Monday, June 23, 2014

Ignite the Flame of Empathy

I'm burned up about the state of our state, our nation and our planet.
I’m burned out as an activist because I don't seem to have the power to change it.

What is wrong with our leaders? Why don't they care? What is missing that they can be bought by the highest bidder, and lose their humanity?"

In 2006, when I wrote the Chalice Reading that I read earlier, I was in a more idealistic place. Back then, I had faith in UU's spiritual consciousness to lead.

The Great Turning. That's the book with the same title that UU’s read and discussed in our social action workshops. David Korten inspired us to develop Earth Community to turn our government away from corporate domination for wealth and world power to cooperation and partnership with the people.

I recognize significant gains over the past 8 years — more activists, and more progressive organizations speaking truth to power. UUs have become national leaders:
  1. Congregation-based Community Organizations like P.E.A.C.E. have become recognized as a force for social justice all over the country
  2. UUA adopted Move to Amend as an issue of immediate witness
  3. UU FL Legislative Justice is organizing state-wide

But, things haven’t changed much. In fact, things are much worse!
1. Our voices fall on deaf ears. They are drowned out by the Old Boy network at Tea Parties. 
2. Officials are blind to the pain of the poor, and they don't even mention them anymore. (If you don't say homeless, it doesn't exist). 
 3. I became one of the "less fortunate" by functioning as a default safety  net  for my family. I now know the desperation of austerity firsthand.
4. Survival of the fittest mentality rules and the people lose. There's a lack of empathy: concern for others and the common good. There's failure to live by the Golden Rule.
5. Macho politicians, like adolescent bullies, exalt their virility by scoffing at empathy. They can’t believe that austerity kills, that they might be vulnerable someday. They act as if only the lazy become sick, disabled, old, or destitute.
6.  They "man up," cut social programs and ridicule people served by them as weak "takers", needing a "nanny state."
7. We reap what we sow; austerity breeds deprivation and anger. Starving people grab the bread first and run with it. They learn survival, not care about others.
8.  Empathy is equated with feminine softness and surrender. Many men hate that in themselves –- it might mean they are gay. Women too –- it leads to exploitation

Instead of a Great Turning, we have its opposite –- a patriarchal plutocracy — government fascism for the rich. One of the best placards I have seen at a protest rally read, “The last time the government cared about me, I was a fetus!”

The mission of separation of church and state has drifted from not allowing the state to dictate individual religious beliefs — to an abdication by the state of humanitarian obligations: empathy, caring, morality and honesty in its laws and policies. George HW Bush praised the charity of the church (little points of light and hope) while his party dismantled government funding for social programs.
Separation of church and state has devolved into a destructive, artificial division of functioning along gender stereotypes (Riane Eisler introduced this in The Chalice and the Blade)

The church manifests the feminine: a model of empathy, spirituality and morality, symbolized by the Earth Mother, nurturer of all life with compassion and care, a maker of peace.

The state identifies with the masculine: the epitome of power, practicality, and action, symbolized by the hero warrior, strict father judge of law and order. (But not provider/ protector for family. Why?)

Capitalism allies with the masculine in big business -- the military-industrial-financial-media complex –- to produce, make money and profit, exploit resources, and dominate the world.

This division is depicted on the cover of the order of service. When I first looked at it, I was struck by how the artist read my mind because he used the new digital logo of the UUA chalice to symbolize UUs, and empathy. To me, it looked like a symbol of the feminine, as well. Is it synchronicity that the new logo came out just as I was writing this? Could there be a more fitting symbol for the power of peace?

The bags of money symbolize the money-driven materialism and greed of unbridled capitalism. The money weighs in more heavily than empathy, UU’s and all the other churches and points of light trying to help humanity. There is an imbalance, so justice will never come out of the “feminine” being separate and unequal to the “masculine.” They have to balance each other.

What can we do as UUs do? I have named the problems and possible solutions:

All people should strive for empathy as a mature strength, necessary for humans to function, thrive, and flourish.

Give more weight and value to feminine power. Home economics – - the production of goods and services in the home –- should count in the
economy. There needs to be a balance and sharing between the two.

Integrate empathy, in business and government for greater social/ethical responsibility Do not keep it separate or compartmentalized.

Open our minds to empathize with our opposites. Try on their ideas. Discuss differences. Recognize that staying in the circles of the liberal mind can miss the protection of conservative boundaries that could prevent bleeding our hearts and resources to death. For order and balance, we should meet in the middle.

Put teeth into Standing on the Side of Love, not just stand, but act. Hold officials accountable to serve the people. Get involved. Demand integrity. Make moral issues out of austerity policies, start class action legal suits against legislators who endorse unequal protection of citizens.

Recognize and reward empathy in people, especially in our leaders. Consider it an essential dimension of emotional health for good
relationships, marriage, intimacy, political leadership, or government office.

Live the UU principles. Empathy and the capacity to love is on a higher level of spiritual connection needed for a good life and good government.

Feed our own empathy. Listen to others from the heart. Resonate with the negatives they are experiencing. Validate their experience, share our own, extend a hand. Facilitate their connections to help if necessary. Be present with them. Empathy is what we do best.

Empathy and connection to you as a community of friends who care and work with me, beside me, and behind me sustains me through dark times, and keeps me going. Thank you for fanning the embers of passion to keep it alive.

Ignite the Flame of Empathy, a sermon delivered at 1stUUPB by Judy Kraft on June 22, 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment