I’m a spiritual teacher, not a political nerd. I generally keep my politics separate from my spiritual teachings — until I see the two colliding so dramatically that I can’t help but comment. I’m also feeling compelled to speak out because of how many people in my spiritual circle, when asked their thoughts on political turns of events, respond that they don’t pay attention to politics.
I understand it. For those of us intent on meditating into a peaceful state, politics is a rough and crude vibration. For those of us who have turned to spirituality as a balm for our heightened sensitivities to the world around us, politics can be the worst of allergens. And some of us have simply given up because we don’t see politics changing anything. For all of you who have tuned out of politics for one reason or another, this is the time to tune back in — and here’s why.
People from radically different backgrounds and for different reasons seem to agree that something monumental is about to happen and perhaps is already happening. Many economists are predicting an extreme global economic crash this coming year — bigger than in 2008. Historian and political commentator Thom Hartmann wrote a whole book about this next year, The Crash of 2016, putting together the pieces of why this kind of crash is very possible. Storms, droughts, fires and other environmental incidents are growing more extreme and environmentalists are becoming increasingly dire in their predictions for the very near future.
But not all predictions are dire. Well-known economist and futurist Jeremy Rifkin speculates that the increasing availability of free stuff enabled by the internet is quickly leading to an era of nearly free goods and services that will eclipse capitalism, resulting in heightened quality of life for masses of people. (He explains in this fascinating talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-iDUcETjvo.) Many metaphysical seers are calling this year a powerful turning point in humanity’s evolution, suggesting that we’ve collectively reached a tipping point where there are now enough of us aligned with a high vibration of love to tip the planet in a new, better direction.
We live in the midst of a paradigm change. The old order is made up of hierarchical power structures where small groups at the top control — and often exploit — everyone else. The emerging, new order is an egalitarian form of empowerment, made up of connected communities, both local and global, working cooperatively for the benefit of all. This is no futuristic utopian fantasy; it’s already happening in countless contexts as a result of the heightened connectivity afforded by the internet and the sheer numbers of us who are now connected.
Think, for example, of the huge amounts of information available to us through the internet. Organizing infrastructures such as Google and Wikipedia have put libraries full of knowledge literally in the palm of anyone with a smart phone. This instant access to information, that was impossible just short decades ago, is created by countless individuals contributing small bits of information into various organizing and delivery infrastructures.
There are now endless examples of this kind of resource sharing. It gutted established music and publishing industries as individuals became able to take their work directly to the public without any intermediary. Entrepreneur and best-selling author Lisa Gansky describes in her book, The Mesh–Why the Future of Business is Sharing, how cooperative resource-sharing is the hot new business model.
This is the emerging new order. It’s one where individuals are empowered beyond anything we’ve previously known through small efforts contributed by masses of us into an organizing infrastructure. It’s win/win; it’s easy; it’s the virtually limitless power of all of us together. Thomas W. Malone, of MIT, established the Center for Collective Intelligence to study this new phenomenon, suggesting that the “hive mind” of millions of people and millions of computers all connected to one another just might be able to “act more intelligently than any individual, group or computer has ever done before” and solve such collective problems as climate change. This new model of collective power is already replacing many hierarchical power structures that not so long ago seemed inevitable — and it’s already begun to change us.
This brings us to the upcoming election. In spite of many fast, heady changes coming via our quickly evolving technology, the old, hierarchical power structures are still alive and well — perhaps stronger than ever in a last-gasp struggle for control. We see it playing out with a vengeance in our political system.
Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in 2010 (in the “Citizens United” case) corporations may now pour an unlimited amount of money into elections. This, combined with high public apathy and low voter turn-out, means elections can easily be bought by the highest bidder. With less than a 40 percent turnout, is it any wonder that in 2012 we saw a wave of ultraconservative Tea Party candidates elected who were heavily funded by billionaires? They vote for billionaire interests while speaking to the sensibilities of easily mobilized fringe groups: anti-gay, anti-brown, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, etc. Many of these candidates were voted in by as little as 18 or 19 percent of eligible voters.
We are surely at a cusp where the bad is getting worse while the wave to rise above it is getting stronger, and this dynamic is clearly evident in the scramble toward the 2016 election. Perfectly representing the extreme of old-order power is Donald Trump, telling us that he will fix everything and will run the country as an effective CEO, just as he has run his companies. He claims not to be bought because he can fund himself — in other words, he is at the very top of the hierarchical power chain. Of course, a CEO is basically a dictator who requires obedience from all beneath him, and while efficiency is of the highest priority, the beneficiaries of this efficiency are the small leader class, not the large employee class.
Then there’s Ben Carson, with a quiet, hypnotic voice that makes voter suppression laws sound reasonable because, as he puts it, voting should only be “done by the appropriate people.” He doesn’t rouse us or promise to take care of us; he just lulls us into lethargy and sleep.
On the Democratic side, one of the two front runners is Hillary Clinton who, though still significantly funded by old-order, big-business money, is promising to fight for many populist causes. As an experienced insider, she makes an excellent case for being the one best able to do battle with the old-order powers that have created political deadlock throughout Obama’s presidency. She is the seasoned, democratic pit bull ready to fight hard within a stagnant system for realistic results.
In contrast, Bernie Sanders refuses big industry money and is funded largely by small, individual donations and labor union support. More significantly, Sanders has made it clear that the power to change doesn’t reside in him — it’s in all of us together. In the first democratic debate, he was the only candidate who never once used the word “I” in his opening introduction. Even when speaking of his own campaign, he tends to say “we.” He is calling for a movement, a “revolution,” driven by everyone stepping up together.
Bernie Sanders isn’t a brash and entertaining reality TV star like Donald Trump, nor the handsome, charismatic “rock star” that Barack Obama was eight years ago. He’s not the polished and high-powered Hillary Clinton ready to break the gender barrier as our first woman president. He’s just another old, white guy. In fact, he’s known for being rumpled, curmudgeonly and none too charming. So what does he have that’s drawing the crowds, especially younger people?
Perhaps it’s that he’s speaking to something that has already collectively shifted within us. Perhaps he is asking us to tap a power source that we’ve already begun to take for granted in other contexts: the power of all of us together. Maybe it’s because he’s offering a path so simple that it requires nothing more than large numbers of us making tiny contributions; or because his message — that we can accomplish any magnitude of change together — is the purest representation among the current presidential hopefuls of the new order. And because, unlike 2008, now we’ve reached the Tipping Point.
The revolution that Sanders describes doesn’t require a pit bull, a rock star or an authoritarian TV personality telling us what to do. Neither does it require marching in the street. It doesn’t even ask us to fundamentally change our sensibilities to embrace a radically un-American socialist agenda (Sanders’ idea of democratic socialism isn’t much different from FDR’s). What’s more, the infrastructure for this revolution is already in place — it’s voting, and not just once for a president, then tuning out for another four years. It’s time to start paying attention, not to how bad everything is but to how open the possibilities are.
Trump, Carson, Clinton, Sanders. If we take the players out of the equation, these four might well represent the bigger choices for life we have in this Tipping Point era of monumental change. Some of us will surrender our power altogether in a Stockholm syndrome kind of attachment to the very structures that keep us entrapped. Some of us will sink into apathy and sleep. Some of us will fight, even though the odds seem overwhelmingly against us, because it’s better than giving up. Others of us will step into a new paradigm where change can happen quickly and without fighting, simply by showing up together.
We’re in unprecedented times environmentally, economically, technologically and spiritually. At this Tipping Point, change will come whether we’re ready for it or not. It will come with a crash while we’re sleeping, or one hard-fought crumb at a time. It will be wrenching if we try to cling to what used to be.
But, just possibly, it will come with ease and grace as we all choose it together. And you? How will you move into the new order?