Breaking Out of Indifference

In eulogizing Secretary of State Colin Powell, commentators and staff members spoke of him as the quintessential statesman, a true centrist who put country over party and people over profit. They spoke of him as representing the last of an era in global politics.

Could that be true? I suspect Powell would remind each of us that we have the same freedom of choice he did. We may feel forced into polarities and party lines, but we can lead from a deeper source of integrity within ourselves. The cost might be high, but the rewards are great.

The challenge to our current politics is not extremism. It’s our indifference to their results.

The past few years have revealed that collectively…

We are indifferent to corruption.
We are indifferent to climate change.
We are indifferent to labor rights.
We are indifferent to a growing wealth gap.
We are indifferent to caging children.
We are indifferent to corporate greed.
We are indifferent to lying.
We are indifferent to war.
We are indifferent to peace.
We are indifferent to the devaluation of women.
We are indifferent to violence.
We are indifferent to future generations.

Our collective indifference requires the suppression of our deepest human instincts of compassion and empathy. It disfigures the Sacred parts of us that remind us to “love one another as we love ourselves.”

Indifference is not a natural state – it generates a trauma response in our collective soul. We feel unsafe in the world and therefore are attracted (or bullied) into following “strong-man” authority figures who promise us safety. The price of our safety is our indifference.

We are indifferent as a culture. Why? Because if we weren’t indifferent, we would have to care. If we care, we can’t be indifferent. The antidote to our culture of indifference is to create a culture of care.

Perhaps that is what everyone is mourning in the loss of General Colin Powell. Despite serving in the US military for most of his career, he went on record to say that he hated war. He hoped for more just, loving, and generative solutions to human conflict. He cared.

We are swimming in the seas of grief, heartbreak, and loss these days. Let’s allow it to break us open instead of close us off. If we can move past our indifference, we might find our way back to caring for one another.

We are in this together,


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