Last night, I watched this powerful video, in which Trevor Noah captures with such eloquence the common link between the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police; the rioting and protests that have ensued; and the global pandemic that has impacted every aspect of our lives.
What we are seeing, claims Noah, is a breakdown of the social contract that we have made with our society and specifically our government. He says, “We agree on common rules, ideals and practices that define us.” And we play by the rules because we want society to work for everyone. In exchange we have certain expectations from society—especially from those in power. Right now, these expectations are being violated in the most egregious ways imaginable.
Just consider the following:
The social contract that has been thrust upon us since birth has been rendered null and void. When public servants act like profiteers; when law enforcement personnel act lawlessly without consequence; when captains of industry seek only to amass personal fortune at the expense of everyone else; and when those in power have absolutely zero accountability to most of the people they represent, the social contract is no longer valid.
This is a done deal. There is no need to protest and riot. We simply need to create and enforce a new social contract. That contract is among ourselves, person-to-person. Pandemics, natural disasters intensified by climate change, and the chaos and injustice we are witnessing on a daily basis are teaching us one very important lesson: WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. Instead of focusing on our differences, we have no choice but to find common ground.
It is time for a DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE. Let’s focus on what connects us, regardless of race, religion, sex, age, or any other factor. I believe we all have one common link, which is: NATURE. We are all embodied, sentient beings with the same basic needs, which psychologist Abraham Maslow identified in his famous hierarchy of needs:
In his final formulation of this hierarchy, Maslow placed self-transcendence (ST) at the very top. That is because he realized that our highest motivation—our true nature—lies in transcendent oneness with the people we value or cherish the most, not to mention the places, animals, plants, and ideals that we hold sacred. If you have ever loved someone or something so much that you would lay down your life for them, then you know what I mean.
The only way we are going to make it through these cataclysmic times and find light at the end of the tunnel is by valuing and cherishing EVERYONE the way we do our spouses, children, parents, lovers, pets, and dear friends. There is no other viable alternative.
Social engineering has led us to focus on our perceived differences and turn those differences into hatred, violence, discrimination, and disdain. In other words, those in power benefit from our animosity, and so they fan the flames of anger and prejudice on a daily basis. That is why the social contract imposed by the rich and powerful has no worth: it is not in our best interests. Let’s turn our back on it and replace it with something far more inspiring and sustainable.
We must reach out to each other, especially those who are most different from us, and say something along these lines:
YOU AND I ARE ONE.
WHAT YOU FEEL, I FEEL.
I HONOR AND PROTECT YOUR WELFARE AS I DO MY OWN.
WHEN YOU THRIVE, I THRIVE.
LET US COME TOGETHER FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL.
I know this is hard to do. That is why I have my doubts about the future of humanity, as I imagine you do. But extreme times demand extreme measures. Looking beyond our differences to find commonality, even when confronted with individuals and groups that stand for everything we despise, is our only hope. The social contract of the future will be one that promotes unity, cooperation, caring, and sharing. Why? Because in a rapidly-shrinking world, there is no other choice.
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