Last week I attended Politicon, a non-partisan, “unconventional political convention,” which had panels, discussions, a marketplace, movie screenings, live podcasting, an art gallery and something really interesting: the actual coming together of people from polar opposite sides of the aisle to discuss what the $^#%%@ is going on with this crazy world of ours.
That the convention, planned ages ago but never more timely, was on the heels of Brexit was both prescient and foreboding at the same time.
The main panel I attended pitted liberal activist and pundit Van Jones against conservative author and personality Ann Coulter. I was ready for a crazy smack down, but actually, it was a pretty levelheaded discussion about a variety of topics where both parties often agreed to disagree as civil folk tend to do.
Not to got all doomsday on you, but I’m pretty sure the pair were at least half the Horsemen (Horsepeople?) of the Apocalypse when they started the discussion by coming together on the same point: people are pissed because they’re suddenly in touch with feeling like their needs and desires aren’t being remotely addressed — never mind represented — by the people in charge. They question the process, reject authority and are pretty positive if they could just grab the wheel from the elites, they’d steer this party bus back on track and headed to a much brighter future.
As the parent of two teenagers, I know this impulse very well.
Which is probably why it feels so utterly freaky to me that the U.S. and indeed, the world in general, is going through some sort of crazy-ass second (10th? 1,000th?) adolescence that is at once emotional, rebellious, risky, conflict-ridden, reckless and in many ways, totally irrational.
Or maybe it’s not just some kind of international teen brain doing the speaking — at some point we all get fed up with how things are going and decide it’s high time to unlock the shackles and make a dash for a fresh reality chock full o’ delicious freedoms.
This begs the question: how then can you declare your independence without being a total dickhead?
And the answers are something we all can benefit from; as parents, as children (teen and eternal, actually), in general as people that want to throw off a shackle or two (work, home life, dead end friendships or relationships, etc.) and as people of America who have a vote that can and should be used wisely. Before you make a mad dash to independence, be sure to tick the following off your list:
1) Recognize the difference between being a victim and standing up for yourself. Pointing fingers at other people — say, your mean boss, your demanding children, your overbearing parents, an oppressive government, people of other races/religions, etc. is a sign of victimhood, not the stance of someone that wants true liberation. If you have some free-floating anger about injustices you face, then it’s on you find constructive ways to assert yourself. Once you’ve got that mindset, then you’re ready to move to the next step.
2) Don’t be complacent — take honest action. Real patriots fight for actual causes and meaningful, progressive change. And by progressive, don’t panic my conservative BBFs out there (if I have any =) — I mean just forward motion, which is the signature move of those intent on obtaining independence. I add the qualifying word “honest,” because in fairness to yourself and others around you, your actions have to be clear and reflect well-defined intention. Flailing around for the sake of kicking up a fuss with no real plan and no concrete goals is just a temper tantrum, really.
3) Remember the Golden Rule, (“Do unto others…”), the Secret (“What you put out is what you get back…”), or whatever spiritual/moral code you live by, and make sure it informs your actions. Independence gained by ignoring the needs of or even full-on suppressing others is a shitty Karmic move that only comes back to bite you on the butt.
4) Focus on your value, not what others can give to you (or even what you think you deserve). The whole point of independence is to be self-reliant, which literally means that you can take care of yourself. You have to be honest with what you can and can’t do… and find ways to fill in the gaps BEFORE you strike out on your own. The more stock you have in yourself, the more likely it is that liberation will be long lasting.
5) Get clear on what your independence means… and what it doesn’t… because once you’re “free,” you’re on your own, baby. The late night comedians like John Oliver and Samantha Bee had a post-Brexit field day, because as they both astutely pointed out — there are no do-overs once you’ve made your bid for independence official. There are pros and cons, wins and losses, and all can be mitigated by how well you’ve thought through and accepted the implications. Of course nobody can predict the ultimate outcome, but it helps if you take the time to thoroughly understand what you’re sacrificing to set yourself free.
6) Understand that you have more power than you think — and with great power comes great responsibility. Not to go all Spidey on you, but the psychic leap off of the ledge you’re standing on doesn’t normally come without at least some preparation. So for example, you better have figured out you can shoot webs from your hands BEFORE you leap. (That’s the responsibility to yourself part, by the way.) Whether we’re individuals trying to strike out on our own or a collective community pushing toward liberating change, this is a stance of power, not passivity. The responsibility part is real; back to Brexit and the downsides (isolationism, rise of racism/xenophobia, economic downturn especially in the face of decreased trade, confusion and the general idea that Britain is being a royal douchebag of a country), which at least in the short term and possibly the long term may outweigh the pros. Shouldering that transition and working to deliver on the promises that led so many to support Brexit is the responsibility part, too.
So if you see me firing off a shot heard ’round the world, just know that sure, I’m always gunning for liberty, as it’s one of the key ingredients of the pursuit of happiness. Just remember that life fits in there, too, and it’s much more livable if you don’t screw yourself and everyone around you when you declare your independence.
Photo: Andrey Larin