First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Our culture suffers from a serious malady: social myopia. We believe our self-reliance to be greater than our reliance on fellow men. We think of ourselves as lone islands rather than contiguous continents.
Our independent mind is a serious insult to our social consciousness. We see ourselves as independent from our fellow man. As social creatures, we are a product of our society: every facet, good and bad. Every individual is a cell apart of communities. Together we are the tissues that comprise the institutional organs of the greater organism that is our country and world. To see other people’s problems as though they are independent of ours is to deny the makeup your consciousness: you are an amalgam of inherited traditions—of thoughts and beliefs— passed down through long histories of struggle. To deny someone else’s struggle is to deny the origin of your own traditions, to deny the genesis of your strength.
“Some legislators only wish to vengeance against a particular enemy. Others only look out for themselves. They devote very little time on the consideration of any public issue. They think that no harm will come from their neglect. They act as if it is always the business of somebody else to look after this or that. When this selfish notion is entertained by all, the commonwealth slowly begins to decay. ”
The notion of competition has been distorted: our primary enemy is ourselves. True success is contingent upon overcoming yourself, not others. The process of overcoming personal weakness is transcendental; it allows us to evolve towards a higher plane of consciousness, a plane that becomes a new plenum of human potential that others can look to for inspiration, for overcoming their own situation, their own weakness.
Society is a product of mutual affections, a creation of collaboration. The cliche still stands: you are as strong as your weakest link. When we see the failures of others, and fail to improve their condition by extending a hand, in the form of loving counsel or generous support or wise words, we become the failure: we embody the problem.
Occupy wall street is our problem. Poverty is our problem. Crime is our problem. People are our problem. The social world is as much of the objective reality we live in as any other natural phenomenon. We create the world we live in by improving upon the condition of humanity. We enlarge this world through dialogue, through humble understanding, through empathetic motives to improve our condition by improving the condition of others, by subjugating our hubris, our insecure ego, and realizing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You are a part, I am a part, society is the whole, life is the whole, quality living is the whole. We must elevate the parts if we are to realize the greatness of the whole.
If we want to fully awaken humanity we must first fully awaken ourselves, said Tzu. Be the change you see in the world, said Ghandi. We must be salt unto the earth, said Jesus.
Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.
—Haile Selassie I Of Ethiopia