5 steps towards defunctionalising the spirit of a society

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1: Confuse the hell out of people.

People become trapped by their own seemingly ideological decisions on current affairs. I am supportive of free speech. Oh shit, I didn’t mean free speech to everyone. I just meant that in a democratic country, the people of the privileged colour and creed should be able to creatively express themselves (of course we don’t draw pictures of Jews with big noses and robbing everyone of their money anymore, as bad things happened to them after that was last done).
And then the very artists that we campaign in support of disrespect our efforts, and quite simply humiliate us in front of all the media, and 5 million readers.

This happens constantly. We, sheep of this society, are constantly getting humiliated for our decisions. Politicians do this amazingly efficiently. The Lib Dem betrayal of students is a great recent example, and before that the Labour betrayal of the working classes. The Greens, I envisage, will do much the same. For politics holds no room for soft hearts, for kindness and compassionate action. We will become humiliated for following in the crowd again, just as we always have, and we’ll always be made to feel rather personally weak and powerless. We will not find a strength to our internal voice, a confident and instinctually powerful approach to everything, until we give up following these false idols and messages.

Hell, I’ll relate it to myself. I’ve followed blindly into much of the activism I’ve been involved in, without knowing quite what has been going on. When I stayed for 6 days at Balcombe Community Protection Camp, I didn’t know much about the fracking stuff, or the symbolism of the Balcombe camp’s presence. I was recently told off by a good friend for not realising that everything, essentially, is a cycle of carbon. Oil is carbon, from trees that have fossilised into oil over millions of years. The problem with its extraction isn’t just that it’s greatly polluting, and a greenhouse gas, and perpetuating this disastrous system of ours. It’s that the carbon is being taken out of the ground and put into the air at such an unprecedented rate that it, really, is totally fucking things up, as we are nosediving into some kind of an oblivion that there’s no escape from. I didn’t realise, in Balcombe, that what I was doing externally was purely ritualistic, being a part of a symbolic circle of souls recognising the great unveiling coming near. We were not stopping fracking. We were there to be together at this quite painful time for all of us seers.

But not many people saw this. Many got into heated collisions, mentally or physically, with police, landlords, agents, etc etc. Some protested, and made themselves known that they would do whatever they could to stop this happening. Many just watched on, and lived in the intense surroundings just happy for the amount of support they could get and give others, as we were all connecting with the pains of Mother Earth.

We’ve all been told that this is an environmental (NOT ecological – quite a difference) issue that is being discussed in Parliament. We’ve been led to believe that Mother Earth lies in the hands of the Lobbies and the Decision Makers, and if we get the right people voted in, or if we donate enough to Friends Of The Earth or Green Peace then we’ll get to live in a nice world that will run sustainably for generations to come. We forget ever so easily about the 6 Degrees Climate Model, the Peak Oil stuff, or the fact that most of the planet is already so overly polluted that things are seemingly only going to get worse and that no governmental decision-making is even capable of doing anything (look at how successful the Kyoto Protocol has been, for instance, and tell me if we’re getting anywhere near saving the world yet).

We’re just getting humiliated. We believe what we’re told, and get led into this self-destroying trap. We become powerful followers, and rely on the state and people around us to keep us ticking, because we just lose any sense of self-determination.

We’re confused, and don’t know what to do.  Rather than form into networks of people working towards great things, we follow as a swarm of quite angry but confused beings.

We need to stop following!  We need to start acting!  Where we see something with our own eyes and hearts (ie not on the TV or internet or newspaper), there is something we can respond to with our whole hearts.  There are always going to be people or other beings suffering that we can help, or there will always be things that we can pump full of so much more encouragement.  Just make sure that you don’t get too confused by everything that’s going on outside of our own eyesight.  A lot of it will come eventually to us as Chinese whispers anyway – so no need to trust it so.  The real world is in our reactions to whatever is going on immediately around us.

2: Get people hooked on the shit that destroys them worst

This is quite a simple one. As soon as people are made to feel more comfortable by, well, anything, they become dependent and probably addicted in some way to it.

Benefits scroungers are just this. They grow up in a family that only knows how to live off benefits. They get their minimal amount of money to live on, get ridiculed and marginalised somewhat (depending on where they live), and that is their life. Well, not quite. When the government starts changing the system, and taking away benefits like disability benefit and imposing new taxes like the bedroom tax, people start to hurt a lot as that which they have always been so dependent on to provide them with a stable sense of living is being stripped gradually away from them and they’re made to taste new flavours of poverty.

Drug dependency is a nasty one. It has been over 3 weeks since I last had an alcoholic drink, and I happen to have felt a stronger spiritual solidity than I’ve felt in a long time. Call me weird, but there’s a massive link between alcohol and stability of the spirit for me, and I completely understand why ALL religions have advisories about intoxicants, with most suggesting that they shouldn’t be used (in Buddhism, the precepts undertaken especially by monks and nuns tell to refrain from taking intoxicants, amongst other things). I’ve come to strongly realise that I can experience things much more fully, the further away from intoxication I am. But I consider that we’re also intoxicated by foods, by stimulants like caffeine, electricity/bright artificial lighting/low or high pitched whirring sounds and the internet and TV, by pollution and stress, sometimes by each other, and by excessive amounts of advertising. It is the energy of the machine that mainly intoxicates, and mixed with other external stimulants we have a cocktail for an unsettled mind and spirit.

I’ve often lived around people undertaking continuous drug usage, be it through ganja, alcohol, Mandy, or whatever else. I don’t see the benefits that any of it can have in the long term now, nor the short term benefits most of the time. The destabilising effect on the spirit is so strong that it greatly effects any sense of self-determination. We don’t know ourselves. I lived for over a year with a very committed Rasta devotee, a good friend, but I couldn’t see the benefits of the ganja to him anymore, especially towards the end. I saw it lead him to recklessness, and to spacing out/in so far that he kind of disappeared for long amounts of time, and came back with the same troubles of old. I saw it as an escapism, an addiction.

I was allergic to wheat for all of my adolescence. Strangely, my allergy coincided with my bladder improving immensely (I had quite serious issues as a kid..). Then, at 21, I decided to overcome my allergy. It had gone on for too long. I did overcome it, and quite amazingly so. But one day, as I told a good, very mindful, friend of mine about having to give up cycling because of getting osteoarthritis in my hips, she advised me strongly to stop eating wheat. I brushed her advise aside, feeling I kind of had things sorted anyway. I’ve explored the incredible effects of barefooting on the hips (and rest of the body), but another friend advised that, in Chinese medicine, it is very important to keep the feet warm and in good condition. In late August, I got quite a nasty bug and fever, that lasted just over a day. I noticed shortly afterwards that my tolerance to wheat had disappeared, and my digestion would now be made upset by it. So again, I gave it up. Call it a coincidence, but my hips have definitely felt a lot better since.

I tell my mum about the potential wonders of giving up wheat. She won’t even try it for a week. She’s so dependent on things being exactly as they are that her spiritual and physical wellbeing are less importing than fulfilling this dependency.

Imagine yourself not drinking tea, or coffee, for a week. Or not eating meals at the prescribed times every day. Or going out and not having to get intoxicated with drink, or with drugs. Even if you’re at a drug-filled party. Imagine yourself just giving yourself a chance for once, to actually show you really what the world can be like without having so much shit pumped into it all the time. Imagine not being so scared to be alive, even when shit does get bloody scary and you’re going to die unless you go downstairs and sort out everything that’s on fire and, well, stop sleeping. Imagine just not taking the fearful approach for a while, and embracing every new challenge and obstacle that comes along as being a spiritually friendly something-or-other.

I wrote recently about asceticism, and of distancing ourselves from the comforts that keep us in our place.  When we’re really comfortable, as these addictions are making us, we’re feeling less likely to do anything about making a difference to the world within and around us.  To practice asceticism is to practice distancing ourselves from the comforts, and is to practice strong non-attachment.  I am walking on an ascetic path, because it is the only way to spiritual growth, for me.  I need to keep challenging my perceptions, understandings, and knowledge of everything in order to really move deeper in spiritual understanding.  And even that must be challenged, too.  No knowledge is ever going to be constant (not even the knowledge that I am here right now).  So I have to learn to live more and more freely, unattached, to flow with the ebbs and flows that are there.

3: Turn people against other people

Nazi Germany worked on the premise that some people were good, whilst others were horrifically evil.  Jews, gypsies, lefties, and other ‘minorities’ were what was causing things to be bad in Germany, and so they could do whatever they needed to do to get rid of them.

I’m quite scared that much of Europe is becoming like this again.  I’m scared that Muslims are going to be shipped off to the metaphorical concentration camps of the present age – countries that have been torn apart in North Africa and the Middle East by wars mostly started by imperialist powers.  I’m scared that there’s going to be another ‘great solution’ to all of the problems in these lands.

But, we live in a slightly different time, now.

I truly believe that the media coverage of Sydney and, more recently, Paris, were swung towards creating division within societies across the world.  I believe that this has been the case for years now, but that this is the new ‘ISIS’ phase of media manipulation/control.  We’re now told, as Al Qaeda is old-news, that ISIS is now a severe threat to our hegemony, and that they’re going to be attacking us from all angles.  Because, well, we haven’t been attacking civilians from all angles across a distance of many thousands of miles in Africa and the Middle East for years anyway, have we?  We don’t have drones dropping bombs, mainly killing civilians, in Pakistan on a daily basis, do we?

Anyway, division.  If we become too friendly with Muslims, we’ll start to see that they talk a lot of sense, and that, indeed, they are real people that normally have much bigger hearts than we, ourselves, do.  Over the past decade, many churches and mosques in Britain have linked arms, celebrating universal brotherhood, that we’re all just walking each other home, one big family.  Now there are institutions that seem to be planning to break this.  To destroy the bond, maybe out of jealousy.  Rupert Murdoch famously stated last week that ‘until [Muslims] recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible [for the Charlie Hebdo shootings]’.

Jihad, by definition from the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, is described as: ‘internal as well as external efforts to be a good Muslims or believer, as well as working to inform people about the faith of Islam.’ [taken from the Islamic Supreme Council website]  Surely, this definition of Jihad suggests that all good Muslims are jihadists.  And, if we change the wording slightly to become: ‘internal as well as external efforts to be a good person, as well as working to inform people about the importance of being a good person’, then I would describe many many people as jihadists.  And, I’m sorry Mr Murdoch but I’m never going to vouch for destroying Jihad.  It is an inner and outer struggle to be a good person, and that is an inherently good thing.  I consider myself, under this description, to be a jihadist.  I am spreading the good word of good action, and I anticipate to continue doing so until the day I leave this world.

It is very easy in protest movements for some people to be against other people.  This is partly why I advise caution about the Green Party – to join any party seems to be to join an ‘us-and-them’ mentality.  At the Young Greens launch in November that I went to and spoke at, I waged that the Green parliamentary candidate for spreading an ‘us-and-them’ war, and that it was not at all conducive to what we, the majority, were actually wanting, nor was it going to do anything beneficial whatsoever.  I do not believe that the Green Party will bring the country to a loving and understanding place.  I think that that must come from within each and every one of us, no gods/no masters [can make us loving people, it must come from within], and, believe me, I see that it is happening.

What didn’t happen after the Sydney Siege, or the Charlie Hebdo shootings, was a great swathe of people turning against the general Muslim population.  Instead, huge amounts of people, millions, saw that people could very easily turn against Muslim people as a result of this, and that this, at all costs, needed to be prevented.  During the Sydney Siege, #illridewithyou emerged as a beautiful reminder of how far, in recent times, societies have developed in compassionate and empathetic terms.  It was astonishing, for me, to see that the world has, indeed, been moving greatly forward, despite everything.  Then, despite all of the shock that was caused, after the Charlie Hebdo shootings a lot of people wrote, in quite some depth and across the whole media spectrum (including in the more right-wing publications) of how Muslims were not to blame, that Muslims needed to be supported and that the gunmen were definitely not representatives in any way of Islam as a religion that is based on the same love and compassion that all spiritual wisdoms are based upon.  I have found this surge of support for Muslims incredible to witness.  I visit Facebook more often now than usual just to receive the boosts in optimism I get from seeing so many people post in support of the Muslim communities across the world.

Despite all the efforts of certain peoples of power, the world is responding with screams of NO to division, and YES to working through things in loving and compassionate ways.  And we need to continue in this way.  The direction we are going is brilliant.  Hope is found in the unifying actions that we are taking.  We do not need to fight for ‘democracy’ (a sick and sad joke, in my opinion, that has impregnated billions with the belief that we are working towards a common good for the world, and that other billions of people like, say, China or Iran, have got it completely wrong and need to be reformed), but for love and clarity and a beautiful world to be living in.  And you don’t fight for love with anything but love.  Which makes the word ‘fight’ seem a little out-of-place.  A loving world needn’t necessarily have depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as a loon, just as it needn’t necessarily have depictions of Jews as beastly characters.  A loving world is/will be based on all actions coming out of a loving place, and happening for loving reasons.  So I, personally, see huge hope in millions of people everywhere unifying in support of Muslims everywhere.

4: Make people really tired and depressed

Again going back to benefits-scroungers.  When I was scrounging my benefits when I moved back to Bath at the start of September, I was stressed by realising that I was spending all my money on transport to interviews, I was stressed by the fact that my benefits weren’t going to total up to the overall cost of my monthly rent payments (which had to be paid in advance), and I was stressed by how little I seemed to be getting anywhere with the jobs I was applying for.  Well, until I landed myself a really nice survey job, that is only casual but that I still do now.  The job centre, despite being pretty alright in Bath, were quite institutionally depressing, to say the least.  And, really, I didn’t know where money was going to come from.

A friend of mine, who has mental impairments and so lives in a care home and needs fairly continuous care just to make sure she makes the right decisions and stuff, had her benefits stopped a few months ago because she hadn’t returned the right form to the job centre.  She says that she’s hoping to receive the benefits again come April, but until then she’s got pretty much nothing, and is hugely stressed by money (and it didn’t help that she went overdrawn in the bank last month, costing her a lot more money).  She’s not given any support.

One of the main policemen involved appointed to the Charlie Hebdo case in France was one Commissaire Helric Fredou, of the Limoges region (where two of the suspected shooters had been from).  Within hours of having a police debriefing on the Wednesday night, the day of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Helric Fredou is reported to have shot himself in the head, committing suicide.  It is officially said that he was over-worked and depressed.  If this is the case, Fredou’s death is probably just one of absolutely countless deaths that will go unheard that are caused by work-related stress.

What is this great world that we’re working for, if it just ends up with more and more people depressed and over-worked?  Well, it is a world where we are able to be controlled easily.  It is a world where our depression is treatable with anti-depressants, and then we’re really under the control of the big man.  We start to feel worse if we don’t have anti-depressants, and so we’re hooked.  Or we need drink more.  Or we take up smoking, or watching TV shows that give us a bit of a good feeling, or we become more demanding to people around us, turning relationships into much more compulsive relationships that are not based on the same love and passions that they were originally.  We become needy, because we need more.

I realised that, should I continue to live in the city as I was, I would spiral in and out of this cycle of stress and depression, as I was really struggling to make ends meet financially.  Not only that, but, as I was so tied to working at whatever days and hours, I couldn’t fulfill my spiritual needs to, for instance, visit Skanda Vale, or to head home every now and again.  I would be really quite caught up in a system that I was not finding enough reason for me to be caught up in.  Life was elsewhere for the living.  I needed to get out of the system a little, and I have plenty of connections to help with that so I just went through one of many possible routes.

I was a lucky one.

Not everyone can deal with the stresses of just being able to get by.  It can be nearly impossible in certain situations to do it.  Many graduates are leaving university and going into very uncertain situations – and if they don’t have financially well-off parents to support them, the situation can be very difficult (especially after the comfortably institutionalised living that the student loan provides).  Having worked up so much optimism, enjoyment, and general positivity during the degree, it feels like as if the world outside will be a great place to move back into.  Then it’s often heartbreaking to realise what is actually there.

But does it have to be like this?

The reason why I am a lucky one is that I have had a lot of experience of living without money, or with little money, and gained a lot of connections whilst doing this.  I have a list of communities and friends that I can happily travel over to and work for in exchange for my keep.  I have also got connections with Skanda Vale, with Marpa House, with Eco Dharma, Chateau Anand, and I know a fair few other communities that would also theoretically host me for as long as need be.  I am not reliant upon finding a paid job in the city to get by.  Whilst I am working now, and living with friends, I know that I have plenty of other options open to me, too.

Not everyone has this.

I believe that we need to build a foundation for something great that everyone can fall into.  HelpX needs to become a household name, and communities need to become stronger and stronger.  There should be thousands of possible hosts in these lands, not just hundreds.  And there should be so much support offered to each and every person, because we’re all in this together.  Just as the rich person has much wealth, the poor person has much wealth.  Different kinds of wealth.  And different kinds of stress levels.

We can all live beautiful lives.

5: Tell everyone that love and happiness is conditional

There’s a great Okkervil River song that I experienced an incredibly beautiful moment listening to, whilst cycling back to my house at the time in Weston Village, Bath.  It was a crisp January night, and I think I’d just been at a friend’s house, or in town, or something.  I got up to the village, and the Okkervil singer started singing ‘U-N-C-O-N-D-I-T-I-O-N-A-L-L-O-V-E, why-y-y did you leave me?’, and everything clicked into place, and tears streamed down my cheeks and I was unable, for emotional reasons, to keep cycling.  I had to get off the bike, as I realised that I had pretty much the same amount of love pouring out of my heart to every single being on the planet.  And I searched through my mind for anyone that would break this rule, and I couldn’t find anyone.  Love was not conditional and based upon being a family member, a friend, on what anyone had done or on how I’d been kissed or what had been said to me or anything.  Love had become a universal feeling, felt alongside gratitude towards the whole human race, and towards all other beings, especially everything that was immediately near me that took my attention, but not limited to (for instance, I felt a huge amount of love towards certain stars in the sky).

I know that this isn’t a story that many people will relate intimately to, but I see the closeness in a lot of people to getting to that kind of level of loving feeling.  We just need triggers, and then we’re there.

Today my mother led a 2-hour workshop on Hakomi-based exercises, based around ‘connecting’.  I saw and experienced at least three of the people there get to extremely deep and fairly fragile places in the heart, and absolutely thrive off of this connection.  It was incredible to be a part of, and was just triggered by some very simple and short exercises.

I’ve been brought up in a world where I’ve been told that I should, for instance, not talk to strangers because there are so many weirdos around.  I’ve been told that my family and friends are there for me, and that there’s no need to look much further.  I’ve been told that happiness is found in material things, and often have been told that there’s been something wrong with me if happiness hasn’t been there and there’s seemingly been no reason for my upset.  I was in a 14-month relationship with a girl, who I think I still love, who made me tell her that I would love her forever and I had to find ways inside myself to allow me to say that (and I did).

I realised that, when I say ‘I love you’ to someone, I do not mean that I love them and only them, and that there’s something hugely special about my love for them that sets it apart from my love for everyone and everything else.  Of course there’s a huge amount of trust and understanding that is built up in a relationship, as the closeness can be a great thing like that.  But, for me, the love can and will never be concentrated down to just one person.

I think that everyone I’ve ever met is like this.  They all have so, so much love in their hearts.  Even if they don’t seem it on the outset, it’s quite easy to tap into it, just as my mum did in the workshop today for at least a few of the people there.  And whenever anyone realises that, actually, it’s safe and perfectly alright to give out this love freely, they do, without exception.  We are built to love.  It is our innermost nature, I’ve heard so many times, to be loving towards one another.

There is very little that tells us this in the media.  In the media, if I was reported to be going up to strangers and telling them that I love them I would be depicted either as a madman, or as a raging hippy.  We get boxed in very easily, by the media as well as by each other, and it can be hard to break out of our box.  But what is it about spreading love that makes it so seemingly dangerous for society, that we must be marginalised for doing so?

It is that it stops people alienating themselves, or feeling alienated; it stops people being isolated; it stops the ‘us-and-them’ mentality; it opens people’s minds up to compassion and empathy; and, perhaps most significantly, it starts getting people to live much more wholesome lives that could never be provided for by a government or institution, and could only ever be provided by the richness of humanity.

Happiness, we are taught, comes about when we’ve reached a certain point in a career, when we’ve succeeded greatly, when we’ve bought a new car, or a new TV, when we’ve got married, when we’ve just received a new child, etc etc.  Happiness isn’t right now, but is set in another time, when we’ve achieved different things in life.  I heard an advert on the radio yesterday claiming that a new bed could be just what I need to fill the gap in my life.  I instantly rejected the proposition, arguing that my hips and lower back are so accustomed to a harder surface that they need very special requirements (of a thick jumper or the equivalent under my lower back/hips, and preferably on a hard surface) that I could almost guarantee the misery that a new, ultra-comfortable, bed would cause me.  Happiness isn’t accumulated through money.  It shouldn’t be relied upon that attaining something new will provide happiness.  Even getting married, or having a child – don’t rely on it to bring your happiness.  Rather, allow the happiness to with you right now.  And if it isn’t with you right now, then maybe it’s not the right time for happiness, or maybe you could work on the love word a little more and see if you can get to the crux of where it’s at.

For love and happiness isn’t conditional.  They are both unconditional, and the realisation is what the poets and mystics mean when they talk about ‘revolution’ and ‘enlightenment’.

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