The most powerful man on the planet is often said to be the President of the United States of America.
And yet, where it truly counts, President Barack Obama is powerless.
I believe that the 44th US President entered office with the intention of doing the right thing — by which I mean: attempting to correct the excesses of corporate control, and begin the process of reducing the atrocious inequity between rich and poor. This was, I believe, evident in his efforts to introduce a public healthcare system in the USA.
The President is, in theory, the captain of a ship; and captains determine the course to take. But his primary responsibility, as leader, is to the 311 million+ residents of his nation; and their welfare is determined according to societal rules that are, quite simply, no longer relevant. His hands are tied: he cannot implement the kind of change that must be made, because the change required is of such magnitude that when gauged against present standards of ‘normality‘ any real attempt to move in the direction needed would probably lead to his impeachment and removal from office.
The same is true for all ‘leaders’ of Western society. They are unable to lead us where we must go, if our civilisation is to survive.
The ‘American Dream’ has become a nightmare. One of the problems with this dream is that it is parochial in scope; it doesn’t consider those outside its borders as being worthy of inclusion. Ironic, much? — its successes, and excesses, are currently due to globalisation. To take one example*, the population of China alone will soon be 1.5 billion people; more humans than there were on the whole planet only a century ago: and if each of them wants the ‘freedom’ of their own private car, China will need 99 million barrels of oil, every single day. This is, quite simply, impossible: total world oil production today is only 84 million barrels a day; and oil has already peaked.
And it’s not just about oil: humanity’s destruction of its home, our home, is accelerating, as we tear the planet apart to access raw materials to make into ever more consumer goods that are all too soon heading for the junk pile of yesterday’s fashion.
This is madness, and it. must. stop.
To enact the kind of change that we must see if we are to turn this ship around, away from its current self-destructive course and onto a heading of sustainable harmony with our planet, we cannot, ironically, look to the political process: that has failed us. Bereft of leadership, we are left with just a single recourse: we must, each of us, find within us the will to do what’s right.
We need to find the heroes within ourselves.
* From The Bells of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh, in Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril.