Courage is knowing what not to fear - Plato
What does it take to stand in front of oncoming army tanks and halt their progress with nothing more than one's body and the desire to stop gross injustice? How does one stand against the System telling the ugly truth over and over in the unshakeable belief that one day their efforts will bring change for the better? What kind of person can resist society's norms and remain true to what they know is right even in the face of ridicule, exclusion and disdain? Every good thing that we enjoy in today's world has been brought to us by the determination and efforts of people such as these. In all the billions only a handful stand out, but that mere handful changed the way the entire world was shaped politically, geographically, culturally, and civilly.
Considering what we have gained from their efforts, it is startling to realise very few know the details of what these heroes did or what they sacrificed for the greater good. Some were assassinated: Mohandas Gandhi. Abraham Lincoln. Elijah Lovejoy. Martin Luther King Jr. Sitara Achikzai. The Unknown Hero of Tiananmen Square. Those who were not assassinated chose to give up their personal path to live their lives for the long-term benefit of others: George Washington. Mother Teresa. Florence Nightingale.
The question which begs asking is were these people visionaries, living ahead of their time, seeing what the rest of their contemporaries could not? Was their destiny to open the eyes of others, in effect awakening them to the wrongs of the world the majority simply believed to be the standard? Are some born able to see the ills of the world as plainly as others see fields, trees, and forests? Is it possible their elevated consciousness helped them to correctly assess the mistaken paradigms of man; and once they had done so they accepted the responsibility to address the chasms between truth and fiction - no matter the cost?
Courage is the power to let go of the familiar - Raymond Lindquist
In the days of slavery, it was considered the height of insanity to suggest the freeing of one's slaves, allowing the enslaved the opportunity to enjoy life equally with free humans. It is interesting to note that those who owned the slaves never considered themselves as free. They simply saw themselves as entitled to own other humans and treat them as they saw fit. To them, those humans were less than they and therefore entitled to such inhumane treatment as slavery. Along comes an enlightened soul who sees the slaves not as so-called beasts but as humans and feels the compassion that comes from realising they are only one small step removed from their brothers - a step arbitrarily imposed by white man. They can do nothing less than to try to stop the injustice. Now imagine being blessed with this awareness in the mid- 1800's when most of the industry of America was based on slave labour. Imagine being the one who broaches the subject at dinner parties. Courage.
In spite of the risk of standing against slavery, one by one, others saw what the first few recognised and joined the cause which eventually triggered the American Civil War, a war which forever changed the face of America and the belief keeping humans as slaves was acceptable. Countless numbers died in the Civil War. In the intervening years, abolitionists were assassinated for their efforts by those who fought against the changes legislation had forced upon them. In spite of the risk of losing one's life, in spite of a long, bloody war, the deep courage of a few enlightened souls changed our world forever, and the lives of millions benefited from their sacrifices.
The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity - Rollo May
Fast forward to 2011. What are the modern day slavery paradigms which currently plague mankind? Just like in the mid-1800's when it seemed impossible to consider a world without slaves, it is equally impossible right now for man to consider a world without factory farming. But animals are sentient, as much as humans (if not more so), yet man treats them like slaves, existing only for their needs (cue fast food outlets). Factory farming is one of the most inhumane and cruel fates a sentient creature could ever experience. Additionally, the continuous culling of animals (many of them innocent) with bird flu, swine flu or foot and mouth disease in the recent years has left us with death tolls of armageddon-like proportions. In January of this year, South Korea buried alive over 4 million animals at the same time. In nearby villages, blood ran from the taps.
Medical research and testing on over 100 million animals a year is another dark form of modern day slavery. Man's belief that animals belong to him to be used as he wishes shows just how far we need to go to abolish this cruelty. The graphic photos taken from labs researching (and testing) new medicines are nearly unbearable to look at. The sad truth is 10,000 people die each year from taking medicine tested as safe on animals. As radical as it might sound, testing of medicines for humans needs to be done on humans. How that can be managed is not an easy answer to address, but simply reverting to animals should not be the immediate fall back solution, more effort should be made to find safe and humane ways in this technological age to keep us healthy. Indeed with more pressure from the public, this solution could be found. Courage.
The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems - Mohandas Gandhi
While the fate of animals as modern day slaves is very worthy of consideration and action, there is a more important global paradigm that must be challenged. Each of us needs to have the courage to face the reality of our collective abuses against our home. Earth is a closed system and just because we can't see all the things that are going wrong with it, does not mean we have the right to ignore it. We must have the courage to ask questions and seek out the truth whatever way we can find it. We must take responsibility for the answers we find and accept that doing nothing to change the situation is as much a crime against ourselves as it is against the Earth. The time is past for pretending that the horrors of the floods in Australia, Brazil, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Guyana, Bolivia, Namibia, Grenada and Colombia don't really matter because they are not happening to us, or are not going to happen to us. Our world is changing, and it is changing fast. The weather is wrecking havoc all across the planet and even the US and Canada are experiencing their fair share of record breaking storms. Doomsayers are running rampant and unless we rise up and have the courage to investigate the truth we face the possibility of becoming the victims of any smooth talking charlatan or self serving politician that comes along.
It takes a certain amount of courage to step out of the system and look critically at the lives we lead, to ask ourselves questions and hold ourselves responsible for the answers. To be prepared to face uncomfortable truths. I am reminded of a lunch I had with a friend recently where she brought along a new handbag she had bought in Paris. She proudly showed it to me, but all I could think was: How sad, an animal had to die just so people can have the opportunity to spend their money on a pink handbag whose sole objective is not to carry items of necessity but to incur feelings of jealousy in other likeminded people. When she asked me if I didn't like the bag, I said, 'No it is a beautiful bag but I am just sad that an animal had to die so you could have a pink handbag.' She looked down at the bag as if seeing it for the first time and gasped .'Oh my god,' she said, 'I never even thought of that!'
We are so programmed we cannot even see the truth right in front of us. When we shop for clothes, do we think of what had to happen to provide us with that plethora of cheap clothing? Probably not. It's not normal to think this way, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't. The trouble is once one begins to look at our world and our lives in this light, we are forced to make choices, and not everyone is ready to do so. But what is the alternative? To carry on, blinkered and blinded to ourselves and to the consequences of our purchasing decisions which leave unintended trails of misery every time we make an ill-informed choice? Courage.
Below is a video recently posted on YouTube by Saitoart of the tsunami hitting (and utterly destroying) his home city. It takes real courage to watch (and listen) to this video as the cries you hear are the sounds of people watching their homes and loved ones succumb to the water. No Hollywood film even comes close to the brutality of hearing the combined anguish of their suffering.
Saitoart writes, "The tsunami washed away my own house, I lost pet cat. Watch this video and think so much, of the terrible lost. Lead to understanding the feelings of victims. Not think that's it, I want to expose this to those who to want to know what it was or what was happening." If you go to his channel you will see the sad truth, every single one of his uploads are of his beloved cat, from kittenhood until his last upload before the tsunami. He lost everything, including his beautiful, intelligent pet that was certainly considered to be family to him. However, in an effort to raise awareness he had the courage put aside his own pain and shared this footage. News stories don't even come close to this. After watching this video, no one can walk away from it and not feel somehow connected to those being heard in it.
With courage one will hear the same cries echoing all over the planet, during every climate and natural catastrophe that destroys lives and homes. Cries caused in part by man's intended ignorance of his contribution to the earth's ailing environment. Cries that will hopefully move him to feel concern and care for those that are suffering.
With courage one will hear the cries coming from every creature we use as slaves in brutal factory farms, slaughterhouses, cull pits and medical labs. Once we hear those cries, there is only one small step we need to make...but it takes...
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter - Martin Luther King Jr.
Originally posted on Paradigms Bend April 4 2011