Black lives and all lives matter; Earth Day; the impact one person can have on society; by being afraid of death we stop living. This week in Before The Weekend, I decided to take a break from the world of business and instead focused more on societal and philosophical topics. Do let me know if you want more of this kind of reflection.
Black lives and all lives matter!
This week the policeman who killed George Floyd was found guilty of murder. That decision released an enormous tension that had built up, in the USA and far beyond. As if the judgment by the jury was more a symbol of further liberation of and respect for the black race, than a judgment itself.
I was wondering how it is possible that in 2021, there is still so much racial inequality in the US. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the USA has, unfortunately, a very long history with slavery. Meaning that this was a normal part of the economy and the way white people looked at black people.
I have difficulties understanding and accepting that in 2021, with all the progress in technology, science, ecology and society, massive amounts of people are still being discriminated against, simply because of their race or ethnicity.
And it’s not just black people:
- The Rohingya people in Myanmar
- The Uyghur people in China
- The Romani people in Western Europe
- Indigenous Australians in Australia
The point I am making?
Differences are differences: we’re not all the same. And that’s fine! It’s actually interesting. We can learn from our differences. Discrimination, however, is never OK.
What is keeping us from stopping racism?
April 22nd was the 51st Earth Day, an international event celebrated around the world to pledge support for environmental protection.
Earthday.org’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970, earthday.org is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 75,000 partners in over 192 countries to drive positive action for our planet.
As such the initiative is great and I support it. At the same time, it’s kind of cynical that we have to celebrate an annual Earth Day to remember how important our planet is … for us. We are only temporarily occupants of the planet and should leave it in a much better shape than we found it. Not for ourselves, but for the coming generations.
Let me share a piece of text that Chief Seattle wrote in 1854 for his people, the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes:
“The president in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky, the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.”
Unfortunately, it turned out differently and up to today we, humans, believe that we own the planet, the ecosystems, the sky and the earth minerals. That we can slaughter animals as we see fit and as it pleases us.
And because we are still messing up our planet, we need to become aware the hard way. Maybe the current pandemic is part of that tough lesson? COVID probably won’t be the last pandemic or crisis as long as we don’t start to act drastically different, in full respect of our planet and the ecosystems.
The impact one person can have on society
This week USA President Biden held a virtual climate summit. His intention is to take the USA back into the Paris climate agreements and to let the USA take a leading and exemplary role in the much-needed climate transition.
I am using his decision as an interesting example of how one person can make a massive difference in the world, for the world. I have always been intrigued by the way people use their power and how this reflects the kind of vision they have.
It gets dangerous when that power is fueled by self-centeredness, narrow-mindedness, lack of consciousness, short-term thinking, greed, … This can lead to very negative outcomes. It’s obvious in people like Trump or Hitler, but this also plays a role when someone like Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, fails to respond appropriately to the persecution of the Muslim Rohingya minority in her country. There are business leaders, artists, philosophers, writers and even scientists, who have had a similar negative impact on society.
On the other hand, we also have many great examples of people that have used power & influence in a positive way:
- Nelson Mandela, despite his race and decades in prison
- Simone Veil, despite her being a woman
- Bill & Melinda Gates, despite them being billionaires
- Mo Ibrahim, despite being African and coming from simple background
- Greta Thunberg, despite being a child and autistic
- Malala Yousafzai, despite being a child and having been shot
So, it’s not who you are, but what you do with the influence and power you have.
By being afraid of death we stop living
It occurs to me that many people around me are doing OK, are getting on with their lives, have a solid job or a successful business, have good relationships and are in good health. And yet, they’re not truly happy. I found this confrontational and looked at my own life, and even though I’m doing very well in most areas of my life, there still seems to be something holding me back. This is a new experience for me.
What is going on with us?
In psychology we, humans, are placed on a spectrum from flourishing to depression. Flourishing is when you are in flow, have energy, feel great and are on top of your game. Depression on the other hand is feeling worthless, useless, drained… Those are the extremes of the spectrum.
Sociologist Corey Keynes, came up with the concept of languishing, a place in the zone between depression and flourishing. It feels like living with the breaks on.
It’s no surprise that the pandemic is keeping us in this zone:
- We are afraid of dying, because we or people around us are sick or perhaps they even passed away
- We are confined and our freedom is taken away
- We have no idea of what is still coming in the coming months or even years
This creates a bizar mix of confusion, fear and uncertainty and this leads to that feeling of languishing. It’s as if we are in a void.
So how do we get out of that void?
We have to do something different than what we have been doing. For me these are the things that help:
- Meditation and physical activity
- Accepting that I do have this feeling and not push it away
These things help me look beyond the current situation and see that at some point, we will go back to some form of normality. It gives me positive thoughts of what my future life can look like.
Maybe this weekend, you can reflect on whether you are also in a state of languishing and if so, what you can do with this new knowledge.