Acceptance and Equality – Treating Others With Respect

A few things have happened recently that inspired me to write something about this topic. One was the landmark decision from the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) which ruled that both the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 were unconstitutional. This has opened the door for people in this country to have equal rights in marriage.

The same week I attended a speaking appearance and book signing of a woman named Glennon Melton. She is the author of Carry On, Warrior and the founder of the Momastery blog. One of her strongest messages is of acceptance. We are who we are and we should celebrate our differences and help each other get through life. Glennon embraces flaws in herself and others and encourages honesty. She says life is “brutiful” (a combination of brutal and beautiful), and I have to agree. I watched as hundreds of women shared experiences openly among the crowd and found her messages bringing a sense of hope and belonging for more of the beautiful days ahead.

Unfortunately the biggest opponents of equal rights are often religious-based institutions or ideology. Religion should be a tool for people to learn and grow spiritually and to be able to have more tolerance for others, not less. Religous texts do have many wonderful and insightful concepts that inspire and help billions of people, but they also often have out-dated doctrines that require people to be judgmental and even hurtful toward others.

What happened to the universally-accepted rule of treating others as you would like to be treated yourself?

As populations, governments and learning institutions continue to change and evolve, so too hopefully can religions. It is perfectly acceptable to have different beliefs and customs from other people, but when those are then projected onto others forcefully and without compassion for humanity, then they become oppressive. When those actions begin to harm others or deny their basic rights then they aren’t beneficial to anyone and just breed fear, hate and segregation.

This is not meant to sound preachy, but mainly an appeal for people to focus more on love than on hate. Love for other people, including complete strangers, is what makes this world a better place for all to live in. Of course we will always have our differences and opinions, but that is what makes it so interesting and wonderful. If everyone was the same it would be an awfully boring place. As long as we aren’t harming others, we should all have the same freedoms.

Next time you’re faced with a judgmental thought or opinion of someone, consider taking the time to see where it is stemming from and whether or not you would want to be judged or discriminated against if the tables were turned.

Independent Thought Working Within The Collective

Like millions of other Americans, I spent much of the last 48 hours thinking about, talking about, posting about, listening to and watching something about politics and the presidential election. Social media was on fire with keyboard-lashings abound. Compared to the last election in 2008, many more people were connected via social media in 2012, by far. For example, there were about four million Twitter users at that time compared to well over 500 million today. Facebook had about 120 million users back then and now have topped one billion.

This brought about good and bad circumstances. First of all, people are more apt to say things online than they would in person, which has been studied and is also pretty easily observed. The biggest example I’ve ever seen of this happened during this election, where people from all over the country and the world weighed in on their political opinions, including yours truly. Among all of these were people so deeply entrenched in their beliefs and ideologies that they accosted others online for expressing a different view, whether for a particular party or a specific topic. Some of it got downright nasty.

Thankfully there were some voices of reason among the crowd, praising people for having and expressing independent thought but reminding them that others had the freedom to do so as well. Trying to punish or harm someone else (verbally or otherwise) for having a difference of opinion is an act of oppression and prohibits growth. Love, honor and respect for one another is essential for evolution. This election, combined with the economic climate and foreign relations have created incredible polarization and tension in our country. We must remind ourselves of what makes this country great, and find ways to continue moving forward and working together through adversity. We must be examples for our government and it is supposed to be a representation of us. Is that what is happening now or is it the other way around?

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, called on politicians to leave their respective parties behind in order to work together for the good of the people. I happen to think that’s a smart idea from a smart man and would get us much further as a nation and as a collective of individuals than any two-party system will get us. If you need any examples, just go scrolling back through your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Bullying Goes Beyond Kids

There is a documentary film out right now called “Bully” being released by the Weinstein Co. You can watch the trailer for it below this post. It has a strong message, in that if bullying isn’t stopped people get pushed over the edge, but there is something that we all can do about it.

In the BlogTalk Radio bit that is embedded below as well you can hear a bit about the story of Brian, who was included in this People Magazine article more than ten years ago. You can also hear about other examples of bullying, and how it’s not just limited to school kids.

Bullying and discrimination are counterproductive to the betterment of society. These actions and behaviors contribute to negativity and hurt, which resonates in our culture and that lower-scale energy effects others by bringing them down as well. The people committing these acts then continue to do so, as others show “approval” by allowing it to go on or by participating in similar behavior themselves.

The opposite is also true. When someone takes a stand by expressing their discontent, stopping others from that behavior, or taking the time to encourage and uplift people who were previously bullied, then positive energy is emitted and helps others feel better. This is one way to increase the feeling of a group, town or a whole society, by simply treating others with dignity and respect; by bing inclusive rather than inclusive; and by celebrating each others’ individuality as a form of togetherness instead of viewing it as a way to be different from or separate.

Please take the time to educate yourself and your loved ones about the damage caused by all types of bullying and look at ways that you can stop this sort of behavior from occurring in your circles of influence. Remember, it’s not just with kids at school – it happens at work, in public places, in sports and other areas too. If we all found these areas of discrimination and bullying in our lives and decided to take some sort of stand against them, then literally everyone would feel at least a little bit better as a result.

Listen to internet radio with lacpib on Blog Talk Radio

Dissecting Propaganda Machines

Ah, yes, the wonderful social control mechanisms of propaganda – used to segregate, motivate and retaliate populations with ease. There are very few sources of media that simply report regular news today, and even less who report good news. Most media outlets are either slanted to the left or the right, and love to spill sordid details of corruption, fear, debauchery, gossip and carnage.

Unsuspecting people become the victim of whatever agenda lies behind many of these stories. Nowhere is it more evident, to me, than when political positioning tries to exploit tragedies and turn them into platforms for polarization. That machine is taking advantage of the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman saga as we speak. TV networks, newspapers, radio stations, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and other outlets abound with opinions and details about this story so much that there are few Americans that have not heard at least something about it. The question, rather, is what they’ve heard and who from.

Since it is a Presidential election year, I believe that this sensational firestorm has been intentionally created to once again divide our country and create chaos, and both (or all) sides are guilty, in my opinion. The “facts” of the case appear to be irrelevant to many, as they are only using bits and pieces to rally their troops for their causes. As a result there will unfortunately be more tragedies since people are being goaded into disdain of others and how different they are. The heart of the story has been completely lost, and no matter the outcome, there will be protest. My only hope is that true justice is served.

Make no mistake that propaganda specialists continually scour the country for stories to use to their advantage and spin into controversey. From marketers of products to sell, to religious institutions and of course the famed political establishments.

The biggest problem is that they are counting on Americans to be unaware and incapable of thinking for themselves, and unfortunately they are often right on a large scale. When controlling organizations such as media outlets, churches, governments or other social groups have convinced you that you can’t think for yourself, then you essentially have surrendered part of your consciousness to them and their propaganda machines.

I have recently been the target of one group I used to belong to, so I can understand what it is like being on all three sides – the unenlightened follower, the pawn to forward a message and the independent thinker able to see things for what they are, or at least reserve judgment until all the facts have been presented appropriately.

The next time you feel compelled to do something after a story you’ve read, heard or been told, maybe ask yourself what the source of that information has to gain from it, if anything, and whether or not you have the whole truth in order to form a rational thought about it. When it comes to generating negative feelings about another person, maybe try and find out what you have in common with them, rather than looking for what is different about them. The more commonalities you can find between yourself and another, the better chance at avoiding a conflict we all have.

What Things Really Matter in Life?

I must admit that I do love the entertainment industry, like most people. I love movies, music, TV shows, theater, books, games, you name it. I have a deep appreciation for the craft and creativity of the artists and all that it takes to create the entertainment for people to enjoy as well.

However, I have to say that I’ve also at times fallen into the trap of our current pop culture via the representation of synthetic ideals that are often portrayed through modern entertainment mediums.

For example: many reality TV starts. The popularity and ridiculousness of some are downright negative influences on people, especially teenagers and young adults. Throw in a lot of songs that appear across multiple genres of music and a heaping helping of celebrity gossip websites and we get a large amount of attention being stuck on, what? Attention for the sake of attention, heavy alcohol abuse, promiscuity, violence, possessions, appearance, etc. I won’t call out specific names, but I’m sure you’ve seen or heard examples of this recently.

As I grow older some of these things are easier to spot, and interest or participation becomes at-will rather than a compulsion to emulate them. I’ve been through a lot in life and am less than halfway through it, and I’m reminded more each day of the things that truly matter.

For me, family is important. There were times where I was more on my own and acted selfish in many ways, but family was always there and it is important to give back as well. This goes the same for children. My life has been infinately enriched by my daughter, and I believe there is no greater reward on Earth than to be a parent. It teaches responsibility, patience, unconditional love, and so much more – but gives it back in abundance. I love kids. One of the greatest things to watch and experience is kids playing and laughing. Their innocence, joy and excitement is pure.

Real friends are also important. In tough times you find out which ones you can count on for support vs. which ones are “only your friend if…” or only when it benefits them in some way. I’ve tried to apologize for friends and aquaintances that I’ve treated poorly or had misunderstandings with, and I’m thankful that so many were understanding, especially those who really understood me. For those who bailed when they were needed, I will still be there if and when they need me.

What else really matters? Having some sort of purpose in life – working toward accomplishing something that has meaning or value. Continuing to acheive goals and move forward while overcoming obstacles helps to keep us happy and feeling some reward. It also provides rewards such as money to have and do things. There is nothing wrong with having nice things and being financially rewarded for your work, I just wouldn’t recommend that those “things” become or define who you are.

Helping others is a huge one, and really can be applied to those above as well. It can be little things like opening the door for people, assisting a random stranger, volunteering with your church or charity, or anything that seeks to better society in some way.

Most people find that belonging to some sort of faith or spiritual practice is essential to their living. Regardless of what you believe in or what faith you follow, the idea that there is more to life than just this life here and now can bring a sense of peace, comfort, and belonging. It is just as important to respect the religious beliefs and rights of others, even if they are not religious at all. As long as they are not actively harming someone then it is perfectly okay for them to believe what they want. My personal take is that there are so many religions and denominations that think they are the only true salvation that none of them can be right, or they all can be right, either way.

There really are a number of things that could be added to this list, and each paragraph could be expanded into much more, but I think that friends, family, having a purpose, helping others and having some spiritual recognition covers the basics on which all else can rest.

So try this one day: the next time you feel yourself getting caught up in popl culture to the degree that you start to identify with it more than with your true self, try turning everything off and taking a walk or do some other activity with your family or friends that is meaningful to you all. As the decades go by, it will be those times that you will remember and cherish the most, for those are what truly matter.

Consider Another’s Point of View

We all get in conflicts and disagreements. It’s part of the beauty of this universe in that we can have our own thoughts, opinions and points of view. We are free to do so.

Before you judge someone, maybe it’s a good idea to take into account what their point of view is on something. It’s okay to simply disagree on most topics. What were they taught or what experiences have they had that brought them to their conclusions? How are these different from yours and can you see their point of view when those things are considered?

Condemnation usually comes from an uneducated enforcement of beliefs. People are often taught that their way (political party, religion, etc.) is the only true/right way to live. Some go as far as saying that any deviation from the strict adherence is wrong. How could this really be so, especially with seven billion people on Earth?

Rather than creating further rips in our already torn social fabric, try to allow others to be who they are and believe what they want while accepting them for those ideals and philosophies. Leading by exampmle in this manner will create more sanity around you and, ultimately, start receiving the same treatment in return. It is a much less stressful way of living than creating your own enemies by shutting yourself off from those who are “different” from you.

Finding your individuality among the greater community of your neighborhood, town, state, country, planet and universe, and affording others the same respect you would want in return, is a valuable trait for which you will be rewarded many times over.

The New Beginning

Life happens in cycles. It’s all around us – in politics, fashion, economics and of course the days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries and millenia.

This New Year marks a major turning point for many in our country and all over the world. There are new governments and leadership changes occurring, the loss of loved ones is replaced with new people enriching our lives, and the storms so many have weathered seem to be breaking up with sunshine peaking through.

With one helluva year behind us, it’s time to leave much of it in the past and move forward to create a better today and tomorrow for us all. The challenge is not only how to help make ourselves better, but also how to improve the lives of others with our actions. This has a ripple effect that can continue to create positive change that will carry on through a new era.

My wish is for you to have an amazing 2012 and to treat this as a new beginning in more ways that one. Resolutions aside, what can you do to create a positive and lasting impact on society?

The Damaged Caused by Labeling People

Throughout man’s history, and certainly in today’s popular culture, labeling people and creating stereotypes can be a very damaging practice for both individuals and whole populations. It creates a separation, a divide, a stance “against”; whether warranted or not.

A common type of labeling that occurs today is with addictions and mental disorders. The documentary film Curing Addiction talks about some of this with regards to substance abuse. Once someone is labeled as an “addict” it can be hard for them to shake it, whether they are still one or not. This also is the case with kids who are rambunctious or very active and then labeled as having ADHD. The mental disorder labels continue on from there to include things such as PTSD, Social Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, et. al.

In school kids tend to get labeled as being nerds, jocks, skaters, rednecks, preps, and so many others, as if their interests or activities somehow define them. In reconnecting with people over time, especially through social networks such as Facebook, most of these prior school labels seem to vanish as people grow up and recognize that we are all, well, just people. Having compassion for one’s fellow human beings doesn’t really go well with creating major classifications and divisions within society.

Religions also have a tendency to label people who don’t follow their path as somehow being “less than”, and entire wars are fought with countless lives lost. Yet we are all here ultimately trying to achieve the same broader goals, more or less. We are trying to survive and grow, to experience life through contributions, love and happiness, and to coexist peacefully.

When labels become more than just a simple adjective for lack of better description at the time, they can be extremely hurtful, and give people the wrong impression of others, as well as significantly damaging individuals’ rights. Labels like that become tools for propaganda and hate, used toward achieving some other objective that often further divides populations and creating enemies along the way.

The more people become labeled, the more often some begin to act like what they have been labeled as. The example in Curing Addiction talks about addicts who wind up believing that they are somehow diseased for life and therefore have no hope and so continue to relapse. With kids who are labeled as ADHD it can become a script they then continued to live out through adolescence and well beyond, with a “reason” for their behavior. With religions, it continues to be a way to create even greater barriers to accomplishing what their original teachers set out to do – to help their fellow man find some type of spiritual salvation for eternity.

Maybe before you try and pigeon-hole someone in your life with a label, you can take a look at what that person really is all about and what his or her true intentions and activities are in life, and see if labeling them is the right thing to do. Tolerance and understanding breeds more of the same, just as the opposite is true.

Giving Thanks – Helping Others

Today I did something I normally don’t do – I gave money to someone on the side of the road asking for help. Usually I reserve my help and donations to working with organizations, yet today I saw a woman at an intersection with a sign. I didn’t read the whole thing, but I did she something about having four kids, and she looked sincere, as it was raining and the temperature was steadily dropping down into the forties.

I had just finished grocery shopping for the week, and had gotten $20 cash back. I reached in my pocket and pulled out that $20 bill, skipping over the single dollars I had, rolled down the window and offered it to her. She was very surprised that it was twenty bucks, and said “God bless you” and went back to the curb. To me, it was just some cash in case I needed it for something, but for her, maybe it was an extra night’s worth, or more if spent wisely, for her kids.

My eyes welled up as I drove off, not out of sadness, but instead thankfulness for what I do have. Despite any troubles or hardships I may have or have been through, I knew that I was in a good place overall. It reminded me of a conversation I had with “The Secret” author, Rhonda Byrne, a few months ago, who told me that the greatest purpose in life is to serve others in some capacity. So many great inspirational people, pastors, authors, coaches, entrepreneurs, teachers, parents and many more have proven over and again that the greatest rewards in life come not from what you get, but what you give. Ultimate success comes from this, and riches come in many forms, materially, socially and spiritually.

As the country reflected on things we are thankful for this past Thanksgiving, the absolute biggest thing I am thankful for is the inherent good in all of us and the experience of living – good times and bad. If every single one of us would figure out a way to help others in some fashion or another, our world would be a better place to live, and more people would be appreciative for what they do have while others give back after having been helped. There are times in all of our lives where we needed help and someone was there, let us not forget that as we move through the rest of the Holiday Season and on to the new year.

Getting Out from Under the Government and Debt

By now it should be pretty clear to most people that our government is not capable of responsibly spending our money. There are at least 14 trillion reasons out there today. Many of the governmental programs are also ineffective at helping people get back on their feet, and instead serve to keep them in struggling positions.

I wanted to take a moment to give a few examples of how we can restore productivity to higher levels in our country while reducing our national debt as well as the overall size of our government.

One of the first ways is to increase the efficiency of programs that offer public assistance. Some examples include having effectiveness measurements in place with goals set, making sure there are more programs designed to get people healthier and back to work (rather than our current sick-care industry that keeps people unhealthy and unproductive) and having forward progress requirements as part of the assistance. The goal for most of these people should be to get them back on their feet, but many have assumed the identity of someone who is incapable of fully functioning. I don’t say this to offend anyone, as there are of course cases where people do require a lifetime of assistance, but having worked in various parts of the non-profit and healthcare industries I have seen a large number of people who have become “disabled” by the system itself who would otherwise be perfectly capable of working.

Having less people on government assistance means of course greater productivity, which in itself creates more jobs and more taxpayers. Right there we start cutting the expenses while also increasing the income as a nation.

Another way is to reduce military spending. I’m not talking about a reduction of military personnel, which would cut jobs, but a reduction of overall spending. For example, some foreign policy makers and defense department personnel feel that we must have a continual presence in places that are not necessary. Another example is actually close to where I’m currently located, where there is a large artillery manufacturing operation that apparently builds, stores and detonates bombs on a continual basis. Is that necessary? There are other defense contractors that I’m sure are wasteful in their operations and spending that could easily be cut back.

An overhaul of our criminal justice programs and policies is a huge area as well. The United States has one of, if not the highest incarceration rates in the world, and there are over two million people behind bars in America right now. Amending sentencing laws and implementing better reform programs would not only cut the immediate costs of housing so many inmates, but also would dramatically reduce the re-offender and recidivism rates.

By reducing costs in many areas we would actually be able to start paying people who work in the military, or as teachers, police officers, firefighters and other jobs higher wages because there would be more money available for it. We would also have more money for building better roads and improving infrastructure for further economic growth and development.

There are so many examples of ways to cut costs and increase productivity that many people in the private sector can clearly see, yet the bureaucracy that gets our tax dollars for some reason cannot balance the budget or produce much positive change.

On a personal level, there are other ways to improve social change through non-profit work. People should be encouraged to volunteer and/or donate to non-profit organizations, especially those that are designed to help others help themselves, such as learning trades and life skills so they can be more self-sufficient and re-enter the workforce. If more people adopted the idea that we are all here to help and serve others in some fashion or another then there would be less need or greed and a much better society overall.

I think the bottom line is that WE are the ones who put people in office, and clear messages need to be sent to Washington, D.C. about what they are supposed to do. They work for US, but many of them think it is the other way around. Don’t believe me? Try going to Capitol Hill and see how many elected officials will truly listen to you, especially when there isn’t an election on the horizon. Even if you get a meeting at their D.C. office look into their eyes and see how well they are listening to what you have to say and understanding what you are telling them, or if they are instead just counting down the few minutes you have been allowed with some smiling and nodding. If you feel your Senator or Representative is really there and listening to you, then you’re one of the lucky few.

What are some of the ways you see we could cut spending and reduce our dependency on government?