The other day my son came to me visibly, shall we say, "motivated." I was trying to relax in bed for a short nap so obviously these two dynamics were in conflict. What he wanted tell me about was the Kony issue circulating all over the web currently. One of his friends had shared the video on Facebook, and my son wanted to tell me about Kony and then share the video. Before doing research on the thing and figuring out what he was talking about I said, "Oh that's just another African rebel group. Get rid of them and another will rise up and take its place." I was also thinking this was just another Facebook crusade that all of us who use Facebook are inundated with on a daily basis (if we pay attention to that inundation, that is).
My son was visibly disturbed by this response. So I checked myself: was I becoming just another fuddy old man, immune to the suffering of other people? Time to do some homework and see what this issue is really about.
In many ways the issue is exactly as I thought: we have a crazed leader of some quasi military-religious group who for whatever reason thinks it's ok to kill unarmed women and children--no wait, have the children kill their parents--and then use these children as soldiers in his personal army. It's a long list of atrocities, one we might be familiar with in other regions and conflicts. There are some differences in this crusade, however. The most standout, in my opinion, is that it is motivated by social media.
Watching the Kony video, which is part of the 2012 movement, I noticed two things: one, it is in some ways self-congratulatory and designed to pull at our heartstrings. Mind you, I am taking nothing away from the evil and horrible events the video gives some witness to. I just don't need to be manipulated in any way to buy into it. I don't need to be sold on the idea that having your younger brother cut to death in front of you is an act of hell. Watch the video--it's slick and in several ways feels like a commercial vehicle. The other thing is that this is clearly a youth movement; it's the under thirty crowd who are best able to utilize all this cheap technology enabling the creation of videos that look like--what?--JJ Abrams wannabe productions (?). I don't at all take issue with the evil Kony has authored, and so in the end I am willing to simply observe the manipulative gestures rather than judge them.
I remember when I had my first rude awakenings to the sufferings of the world. It was when I was a sophomore in college. Someone was giving a presentation on campus about all the hell going on in Honduras or El Salvador--maybe it was both. The idea of the US funding death squads to take out entire villages so that McDonalds or Dole could grow plantation crops or create grazing land for cattle. Why? For American consumption. Not just the wholesale killing of villagers, but the sexual torture of women and children victimized by these death squads. Iran-Contra. It's a complicated issue that, let's face it, took place almost 30 years ago--although some would argue it's still taking place. I was filled with so much anger and disgust that my tax dollars could conceivably support this kind of thing. Our social media was much more limited back then. We had campus presentations by people who had witnessed this evil because these locations were the only forums where anyone would listen. Local churches too were deeply involved--I remember that. But what could we do? We had no social media devices as we do today, and organizing at a national or international level was much more difficult than it is now.
But here's the thing. What is the root of this evil? Is social media really going to make this evil go away? I doubt it so much that I'm willing to say "no."
What will make conduct like Kony's go away? And here, the chorus of angels descends: "enlightenment." We can't dissolve the impetus to harm one another until we understand we are all interconnected with not only one another, but this planet, and all the beings on this planet. How do we get enlightenment? For true enlightenment the easiest way is to find a capital "M" Master. Are there any on this planet now? Yes, there are. I think my Master is one. A lot of people think she's crazy, and I guess it could be said that all the other Masters I know of on this planet sound crazy. I've been thinking a lot about the craziness of spiritual life outside the box of "normal" lately, which maybe is why I've neglected this blog. There's a lot I'd like to say, but between thinking and doing on other pressing matters, there's not been a lot of energy for blogging.
So here's what I will say about enlightenment, capital "M" Masters, and crusades like Kony. If a teacher is charging you money for wisdom, that person is not a teacher. If a teacher says you can eat meat and meditate, that person probably is giving you a method that won't go beyond the causal level of consciousness. To me, those are the two essential qualities every Master should have--free enlightenment and a vegetarian practice for disciples. Very few teachers out there have these qualities. As for the Kony crusade, I think, in the end, I am right. Obviously we have to do what we can to get rid of Kony and everyone like him on this planet. At the same time, it is inconceivable that a vegetarian truth practitioner would do anything like what Kony is doing. How different would the world be if everyone meditated, was vegetarian, refrained from intoxicants, and did not lie, cheat or steal? How different would the world be if everyone was vegetarian and meditated?
My one son listened attentively to what I had to say, which I appreciated. When my other son brought up Kony and I gave him a shortened discourse, he said, "Whatever dad." Indeed, whatever. :)