Giving thanks for the people and things we have should do more than just make us feel good. How many people think about what actually got us here, what we have, what we need, and what we need to do to keep it. Not just for ourselves, but for our children and future generations.
By Chuck Woolery, Activist, not the TV Host.
While overeating is in our DNA, discussing politics during Thanksgiving is more likely to end a family gathering than a heart attack (and more likely to kill future holiday get togethers). Maybe I’m thinking of myself, but it seems odd that in our nation with freedom of speech is in our first Amendment, it is our freedom to speak about important issues that gets imprisoned by fear at the Thanksgiving table.
Fear of emotional rejection or assault on our long-held ideas and ideals that we appear to value more than learning the truth about the world and why it seems to be heading toward a zombie apocalypse.
We seem to hold any challenge to our opinions and mental concepts as an attack on who we are. We then separate ourselves from people who undermine our self-image that is more closely tied to our mental concepts and political party/clan/tribe than to our blood relatives or long-time friends.
Mixed partisan political couples like Mary Matalin and James Carville appear to handle extreme mental differences well. What is going on with those who don’t?
A reasonable hypothesis was offered decades ago by a deep thinker who wanted to understand why humans were so unhappy in a world of unprecedented freedom, security and comforts. He suggested that perhaps sometime after we became civilized our minds original purpose (keeping us safe, fed and fruitful) essentially lost its job. Instead of protecting our bodies and our future, it started defending concepts and ideals, believing these were the key to survival, which often was true. But with larger civilizations adopting or adapting concepts that reduced risks (real or imagined), those who questioned the concepts were disdained or ejected from the clan.
This could be the origins of the first religions, communities, and/or political parties. Eventually, kingdoms and nations were created. And larger numbers of people were willing to kill and die for their religious/economic beliefs, their different appearances, and/or their symbolic flags/artificial borders.
So our identity moved away from what we were original committed to protecting (ourselves and our closest family) to protecting concepts that may or may-not now be useful to the larger human family.
Matalin and Carville have learned to be the master of their minds and bodies. It appears too many of us have minds that are masters of how we see ourselves. Matalin and Carville use their minds for solving real world problems instead of creating relationship problems by seeing each other as a threat, or the enemy.
There’s even a bigger picture we must all acknowledge for health and survival of mind, body and spirit. It’s the big picture. It was offered in our Declaration of Independence as an ideal picture ruled by “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God”. The writers of that Declaration also recognized our habitual talent for suffering evils while they are sufferable, but they offered us another path. A path that holds certain truths that are beyond debate. Unfortunately, our minds prefer to take the bait of arguing over immediate problems and partisan principles instead of a reasoned examination of sustainable systems and structures that have been engineered using fundamental principles.
We debate about the sanity of having guns or nuclear weapons or the insanity of not protecting the very health of our home planet’s environment which risks the foundation of our own immediate health and all future wealth.
We believe our selection of candidates once every two or four years is more important than our daily selection of items, we consume 365 days a year. There is some truth to the suggestion that if you want to know what you really value, don’t look at your voting record. Read your check book ledger or your on-line purchasing log. We seem to put more effort and expense into feeling good and looking good than doing good or being good. At least today we get to examine what we are really thankful for. I hope most of us will reference all those who came before us with their inventions, discoveries, sacrifices and dedicated service.
We will never know many of their names or stories, but we can know and appreciate the amazing world they left us. Like us, I’m guessing that they wanted their lives to matter. But unlike them, it is we who have the unprecedented technological, political, and economic power to do great things if that is what we are committed to (instead of feeling good or looking good).
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After we recover from our bountiful dinners, I’m hoping people will find the best way to use our unprecedented powers. Including our mental powers. Examining systemic causes instead of just reacting to structural problems is desperately needed. Gun deaths (approximately 60% suicides and 3% mass shootings), opioid deaths (more American deaths in 2017 than 10 years of war in Vietnam and 17 years in Afghanistan and Iraq combined), 30% obesity rate (highest US rate ever), and growing unsustainable income inequality, each suggest something in our culture and political system is off. Our government systems and structures are failing us, unable to keep up with the changes accelerated by advances in technologies. Increasingly powerful and affordable technologies with virtually no effective systemic capacity for meaningful global regulation or prohibition.
Our nation’s political foundation is largely responsible for many of the comforts and freedoms we value. But, now they are largely a liability or a sickness. The very foundation of our health and wealth comes from our sun (a perfect distance from earth), our climate and natural water and weather systems that evolved over millions of years providing fertile soil, clean water, relatively clean air, and natural environmental cleaning systems through decomposition of dead things and living body discharges.
So be thankful for the flush toilets! And the engineers that use the laws of nature to effectively dispose of our completely digested turkey and pumpkin pie. And the soils and forests teaming with yet undiscovered life forms working tirelessly to bring us an abundance of healthy food. Your vote might matter. But your purchases are a vote for more of whatever you buy. Remember that nature always gets the last vote! If we are not wise it will eventually vote against us.
Be thankful we still have a choice in improving the quality of all life for all thanksgivings yet to come. And then do more than just feel good. Insist that your elected U.S. Representative and both Senators find means to effectively fund the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This is the one thing that would actually do the most good, for all the things we need and are thankful for. And the need is increasingly urgent.