When the institutions that are a society’s pillars are not perceived as such, that is the beginning of that society’s disintegration. Science is no longer credible, education is doubtful, religion is uninspiring, justice is no longer blind, politicians no longer represent any truth.
Trust is a key ingredient in a correctly functioning society. Generally trust is lost when the keepers of the trust fail in their actions. Normally trust is never recuperated when it breaks down. Doubt and mistrust poison everything they touch, and unfortunately the antidote has not yet been found for this enormous problem.
When there is trust, there is tolerance and respect, because it is understood that errors can be correctable. That is not the case when trust evaporates. Then all tolerance and respect disappear in a whirlwind of mutual recriminations, and finally everything gives way to violence and total disintegration. This happens in human relationships and in human societies. So we ask ourselves, what can be done? How can we emerge from this situation?
Will we again give our trust to those who have betrayed us? Will we pardon all their mistakes? Will we exchange some for others without any certainty that things will get any better? Will we listen to new promises made without the slightest conviction? Such promises do not inspire trust no matter how great an effort we or anyone else makes. They do not sound sincere because they are not.
The sincerity we need is intimately linked to the recognition that this society has failed at every level. This failure cannot be repaired with promises and declarations, nor by a tough nor a soft approach. It doesn’t matter which individual or individuals have declared themselves the savior, because they do not inspire trust. Maybe by now we are at last completely fed up with what we’ve been seeing for thousands of years.
Really recognizing our social failure would put us in an extraordinary situation, tremendously painful for a few and liberating for the rest. Such a recognition implies being able to admit our ignorance at all levels. It implies being able to look at all our mistakes without prejudice, without cowardice and without blaming anyone. We gain nothing by blaming anyone because if we’re really being sincere, we’d better share the blame. But I do not believe that is the best approach, nor that it is what we aspire to. True justice has little to do with guilt and blame.
If we as a society can experience our failure, perhaps we can move on to a new stage where a new way of organizing ourselves and of looking at things is possible.
Inevitably at this first stage of recognition, fear is the first thing we need to accept, see, and abandon. Fear is exactly what is keeping us from advancing as a society toward a more coherent form of relationship and government. Fear of losing what we do not have or what we believe we have, fear of not achieving what we believe we need to achieve, fear of what we remember having had or what we believed we had have always led us to destruction and violence as individuals and as societies. This fear exists at every level of our lives and that is why our social structures are in decline and disintegrating. “Each clinging to their own gods…” as the famous and true song goes. Without even realizing that those “gods” that we cling to are the same that all the enemies we keep creating cling to.
The truth is, it’s a sad situation for all humanity, and like it or not, we are all immersed in this system that is now global and we have no possible way to escape this reality.
Like all “realities” we need to start seeing it for what is, and the sooner the better. If there is any possibility of change, it is now and not tomorrow, and that change will only be possible if each of us has a strong desire for change. This change has to begin with the individual who becomes fully aware of the situation of failure at an individual and social level. If we naively believe that the individual and the social are separate and that it’s the society that is messed up and we are fine, we won’t go anywhere very interesting. The opposite idea, where society is fine and the individual is messed up, is equally mistaken.
What I am writing about is one of the most difficult things to do, and at the same time the most effective. When change begins in an individual it is because an internal recognition has put them in a situation of “truth” that can be reached in no other way. How I would love to take a pill and have everything be fine when I wake up, or drink a glass of something that would make me feel better. Or maybe take some drugs. Nothing very strong, just enough to make me forget this reality that I have not created and that has nothing to do with me. I could also surround myself with people like me and therefore not feel my miscalculations or my internal failure, and I could calmly blame everyone else. I have to admit that sometimes this works for a while but the moment inexorably passes and something happens that breaks that artifice and I am again violated internally by the facts and by what I do not want to admit.
The false doors for ending our internal violence and the social disintegration that comes with it are many, but the only important thing is that they are false. Truth is always felt as such, and its main characteristic is that it does not bring violence. The violence we are talking about is physical, racial, sexual, gender, religious, economic, etc. – all the known forms of violence.
The truth is felt as an inner liberation, an expansion, a soft joy, peacefulness, and a certainty that the other is as important as oneself. If we have to justify and explain what we call “the truth” because we cannot feel it, then all those explanations are useless, because they do not touch the human heart, which is where the real possibility of transformation begins.
Maybe I don’t feel this thing that holds the truth all the time, but it’s enough to feel it a few times in order to orient our lives in that direction that is human and, why not say it, transcendent. Transcendent in that it truly transcends the personal, the individual trivialities, and puts us in resonance with life itself, a life that keeps being built from inner realities and not from slogans and great economic, political, or moral declarations.
This ascending direction brings me to a situation of trust in the other and in myself that can be experienced without any doubt, because I can feel in the other the same thing I feel in myself. When this happens, when I can put myself in the other’s shoes, that is when my position in the world changes, and therefore everything changes. To want and to be able to treat the other as I want to be treated is the golden rule for a real society. It is the foundational pillar for building something that is true.
When the human being is divorced from their deepest feelings, that is when meaning is lost or fades. When I separate myself from what is true in me, that is when the society I belong to no longer reflects a meaningful direction. That is when all the “enemies” appear, ready to snatch what I believe I have. That is when the indefensible appears, when all the flags are raised signaling that what is most important is the individual, the family, private property, religion, and the fatherland.
And maybe that is the way it is, but all of it is tinged with fear and violence. It does not inspire trust, quite the contrary. It causes internal disintegration and makes me betray what I believe I believe in. On one hand I am ready to do the impossible for my loved ones, and at the same time everything that is not part of that small circle is my enemy. Of course I am going to justify that a thousand different ways. That justification will keep growing and suddenly I will find that war, killing, and control by fear are “necessary” because they are the enemies of “my fatherland” and my “beliefs” and everything that exists.
If anyone dares ask me how it is possible for all that to be justified, for the religion I profess to be one of “love and not hate,” or any other question that reveals my deep inner contradiction, I will respond with insults and more violence.
Curiously there is no religion on the planet that promotes hate in its original teachings; nevertheless, here we are, with the defenders of the faith armed to the teeth to protect something that was never even said.
One could say that this is all an absurdity, and of course it is. But we have gone past the limits of what can be said, and what we are facing is a disintegration that will not respond to anything anyone can say, or to any brainy analysis. This is something that is growing like a cancer and will keep weakening the social body until it destroys it. I am not exaggerating in the least. This social breakdown began decades ago, and we are now in the midst of one of the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced.
All the alarms in our short memory of history are going off and even the most cynical and the most optimistic silently know that we are going in the wrong direction.
I do not believe that anyone will be very happy with this quite brutal and apparently negative analysis, but unfortunately we find ourselves at a historical crossroads of immense proportions. This is not the moment for soft words or for denying what exists and where it is taking us. Nor is this the moment for statistics and intellectual justifications.
We need to observe and understand that this environment we live in that we call social has a lot to do with us. In reality it is almost impossible to separate the individual from society. The two are a structure, and must be understood structurally. It is in the structure itself that the problem of lack of truth, lack of faith, lack of trust is being generated. The individual and their environment feed each other and cannot be conceived separately, no matter how hard we try to imagine that.
I think and also want to believe that we can transform ourselves and transform our environment. I think and believe that it is possible to move in a unitive and growing direction. I’ve had internal flashes of recognition that push me strongly toward believing that it is possible not only to live with internal unity but also to act in the world as a transformative force.
To learn to treat others as I want to be treated is the most coherent way I can be in the world. It is something that gives me meaning and an ascending direction.
Then to learn to overcome suffering in myself, in those close to me, and in society.
To learn to resist the violence that is within me and outside of me.
Finally, to learn to recognize the signs of the sacred within me and around me.
In this way we can be in the world, in society, and learn to develop ourselves internally. It is important to understand that it is necessary to “learn.” This is not just a word, but carries within it a way of being in the world where learning is the key, where every day I ask myself what is important, where every day I try to learn as much as possible about myself and those around me. In some way I believe that this is a “path” that will lead us to a different society, one that is human, profound, and much truer.
Trust is the basis of all human relationships. If trust is lost, it is like losing the doors and windows of a house. If trust is built, then the future opens wide.
November 23, 2020
These images / drawings are from a collection called “Weekly Reflection”. Most of the time the text is related to the photo or the drawing and is a “poetic” interpretation of the image. All the images and drawings are made by Rafael Edwards, all the texts are created by Fernando Aránguiz and all the English translations by Trudi Richards.
If you want to be part of this project, send me an email.