Editor’s note: This article was first published in February 2013 but its relevance continues….
As this is written, the US government is about to impose a number of budget cuts called for by the Budget Control Act of 2011. These cuts, called the “sequestration” is all over the news.
It’s interesting that this is the term we use. In its legal sense, it originally meant having a court take custody of property for safekeeping while a dispute was being resolved. Most of us are more familiar with the use of the term “sequester” as it relates to protecting a jury from undue outside influence by isolating them. Its common non-legal meaning is “to set apart” – to seclude or withdraw. The act of sequestering is one of dividing and separating.
The irony, of course, is that this whole sequestration is highlighting the divisiveness of our political system and leading to a greater sense of separation in our beliefs around how to govern the country.
The sequestration was born out of our inability to find common ground on how to control our federal budget back in 2011. Congress could not resolve our debt ceiling crisis (which in and of itself was an artificial crisis), so it passed a law that created a so-called “super committee” to create a list of mandatory spending cuts that would go in the place in March 2013 unless Congress acted to change it. In other words, our government and its inability to come together and find common ground on budget cuts in 2011 “kicked the can” down to 2013 to give itself time to find agreement. Of course, that has not happened and ” hello, sequestration!”
Why can’t we find common ground and solve our problems? Why are we now at a place where there is an inability to seek compromise and craft solutions for our country?
In my opinion, are divisiveness is tied to how we have “sequestered” ourselves away from others who see life differently. It relates to the evolution of our worldviews and the fact that the differences among them are now so great.
It wasn’t that long ago – 50 years or so– that most of America had one of two different ways of looking at the world. There was the “traditional” worldview which was socially conservative, generally inclined to fundamental religion and sought an orderly black and white world. And, there was the “modern” worldview which found meaning in science, capitalistic success in seeing the world in a very material way. If you drew a bell curve of the population, there was a big hump in the middle with most people being in one of these two camps and only very small numbers of people out in the fringes on either side of the curve. The distance in the viewpoints was not very far apart.
In the late 20th century, the cultural creatives (or postmodern) worldview grew in numbers. These people saw life differently. To them, what was important was honoring everyone, believing all human voices needed to be considered. This is the “green” ecologically aware folks who are “spiritual but not religious”. The other two groups – the traditional and the modern – still exist in great numbers. But if we were to create another bell curve of American worldviews, the curve would now be more spread out. The distance between the traditional viewpoint to the modern viewpoint to the cultural creative viewpoint is now so distant – so sequestered – that it’s become difficult to see life from the other’s vantage point.
Not only are we experiencing the distance in viewpoints being so great, we are also experiencing the fact that there are more viewpoints to consider! It’s not a question of conservative versus liberal or left versus right – it’s more a reality that there are a minimum of three major worldviews all in competition to be heard on the political stage! It’s easier to get two people to come to consensus than it is three.
Our politicians’ growing inability to find common ground for the greater good of the United States is obviously tied to many issues. In addition to the intensifying distance between our worldviews and the fact that more are at play, we could also point to the growth of the influence of money in our government, our polarizing media, the change in our demographics to live in neighborhoods with like-minded people –and many other factors as contributing to our divisiveness.
Yet, no matter how we look at, it all comes back to an internal sense of being “sequestered” from other humans. Our focus is upon our differences. We see ourselves as “set apart” from one another. We withdraw and seclude ourselves from those we see as different from us. Our movement in our minds as well as our physical location is to isolate ourselves from people we see as “different” – be it based on race, religion, social economic status, sexual orientation, or any other factor.
So what can we do? What is the solution? How can we “un-sequester” ourselves from one another?
The answer is to find unity, to seek to recognize our connectedness to every other person on the planet no matter what they say or do.
That sounds nice, but it’s not necessarily easy. We have a long history of creating this separation out of fear. We fear what is different. We fear the unknown. We fear for our survival.
In the past these fears served us. Now we are at a stage in our human evolution where they are tearing us apart. For our greater good, we must let go of this fear if we are to survive and thrive in the future. The tactics we used to use to good stead are now harming us.
We are at a human evolutionary crossroads. Continuing to focus on our differences and living in competition and fear will keep us perpetually in a state of growing sequestration. Turning our attention to our common nature, our common needs and our common hope for a positive future will move us towards unity.
The choice is ours – sequestration or unity. What are you going to choose?
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!