed evil to flourish, or the people who demanded of their leaders accountability and honesty. The people who either sat in their own privileged comfort while others endure deprivation and die needlessly, or the people who rebelled against ignorance, intolerance and greed.
We have spent thousands of years studying and yet not learning the lessons that could break this cycle. We keep expecting someone new to lead us to the promised land. Someone to speak for us. Someone to show us the way. It doesn’t seem to matter whether these saviors are interested in promoting a more compassionate society as did Jesus, or whether they wish to take us on voyage of conquest and violence, as did Attila, Hitler, and some who would lead us today.
The lesson that we must first learn is that when we become followers we give up responsibility for our own lives and our own actions. The next lesson we need to learn is how not to acquiesce to the temptation to be followers of the next leader that comes along, either for good or ill. We need to take responsibility for our own lives, to be our own “chosen ones.” To listen to our hearts and our consciences and to follow their dictates.
And how do we, who have been trained our whole lives to be obedient, and to seek the “wisdom” of those who know better, break the shackles of our compliance. We do this by any means at our disposal. We read alternative views of history. We widen our perspective. We search within ourselves to find our core values. We find within that which we have hitherto sough without. We discover our essential truths and then we begin to live them. We follow the path given to us by our heart connections. We rise to our own individual power and exercise that power to create the world we long for.
Do you love your children? If you do, what would you be willing to do to ensure their future safety? Would you advocate to end war? Would you ensure that they are given access to the richest learning environment possible? Would you be willing to be uncompromising in the love you give your children? And if you truly love your children, would you extend that love to all the children of the world, to the 30,000 that die each day from starvation and the effects of poverty? Would you be willing to stop buying products made with child labor and to demand an end to human rights abuses? Would you be willing to be uncompromising, to stand up to the “leaders,” to say no more?
Do you love nature, wilderness, the wide open spaces of the natural world? Would you be willing to be uncompromising in your actions to protect nature? Would you give up a life of concupiscence and material goods? Would you consider giving up your SUV? Would you consider dropping off the grid? Would you consider a change of profession and a change of location in order to be more in harmony with nature? Would you be willing to be uncompromising, to stand up to the “leaders,” to say no more?
We all are potential followers of both tyrants and paragons. If we are to change the course of human history we must break this cycle. Each and every one of us has a vital role to play in the deliverance and salvation of mankind. The question is, what will it take for each of us to choose our own direction, to find our own “honorable path?” To live as Buddha and Jesus did. To give up just being “good Germans?” Its our call.