I had never been very interested in history or current events as a kid. A few things stuck out as pivotal – the spaceship exploding, the Gulf War starting, the fall of the USSR, and the attempted assassination of Reagan. My dad was active politically, campaigning for guys from his neighborhood. I remember our basement full of campaign signs, buttons, and styrofoam hats. I remember being brought to a campaign event on a sunny day. I was bored.
It’s probably not surprising what changed that – a teacher. Much like how Dr. Wickersham brought Greek Mythology alive at Ursinus College, when Mr. Kozol taught history and civics in 11th grade, a lot of dots connected for me that planted seeds that steered me in a completely different career direction. He was also just so nice. He didn’t take crap from students but didn’t get much, either. He would turn a smart-ass comment swiftly into a burn even the smart-ass couldn’t refute was funny. He was the first teacher who made me believe college was a possible future for me. I really hadn’t been encouraged before then by my parents or my guidance counselors. He inspired me to own my decision, and so I looked further into his inspiration for clues as to a possible career path that might make me happy, because a corporate life looked pretty awful. My mom was overworked and underappreciated and my dad was forced into early retirement and I resented his company for it when he sold the house I grew up in to move into a tiny apartment with a closet-sized room for me.
Some things that stuck out from Mr. Kozol’s lessons:
“He won da war” – a phrase he repeated throughout the course, referring to the trend of presidential candidates who won elections because they… well, won a war.
I really hadn’t cared one bit about political parties before this class, but he made me see just how influential a two-party system was and how, when a 3rd party tried to emerge, all it did was split the vote and make one party dominate an election. I was surprised to learn, then, that Lincoln was a republican and the democrats of the time were actually for slavery, and how the parties flipped by the time FDR was president.
I hadn’t decided what party I was and really despise being labeled, be it for my clothing, grades, race, gender, socioeconomic status, family status, hair color, hobbies, talents, athletic abilities, group of friends, musical tastes, my NAME (thanks, 2020 – the gift that keeps on giving), etc., etc. One of the highlights of my high school career, in fact, was when the infamous Mr. Beech said, “Hollinger, I just can’t figure you out.” That’s right. Try as you may, you won’t.
In fact, I was registered independent from the time I first registered to vote until my friend and someone I had worked alongside was running and wanted my support in the primary (primaries in PA are by party.) I have since enjoyed exercising my voting rights in primaries and have remained registered as one party, and do lean that way (full disclosure), but I have mapped it and I’m not far from the middle. Even as a kid I resisted leaning way into trends. I don’t have tattoos (though I know of two things I would/will? get.) I hold on to clothes way past they’re out of style because they’re functional. I put signs on my yard, but they include democratic and republican friends.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Wow. What an image. This certainly wasn’t original to my teacher. It wasn’t even original to Teddy Roosevelt; it was a West African proverb. To me, it seemed like an honorable guide to diplomacy that worked for him at that time. It also seemed like many leaders, corporate, government, and otherwise, have bastardized this phrase and adopted it to use extreme intimidation in leadership. If that had worked in the past, data shows that leadership has had to adapt a lot to be effective in garnering performance and loyalty among younger generations in the workforce. I wonder if there is a modern-day version of the proverb that can be applied today or if there is a novel model that needs yet to be created and applied. Do we integrate or disintegrate old systems and create anew?
Checks and balances – Our whole system was designed to make sure that men, who our founding fathers knew could become easily corrupted, did not usurp the power of the people. A free press was a fairly unique development in the world at the time. Our mother country considered it seditious to speak against the king. Considering one of the forefathers claimed by Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin, was one of the drafters of the Constitution who advocated for a free press, I felt an affinity for this right, very closely associated with free speech, and thought, perhaps, this was my calling. Holding leaders accountable seemed very noble to me. I suppose it still does. I wrote my college application essays on the premise that I would someday be a journalist. That changed, as did the press itself, by the time I was deep into my major courses, Media Criticism, in particular. My visiting professor for Media Crit went by Tony (or Tom? I’ve tried confirming this to give him proper credit, and will correct this if I am able). In that course, a few things stood out, and one thing, in particular, changed my career course completely – the modern media mogul.
This course delved further into concepts first brought to my attention by Mr. Kozol – yellow journalism and propaganda, which I had come to believe was a thing of the past, something we had evolved enough as a country to identify and rebuke. I learned from Tony(?) that I was very wrong, that even the media we were presented with then (1997ish) was slanted depending on the political leanings of the owners. He introduced us to [Noam Chompsky], a modern-day Benjamin Franklin, some might say, and also from Philadelphia. I felt that if I were to become a journalist, I would be forced to perpetuate propaganda at some level from one side or the other in order to maintain a career. We were trained to identify bias, and I was very disillusioned at how much we identified. (Shout out to Dr. Lynne Edwards who also taught me how to write unbiased, though this is not an example of the unbiased writing she taught me.) If you are curious if there is any unbiased news, I have yet to find any, but as someone trained to identify bias (not that I am not still inherently biased to some degree – I just have a greater awareness of it), I can disregard any information I find to be biased and lean on more fact-based reporting to form my opinions, which are still just my opinions and are still limited to the information with which I am presented without having conducted peer-reviewed research to test my theories adequately. I did this kind of research as one of Ursinus College’s first summer fellows, and, honestly, I didn’t cut the mustard. I was questioned rigorously by a penal of academic scholars and was denied honors for this research because I inadequately presented my case. I appreciate the rigor of peer-reviewed research, and yet, there are no fixed finalities in any research – only findings. There must always be room for more current information to influence opinion and inform policy.
Don’t let someone tell you what defines another group. This is a red flag for propaganda. Today we call it “othering.” Both sides do it. Rise above it. Call it out. Find out yourself what people are about, and do it on more than one level for more than one issue. Challenge yourself to find common ground with people. We are dynamic by nature, not flat. Yet, as we strive to feel belonging, we often lose those dimensions. We do not blossom to our full potential while our petals are being peeled and dimmed by the expectations of our communities. It takes something in these times to reach out beyond our communities to explore and define our full dimensions and realize our full potential.
Personal rights – My rights end where yours begin. This drives my view of everything for which our Constitution stands. One person cannot disenfranchise the rights of someone else. At least, that is how it is supposed to be.
Nothing was meant to be absolute and unchecked– not our personal freedoms, not the power of the government, not capitalism, not even our freedom of speech. The needs and wants of a few were not supposed to supersede the will of the masses. However, with such filtered funnels of information reaching people very differently, and people deciding, perhaps unconsciously, to remain in their echo chambers – on both sides – each side believes they are the majority, that they are “right.” Some are trying desperately to keep things as they are because it is benefiting them, while others are fighting for change to swing the pendulum of momentum the other way. Our country is a powder keg.
With freedom, comes great responsibility – According to Ken Wilbur, 1% of the world population is operating in egocentrism. This is not “Thee” 1%, though you could certainly identify egocentrism among thee 1%, and with their wealth comes the power to manipulate the world to accommodate their desires, at a cost to whomever.
70% world operates in ethnocentrism, looking out for people who they consider to be “like” them somehow. The risks of ethnocentrism are scarcity vs. shared resources, which turns into wars and destruction of resources, much like a contentious divorce that decimates a family’s current and generational wealth, and the ones who lose the most are the kids – future generations.
This is (all) purely my opinion, but the world I want for my kids, my grandkids, and my great-grandkids is a world where people have compassion and care for one another – where they recognize that we are divinely kindred. One love. One heart.
On his podcast recently, Christopher King asked me with whom I was looking to connect, and I said anyone who wants to make the world a better place and who has an open mind; I am very skeptical of people who insist they have it right.
Without having run these topics through a rigorous consciousness screening process, I truly have no way of knowing what is in the highest good. I have my opinion based on my life experience, what I’ve learned from trusted authority figures in my life, and un-trusted authority figures in my life. I know there is data, a lot more in the past 20 years of advances in capture and computation, and still, there is translation and dissention. There are still bound to be outliers and unintended consequences and unpredictable factors.
I am also very skeptical of religions and religious ideas that have little to do with the highest good here on Earth. A God wanting a chosen few to thrive while the majority suffer is in direct conflict with my beliefs. That is why identifying what is in the highest good aligns with what I believe will create a better world.
Yet, I do not want to surround myself with people who agree with me, who share my opinions, or who have the same life experiences as me (though we all thrive more when we aren’t psychologically isolated and know others relate to us – so, yes, I want those people, too.) I want to surround myself with people who are open to being wrong, who are in pursuit of truth, and yet who recognize that truth itself often evolves.
The quintessential growth (vs. fixed) mindset.
Before we influence, as conscious leaders, we must do or, better yet, delegate (to remove personal bias), due diligence to ensure the decisions we influence will have the highest good outcomes. Also, no one is apt to be influenced by someone who believes they are elite.
What if we could really determine what is in the highest good in regards to the issues that divide us (the “United” States) most? And what if we could mitigate the impacts on populations who are sure to suffer in some way because of change?
What if we could come to a greater consensus about the topics that divide us most:
- Gun control
- Universal healthcare
- Free and fair elections
- Pandemic response
- Civil Rights
- Foreign relations
- Government assistance
- Church and state
- Abuse of power/Corruption
- Global warming
- Non-renewable resources
- Gender identity
Guess what! We can! There are members of the C3 community who I will be calling forth to provide input on my Conscious Decision Protocol, a process that I tested with remarkable results (only on a small scale so far) that can be applied to personal, community, corporate, and government decisions. If you want to be a part of these kinds of developments, join the C3 community now.
And, if these are decisions run through a conscious decision protocol and show that a particular pathway is in the highest good, will that reunite us? Not necessarily.
We will only reunite if we are not shielded from the findings and if there is a trusted free press that is accessible and visible to us. There are less biased media to consult and compare to the biased media on both sides, especially before becoming so staunch that we feed our anger. We can all get better at recognizing fact from opinion and opinion from propaganda.
I see our anger and fears being weaponized, benefiting nefarious world forces who have wanted for centuries to see our country and our freedom fall.
United we stand; divided we fall, right?
I’m working on not vilifying people who are different-minded every day. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better at recognizing when I’m tempted to do this and refraining.
We cannot unify while we vilify. Contest ideas, not your fellow countrymen and women, and especially not your family! Remember that people are more complex and there are spectrums on all of these issues. The people in your life and those you love are likely to fall on opposite sides of one or more of these issues.
I will not protest this 4th of July, though I have a lot of strong opinions about many recent events. I am aware these are my opinions. I am aware my opinions are filtered through the lens of my experiences, education, and authority figures in my life. I am aware that I, like everyone else, have blind spots – I don’t know what I don’t know, and that’s most of what there is to know. Conscious leaders prevent themselves from becoming elitists.
I will pray for my country and hold the intention that we will open the doors to civil discussions and each other, and commit to doing what is best for the majority, or we will surely meet our demise.
I spent time this holiday weekend blocks from where the Declaration of Independence and wondered who will be the founding fathers and mothers of a country that does the highest good for its people, for future generations, and for the world.
Want to join in the effort to co-create a more conscious world? Join C3 now.