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Lions Roar : March 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 30 To go back to the early days of the environmental movement, there were ways we could have proceeded that were less polar- izing. We could have been less self-righteous. I think of my own self-righteousness in my early days as a public interest lawyer, and it makes me cringe. Victories won in an adversarial fashion come at a very high cost. These have led to the spiral of mutual hostility that we see acted out in Congress every day, where the last vestiges of parti- sanship and civility have virtually disappeared. This has led to a paralyzing inability to address issues that must be dealt with. You used to regard people who were polluting the planet and causing other kinds of harm as “bad people.” How do you see them now? I don’t see them as “them.” I see them as “us.” We are all pollut- ing the planet, aren’t we? So it’s all of us, and it’s our problem, not “their” problem. Letting go of the idea of good guys against bad guys, I’ve come to see it’s a very complicated set of interlocking problems in which we all must make sacrifices. It’s not the bad, profit-driven corporations that have to be changed. There is a job for corporations, for sure, but we have to insist that we have a gov- ernment strong enough and independent enough to demand pub- licly responsible behavior from corporations. That’s essential. You regard the presidency of Ronald Reagan as a low-water mark for compassion and inclusiveness. Yet many Americans still regard Reagan as a hero. Reagan became a symbol of a self-indulgent individualism, which is still a powerful force in this country. The idea that selfishness is a virtue, and generosity a kind of foolishness, received wide acceptance. That’s still a widely held point of view, reflected in the fact that we have enormous and growing inequality between the rich and the poor, that we’ve created a new Gilded Age. The people who lionize Reagan are deeply grounded in that attitude. We’re starting to see the prices of that attitude in environ- mental destruction, indifference to the plight of the poor, and the idea that government is the enemy and taxes should only be cut, never raised. These are attitudes that activists have to work against, but they shouldn’t just be working to change corporate policy, or to get a new law adopted that will put, for example, stronger limitations on products sold to small children. Those are important issues, and we’ve got to continue working on them, but we’ve also got to understand that these shifts in public policy are only possible, and, ultimately, only effective, if they are attached to a shift toward wisdom, and toward the values of community, mutuality, and interconnection. Do you see signs of wisdom in the political arena? Wisdom is not going to come to politics first. It’s going to come from other places and infiltrate the political process, because when enough people have attuned their lives to wisdom, they will start demanding wisdom from political leadership. ♦ MAR 18-41.indd 30 MAR 18-41.indd 30 12/19/07 2:34:24 PM 12/19/07 2:34:24 PM