Massive crises have one major advantage: they show you where you are. The sight can be stressful and shocking. But it would be wrong to say, “Who knew that?” We all knew it. In this country, you have to be deliberately ignorant to know nothing about racism, police brutality, income inequality, global warming, the amazing cost of medical care, and the predatory activities of large international companies.
A secondary advantage of a massive crisis is that changes can occur. People have woken up enough to protest racism and police brutality. COVID 19 deaths have awakened enough people that Medicare has a viable chance for everyone. We cannot afford to recycle the old story once things have returned to normal. As overwhelming as a massive crisis is, the good news is that the solutions are as known as the problems.
If you stare at this crisis without flinching, the solutions are staring at you. they include
Social justice. This can be solved with a fair, impartial judicial system and a police force that does not tend to harass minorities.
Economic justice. This can be solved by guaranteeing every citizen a safety net as it exists in countries where social democracy is already working.
Sustainability. This can be resolved by removing the pollutants and toxins that everyone knows are causing climate change.
Peace and conflict resolution. This can be solved by demilitarizing the world and ending the thinking between us and them.
Epidemic disease. This can be solved by taking public health seriously wherever it lags behind.
Misfortune and dissatisfaction. This can largely be solved by doing everything else on the list.
Each of these problems is generally moving in the wrong direction. Although everyone knows what the problems are and the solutions generally face us, the situation does not improve. Why? Slavery, child labor, lynching, spoiled food, and totalitarianism have changed in the past, and by the time reformers faced these terrible problems, rich, powerful, corrupt, and entrenched forces were the same obstacles we face today see.
Something fundamental is as true today as it was in the distant past: “The only thing that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.” The axiom came from Edmund Burke, a giant of English politics in the 18th century who also happened to be conservative. Reformers rely on good men (and women) to act on what they already know. This is a simple question of vision. Change your vision, get enough people to agree with you, and the good will prevail.
I consider this the new American dream because the old American dream no longer inspires the vast majority of us. The land of unlimited possibilities is the old American dream of getting to the point. But where did the opportunity take us? Rampant materialism, senseless consumerism, the dominance of the rich against the poor, sad social mobility, uncontrolled polluters, political apathy that has enabled two generations of reactionaries to push their agendas forward. Hollowness and corruption should not be the legacy of the American dream, but now we have learned to live with them in the hope that the goodies we amass are not taken away from us.
The tragic irony is that any problem can be solved without sacrificing American prosperity. What did polluted air and water, exorbitantly expensive healthcare, nuclear weapons supplies, trampled minorities, the burgeoning super-rich, corporate pension plans and venal demagogues in places of power do to make you happier? Answering “almost nothing” is not a wild guess.
The United States has approximately 4.5 percent of the world population and 20 percent of the world economy. They are world leaders in greenhouse gas emissions (second only to China) and enjoy the most expensive healthcare in the world with the worst returns from the existing medical system and stand alone among the developed western nations by providing their citizens with no housing, education and free guarantee medical care. We don’t have to call these things the product of evil, but they are certainly the product of inattention, sluggishness, social barriers, reactionary political forces, apathy and a lack of shared vision.
Of all the things that keep us from having a better life, I think the lack of shared vision is the one we can change now because no outside force can completely choke the mind. The mind is free when you wake up with what you already know is right. Such a step is not difficult, but another maxim must be observed: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
If you know what the solutions are, you are already part of the new American dream. You are not a victim of fate, circumstances, or history as long as you are awake instead of sleeping. The real possibilities were never material, but mental. Nobody took this opportunity away from you. Only habit and indolence have left the sleepiness of the past in place. Being the change you want to see in the world doesn’t require unusual courage or creepy action.
It just requires you to stop telling yourself that things will change while recycling the same old attitudes, beliefs, fears, blindness, conditioning, and apathy. These are the harmful forces that have led us into the current crisis. If the American state of emergency is true, why are we the worst country in the world to deal with the pandemic, led by vile politicians who want to prevent the common good instead of promoting it? The only remnant of the extraordinary that is left to us is a vision of possibilities. For me, a new American dream no longer requires anything, thank God.
DEEPAK CHOPRA ™ MD, FACPChopra Global, founder of the Chopra Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of wellbeing and humanity, and Chopra Global, a modern healthcare company at the interface of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and human resources transformation. Chopra is a clinical professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California at San Diego and works as a senior scientist at the Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 89 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous bestsellers from the New York Times. His 90th book, Metahuman: Unleash Your Infinite Potential, reveals the secrets of pushing beyond our current boundaries to gain access to a field of infinite possibilities. The TIME magazine has Dr. Chopra described as “one of the 100 best heroes and icons of the century”.
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