We've been fooled into thinking the best place to learn about (and participate in) the world is the internet.
But the internet (at least right now) is FULL of scams, distractions, tone deaf ads, trigger words, corruption, and biases. We have our sources and people we trust, but once we're logged on, we're pulled in to a dozen other activities. There is no 'going online for one thing only'. There's just a barrage of everything. Of course, the internet is an incredible tool and a gift, but it's synapses can be clogged with greed, anger, and misinterpretation.
It is exhausting and overwhelming and it is designed to be that way to sell us more stuff, more agendas, more hate and intolerance.
But there's an actual place where you can view the world through a more objective lens.
It used to be a mere transition ground, a commute between shops and stops, pre-pandemic.
Now it's a reflection of the heart of the world...the streets.
The streets of Chicago, Atlanta, Minneapolis, New York, Seattle, D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Paris, Madrid, London, Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver, Nairobi, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Melbourne, Rome, Warsaw, Lisbon, Tokyo, Montreal, and countless other communities have become a window to how the world actually feels. You might be tempted to think the world is just a binary battleground, or a hodge podge of ideologies and biases, too different to come together. Your newsfeed might be telling you that the protests and marches are mostly dangerous looters and rioters. Your algorithms might be lambasting you with more police brutality on a disturbing loop. But the only way to really get a sense for what's really happening in the collective realm of human beings, right now, is to join them where they are: the streets.
If you're avoiding the streets due to the spread of COVID-19, good. Maybe don't, then, spend all day posting soundbites and complaints and photos that emphasize division. Now is a great time to quiet everything and just listen. Skip the billion dollar news channels--they are behind on how the world really feels. Skip the algorithmic feeds if you're trying to actually educate yourself--they are feeding you whatever they think you want to hear so they can make more ad money. You're better off watching documentaries and reading books, or just looking for live streams from the places/things you're actually interested in learning about. You're better off phoning up your friend or family member who's been at the protests to get a true understanding of what they're about, than watching the same brutal news images over and over.
Stay vigilant while online, unplug regularly to stay gently tuned to your inner unfoldings, and be open to growing. Because the people refusing to grow are the ones having the toughest time, and the people willing to admit they've been wrong and could do better, are changing the world for its future generations.
The streets may not look how you want them to look, but they're not meant to be comfortable for you, though they are peaceful and powerful and uplifting for those who venture out. The streets are a real representation of the city: all of its unique and beautiful faces and bodies that so rarely get acknowledged in Hollywood blockbusters and binge-watches. The streets are a full spectrum: every marginalized misfit, every oppressed voice, every skin tone and hair texture, every disability, every gender identity, every artist of wide or underground renown. The streets are full of signs, crafted straight from each person's deepest priorities and lessons. In one hour on the streets, more true, unfiltered thoughts from vast perspectives can be taken in via handmade signs, than a whole day of scrolling through instagram or twitter or facebook, one square at a time. So many mind connections are made as you pound the pavement, shoulders burning from holding your own sign high. So much more honest dialogue with people we don't usually get to hear from happens here.
Teachers weigh in. Singers sing the protests. Drummers keep the energy up. Helpers jump in at every corner, directing traffic, handing out snacks and water, picking up trash, spraying sunscreen and pumping hand sanitizer. 50,000+ people of all walks of life literally come together, for miles and hours, in solidarity with causes so much bigger than us, though not particularly complicated:
It should be easier for oppressed groups like black and trans people to get jobs, get a good education, secure health care, and go about their life in peace.
There's no reason anyone should be excluded from the freedoms and public assistance this country has to offer, and there's no reason to propagate hate and bias just because we've been doing it for so long.
Stop searching for villains and victims among your fellow humans and start pitching in to help your community. Stop pointing fingers and ignoring evidence just because you feel uncomfortable. Vote for change.
It's OK. You're still worthy of love and compassion and freedom and joy--we just urgently need to acknowledge and help fight for that worthiness in actions for the underserved...
because we should all have a chance to thrive.
Signs I saw today that stood out to me:
"When you're accustomed to PRIVILEGE, EQUALITY feels like OPPRESSION."
"TEACHERS: if you're not here with us, you shouldn't be in a classroom."
"Some of you never watched Sesame Street, and IT SHOWS." (with perfect hand drawn Elmo, Big Bird, and Grover)
"All BLM" --on a tiny wooden sign, carried proudly by a happy chihuahua puppy
(Held by a kid) "I agree with the other signs!"
"Racism is the real pandemic."
A disturbingly detailed cartoon rendering of Donald Trump: as a pair of (again, I stress, VERY DETAILED) hairy balls, wearing a red tie.
Tons of scannable QR codes with direct links to voter registration help.
"I dumped my silent boyfriend."