Why We Need Safe Harbor
"The great malady of the twentieth century is... ‘loss
of soul.’ When soul is neglected, it doesn’t just
go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions,
violence, and loss of meaning. Our temptation is to isolate
these symptoms or to try to eradicate them one by one; but
the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the
soul, even our interest in it."
(Care of the Soul - Thomas Moore)
My beloved country has developed the soul of a turnip.
In place of aliveness, passion and connection, we have become
empty and addicted to excitement.
The flood of adrenaline that pours into our blood when we
are scared, shocked, titillated, has become as addicting as
heroin. As we crave for more, for higher levels of arousal,
we seek further into a world of fantasy: TV shows full of
sadism and monsters, video games with blood spurting, news
stories of kidnapping, rape and murder.
For most of us, thank God, this is not the world outside
our doors. That world- the real world- is safer, filled with
neighbors and people like us. But our inner world, our minds,
increasing reflect the fantasies that pour in hour after hour
from TV, newspapers and rage radio.
We are also addicted to outward form. Thousands of magazines
back up the TV image of young thin sex objects, so unlike
our neighbors in the real world. In our effort to compete
we are preoccupied with weight loss and our abdominal muscles.
Are we thin enough, sexy enough? is a national obsession.
Most of us in the real world are not.
As a culture we are addicted to power and money. Testosterone
runs our foreign and domestic agenda. Caring for people, compassion,
has no place in a machine driven by testosterone.
In 1986, I worked for 2 weeks in a tribal village in Zambia
in the heart of southern Africa. This little village had one
radio, and hundreds of mud huts with thatched roofs. Inside
several of them were pictures of John F Kennedy attached to
the straw walls. It made me proud to realize that we as a
country represented hope in this small desperately poor outpost.
And throughout the world. In the 1960’s we offered hope
to the world. No more!
9/11 created an opening. After the shock, we were ready
to pull together, tighten our belts, and respond. We recalled
John Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for
you, but what you can do for your country”. But instead
of asking more, our government advised us to continue functioning
as usual, and cut taxes. The challenge of the attack faded,
and was replaced by the same inner deadness we experience
during a night of TV.
In the world of fantasy, fear is king. It stimulates adrenaline.
It sells newspapers. For those bored and needing another hit,
it brings relief, something to talk about: a gunman, a kidnapper.
In my town, for the last 15 years, no one lets their child
walk to school. The newspaper told us 15 years ago that a
seven year old child was kidnapped on the main street of town,
in daylight. By a STRANGER. That did it. No one was safe!
Those of us who knew the circumstances knew that it was no
stranger, but the child’s fathers girlfriend. Of course
the child was returned. But as far as anyone knew, KIDNAPPERS
WERE ON THE LOOSE AND NO ONE WAS SAFE.
A few years later we all heard in the newspapers and on
TV about the razor and the poison in Halloween candy. From
that year, the easy sense of Halloween, with children roaming
free in safe neighborhoods, ended. Now parents carefully guide
small children thru the streets of my town and examine all
treats received. Hospitals volunteered to X ray all items
collected. By now it has become clear that the original story
of razors was not true, and in all these years, no X-rayed
treats were ever found unsafe.
My granddaughter, in kindergarten, heard a safety officer
tell all her classmates about how to avoid strangers who might
steal or hurt them. Just to be extra careful, he told all
these five year olds to even be careful about policemen who
offer to help, as they might really be STRANGERS just pretending
to be police. She had nightmares about kidnappers for a year.
And then began the TV stories about lunatic baby-sitters
and incest. Not that these things cannot occur. But we are
teaching ourselves and, worse still, our children, that we
live in an unsafe world, and not to trust anyone. All this
may be good for selling TV shows and newspapers, but this
is not how we want to raise this generation of children.
I do want to emphasize that for most of us, this fear is
based on fantasy. The real world of my church, my friends,
my neighborhood is truly safe. There is
never a kidnapping, there is never poison in the candy. The
real world in which many of us live is quite safe.
Another aspect of fear mentality is thinking of the "good"
(us) and the bad (them). It's become the basis of our nation's
foreign ( and domestic) policy. All of us thought this way
when we were 3 or 4 years old. But most of us have come to
realize, as Pogo did, that "I have met the enemy, and
it is us". We are all gray, and so are they. It is important
not to demonize the world and then fear it.
Selling fear, is like selling poison. Children need to feel
safe to have a real childhood. They need protection from the
fantasy world we are pushing at them, the world of sex, violence
and commercialism. My grandchildren have gone to a school
where they are encouraged not to watch TV, not to play video
games, and not to wear clothes with brand names. This may
seem quixotic and out of touch with "the real world",
but I would say, not only is this better attuned to the real
world they live in, but it prepares them to be kinder, more
compassionate, and more healthy than those cynically prepared
for the next media sensation.
In the absence of soul, in the presence of an adrenaline,
testosterone culture, there is no guiding light except the
bottom line. What makes money goes on and gets fat. This culture
of greed dominates our media, and it dominates our work environment.
Corporations do whatever returns more money to the stockholder.
CEOs are paid millions, as that's what it takes to get someone
to fire a man two years before retirement. Or to continue
pumping mercury into the air, causing infants brain damage.
Or to arrange to pay no taxes on their corporation's huge
profits. Basically these men sell their souls to enrich the
All this money dominates our government. Two hundred million
dollars donated to a presidential candidate is a small price
for the gazillions of dollars this government offers in tax
breaks to corporations, and to the wealthy. So our government
says there is not global warming--keep polluting- there is
no money for universal health insurance or education--lower
taxes--our air is clean enough--Keep producing toxic materials--Keep
exporting jobs to the cheapest labor force. As the rich get
richer and the rest get poorer we become the Earth's richest
third world country. The rich live in gated, guarded communities.
The poor live in slums called AMERICA, with decaying schools,
poor health care, closing libraries, less police and more