Archive for June, 2009

The Cancer Without and Within

By Lauren Kennedy      http://www.InsitetoExcellence.com

At the dawning of the twenty first century, disturbing reports of questionable behavior were beginning to trickle out  from various sources, despite organized efforts to suppress, conceal or spin. The inherent trust and respect that we have customarily  granted certain elite organizations, government positions and prominent businesses began to waiver. Over the course of several years, distressing revelations repeatedly exploded into public awareness. Reactions were varied: feelings of betrayal, confusion, anger, and fear were countered by efforts to rationalize, excuse or deny the obvious misconduct.

The first hint of betrayal oozed into the media, tarnishing the image of a long revered establishment. Powerful, wealthy and  the premier voice of authority on issues of morality, the Catholic Church was now on the defensive. The clergy –  Priests, Bishops and Cardinals had been harboring priests who were engaging in child abuse. They were actively protecting the offending priests from prosecution, by repeatedly relocating them to new unsuspecting parishes. The priests,  viewed with reverence and unquestioning trust from their parishioners, and had ready access to the most vulnerable amongst them.

Mounting evidence recently  exposed gross abuses in the use of executive powers. The politicians countered with justifications, alleging that they were misinformed, and claiming that they had acted solely in the best interests of the United States.

Taken with their own self importance, they concluded that fulfilling their personal agenda and/or beliefs, was more important than complying with executive restraints.  They expertly concocted galvanizing speeches, neatly spinning  propaganda, false information  and omissions designed to elicit an emotional response and convince us to support their hidden agendas.  Authoritative discourses by government elite, reminded us of our vulnerability and our patriotic duty.   We were duly motivated by a campaign of emotional manipulation to approve and support a war based on rhetoric and personal agendas.

But they went further still. They fed our terror, and in the name of protecting our form of government, they passed amendments and laws that infringe on our personal freedoms, our privacy, our dignity and strip away some long held constitutional rights. We overlooked the contradiction, accepting the rational that to protect the freedoms inherent in our democratic form of government, we must approve laws that limit, infringe or strip us of many of our constitutional rights and personal freedoms. We were fed, and happily swallowed a diet of fear, revenge, and blind patriotism.

Then came Guantanamo. Reports of torture, violations of human rights and disregard for the guidelines of the Geneva Convention surfaced. Then came accounts of individuals who were snatched off the streets and held incognito, without charges, without phone calls, for an indefinite time period. Interestingly, most of these reports elicited little public concern. Although, we have been quick to condemn human rights violation in other countries, we preferred to overlook them in our own. Finally the political climate began to shift when, over our justifications, some of the countries that we consider our allies, reproached our conduct. And for good reason.

Many of the techniques used at Guantanamo were previously identified as war crimes during the Geneva Convention. The manor in which prisoners were to be treated and the techniques that constituted inhumane abuse had been set forth in specific guidelines. The United States was instrumental in writing, approving and supporting this agreement. At Guantanamo, painful, humiliating and dehumanizing conduct was evident in some of the video recordings:  for example, prisoners were instructed  to lay naked on the cold cement floor, on their sides, one up against the other, while intimidating guards stood over them shouting out abusive, derisive comments in between their laughter, jokes and amusement at the prisoners obvious humiliation and powerlessness. Torture was routinely inflicted without formal charges and certainly without conviction.

In addition,  a psychologist, posing as a supportive individual whom the prisoner could trust,  would discover the prisoner’s greatest fears and helped to design situations that would maximize his terror. If you were afraid of insects, you would be put in a dark room, on the cold floor,  with insects placed all over you.

Individuals were abducted here and abroad, never to be heard from again. Sometimes the individuals only crime was having a second nephew who was a suspected terrorist sympathizer. Now there’s a scary thought, being arrested for the suspected views of a distant family member.

The most recent revelation affected our pockets. Powerful corporate executives’ single minded pursuit, to secure massive profits and satisfy share holders, tipped the country into financial mayhem. This was not an overnight occurrence. Corporate conglomerates have been wielding their power and gaining preferred treatment at an alarming rate for some time. They convinced congress to pass deregulation on their loans and financial dealings. They have lobbied successfully to minimize the regulation of the pollutants that they pump into the air, the water and the ground. They are gaining support  to access protected land in Alaska to drill for a small amount of oil, in the midst of concern about global warming.

Corporate supporters cry socialization when any government restrictions are suggested. Wait a minute. Citizens’ conduct is regulated by governmental laws and no one cries socialism. Why aren’t corporations subject to the same laws of civilized conduct?

In addition, they pay a pittance in taxes, while earning huge profits.   By default, they have transferred the tax burden of the country to the citizens. When called into question on their conduct,  their excuse is we haven’t broken any laws. Thanks, no doubt to deregulation. Since ethics appears to be an ineffective motivation for some corporations, logic dictates that they do indeed need some governmental  regulation.

Then we were further outraged when these same corporations received bailout money from the government. This is an understandable reaction. However, if the large corporate conglomerates fail, it will not be their executives that suffer from the economic collapse. It will be the millions of working Americans that lose their homes, jobs, pensions, health care,  hope, and respect.

By allowing corporations to expand and operate without checks and balances, they are in a position to hold the country and its citizens hostage in their pursuit of profit and power. Gratefully, our founding fathers were wise enough to include a system of checks and balances in the governmental structure. It would appear that only the corporations have unfettered reign.

Without doubt, all of the actions of the main contributors in these situations acted out of pure self interest.  They used their power, respect, wealth, and influence to mislead,  to deny, to blame, to whitewash and to protect themselves at the expense of others. They considered themselves too important to be governed by the law of the ordinary citizen. They felt no obligation to be truthful with the public. They felt justified in obtaining their goals, regardless of the obstacles. And if they had to lie or ignore ethical behavior to do it, well, their power and success gave them that right. They felt entitled to pursue their goals, agendas and judgments in order to insure that they remained at the top of the heap.. Their power and importance made them a cut above the masses, in their own opinion and also that of many others.

As negative as their behavior may have been, we also must accept responsibility for this  pattern of disregard for the law and for others . If we want to avoid a repeat, we must ask ourselves: How were these organizations and the individuals in them, able to behave for so many years, in ways that we have now proclaimed as unconscious? How were they able to mislead us? Why are many of those individuals that are responsible for aiding and abetting still in positions of authority and influence rather than facing criminal proceedings?

What do all these situations have in common?  As a society, we bought into the rhetoric. We confused material abundance and external power with integrity, wisdom and character. We let others tells us what was best for us, rather than researching, thinking and taking responsibility for ourselves. And we mistakenly believed that our social position rendered us powerless, less capable, less knowledgeable and less worthy.

Our own perceptions and priorities are largely responsible for this quagmire. We idealize the wealthy, powerful or famous. We assume that because they are skilled at making money, influencing others, or gaining recognition, that they are somehow superior in every respect. Being successful in business has no correlation to superior intelligence, self discipline or stellar character.

Sadly, we do not seem to have the same respect or the desire to emulate those people who devote time and energy to social issues, to giving others support and a hand up, to conservation, or to animal rights. We may say, “That’s nice”, or comment about how dedicated they are, but that’s just lip service. In contrast, we flock to see the rich, powerful and famous in person. We consider them to be more knowledgeable, more important, more deserving, and just plain better than those who are not in their class.

I can not count the times I had heard a newscaster, the police, government officials make the following comment when a violent crime occurs in an affluent neighborhood. ” You would never expect something like that to happen in this neighborhood.”

Why? Since when does power, prestige or wealth render a person incapable of violence? Why do we think that a successful image, wealth, and respect means that an individual also possesses empathy, self control, a peaceful nature, and a high ethical standard?

White collar crimes affect many people but the consequences are negligible in comparison to the sentences doled out to common criminals. A third time shoplifter, even if they steal one pack of gum, can receive more prison time than many of the executives that participated in a scam that led to millions of the public’s dollars stolen. They even use a kinder word – misappropriated. It was in fact stealing, same as the shoplifter.

Although we may be angry at the results of their actions, we do not have the same contempt for them as we show other criminals. Our perceptions clouds our reason.  If a thief breaks into someone’s home and steals their valuables, we want to lock him up and throw away the key. However, corporate greed has frequently, robbed people, not just of their valuables, but of their livelihood, their pensions and their dignity. And no insurance policy will cover that loss. And still they are rarely viewed with the same distain as other non violent offenders.

By contrast, the courageous people who report the misconduct of their company do not gain our respect and support. Instead they are black listed from obtaining work in their profession. They are labeled as ungrateful employees, non team players, betrayers. They suffer the consequences of standing up for their beliefs for years to come. But the companies and the corporate executive are slapped on the hand, only occasionally receiving a couple of years in a federal confinement. And after their release, they are rewarded with a new lucrative position in another corporation.

The clergy was also idolized. People looked to them for answers, for forgiveness, for salvation. We equated the piety and wisdom of the priest, the pope or their equal in another denomination, with our own level of spirituality. We believe that by virtue of their position, they had a more direct communication with the creator. And when they were shown to be less than perfect, many people suffered a personal spiritual crisis.

Spirituality is in each humans heart and soul. It is the life energy of the creator within us. Only we can choose to make it a priority to know the divine within. We choose whether or not to express our highest spiritual nature through our honest intentions, our choices, our actions, and our compassion. Our spirituality is not based on who we choose to follow, but by our clarity and courage to hear, discern and follow that small still voice within.

The ten commandment, our churches doctrine, societal guidelines, the current laws of the land, can give us a sense of direction. But we can also use them to appease our guilt and avoid personal responsibility. If I adhere to the ten commandments and the law of the land, I can rationalize overlooking injustice, justify ulterior  motivates and personal agendas, and claim that dishonesty in business  in no way makes one personally dishonest.

Appearance and image take precedence over true personal accountability. The image that we present and sell becomes more important than who we are and the qualities by which we live. The values that express true Character, integrity, personal truth, non judgment, acceptance,  and unity may become a hindrance to maintaining the our image, position, or wealth. We compromise our beliefs and values and justify this by saying that we are just being realistic.

We also use rules and loyalty to abdicate our personal responsibility. I was just following orders. I was being loyal to company policy. I didn’t break any commandments or  the law or church doctrine . It’s not my fault. I was misinformed.

By employing this tactic, we may be able to save face and even turn the situation to our own advantage. We may even gain public respect. Many of the Godfather’s had quite a lot of public respect and support. But respect does not translate into character. We may succeed at fooling ourselves into believing our own hype. But we can not fool the Universe, its laws or our own soul.

To avoid making decisions based on faulty information, we must learn to think for ourselves and act with objectivity. We never questioned the false information that propelled us into war. We wanted revenge after 911. We wanted to eliminate our fear and vulnerability. So we did not evaluate the information we received. We wanted someone to blame. And the former President handed us the culprit on the golden platter of propaganda, revenge and patriotism. And we were hungry. We were not overly concerned about whether the culprit we were punishing was the responsible party.

Our own fears and feelings of powerlessness resulted in our allowing ourselves to be used and manipulated. Others used those feelings to fuel our misconceptions. They used our respect for their image to convince us to listen to them and not ourselves.

Society, government, corporations, etc have  conditioned us to believe that wealth, power and influence  is synonymous with freedom, safety, importance, belonging, satisfaction and security, (qualities that are our birthright).  So we encourage our children to strive and compete to become a member of this elite group of people that we perceive as the cream of humanity. If our children make it to the top of the heap, we assume that they will  experience happiness, possess exceptional character, mindset and courage.  They will no longer be subject to the fate of those poor huddling masses.

We want our children to be happy. Our responsibility as parents is to teach, support and guide them to develop a sense of responsibility, self efficacy, independence, self worth, and  the courage to “Thine own Self be True”. However, our own fears,  insecurities, and desires get in the way. Instead of encouraging them to develop honesty, personal truth, compassion, thoughtfulness, tolerance,  and respect for all life, we stress the importance of acquiring social status, material wealth, influence, respect and power. And so the conditioning continues.

But material wealth and power alone, do not result in lasting happiness, freedom or satisfaction.

The entitled,  powerful, and wealthy have a secret. And they do not want you to discover it. Some of them are also motivated by fear.   Success wealth and power have enabled them to create the illusion that they are more intelligent, have more self discipline, dedication, higher character and  more worth, in short, that they are superior to others. The public has eagerly ascribed to this notion. But having created this illusion, they are now imprisoned by it.

They realize that their respect, influence, and entitlement depend on perpetuating this image, the wealth and power. Without those props, their illusion of greatness, superior intelligence, dedication and character dissolve. And so does their advantage.

For the wealthy and successful whose sense of self emanates from within, from who they are Being, the loss would merely be a disappointment, not a catastrophe. Their character, wisdom, courage, inner truth and respect for life will sustain them. However, for the rest, desperation sets in.

They are compelled to give themselves huge raises and bonuses, expediting the company’s slide into bankruptcy. They rationalize stashing funds in foreign non taxable bank accounts, shifting the tax burden to the masses.  They lobby, coerce, leverage or bribe politicians to pass or repeal laws to legalize unethical actions. They now use bankruptcy as an administration tactic so they can pressure employees to take cuts in salary and pensions even while they increase their own, and pay millions in lawyer fees in order to push the envelope further still.

If their image is tarnished, if their wealth is compromised, if their power and influence is lost, so to is the automatic respect and trust, their importance, their privileges, and their identity. Those who do possess true character, may feel the sting of disillusionment, that although they are the same person, they do not receive the same respect.  But beyond that, their self worth, identity, and enthusiasm for living are intact. Those who confused power with character will be left  with the bitter aftertaste from the loss of their misguided sense of entitlement.

When we  depend on externals to define our sense of worth, value and self, we are never free. We will never experience the full richness of our Being. We will always be running as fast as we can to get what we need, to keep what we have, and to make certain no one else get more than us.

Please understand, I advocate abundance, material, emotional, mental and spiritual, for anyone who desires it. And there are many individual in position of influence and success, that are people of character, integrity and compassion.

But the crucial point is this: one has little to do with the other.

Wealth, power and influence does not imply superior mindset, greater character or heightened intellect. Just as the lack of material wealth, external power and the ability to control others,  in no way reflects a lack of integrity, courage, character, intelligence, determination, self discipline or compassion.

Frequently, even when we are no longer fooled by the rhetoric and image, when we realize that true personal success may or may not include wealth and power,   and when we have learned to recognize, discern and trust  the still small voice within, we may still feel vulnerable and powerless in the face of the powerful. David may have slew Goliath, but we question if our aim will be as good or our method as effective.

We must remember, it is not the result of our action that demonstrate character, courage and integrity. It is our true intention, our compassion, our honesty and our courage to be true to ourselves that reflects who we are and who we want to become.

When we ascribe characteristics, values and honor to a person based on their image, power and influence, we are helping to create a false illusion and dishonoring ourselves.  When we allow our fears and outrage to determine our choices, we must rationalize our decision with the ends justify the means. Pledging allegiance to a concept, enforcing it blindly instead of applying the essence of the concept to each situation, results in decisions that are unjust. And when we allow our spiritual connection to the creator and the responsibility for expressing our highest personal truth to be controlled by the religious icons, we are betraying our highest responsibility.

Our greatest freedom results from trusting our intuition and ourselves. Our greatest growth results from being aware of who we are and who we want to become.  And our deepest fulfillment results from courageously expressing our truth in each new moment as we constantly change and evolve.

That is what feeds our soul, empowers us and gives us courage in the face of fear. Listening to that still small voice within, requires dedication, accountability, awareness, and courage. And sometime it requires that we take that lonely road less travelled,  the path to happiness and personal freedom.

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June 11, 2009 at 12:29 am 7 comments


Our life is an evolving creation, shaped by our choices, colored by our desires, and lightened or darkened by our intentions.
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