“The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves…” Shakespeare
After many years of studying revolutions, I see a pattern. People become justifiably angry at some unfairness in their society. They band together and challenge the powers-that-shouldn’t-be. Nine times out of ten, they are crushed by those powers. The one time out of ten that their revolution ‘succeeds’ they turn around and kill all their opponents and set up another unjust society.
Out of perhaps 100 revolutions, only one manages to succeed, not kill all their opponents afterward and then sets up a society with enough safeguards to keep them straight for quite awhile.
So what’s wrong with people? For many years I worked with people whose lives were not going well: addicts, multi-generational desperately poor people, and inmates. I once asked my class of inmates to write an essay on What’s Wrong with People.
One theory was that abuse passes down through generations, another that drugs and booze are too available, another that ignorance needs to be overcome by education. The answers were all about OTHER people-what’s wrong with them.
“Let me ask that a little differently,” I said, “What’s wrong with you?” Most of them felt they were the victims of someone else, who had something wrong with them. I pointed this out. Silence. “Well, what’s wrong with you?” my most brilliant student asked me. He always got right to the point.
“When I have done something bad, I find that I didn’t consider how my choice would affect anyone else. Basically, I was selfish.” “Me, too,” said my brilliant guy. Then the inmates went around the room telling about their selfish choices that had landed them in prison. It was quite amazing, really. The good news is: If selfish choices landed you in prison, you can make better choices in the future and stay out of prison.
Many injustices exist in our world. We variously blame bankers, Jews, immigrants, leftists, righties, religious fundamentalists, Muslims, atheists, and on and on. What our enemy is doing is making us unhappy. We want more-more rights, more money, more security. The problem is that if we overthrow the ‘enemy’ we will set up another mess, because they are abusing us because they want more, too.
When, instead of wanting more, we want what is fair for everyone, we will be on the right track.
We can do better. We can start with ourselves. I can start with me.