Over the weekend I watched the Netflix documentary, the 13th.
I just took a huge pause because I’m still shook. If you read my post, For the Sake of Our Future as a Human Race: Let Go of Being Right, you’ll notice I mentioned “people in cages” as one of those odd things we do here on earth. To be more blunt: I completely do not believe that humans should be in cages. In maybe a very rare and very extreme case would I ever think this is okay and that’s a maybe. In the documentary, it called out how we wouldn’t even keep our pets in a cage all day or for days, so we’re treating our pets better than we treat some of our fellow humans.
Another startling statistic was that 98% of people in prison, never went to trial. So most took a plea deal, and they’re encouraged to do so, so how many people do we have in these prisons that are innocent? The documentary also brings light to the fact that drug use was considered a health issue, and became a criminal or public safety issue around the Nixon era. I am not going to summarize or call out anything else in the documentary, but I do hope you watch it if you haven’t already. There’s so much there, I could go on.
What I want to cover is a bit more broad. Of course I spent the weekend thinking how can I help, what can we do, and what would a different system look like. But this morning I woke up and decided to list out all the systems that are not working for us.
I guess #0 on the list is the Prison System for the reasons already stated. I won’t be listing it below, but that also means there’s probably more that we need to rethink and systems we need to rebuild. The list below is just a start.
We are acting out and part of systems that are destroying us as a society. It’s destroying the earth and the fabric of community, love, and peace that is required for our survival as a species.
Below is my list of the systems and why I think they are not working for us. As in, they’re not supporting our existence and livelihood in the long run. But most importantly, the system is not meeting it’s intended purpose.
As you know, I don’t like to call things bad or wrong, but these systems are not providing the outcomes they were intended for, and thus, are not working. They must be completely reinvented and rebuilt.
Here’s a bit more if you’re not following the whole not calling something bad or wrong. First, please go read this post (if you want to go deep into this). Secondly, think of a product that isn’t working for you like a battery or a chair or a toaster. You don’t call is “bad” or “wrong”, you just recognize what’s not working, why, and fix that. If the battery is out, you buy new ones, if the chair is hard, maybe you add a cushion, if the toaster only toasts two at a time and you need four, you can either buy another one or trade it for a 4-slice toaster.
It’s simply a more productive way to look at things. For example, if I call a person bad, I’m closing my mind a bit to what’s actually bothering me or not working with the relationship or whatever. If I say, this isn’t working for me, I am more able to dig into the core. I also give an opportunity for that person to change, enhance, progress, or maybe change their role in my life or their position in the community that may be more suitable.
Let’s move on. You either get it or don’t, but doesn’t matter for the rest of the post. I’m going to list what is not working, and I am not going to list alternatives because we have to do that together. But we can’t do that together unless we both agree these aren’t working for us.
- The Policing System
I’ve struggled with this one my whole life. Guys, I’ve been arrested so many times in my life, so I’ve had a lot of unpleasant experiences. However, I’ve met and know so many nice and friendly and caring Police Officers who are just trying to make a living and do their job.
The first time I was ever handcuffed, I was in middle school about age 12 skipping class. Once you’re handcuffed, especially as a child, you kind of feel like a bad person. You watch the police TV shows and realize you’re one of the “bad guys” now. It was my first time ever skipping class, and I’m not sure why the officer hand cuffed my friend and I. We were just chillen’ and agreed for him to take us back to school. He was actually quite nice about it, but being hand cuffed was traumatizing.
What I’m saying is from a young age, I didn’t see police as protection or safety. I am a first generation Mexican American from immigrant parents. I grew up in East Austin (Texas) which is now a cool hipster area, but when I was a child, it was a gang filled, low-income, minority area with predominately Black and Latino families. I know it’s not the worst neighborhood or most policed neighborhood, but I didn’t feel very comfortable with police and honestly, still don’t. We are now shedding a light to the race factor in over policing, over criminalizing, and over prisoning (that’s not a real word yet).
The core reason why I think the policing system is not working for us is that the #1 goal does not seem to be for the safety and protection of the communities, and isn’t this why we developed it?
This is like creating a chair you can’t sit on. It’s core purpose is unmet.
And now, we have horrendous issues where the system is being used to submerge, submit, control, and even kill the communities it is meant to serve and protect. We’ve also started to use it as a revenue system for the cities and communities.
I am glad to hear that we are now having conversations of dismantling the system itself because it needs to be. We need to go back to the root reason, the positive goal we had in mind when building it: to protect.
2. The Military System
We want peace and we want freedom.
And somewhere somehow we decided that killing others would be the way to achieve it. In barbaric times when there’s no other way, no other means to communicate peacefully, no bombs that can destroy entire countries in one drop, I can kind of see how this might make sense.
But how in the world does this make sense now? How does bombing, killing, or terrorizing help achieve peace and harmony? How does putting our young boys and girls into complete submission, mindless obedience, and into war to then come back with PTSD and unable to reenter society normally any good for them, their families, or us?
I changed schools a lot growing up, and my first high-school was a really good one. Of course I wasn’t zoned to it, I applied to their magnet program which allowed me to attend. They had so many extracurricular options and a lot of good programs. Obviously better funded even though it’s a public school (more on that later), but I didn’t know which elective to choose and the counselor really pushed me towards ROTC. For my readers outside the USA (which I do have… hi guys!), ROTC is kind of like a military type elective where you learn drills, commands, how to do the flag showcasing, etc. You have a uniform and everything. Maybe it’s called something else in your country.
When I was only 14 years old in ROTC, we would get people from the army and army reserve to come speak to us. At age 14, I was also taking business classes, so I fell in love with business and marketing, but the army seemed really attractive, too. There were so many perks to joining. I think I even talked to my mom about her thoughts on me joining the army.
Anyone who knows me now will tell you this sounds absolutely ridiculous. There’s not an ounce of me today that would have any interest in being in the army. But this shows you that the army is out there recruiting little boys and girls at such a young age. No accounting firm or hospital is going out there recruiting 14-years-olds. I know I wasn’t actually being recruited, but I was being sold to so that when I became of age, I would be open to joining.
This is different than having career day and showing kids options. This is selling the idea that war and military is completely normal. I’m also disturbed that low-income and minorities are usually targeted. I get it, it’s a more lucrative option for us than the rich kid who can afford college and to do something else, but it feels like taking advantage and using the poor kids instead of taking that trillion dollar budget and building programs to prevent and stop poverty completly.
I just want us to consider that there might be another way. We don’t need the largest army in the world and I don’t know, maybe we don’t need an army at all?
If we go back to the purpose of peace and freedom, what are we actually doing to wage peace? I understand we’re HEAVILY focused on preparing for war and preparing for the worst, but we all know that the absence of war doesn’t equal peace. It’s like saying, if you stop arguing with your partner, you’ll have love. Well, not really. There’s a lot of work in developing and embracing and sustaining a loving relationship.
Some of the best marriage advice I’ve received (from my grandmother) is to treat your relationship like a plant, be sure to water it everyday. We say we want peace, but we’re preparing for war. Marianne Williamson was the only candidate that understood and talked about this. See her proposal for department of peace. We don’t need her to be president to adopt something like this.
I said I wouldn’t provide alternatives, but a peace department is not an alternative to the military. There’s still the huge question of what the military’s role really is if it’s not providing us peace. What does this even look like moving forward?
3. The Education System
I could tackle this from various angles. We can talk about how we fund public schools through property taxes which means the rich neighborhoods get better schools and then how “zoning” supports this further, we can talk about the cost of college and the student loans issues, but I’m going to focus on simply being educated, what it means, and how we go about it.
The core problem with the essence of education (minus all our funding and financial issues which are massive) is that we are hyper focused on fact memorization. We want the students whether they’re 5 years old or 35 years old, to memorize things and regurgitate them. These things can be the ABC’s or for higher education it’s usually more frameworks or concepts.
There is absolutely a role for understanding certain things like the ABCs or frameworks, but when we talk about science, history, math, literature, etc., we cannot be so hyper focused on regurgitation. Someone’s memory and ability to memorize should not be tested, and should not be the indicator of their intelligence.
We must rethink what’s most important in education. For a 4 or 5 year old, is it more important that they learn to read or that they learn compassion, sharing, and caring? For an 8 or 9 year old, is it more important that they know the date of a war, or they can critically evaluate and describe their opinion on what happened and maybe an alternative decision and outcome? For a 12 and 13 year old, is it more important that they can rewrite the periodic table from memory or that they can experience and truly know what hydrogen or carbon can do when combined with other elements?
I think both our expectations of our children, our goals for them at certain ages, and the outcomes we expect from the education system must be reevaluated. We know as adults how much emotion plays into most of our decisions from the partner we choose to what we eat for lunch, and yet we teach our children to use reason and to think logically, to ignore their emotions when it comes to learning. Emotions are everything and maybe we need to start our education there? I don’t know. But if little Tom knows how to do math at an early age, but can’t figure out why he has this urge to hit his sister, what are we doing here?
The question with education is what’s important to us especially in the era of Google where facts can be easily searched. Why memorize them? I mean if you absolutely love it, go for it, but it can’t be #1 and it can’t be the basis of our tests and intelligence.
We live in a world desperate for creators, innovators, thinkers, analyzers, scientists, techies, problem solvers and more. We don’t need another adult who knows how to regurgitate. We need people to take us to new heights as a society, and we can prepare out little ones to be that generation.
By the way, my understanding is there are private schools that are rethinking “holistic” learning, but it can’t just be for those who can afford it.
4. The For Profit System
I wasn’t sure what to call this section because it’s a mix of the ethics of certain corporations, the ethics of the food industry, and kind of general thoughts on Money.
I’ll also confess this is the one I’m ingrained in. I’ve been working for for-profit companies all my life. I believe my employers are some of the “good” ones out there, but it’s tough. Even within the “good ones”, I see some of the issues.
What is the core issue here? The issue is that making money has become the most important part of the system.
This might not seem to be a deviance from it’s purpose, but it is. Companies are set up to serve and provide a product or service. By providing that product or service, they are able to employ people and make a profit.
When you make the profit piece the primary goal, everything else suffers if you don’t have core values or a society that demands integrity. So we are okay with companies destroying our earth, overworking people, putting cheap or addictive chemicals in our food, poisoning the water we drink or the ocean we need to survive, using child labor in foreign countries, or doing funny things with the stock like buy backs to superficially increase the value of the company.
When we accept a cheap or questionable product or service without understanding how they are able to make a profit, and we know they are making a massive profit, we are allowing these companies to do whatever they want for the sake of the profit.
We think that it doesn’t matter until our earth cries out in desperation, and I know we are waking up this now. We cannot prioritize short-term profit for the long-term well being and sustainability of the beautiful earth, beautiful children, and their future.
I don’t think money is bad or rich people are horrible. But I recognize the money system is made up. We created it as a tool to help us more easily “trade” to get the products and services we desired. We also created the stock system. And now to treat both of these like gods above the truly divine beings that are humans and the divine earth that was gifted to us. This is beyond understandable.
5. The Religious System
Yikes, I’m going here.
Okay, let’s start with the purpose. I’m going to have to be broad because I’m talking about all religions. I think the purpose is to provide Truth, to help people understand life and suffering, to help people live a good or better life, to teach certain values, and to help people grapple with death.
Now, I think most of those are really good reasons for creating such system. I think some religions allow their followers to explore truth rather than provide truth, so that’s a little bit better in my mind as who really knows what truth is, so providing frameworks or guidance to their own truth makes more sense to me.
Where I think religion has gone astray is the emphasis on right and wrong which as you know is unproductive in my mind. Religion also uses God to “prove” or justify the right and wrong. The funny thing is, either god changes his/her mind often, or we actually have no idea what god thinks.
Even the catholic church, one of the more disciplined religions has provided new understandings of what is right and wrong like “officially”. If you’re not going to buy into this, I understand. But let’s all agree that somehow we have religious leaders that are still gaining new insight on what god “really meant” regarding this and that topic.
Not so long ago there were some religions that believed women and people of color could not lead a congregation or parish. We also believed being gay was a sin, and I know many people still believe all of this. And I am not here to try to convince anyone to believe something different.
What I hope we can recognize is that religions are man made. So they’re not perfect. I am not saying that they weren’t inspired by God, that there’s not a lot of beautiful truth and freedom in the messages, that maybe God gave someone really special a revelation and understanding, but at the end of the day a human had to translate those understanding under the context of their current society and time frame. So maybe, just maybe, there’s more to explore.
I used to be very religions, passionately, and radically Christian. I no longer consider myself religious at all. I am not a Christian anymore. But I am pro-religion. It took me a while, but I can finally see all the goodness it brings to many.
The part we need to reinvent and rethink is the piece that divides us, that causes us to hate one another, the part where we think we are right and someone is wrong, the part where we judge another. Anything that is not love takes us away from the intended purpose of the religion we follow. Is God not Love?
We have killed for religious reason, we have caused so much harm and hate in the name of god. I can understand why so many hate religion and why atheism is on the rise because they’ve seen the cruelty of it. And so long as there’s any hate towards anyone and division with religion, I will not be a part of it.
This is the toughest one to discuss because there’s a lot of good to it, so maybe this one doesn’t need dismantling, but it definitely needs rethinking and reevaluation.
Cool. So I’ve upset everyone. I know each one of us reading this is part of at least one of these systems including myself.
I want to see us prosper, be well, and find joy.
I don’t come from a place of wanting to dismantle any of this without a thoughtful transition plan and a really good alternative. We are employed by these systems, so it’s hard for us to want to explore other options. We think about what it means to dismantle and it’s scary.
I cried so much the day I decided I was not Christian. I felt like my life was a lie. I didn’t know what to think or believe and I was angry then and for the next two years doing things out of frustration and rage. It was really hard, and I don’t wish that on anyone.
I want you to find peace. I want you to be happy. And I want you to explore ideas in a safe and curious way. But I also want the same for future generations, and I believe these systems as they exist will not allow for future generations to do the same. I believe we are constraining our potential and possibility as a human race.
I love you and I want you to know that I am not attacking you as a police officer, a brave solider, a teacher, an executive, or religious leader. One of us alone did not create this. We did it together, but together we can imagine a new way of living. We must.