I suppose it would be accurate to say I’m a bit of a “shit-disturber.” I say things out loud that others seem more inclined to “keep quiet” about. Ironically, I would actually prefer to lead a quieter life – more time for walking, appreciating Nature, reading (in 5 lifetimes I probably couldn’t read all the books I’d like to!) & writing.
It’s also true that I grew up in a family in which keeping quiet & not making waves – not standing out, shall we say – was…well, let’s just say it was a good idea to be a little on the quiet & obedient side when I was a kid.
Now, I make waves. And noise. Why?
Because we live in a world that is teetering on the edge of collapse. Did I just say teetering?? It’s more than teetering. Cancer has become epidemic. The ice sheets are melting & the ocean rising. The weather has gone plain cuckoo. Among many other things…
All our human-made “systems” are broken & breaking more & more by the day (find me one that isn’t & I’ll give you a kewpie doll!). Only people with duct tape over their eyes & ears can fail to see this. Now, I like duct tape as much as the next person, but I’m not interested in wearing it, thanks!
I wrote a blog post a while ago called “Telling the Truth: American soldier & Iraq” about Shannon P. Meehan, a former U.S. Army lieutenant who fought in Iraq & has published a book called Beyond Duty: Life on the Front Line in Iraq. This is a soldier whose book is almost certainly making waves.
Soldiers are expressly expected to keep their lips zipped. Doesn’t matter what they’ve seen or done or how many atrocities they have witnessed, the script they are given says, “Keep it zipped & move on!”
Of course the problem is, when we do keep quiet about atrocities, & about pain & violence & our own personal horrors (& our own personal histories of abuse of whatever kind we underwent as children), it makes us sick &/or crazy, from the in-side out.
In some cases, it makes us violent. Or maybe we just have occasional outbursts of anger/rage so over the top & so out of proportion to what is actually taking place in the present moment that one finally has a sudden Aha! moment & thinks “Hmmm, I wonder what the heck THAT was really about???”(1)
Well. There was an interview on the CBC Radio (on ‘The Current’) on Wednesday, April 28th with another American who’d been a soldier in Iraq & whose life was also changed (much the way Shannon Meehan’s was) as the result of a particular offensive on a particular day. He couldn’t get the images out of his mind, & when he went to his superiors, got no help beyond basic advice to keep quiet & suck it up.
Eventually, this fellow left the military &, with another soldier (or ex-soldier; sorry; not 100% clear on the details…) wrote a letter of apology to the people in the village where the offensive had taken place.
The two (former) soldiers’ names are Ethan McCord & Josh Steeger. 3000 people have signed their letter of apology.
McCord commented in ‘The Current’ interview that an integral part of being part of ‘the system’ is taking responsibility. You can’t always “go with the flow,” he said. Sometimes, you gotta make waves.
This made me recall another CBC interview with men who work on skyscrapers in New York City. One of the men interviewed commented that “you can really go places, provided you keep your mouth shut.”
It’s pretty easy to see that folks who believe in making waves are people who are not just thinking about themselves, & about “going places.” These are people who feel a sense of responsibility to their fellow human beings – while people who are determined to “keep their mouths shut” & “go far” see themselves as more…well…isolated, perhaps?
Personally, I really enjoy feeling I’m part of a tribe.
Devra Davis once said, quoting an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
I think a lot of us have had about enough of the “me, myself & I” routine by now.
& I’m here to tell you 2 things:
- When soldiers & former soldiers start speaking out, that not only takes a lot of guts, it really sends a powerful message about the way the world is going.
- We really can go far when we go together! I’ve been “going far” with fellow activists for 20 years now. I’ve had tons of grand adventures & fun – even an occasional triumph! – & personally have my doubts that life really gets any better than that.
A Filipino proverb says, “A clear conscience is more valuable than wealth.”(2)
I say, a clear conscience iswealth.
For sure, the only way I can live with my own is to keep right on making waves.
It’s wonderful to know that I’m in marvellous & ever-expanding (& even more & more unexpected) company!!
P.S. You can listen to the Ethan McCord interview here
‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “Once you know the difference between right and wrong, you have lots fewer decisions to make.” – Joseph Campbell, quoted in the biography “A Fire in the Mind – The Life of Joseph Campbell” by Stephen & Robin Larsen
(1) I wrote about Eckhart Tolle & his concept of the pain body in “Pain Bodies on Parade or Oh, To be a duck!” & highly recommend that any & everyone else read Tolle too!! Understanding the pain body concept is enormously freeing & given the state of the world, potentially world-saving, even! You can also Google Tolle & find a short YouTube in which he explains his pain body concept.
(2) Funny. When I went to my quotations document to locate that one, these 3 other very relevant quotations popped right out at me: “Revenge has no more quenching effect on emotions than salt water has on thirst” (Walter Weckler); “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain” (James Baldwin) & “Anger is often more harmful than the injury that caused it” (English proverb).