I’ve been concerned with identity politics and PC culture lately. I don’t quite know why, maybe it’s that I’m seeing in the outside world, in groups, the same kind of dynamics of fear, control, and suppression that the ego uses on a personal level.
I’ve been noticing that my attention has been liberated from the narrow introspective view that dominated my life for so long as a spiritual seeker, and I’m now more aware of the ‘outside world’, social dynamics, ideology, politics, etc. I’m noticing that those with ideological agendas of all stripes are working hard to impose them on others, infiltrating schools, colleges, government, media. In fact anywhere they can. It’s funny that I never really noticed it before, I was like some kind of spiritual ostrich with my head buried deeply in my own contemplative sand. Waking up, I find my head unplugged and unburied, my eyes are open! And what I see is the destructive power and effects of identification and strong views, grasped tightly.
At the heart of all this dysfunction is fear. Fear of the groundlessness at the heart of our being. But the fear itself is groundless, it’s simply a result of the mind projecting into an imagined void. Beyond the fear, beyond the imagined and threatening possibility of our own personal extinction, beyond the vulnerability of our contingent and impermanent identifications lies our essential ever-present nature. But if we continue to turn away from fear in regard to our own self-exploration then we miss the great opportunity, the discovery the greater part of ourselves, Being itself.
The present culture of offence, outrage, safe spaces, speech and thought control, is the very antithesis of intellectual and moral courage and integrity. It boxes us in, it narrows our possibilities, it gives fear dominion over our existence and expression. The misplaced moral certitude and the resulting righteous anger and indignation are a seductive and heady trade-off for the ongoing and sometimes challenging journey of self-discovery. An easily indulged hit of outrage and self-righteousness is a temporary salve and a distraction from the intuitive recognition of our fundamental powerlessness. Ideological grasping comes at a high cost – how many must be wrong for one to be right? How much of the world must be pacified and controlled to protect one’s fearful sensibilities? How many voices must be stifled in the name of one’s emotional comfort? The indulgence of such fear tyrannises the world.
I contend that the solution to these problems lies not in holding tightly to untenable certainties, or to seeking identities in ever narrowing conceptions, or by defining ourselves simply by that which we oppose, or by blind loyalty to comforting ideologies that fail to withstand the scrutiny of sincere and honest critical analysis, as all do ultimately.
I implore all to seek truth not expediency, to suspend judgment indefinitely, to welcome uncertainty, to breathe through the fear of unknowing, to resist premature intellectual and moral resolution and judgment, to seek ever-widening and ever-deepening context, and to exercise compassion and kindness to the extent of one’s capacity to do so.
We are a work in progress, we need room for change and growth. We must reject the hubris and the expectation of certainties. Trust in our essential goodness and wisdom. And if that’s too much to ask, then consider it as a hypothesis to be explored. Above all we need to admit to and contend with our own fear. Resisting or acting-out both sustain it. By allowing it to be, by accepting its presence as it comes and by seeing that it inevitably passes, we lessen its power over us and ultimately free ourselves from the affliction of strong emotions. Between suppression and indulgence lies the middle way – let it be, let it pass, let it go. And yes, this takes courage, but we have more capacity for experiencing that we imagine.
The fruits of this freedom are peace, clarity, a gentle power, and a spontaneous, intuitive, living ethic; responsive and unfettered from the limitations of any calcified dogma or ideology. On this basis we become free to participate meaningfully, wisely, and compassionately in the human adventure.