There’s a politically-oriented video making the social media rounds in which actor Samuel Jackson and his young sidekick entreat the world to “Wake the F**k Up!”
Often, whether the issue is political, personal, or global, we don’t even realize we’re asleep. We’ve been lulled into citizen somnolence by what I call the fog of culture.
We get so many messages when we’re growing up about how to be and dress and live and what to value, and we’re not taught to question any of it or to consider that there are other – and often better – ways of living. Why do women wear high heels? It’s part of our culture. Why do men wear ties? Why do we think it’s normal to sit in traffic for long periods of time? We do we think the way to peace is through violence? Why do we look to stuff to make us happy? Why do we love some animals and eat or wear or experiment on others? Why are women sexualized to such a degree?
We’re immersed as children in all these beliefs and messages and paradigms that most of us don’t consciously make a decision about — it’s what we’re raised to believe is “natural” and “normal.” It’s not until we’ve awakened from this fog of what we’ve been taught is normal and natural that we can begin to ask questions and look for more meaningful and humane ways of living.
I am a poster child for the reality of the fog of culture. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, where I was taught to obey, not to think or to question; and I certainly wasn’t encouraged to pay attention to the impact of my choices. I grew up inculcated in a paradigm that condoned racism, that promoted the exploitation of animals and the earth, that sought happiness through materialism, and that nurtured a religious view that was quite narrow in many instances. It wasn’t until I went to a large college and became exposed to different ways of thinking and living that I began to realize that I could make different choices for myself — that I actually had any power at all over my own life. And it has still taken years of cultivating my awareness to brush away the fog of culture so that I can continue to see more clearly and thus make choices that are aligned with my deepest values.
We can help create a humane world by awakening ourselves (and helping awaken others) from the fog of culture that permeates our lives, and by striving to make all our choices be conscious ones that reflect our hope for a compassionate, just, sustainable world.
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