Betsy Toll on American Experiment
Betsy Toll, Living Earth: Gatherings for Deep Change, Portland, Oregon, www.LivingEarthGatherings.org
Re your first draft: Your point about the fundamental stories within or underlying the language of the political right raises what may be the most critical issue.
It appears to me that a key reason that the radical right story—that those “blessed” by God with advantages and wealth are also equally imbued with and destined for power, and those less blessed are intended to be dependent on, beholden to and subject to the support or abuse of the blessed—the reason this story works so well is that it reflects a primal experience embedded deep in the truth of each human’s personal story. The relationship to power, opportunity, ability and authority that every human being everywhere experiences as infant and child is reflected in the radical right story. The reality of vulnerability, helplessness, lack of skill and knowledge with which we each begin our lives positions us as totally dependent on and at the mercy of those large figures of authority and power in our lives; their superior position, and our complete dependence on them, is beyond question. It is, one could say, God’s design.
[Comment by Kim Corrigan: Being dependent, however, can also mean being safe, cared for and protected -- not just being vulnerable. If there are some perceived benefits of dependency, then aren't we actually just recreating this power relationship in our adult lives, so as to feel safe and cared for once again?]
That is a truth that is easy to understand, undeniable, indeed, surely the intention of the Creator. When that fundamental Gestalt is repeated and reflected in the creation/morality story that underlies a political philosophy, it makes a story that is pretty hard to beat — at least in a few sentences.
Therein lays the challenge to those who would create an equally powerful, compelling and unassailable alternative story upon which to build a just, compassionate, democratic, loving and bio-centric political movement. Can the new story hold within it our most basic, primary experiences? Can the role of strong and weak be equally compellingly presented as a story of fundamental compassion and love, interdependence, interconnection and grace?
It seems that the radical right story is heard and accepted at a very basic, non-intellectual level, and the new story will have to resonate with equal truth at that same deep level.
Somewhere within the greatness and beauty of sunrises, oceans, and human hearts, there is reason for hope. But it will require unflagging commitment and untiring dedication to the work.
Thanks so much for your stimulating thoughts, and your contribution to this work.
Posted January 16, 2004