Bill Moyers became disillusioned with government and quit to become one of the very few major-media journalists with a real conscience. He's always been a hero of mine; a true gift to followers of reason. His interviews with Joseph Campbell changed my life – and a lot of other peoples' too, I know, since consciousness-expanding ideas had really never made it to primetime until then.
On his excellent new PBS show, Moyers & Company, he recently interviewed the author and activist, Carne Ross, who's disillusionment with his role in misrepresenting the Iraq war run-up caused him to quit the British government, and take up more enlightened causes too. Though I have yet to read his new book, The Leaderless Revolution (Blue Rider Press), my interest was piqued by the "9 Principles of Action" they discussed during the interview.
I believe the best principles guiding the overall conduct of a movement or organization should apply to each individual on a personal level, so I'd like to explore his nine thought-provoking suggestions from that angle:
1: "Excavate Your Convictions"
I think this opener has it's foundation in two classic quotes: "A life unexamined is not worth living," Socrates, which in this case could be restated: "A motive unexamined is not worth pursuing;" and "When you bring forth that within you, then that will save you; if you do not then that will destroy you," Gospel of Thomas 70, which asks, "is this a cause that truly inspires the need in me to take action – not just an axe to grind or an ego-point to prove, but a pure conviction that I can't ignore without compromising my integrity?"
2: "Who's Got the Money, Who's Got the Gun?"
It's always helpful to surrender into the parts of my life that I'm powerless over, which are many...the Universe is pretty big, after all. Call it karma, which translates as action, so when I know I can take positive action for myself and those I care about, first I need to identify the true source of the problem with objective, nonjudgmental focus; or as I like to say: Grab the bull by the tail and face the situation, or (see #1): Find the source, and find relief. Where, within my [collective] self, does the problem actually come from?
3: "Act As If the Means Are the End"
This rephrasing of The Mahatma's "Be the change you wish to see in the world," works so well on a personal level because regardless of how impossible it seems for one person to change the world, each of our personal worlds changes profoundly when we carry honesty, compassion, and willingness faithfully and proactively into each day. I know everyday becomes a "new world" for me when I try to do that...and Gandhi was one man who did change the world. I also need to know that unified consciousness occurs within each individual (within me), or it simply doesn't occur.
4: "Ask, Don't Assume"
Many of the worst things I've ever done in my life, I gave a great deal of thought to first. I was sure that I was right about what I was doing, but then I hadn't asked everyone else that it affected. I can't presume that I know what's best for others if I'm not communicating with them directly and honestly. When I talk to everyone else involved, we can connect in those places we have in common – which is where we find all the most important stuff, after all.
5: "Addressing Those Suffering the Most"
This is a no-brainer for spiritual evolution, isn't it? No brain, all heart. How do I deal with the "least" of us, who are in fact the most of us. How do I connect to the world with my heart? Bringing my inner compassion to my outer actions is doubtless my most direct path. Though everyone has their own karma to work out, we are all the same thing really, and all of us have a birthright to share in the world's joyful abundance, not just the Rockefellers. The Gospel of Thomas 22 says (in part): "...when you make the inner like the outer, and the high like the low...then you will enter into The Kingdom."
6: "Everyone Gets to Decide"
What's the point of democracy, if not inclusion? I deserve to have my voice heard, registered, and valued, as does everyone from "top" to "bottom." A chain is strongest when all it's links have their own personal integrity intact. Technology miraculously permits this in a way never before imagined; and when I share compassionate consciousness with the whole body of humanity this way, my choices become balanced and I align with Life the way Life really wants me to – appropriately sized and equally acknowledged.
7: "Big Picture, Small Deeds"
I grow along my spiritual path by being present in this Eternal Moment, in which I'm always actually living; so "thinking from the end" in this moment is a great approach, but then taking on a huge problem all at once can cause a kind of paralysis to set in. The trick I find (and what Mr. Ross suggests here) is simply: To occupy this moment; doing just the next right thing right now – taking that next small step along the path to my destination. It's the easiest way, and often I find that when I look up, I'm already where I wanted to be (see #3), with time left to go even a little bit farther.
8: "Use Non-Violence"
There is simply no power on earth with half the heft of open-hearted acceptance and compassion. At their core, everyone really knows that there is nothing to get angry and violent about – only things that you can't accept. That innate understanding powers what The Mahatma called ahimsa, the irrefutable, overwhelming energy of simply, civilly doing what's right. Mr. Ross credits him, and points out that every evolutional advance including Suffrage, Civil Rights, and now The Occupy Movement, has had great success using this strategy of Love. We simply never fight back – that way.
I've experienced standing my ground with an open-heart in the face of an aggressor, and miraculously had the aggressor apologize to me minutes later – once, the fellow even broke down in tears while apologizing, and I hadn't done anything except smile and say it's okay... On the other hand, I was once beaten "to death" by skinheads when (because) I punched one of them back. That, as it turned out, was okay too, but it's the painful opposite lesson best avoided...
9: "Kill the King"
Being part of the thin layer of life on this planet, I am a part of everyone and everything, and so at my Ego's worst, I am the King; while at my humblest I am every commoner, and find my true power there. "Water finds it's power by seeking it's lowest point" (...which is a zen thing, I think). This one fits too:
"Fortunate is the lion eaten by a human, for lion becomes human. Unfortunate is the human eaten by a lion, for human becomes lion." The Gospel of Thomas 7
I'm not really special. I'm just like you or anyone else here, trying my best to learn what I need to learn and simply live well, or to live well simply. It's only the damaged part of me that insists that I'm entitled to live in self-indulgence; after all when we use our healthiest eyes to see, the emperor is quite completely naked. I have to lovingly point out to my "Entitled Ego" that most altruistic invention of my Inner Revolution – the guillotine, because it's certain that I have to change that one percent of myself...or else. Sometimes, I just need to take my head off, and allow my guiding voice to come from my heart.
Thank you Mr. Ross, for your thoughtful suggestions – your book looks like an excellent addition.
"How To Survive Life (and Death)," is available from Conari Press, or at all major booksellers––but ask for it from your local bookshop.