Generally when I turn on the radio or open up The New York Times or other media sources, I am immediately assaulted by the SAME OLD BAD NEWS.
Another hundred children gunned down by fundamentalist militants.
Another police brutality case.
Another round of insane Republican shenanigans in Congress, hijacking the taxpayers, the environment or the nation itself with greedy, mean, shortsighted policies.
The list goes on and you know it as well as I do. We live in a time when stories do not have happy endings and even the heroes get shafted.
Although I think it’s still pretty clear who’s right and who’s wrong, being wrong doesn’t mean you are necessarily unsuccessful. Mysteriously, the bad guys often win in contemporary news narratives. Even when a scapegoat is chosen to die on his sword, the game goes on, and since the media loves to cover the most powerful, most colorful players, it can often seem like there’s no glory in being good or right. Only in being powerful.
I’m happy to see our quiet, serious President finally starting to flex his muscles a little and learn how to play this game.
Re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, well it’s about time! So what if the Cold Warriors complain, let them grumble into their mothballed cups.
Shake hands with China’s President and make some progress on global climate treaties, hell yeah! Where I come from, that’s called leadership—the kind of leadership that’s aimed at the future, not digging in its heels and trying to hold us all back in a carbon age that has outlived its usefulness.
Now I want to see President Obama reject that Keystone XL pipeline once and for all. Falling oil prices are the perfect excuse for saying what we all know to be true: tar sands oil is an abomination that, if extracted, will incinerate our planet. For the sake of all our children and the generations to come, we must leave that dirty oil in the ground and move on to a clean energy future.
Yes, this means that the bad-guy oil moguls must reinvent themselves as good-guy renewable energy czars. We’ll keep giving them our money…if they show themselves to be the planetary stewards we’ve been waiting for.
I keep thinking about the slogan I read somewhere (I believe it is a Chinese proverb): Crisis = Danger + Opportunity.
There is no doubt that these early years of the 21st century are a dangerous, crisis-ridden time. But they are also a time of great opportunity.
We have the chance to wake up and start telling some new stories, in which Good and Right actually do prevail; in which Greed and Vindictiveness are punished; in which deeds are measured not in dollars generated, but by how much they will benefit the greater good of the planet and all her denizens.
I suggest you pay attention to the stories you’re hearing; to who’s telling them; and who benefits from the version that hits the media fan.
Me, I like to pay attention to some of the storytellers who may not make it into prime time (as in, the front page of The New York Times), but surely merit a place there.
For example, Bill McKibben, winner of the 2014 Right Livelihood Award for inventing 350.org and working tirelessly to raise awareness about climate change; Vandana Shiva, a relentless opponent of Monsanto’s assault on biodiversity and a champion of small farmers and their heirloom seeds and organic farming practices; and Sandra Steingraber, who is leading a most inspiring movement against a huge corporate conglomerate seeking to store pressurized natural gas beneath the floor of Seneca Lake in upstate New York.
These are the heroes and heroines of our time. In these cold, dark days of the Winter Equinox, human beings have always gathered around the fire to listen to stories. I say, don’t waste your time listening to the canned stories our news media prepare. Find and tell your own stories, and make sure they’re stories that inspire hope.
Here’s a good story, if you’re looking for one: how the citizen resistance to tracking gas in New York State triumphed, with Governor Andrew Cuomo backing away from this highly risky practice in the wake of intense negative pressure.
Stories matter. Words have power. Let’s make sure we are telling each other stories that will serve as bridges into the future we want to live.