“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.” ~ Roy T. Bennett
I sorely need Mr. Bennett’s words this morning. In the aftermath of 18 days of protests and food shortages that I posted about in It Could Happen to You, the agreements reached between the CONAIE indigenous federation and the government on Thursday have at least brought peace back to my corner of the world. And yet, I’m left with this creeping feeling that it’s not over yet. Not even close.
Yesterday I tried to take a break from “real life” by turning on the radio, and baking without concern for how we would replace the propane or the ingredients. The road blocks have been cleared, and goods are flowing again. I tried to lose myself for a little while in a very simple and familiar task.
Real life managed to worm its way into my mind, however. My thoughts drifted to the CONAIE protestors, who were now making their way back home, but to what? The poverty they are trying to overcome will most assuredly not be resolved with the words and signatures committed to paper on Thursday. The agreements they made in order to restore peace fell far short of that for which they were asking.
The root problem lies in the fact that we live in a world that’s way out of sync with our basic human and spiritual values. The requests made by the CONAIE on the face of it were logical solutions to obvious disparity between rich and poor. However, the real problem has not yet been addressed. I do not believe the government sees these people as part of their human family. They see them as an inconvenience, people who although seemingly integrated into the society, still cling to values to which the government cannot relate. These people are getting in the way of global profit-driven and political agendas. There is still a vast chasm between the two worlds.
I do not share the feeling of elation that I see many around me expressing, that they can now go to the grocery store and get exactly what they want. (Really, are you that one-dimensional?) That feeling they have came at a very high price, but they do not realize it yet. They have a difficult time relating to the person for whom 15 cents on a gallon of gas makes a huge difference. Yes, they too may be on a budget, but 15 cents is not their breaking point (yet).
To come to full circle on all of this and back to Roy. T. Bennett’s quote, I see from these 18 days that I must be resolute in centering my mind and heart in the creation of solutions, not focusing on the problem. I went to the mercado (farmer’s market) one week ago, before the protests had been resolved. Fresh food was becoming more scarce, and certainly potatoes were much harder to find. I met a lovely indigenous woman and her husband who were still selling them. When I asked the price, the lady hesitated. I could see she struggled internally with what was fair for both parties concerned. With dwindling products, customers were becoming sparser in the mercado, and clearly my wallet would bear a higher asking price.
She conferred with her husband, and they did quote a fair price within the context of what is normal, but was it in the middle of this crisis? I gave her a bill, for which she went to a neighboring vendor to seek change. When she returned and handed it to me, I gave back to her some of it, to the extent my own conscience felt it was now a fair exchange. She knew then that I saw and felt her plight. and I was rewarded with a big smile.
Of such interactions are real and solid bridges built. It is our direct human contact and commitment to change that will transform the world, and from the bottom up, not the other way around. We each can personally construct the bridges that build a better society, one bit of love, compassion, and understanding at a time.
We must all be committed to this, because we live in a world that’s in extreme flux. This crisis, and all the others like it brewing around the world, are not going away until we all take responsibility for solutions, and personally get in the game.