The battle of good and evil could use a do-over
“Sometimes, you have to destroy something in order to build something better.” -Brandon Sanderson, Fantasy, and Science Fiction author
In New Thought or spirituality circles, we embrace a philosophy of breakdown before breakthrough. It means we perceive difficult times or times of breaking down as the removal of something to allow space for new and better.
What a kick in the teeth it is to realize the historically pivotal movements of greater good in our lifetime are not enough and seem to be breaking down. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, voting rights, freedom of speech (and thought) are being challenged and destroyed. After the 1960s and 70s, many of us assumed the basics were one and done. A solid foundation of human justice had been laid and we could rely on it. But today it seems our foundation is less concrete and more Styrofoam-ish.
Time challenges things. What was great yesterday is only pretty good today. The Internet makes our previous modes of research, communication, commerce, and entertainment ineffective. Cell phones kicked landlines to the curb. Move over typewriter, I have a computer now!
The paradoxical piece is that our society has mastered the useless art of moving forward while heading back. Creating good but not building in protections for it. I believe it’s caused by our loosie-goosy foundations.
My critical questions
How are we experiencing backwards-ass book bans in the year 2023 like 1930s Nazi Germany? The federal government should’ve outlawed that bit of crazy in the 40s.
How in the world did states allow unfair gerrymandering to create intentional disadvantage to segments of their citizenry? Again, a federal law banning futzing with voter access should’ve been put in place.
And didn’t we successfully shame racists and their blind hatred decades ago, only to see them come out of the virtual closet—proudly embracing evil, violence, and a diabolical criminal?
Our gains held greatness, but not permanence. So maybe they are being broken, to put us on a better path.
Let’s be honest, good and evil are not complicated concepts. A clear and healthy mind tells you when something you’re doing is harmful for the sake of harm. Many cultures created holy books as a cheat-sheet to help people figure it out. For example:
Killing people in circumstances other than self-defense can be perceived as bad.
Hating people is as bad as murder in the Christian Bible. (Possibly in other religious books that I’m not as familiar with).
Jealously to the point of destructive acts and madness is bad.
Intentionally undermining the quality of life of another’s livelihood or survival is Scrooge-worthy.
What’s happening in our country today with the Trumpian sympathizers includes efforts to undermine the tenets of democracy and throw out the U.S. Constitution to build a country that rewards a select privileged few while restricting the freedom to earn money, own land and homes, and choose our leaders—from the non-privileged. In other words, fascism. And they’ve come this far in their efforts because our system of democracy has holes in it. It’s breaking down.
More critical questions: What kind of constitution allows a criminally indicted, six times bankrupt, outward bigot to even run for president? It is not logical or sensible for that individual to hold the public trust.
What kind of system allows inaccurate information to be freely shared, unchallenged in its communications systems. Proven lies should not be blessed with oxygen.
What kind of democratic system allows tax laws on the books that disadvantage the middle class and privilege the extremely wealthy among us? We need the middle class to support democracy.
In this June 6, 2023 article, Forbes contributor Yusuf Amdani writes;
Historically, a nation’s middle class has been representative of its overall economic health. A growing mid-income segment typically signals higher levels of wealth and well-being. It also can support a strong financial outlook for the country.
In developing countries today, there are frequent signs of a capable and willing workforce. These individuals may not have had the opportunity to receive financial support and years of education. However, when companies provide workers a salary and access to training, there are positive outcomes for the entire society.
The importance of a middle class to a democracy is documented by authors of higher education journals, economic think tanks, and research centers. Why have our leaders not created laws to ward off attacks?
I’m going out on a tricky limb by hoping that as our systems are challenged and broken, we are on a road to creating something better, higher, or greater for the majority of Americans.
There is an exercise I use with leadership teams in my strategic planning practice that encourages them to imagine an entirely broken system and write down what that looks like. Once a list of worst things is created, I ask them to write down how it happens - the actions that lead to disaster. I didn’t create this exercise; it’s taken from an element of Russian engineering known as teoriya resheniya izobretatelskikh zadatch or TRIZ.
(I was introduced to the concept on an open-source site developed in Austin, called Liberating Structures. This generous group of brilliant thinkers offers a menu of ingenious and innovative tactics that can be used for discussions, brainstorms, presentations, and more than I can describe here).
To continue the imagine-the-worse exercise, once the leaders in my groups come face-to-face with how things break or are destroyed, they become mindful of actions supporting the sabotage of progress and innovation. “You can clear space for innovation by helping a group let go of what it knows (but rarely admits) limits its success and by inviting creative destruction. TRIZ makes it possible to challenge sacred cows safely and encourages heretical thinking.” A Liberating Structure developed by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless.
I think our country is having a moment in which a TRIZ exercise could help us to preserve democracy. It’s time to break apart the pieces that have proven to be more paper tiger than sacred cow and to build up stronger methods of protection. We have enough evidence to imagine the worst, analyze why we are heading toward it, and to create new ways to fix it.
From a spiritual view it might be that Trump and his sycophants are being used by the powers of the Universe to force creative destruction. It’s our cue to plug up the holes and to develop reinforcements.
Before this tragic time, who knew that democracy was a vulnerable system of ideals thinly shielded from insurrectionists or fascists?
Doesn’t it stand to reason when creating laws, layers of protection for those laws would also be developed? No. That hasn’t happened. For more than two centuries, we have been standing on documents assuming they provided an impenetrable foundation only to learn that we’re floating on a leaky life raft.
We’re broken. Our flaws are showing. It’s time for stronger, bigger, and better. It’s time to protect what’s good in us while we still can.