This morning, with my coffee, I flipped on the kitchen TV to see if there were any significant news. The local station and all the corporate channels had nothing but drivel about football and other inconsequential topics. Then I switched to Aljazeera, and found a panel discussion about the lasting importance of Pete Seeger’s 80-odd years of activism. And it struck me that Aljazeera is the only news source that tells the truth, because it is not controlled by US corporations. I suspected at first it might broadcast Islamist propaganda—so it had been portrayed by American media. No, they broadcast uncensored news, and occasionally portray ordinary Muslim families as hard-working, law-abiding, compassionate people, like all the Muslims I know, and like most of the human race. At this moment Aljazeera is praising the work of a “comic-book journalist” who tells the truth about the human condition.
I was given marching orders by my Higher Power at age 14 to spend my life in pursuit of truth. That was not the result of any virtue or decision on my part; it was merely necessary to save my life. I thus have always found it difficult to understand people who don’t care about truth, who waste their lives pursuing wealth, fame, and power, the three temptations in the wilderness as taught in that haggadah.
I had the blessing of going to high school in Mill Valley with red-diaper babies, kids of Communist families; my father, a career military intelligence officer, had by then seen through the hypocrisy of anti-Communist propaganda; and I have been further blessed by knowing many Socialists, especially Jewish Socialists, during my life. I once commented to Nancy Schimmel, the daughter of Bud and Malvina Reynolds, how hard it was for an ethnic Catholic like me to comprehend the spirituality of atheists who celebrate the Seder. She just laughed and said, “Yep, that’s us.” Socialism is truly the fifth (or sixth) branch of Judaism.
What we the 98% are facing is what Scott Peck called the “People of the Lie,” who are the source of almost all human evil (not that there is any other kind). To care nothing about truth is to be mentally ill, since a common-sense definition is that mental illness comprises all mental states that reduce our ability to deal with reality. The worst such states are not those induced by substances, but those induced by toxic belief systems, such as belief in Creationism, Biblical inerrancy, or unregulated free-market capitalism. One wonders why ordinary people continue to elect the toadies of those who exploit them. Someone recently pointed out that such people vote out of fear; believing the lies of the toadies, they fear that electing the Democrats, the liberals, let alone socialists or the Green Party, would make their lives even worse.
My heart resonates to the words of the prophet Joshua the Nazarene, as saved for us in the Gospel of Thomas: “My soul ached for the children of humanity, because they are blind in their hearts and do not see, for they came into the world empty, and they also seek to depart from the world empty. But meanwhile they are drunk. When they shake off their wine, then they will change their ways.”
We are shackled by the wine of ignorance, by invincible ignorance, by the “mind-forged manacles” Blake identified in “London.” In AA we know that we have been blessed in having been forced by our alcoholism, in order not to die, to face the truth about the human condition and to live lives of rigorous honesty. I have believed for most of my life that humans cannot be rescued from our common misery until a majority have achieved the Awakening that Joshua hoped for us. Too few in the foreseeable future will be gifted with the riotous bliss of a full awakening, but anyone who realizes that life itself is inherently unmanageable can choose to undertake the sort of spiritual discipline enabled by the Twelve Steps and achieve a spiritual awakening of the “educational variety.”
I commented at a recent meeting that Bill Wilson’s own awakening has saved more millions of lives than anyone has counted. Few people in history have done as much good. If he had been Catholic, he’d be eligible for canonization, having inspired more miracles than almost any of the known saints.
What can you do to help? What can I do? At least, refuse to give tacit consent to the lies of the greedy and selfish. Do not be silent. Sing and speak for freedom, for equality, for justice, as Pete Seeger did for his entire life. Remember the original Jewish and Christian belief that only God’s friends will be resurrected. I know a story in which Gimpel says to the Rabbi, “Rabbi, why are the rich so blessed, so healthy and happy, when they observe no commandments. We, who observe the commandments, are poor and miserable. Where is the justice in that?”
The Rabbi replies, “Gimpel, don’t begrudge them. This is all they get.”