The Foundation of an Enlightened Public Opinion
The mobilising of goodwill is closely linked with the power of public opinion. There may be many reasons for linking goodwill to public opinion, but one which especially speaks to the current times is that we cannot count upon our leaders, particularly in government, to resolve all world problems. The issues are so pervasive and of such critical importance that the resolution of the problems lies in nothing less than the transformation of human consciousness. And that cannot be brought about only by the passage of a few, or even many, laws; nor can it come about solely through the drafting of treaties and agreements or the racheting up of the police and military forces. As well, such is the nature of politics that our elected officials are subject to the pressures placed on them by their constituencies and by the electoral process itself. That means that public opinion has a great power and responsibility in determining the direction of government.
An informed public opinion requires free speech, the full participation of the citizenry, and inclusiveness of different points of view. But, at the same time, public opinion must rest upon a foundation based on truth. As the late American Senator Patrick Moynihan once said, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own set of facts. Truth is often multi-dimensional, and in these polarizing times it behooves all participants in the public discourse to remember that nuance and complexity of thought pave the way to the recognition of the essential simplicity that is pure Truth – a simplicity reached by the broad avenue of an inclusive point of view, not by the narrow path confined by the myopia of fanaticism.
“Say what you mean, and mean what you say” goes the familiar truism. But added to that must be the reminder that the public debate depends upon an atmosphere of respect for those who hold different views and a refusal to give in to a mindset that sees all conflict and crisis as “Armageddon” – as apocalyptic in magnitude. To the citizens still among us who remember the World War, the current atmosphere may well seem to have descended into hyperbole, such is the nature of current public opinion. Demonization of those who hold contrary views, vitriol and not-so-veiled threats characterise too much of the public discourse today.
A positive aspect of the environmental movement is that there is now broad recognition of the threat posed to the environment by the intrusion of toxic elements. Now, humanity needs to recognise that toxicity can also pervade the mental and emotional atmosphere, poisoning the realms in which thoughts and feelings are formed, and creating a pervasive toxic atmosphere in which emotional instability and ignorance can thrive.
“Be impeccable with your word” – so says one of “The Four Agreements”, proposed by Don Miguel Ruiz. Speak with integrity, say only what you mean, make sure it stands up to the test of truthfulness as far as you can perceive, and speak with an unwavering recognition of the essential humanity that unites us all. To “Bind together that which has been separated” is the heartfelt aspiration of all people of goodwill today. It’s a response to the inpouring energy of synthesis and it will not be denied – not by terrorism or hatred, nor by violence or fear. We can all subject the views we hold to a scrupulous examination conducted in the light of goodwill and love of truth. We can all train ourselves to express our thoughts with language that can submit to the tests of reason and understanding, rather than strengthening the barriers of suspicion, criticism and pride – that quiet little voice within which says “I’m right!I know I’m right!” Those are the tell-tale signs of glamour, and they act as a deadly force to the growth of goodwill so needed in these transitional times.