We are all frightened daily by news we hear regarding the state of the world, frightened by glimpses of problems seemingly too big to be solved. Panic does nothing to help, it merely gives us the impulse to run away. Sometimes it gives us that initial jolt of adrenaline, but our inability to conceive of a path of action eventually causes us to turn away.
It is the fight or flea impulse--with which we are all familiar—on a societal level. We mostly choose flight, we avoid doing anything, and so choose to live in a bubble and pretend that we are safe in it. Turning inward is society’s equivalent of flight. And when some demagogue comes around and plays upon our fears, then society turns to the fight impulse. Whatever grand delusions we have about ourselves being individuals, creatures on par with lions, we are herd creatures that succumb to the common mind when we are troubled. We gather around, afraid to wander too far from the herd. Humans don’t do this physically but intellectually. When we become frightened, we constrict our thoughts so that they do not stray too far from the herd mentality. It is how we are designed as a species and an area of study too little researched as of yet, at least by those who would seek to do good with the results. I suspect advertisers and special interest groups could give us insights into such behavior, though they use such knowledge for personal gain.
Many adult human beings have experienced the urge to fight or flee, at least on a personal level. To truly mature into a well-functioning adult means you are able to overcome to a good degree those baser impulses of fight or flee. You learn wisdom, real wisdom, understanding that such basic reflexes can often lead you astray. You have learned that to accomplish the goals you wish to accomplish you must set aside your fears and work with a fixed determination towards those goals, putting aside your fear and anger. Those fears never go away but you learn to identify them for what they are and keep them in check when you start to notice them influencing your behavior in a negative way.
Perhaps society too is in the process of maturing, of learning how to gain control over such a herd mentality of fear and anger that so often leads us into war and financial disaster. It certainly doesn’t feel like that now, it seems the world is in utter chaos, and the best thing we can do is either to confront things with violence or else flee from attempting to deal with the situation at all. Here is an alternate viewpoint, one which I think appeals more to the adult in us, mature creatures living in an increasingly mature society, despite whatever fears and doubts we may harbor.
Our era already has a good idea of the problems it has to face, it is merely taking its time to gather its courage. It is taking its time, too, to make sure it deals with the pressing problems of its day not merely with courage but with wisdom. Courage alone is how people of a century ago faced their problems and it created world wars. We today know we cannot confront our obstacles in such a manner. As frightening and destructive as the technology was then, our advances will make such an approach the end of human civilization.
So we wait and we debate. We wait although emotion and passion pulses strongly within our veins. We wait as Hamlet once waited in order to ensure that balance is once again restored.
We tread cautiously because we have seen the danger of courage unbound by humility. That does not make us weak, it makes us wise.
That might seem like an unrealistically optimistic view of the situation as it now stands. All dramatic turnarounds begin in such a manner. That is how it is done. Humanity must put the skids on and come to a decision about where our lives are heading and then make adult decisions about how we want to spend our lives from here on out. It happens with individuals everyday. A drug addict decides to quit or seek treatment, an overweight person decides to get his eating under control, a worker decides upon a career path that will lead him to a degree of success. People turn their lives around all the time. So will society once it admits to the situation it now finds itself.
It will begin with individuals, deciding a change has to take place. These individuals will encounter like-minded others and be encouraged and assisted by them. And once it has hit a critical mass, that herd mentality that has been resisting the change that must come will suddenly become its greatest asset.
It will come. It has to come. We are ready because we must be ready. We wish to be more, we all do. We want a society that is equitable, a society that nurtures the best aspects of human beings. We have great things inside us and we all want a chance to let them grow. It’s time now, we are adults who are ready to live our lives. We are a race that has seen too much mindless bloodshed and indifference to our fellow man.
It has begun. Minds all over the world are locked into a commitment to a better world. This is not like the adolescent well-meaning but immature rumblings of the 1960s. This is the maturation of the human species that does not want to be an addict or a screw up any longer. This is not believing, it is doing. It has begun.