by Barbara Kaufmann
So, how to save the planet? Save humanity? “The problem is too big; the task is too overwhelming.” This chorus of anguish can be heard echoing from every corner of the globe. Along with the refrain “But I am only one person!” So what is there to do... resign to fate? To disappear from existence?
There was another time when the problem was worldwide, the danger also too great, the challenge too overwhelming—the cold war and nuclear arms race pointed to an even quicker extinction. Should a war begin and retaliation ensue (MAD-ness prevailed then too—“Mutually Assured Destruction”) the resulting nuclear winter would impact all life as we know it on the planet if not extinguish all species including the human race. Big governments, in the grip of a competitive insanity, kept flexing their military muscles and expanding their arsenals until the whole world cowered in fear and a generation, sensing doom and a life spam to end before age 30, began to rock the boat, to angrily demand an end to the arms race and to war.
They gathered on campuses, in houses of government, in capitals of a nation, they poured into the streets and they demanded an end to the insanity; they dug in their heels, hunkered down and prepared for the long haul. They took over and occupied buildings, and holding an older and mute generation and its leaders hostage, refused to leave until their voices were heard. They used megaphones against megatons and pop music against apoplexy. They understood the stakes to be nothing less than the planet and the survival of the human race. They coalesced until they became one voice, one mission—to love humanity into loving itself. Perhaps enough to even save itself.
Many organized loudly and many more organized quietly to “think globally and act locally” knowing that where the people lead, the leaders will follow. They asked “what if they gave a war and nobody came?” Citizen diplomacy emerged. If our governments did not know how to behave themselves, our citizenry did. People organically coagulated, organizations began to rise up from the masses. Eddies began to stir in the oceanic problems—war, racial and ethnic marginalization, civil rights and human rights as advocates began to mobilize—first a trickle, then a river and soon a tidal wave for change would sweep across the landscape.
(~Slogan “think globally, act locally” origin unknown but attributed to many from Yoko Ono to the Friends of the Earth to the Conference on Human Environment.) (“What if they gave a war and nobody came? ~Historical reference: Carl Sandburg; modern reference: Leslie Parrish, spouse of author Richard Bach.)
One such organization was the Sister Cities initiative and within that global project, partnerships began to form. One city, my city, requested a partnership with a city in the Soviet Union. Many more cities filed similar declarations, memorandums of understanding, until there were multiple partnerships among those previously declared “enemies.” When people begin to dialogue and share stories, their shared humanity becomes evident and the ego recedes as the heart engages. These partnerships eventually began to take on the task of the decommissioning of weapons of mass destruction. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." (~ Margaret Mead.)
Activism in the past has always meant pushing back against something, and while there are times that is still true and needed, it is refreshing to push for something positive; it’s a joy to, instead of scolding for irresponsible behavior, applaud humanity and encourage its progress like a giddy cheerleader. It’s exhilarating instead of draining to showcase humanity’s bright shadow instead of dragging its shadow elements into center stage. It means for the first time in history we can lobby for, instead of fight against, something we can all agree on. It’s a much different feeling, a much different experience. It’s the stuff of miracle-making as it brings together like minded and magnanimous human beings whom have waited far too long in the green room to get to the stage where “the world” is playing.
The means of organizing a group of thoughtful committed citizens who can change the world has never been so easy as it is at this moment; we have immediate method, means and opportunity. Geography does not get in the way; travel does not impede progress. We now know the methodology for creating sweeping change—critical mass. We have the means—the Internet and technology. We even have the opportunity and the will for a movement. And we have discovered the formula for a phenomenon—a viral meme entered into pop culture.
That other ingredient of resignation—the excuse that “I am only one person” no longer stands up. Stanislav Petrov was only one person that you may have never heard of, but he is the reason we are all still here, for Stanislav saved the world all by himself. He was alone in a bunker at a time when cold war tensions were at their highest and had within his grasp, the means to end the world. But reasons and sanity prevailed and we are here thanks to an obscure Russian man, once considered an “enemy.” http://voiceseducation.org/content/stanislav-yevgrafovich-petrov-not-my-watch
Karen Armstrong is only one woman. But look what she set in motion. This one woman, who had already impacted the world as an author, gave a TED talk about her wish to conceive a “Charter for Compassion” that would work for everyone, for every faith, and group and nation. She found herself winner of the annual TED award which gave her the seed money to go out and collect knowledge, gather hearts and build her dream. It just may turn out that Karen’s dream is the key to salvation of both race and planet, for the chain that links humanity is... compassion; and it’s now a chain reaction.
The Charter for Compassion is growing faster than staff can keep up. When people talk to people and explain what the charter is about, nobody ever complains. Nobody ever diminishes the potential impact of compassion-in-action. Moist eyes light up when people are given the news that hope is alive and back on the planet in the form of an exponentially growing movement toward compassionate interaction among and between human beings.
Nobody is unwelcome and everybody is invited. And when given the growth rate: a factor of about 4 within about as many months; more than 700 organizations have joined; there are currently more than 200 cities and many more applications to process; Botswana has applied and become the first compassionate country, with others not far behind; the Charter is organically coalescing into circles whose force is than the sum of their parts. Not only that, but compassion is fun with people joining compassion games and compassion relays—and in this game, everybody wins. Begin a conversation with the uninitiated about the Charter, and watch the breathing get deeper, the body soften, the eyes begin to sparkle and a smile take shape at the corners of the mouth before erupting into a full blown grin.
If you ask: “What are you feeling right now?” whatever the answer, it will contain the word “hope.” The usual response is “Wow, that is so wonderful!” No one has ever said “Sorry, I’m not interested.” They usually ask “where can I find this charter?” before I can give them the website. I just tell them to put “Charter for Compassion” in their search window because their minds are already racing toward the new and brighter future. ‘Another world is on her way; on a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’ ~Arundhati Roy. I look forward to the day soon, when I will be able to say to a newcomer: Just google ‘Compassion’—it’s trending.”
Well, here we are. We find ourselves together at that place called hope and the meet up called “The Charter for Compassion.” So it seems the ones we have been waiting for have arrived. Turns out it’s us. We join hands an enlightening and enlivening collective dance destined to change the world. Together our hands make it a better place. This is your world. This is your party. You are a dance from the stars and are now dancing with the stars. In fact, you are the stars you are dancing with. And this is only the first dance, the music has just begun, the celebration is just getting started. Time for you to decide what character you will play, grab a costume and dress for the party. First you’ll want to dance; then you’ll realize not only do you have the heart, the mind and the courage, but the bricks are already yellow where you stand. You’ll recognize you make the magic, that we are the wizard and together we create that brighter world—a new more compassionate home to go home to. Wearing your red shoes?
Welcome home, Dorothy.