Watching the recent election results, I’ve certainly noticed that the pendulum of public opinion seems to swing back and forth in much shorter cycles than it used to — just like in so many other areas of life in this hurried age. A single party used to control the House or Senate for decades, as for example during the FDR era. Now each administration seems to suffer a similar fate through being incapable of satisfying the public by living up to voters’ hopes and expectations.
But who actually decides who’s in charge? And who decides who decides? Is it really the voters? Or is it the lobbyists, or the talking heads? I personally would like to vote for reason and universal consideration and concern being at the helm, challenging as that ideal may be.
Now there is not going to be a single African-American in the United States Senate, which does not bode well for our methods of representation. (There do happen to be two Buddhist members of Congress; one is a woman from Hawaii.) This imbalance and lack of diversity reflects the world of power politics rather than the real day to day which we live in; it is a symptom of selfishness and lack of perspective, which is at the root of inequality and iniquity of all kinds.
Without diversity and the art of compromise, extreme voices sharpen and the decibel level rises without any significant gain in mutual understanding or agreement. I hear too much strident criticism without much in the way of viable solutions to the problems we face. Without meaningful public conversation, tolerance and empathic compassion, short term gains and goals are forced to the fore at the expense of more long term concerns. Instant gratification is the law of the land. Being re-elected becomes more important than governing well, while deeper meaning and purpose-such gets lost in the rush to power and success. Where are the more moderate, reflective, truly constrictive voices attuned to the complexity of life and our issues today?
The speed of life today and our ingrained hyper-reactivity makes so many of us fall prey to small groups of canny strategists bent upon eliciting specific responses conducive to their own narrow ends through buzz words, provocative slogans, and highlighting wedge issues. For example, religion, which was originally intended to be a unifying force, has become a divisive one today. I believe we would do well to focus on finding a middle way of balance and inclusiveness.
The United States of America has for long stood out as the symbol of the free world. So we must be strong, resolute and decisive including vision, compassionate action, and long term planning in our civic lives. We would do well to listen to other viewpoints, focus on the deeper meaning, and remember the purpose and value of our brief life on this fragile planet. In our busy lives, it is ever so important not to get caught up in mere reactivity and end up feeling disempowered or even victimized. When you are able to focus on long term vision and deeper goals, you are the one who decides.
To find out more about Lama Surya Das, visit www.surya.org/.
For more information on Surya’s books- visit www.surya.org/books/
You can also follow Lama Surya Das on Twitter @LamaSuryaDas
Connect with Lama on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lamasuryadas.