June 24, 2008

Dan linked to these excerpts of a book called Waking Up by Charles T Tart. This quote nicely summarises a philosphy that has become more and more important to me over time.

Few of us may be in a position to have a decisive influence on world peace, but cultivation of our own inner resources can create peacefulness and effectiveness in action in ourselves and the people we come in contact with, and this can spread. As we attack those near us less and care for them more, we start to have effects on the kinds of political processes that need enemies for hidden psychological reasons. It is my hope that furthering the creation of inner peace in people will contribute to outer peace.

So being a nice person is a radical act in this world!

The only thing I have to to that add is that attempting to influence world peace or any other issue before we work on ourselves can often be ineffective or even counter productive as our actions are coloured by the need to ‘attack’ those around us.

I saw a great example of this recently. The unschooling list we’re on, which is usually a totally awesome list, started discussing vegetarianism and carbon footprinting. It was very clear from the discussion that the vegetarians and carbon footprinters assumed that they were occupying the moral high ground in these discussions. Leaving aside debate over whether they were right in the first place there were several things I noticed.

The first was the subtle coercive nature of the debate. In fact it wasn’t a debate to start with. No one argued against them until either myself or Karen began that side of the debate and then there was a flurry of responses from people who presumably felt they now had permission to give their ‘incorrect’ point of view.

The other thing that I noticed was that the proponents of these issues seemed to take a semi religious approach to vegetariansim or carbon footprinting. One person told me that angry responses were part of the normal process where people went through an anger stage before they get to the acceptance stage. It’s certainly true but what I didn’t say at the time is that sometimes anger is a stage people go through when someone is trying to lay a guilt trip on them and it usually passes as soon as that person backs off!

Anyway I’m sure most people feel really satisfied after they have told someone off for not being a vegetarian or a carbon foot printer but I’d really like it if they tried a different approach. And as I said at the time I’m not arguing against anyone being a vegetarian or a carbon footprinter – quite the contrary in fact – I encourage anyone who has strong beliefs in these areas to pursue them because what we need more than anything else in this world are people who follow their hearts. All I want is the space to be able to follow my heart too.



  1. I’m gonna get hold of some more Charles Tart soon, all his writings seem spot on. I’d singled out the bit you quoted as well for book notes ;0)

    Casemeau (who used to run living in a van down by the river) made a comment on something I showed him a few weeks back. It really hit home and relates exactly to what you’re saying about people “attacking” others in discussions:

    “We live in a culture of humiliation (at least I know this is true in mainstream USA).  It’s not enough to slam dunk the basketball during the game, an amazing physical feat which scores two more points for your team.  Now that is not good enough in itself.  Today the slam dunk is merely an excuse to verbally humiliate your opponent.  This is so accepted nowadays that we have a commonplace term for it: “trash talking.”  The commonplace term makes it all that more acceptable, until we barely remember that the scoring was the point, and coaches probably encourage their players to “trash talk,” excusing it as a way to gain an advantage in the contest.  Now I look around, and (because I am mostly outside and awake) I notice that even when it’s not a contest, humiliation is the value that is followed, usually without awareness.  I am house-sitting this week and so i have turned on the TV out of curiosity.  I am amazed (I know, I know, I shouldn’t be surprised anymore) at the humiliation ethic that lies behind the surface of so many of the commercials and programs.”

  2. Aaron,

    I just want to say, I think you do have an effect toward world peace. You are a true peace maker. I think if you ever find yourself in the movie “Its a wonderful Life” the movie would show you have an important impact.


  3. Dan, if you correspond with Casemeau, tell him I miss his blog!

    I’ve just recently cut off a friendship with 2 people due to humiliation issues. And the sad fact is it’s like Casemeau said – most of the time, I think that these people were unaware – it must have been so ingrained.

    I don’t think these people know how to act any different – just like an abused child growing up to be an abuser. They then humiliate others to make themselves feel better about their shortcomings (but I doubt it really works), just like an abuser does.

    Over the last couple of years, when things would get a bit out of hand with the people above, I would bring the issue up and tell them what they’re doing, but what did that get me? More humiliation! Usually comments said to other people behind my back.

    Often humiliation is also disguised as fooling around, or “just having a joke”. I find this the most insidious form, as any time I bring the person’s behaviour to their attention, it’s just shrugged off, or I’m accused of being too sensitive and everything’s stepped up a bit, rather like a fox going in for the kill on a weak lamb or something…

    Yeah, humiliation sux.

  4. Ian, it’s good to hear you’re taking action with some of these people.

    I know there is always pressure to be a ‘good’ person but I’m also aware that in our abusive culture the only thing that stops people from mistreating someone is if they think there are going to be repercussions for them. It’s why children are so mistreated, even by their parents, because they simply can’t fight back.

    It’s always a stressful moment to let people know there will be repercussions if they can’t control their behaviour but once we get through it it’s often plain sailing after that. The stupid thing is that they will genuinely respect us after we kick up a fuss – so long as they perceive the threat to be genuine that is.

    I know this sounds like I think we should just descend into playing by civilisation’s rules but it’s also important to take care of out psychological well being too – which means stopping the humiliation first and perhaps cleaning up the mess afterwards.

    Years ago I found that once I started making people treat me well I seemed to start carrying myself differently because the problems came up less and less – until it was only happening with my bosses at work. That went on for a while longer until someone gave me a piece of advice at the right moment and it was like a switching a light on – I instantly stopped giving my bosses the signal they could walk all over me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: