Q I often wonder and worry about the disparity I see among various people in the world. This seems to exist along class, caste, race, and many other human characteristics. I believed that all the work that people have been doing towards social justice for years was resulting in more equity and less privileged-based opportunities for people. However, seeing the shrinking of the middle class in America and the large financial scams of the last decade, I feel that the greed of the few has more power than the good intentions of the majority. As an individual I feel weak and powerless in the face of such forces. How I can influence any positive change?
A Classism, racism, sexism and other -isms that exist in the world have been present for centuries in various forms. I believe it is more recent that such issues can be dealt with in a socio-political setting where people with much less power can have some influence. However, I believe, that to address these deep cultural issues, we also need to look at the individuals that we have become over the centuries due to collective training. We have been trained to believe that the few people in power will be interested in the common good and, therefore, don’t spend much of our own time participating in the democracy of this country. Freedom and personal power to influence society require a tremendous amount of responsibility and participation. Most of us are preoccupied with our individual and familial needs of economic survival and acquisition of personal success in a highly materialistic and self-oriented culture. We rarely put in the the time and energy to think more deeply about the issues you raise and very few of us are intelligently participating in creating a living democracy. It is not surprising that our representatives do not adequately represent us and it is corporations that are involved heavily in politics to influence policy.
I believe we can only move towards social justice as a nation if more of us realize how asleep we actually are to these realities and how much the cultural myth of material acquisition and security controls our time and lifestyle. This would wake us up to class disparity and lack of real community and motivate us to get engaged. We are seeing pockets of this, partly due to the frustration about, and confrontation with, the larger forces that you have named.
Americans can learn from the struggles and revolutionary strides made this year by the societies in the Middle East. As more of us come together in public and find collective ways to demonstrate what we want, more people will be moved to leave their lonely lives striving towards the next personal achievement or object, and engage in civic life, where we collectively struggle and work for the quality of society we want for people of every class, background, and identity. This movement can be fulfilling, empowering and might be the only way that the majority who want to share resources can begin to trust each other and, thereby, build lives and policies on new ethics.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com