A Return to Freedom:
Changing the Regime of Our Own Thinking
an op-ed piece by John Renesch
2002 © John Renesch
We have gone insane. We are allowing a relatively few “stupid white men” (thank you Michael Moore), who have not quite achieved mental or emotional maturity, to make decisions for the vast majority of us while we remain silent. Worse yet, our silence is perceived as agreement, making us just as complicit in the insanity as if we were working shoulder to shoulder with the other “stupid white men.” Failing to dissent, failing to challenge, failing to speak out lends legitimacy to a system gone berserk.
While many talk about regime change – whether it is in Baghdad or in Washington – I suggest that we need to overthrow a government of a different sort. If we are so damn interested in fostering democracy and freedom, as we claim to be, let us begin with ourselves. Let us begin with the regimes of our own minds.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” As the world accelerates along a short-sighted path to an uncertain but dismal-looking future, we are betraying ourselves by remaining silent – regardless of our rational and reasoning for doing so. The “new silent majority” is as complicit in this journey as those who appear to be at the controls. Not only do we betray ourselves, and our brother and sister human beings, but we betray our Selves – our destiny, our potential, our legacy as finite beings with infinite souls. As Rob Rabbin and Deborah Masters write in their forthcoming book, Crimes Against Consciousness, “To be silent is to betray our heart, and to be passive is to betray our conscience.”
It is a time to start speaking out about matters we feel deeply about – matters that weigh on our hearts and our consciences. It is a time to awaken our consciences from the stupor brought on by self-imposed sentences that have resulted from our failures to speak out earlier. It is time for the New Silent Majority to end their silence and shed the cloaks of shame, hopelessness, and cynicism which we have been wearing for so many years.
It is a time to be naked. It is a time to be vocal. It is a time for ruthless honesty. It is a time to stand up and engage in dialogue with one another – open and honest conversations about things that really matter, things we haven’t been talking about. It is a time to be committed to our own higher callings. It is a time to grow up and begin acting with wisdom and maturity.
In my last book, I tell the Parable of the Boiled Frog. It goes something like this: put a frog into a saucepan of hot water and it will most likely leap out immediately, sensing the danger and reacting to the extreme temperature difference. Put another frog into a saucepan of room temperature water and gradually heat the water. If done slowly enough, the frog will remain in the pan, eventually succumbing to the heat. The frog will die because it never senses the danger and remains “comfortable” while it is slowly boiled to death. Slow-but-steady change can mesmerize us and lull us into a stupor.
There is one distinction that I did not make in my book. We are not frogs! We are human beings and we can wake ourselves up, snap out of our stupor, any time we choose to.
We claim to want true freedom. Yet, we sentence ourselves to indebtedness, overwhelm, worry, busyness, apathy and all the other live-draining afflictions that result from trying to cope with a world going insane. We cope by succumbing to all sorts of additions that numb us – like Novocain for our souls. We cope by abusing substances, overworking, overeating, endless consuming, Extreme Sports, trash TV, and all sorts of other addictions that seemingly distract us from facing the truth.
Ending the silence is the first step in bringing us back to sanity. Speaking from our hearts, taking our stands, naked in the truth, will bring us that true freedom we yearn for so much. Our silence lends legitimacy for the adolescent and insane behavior in our world. Ending our silence will ultimately give us the freedom we want so badly. True freedom is essential to democracy. It is time to break our bonds to silence – to remove the gags that we have placed over our souls.
As King stated back in 1967, “Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak.” He spoke of how difficult it can be for the human spirit to move “against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom…”
It is time to end the regime of self-imposed acquiescence and passivity. It is time to wake up to the fact that we are the ones giving legitimacy to the very systems we claim to be victimized by. It is time to overthrow the regime we have empowered and start insisting on a new legitimacy – for a sane and mature world that allows us all to grow, express ourselves, be emotionally honest, and truly free.
About the Author
John Renesch is a “white man” although he tries to avoid doing “stupid” things as much as possible. Nonetheless, he is probably eligible for membership in the club of “stupid white men.” He is a San Francisco business futurist, writer, and international keynote speaker. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. He’s received much praise as a business/social seer. Warren Bennis, best-selling author of leadership books for nearly twenty years, calls John “a wise elder who shines with wisdom.” Stanford School of Business’ Michael Ray calls him “a beacon lighting the way to a new paradigm.” The Futurist magazine called him a “business visionary.” For more information about his work, visit www.Renesch.com. To contact him call 415-437-6974 in San Francisco.