We live in a very tumultuous world. Both similar to and different from the dangers faced by the Beat Generation at the dawn of the Cold War or by the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements of the 1960s. Activists of both periods bravely confronted the sins of racism, social inequity, fear-mongering, the military-industrial complex, and political upheaval under the ever-arching potential of state-driven nuclear Armageddon.
Meanwhile, 50-60 years later, our planet seems to be over-populated with multitudes of “rapturists” who are apparently hell-bent on proving their sick interpretation of prophesy, even if they have to be the arbiters of its very cause. These zealots, who in the name of their religion, have decided to prove a point with whatever means necessary and achievable – guns, bombs, missiles, drones, nukes, germs, poisons, you name it. If it kills or creates mayhem, it helps achieve their sick and twisted doctrinal aims.
Combine these so-called “rapturists” with the re-invigorated bigots that seem to have crept out of each and every dark and dank bowel within society to reunite in the joy of hatred and evil; the climate change deniers; those who are trying to eviscerate the public education system; billionaires who think they can buy elections; as well as those in who prefer to shame and penalize the poor, and you have quite an unpalatable recipe. Just when you think (as I did in 2008) that we as a planet had begun to move past racism, sexism, transgenderism, ageism, and most other nasty isms, these fear-mongers and trouble-makers stoke the innermost uglies hidden in the human soul, igniting flames from once there were only ashes.
Unfortunately, from my perspective, there seems to be a lack of strong, cohesive, and influential counterculture voices being heard today. It may be that so many channels are available that their voices are getting lost in the global buzzfeed, it may have to do with conservative media conglomerates dominating the airwaves, it may have to do with me being more mainstream than I wish to admit, or it may be they simply have not found their groove yet. No matter the reason, this planet needs them to become more prominent on a world-wide scale, and now.
- We need literary giants like Jack Kerouac, Rachel Carson, or Kurt Vonnegut to peel back the layers of human psyche and to open our collective eyes within the digitized or inky pages of the written word.
- We need musical giants like Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and John Lennon to compose anthems which inspire us to action and pen ballads which remind us of our many failings as human beings.
- We need philosophers like John Searle who cause us to stop and think before we act and who can provide sound guidance to a planet that seems to be running amok.
- We need educators who are willing to stand up to bullies in state legislators by running for office themselves and defeating them in elections.
- We need religious giants like the Dalai Lama who preach solely from love and human understanding and not from prophesy.
- We need political giants who act in everyone’s best interest, not in the best interest of themselves and their donors.
- We need more journalists like those at Daily KOS, Mother Jones, or Grist who believe the Fifth Estate is one of the most important checks and balances in a society.
- We need corporate leaders who realize money is the root of all evil and that too much money in too few hands is a zero sum game they are sure to lose.
- And lastly, we need average citizens to bravely and confidently speak up against the wrongs being perpetrated in our world and to vote based on the common good versus self-interest.
Every pluralistic (and healthy) society needs counterculture voices speaking out, questioning authority, advocating for peace and justice, protecting the disenfranchised and dispossessed, and generally keeping the majority in check through peaceful means. These activists have often proven that the David’s pen is indeed mightier than Goliath’s sword.
In addition to the Dalai Lama, there are potential candidates who may fill some of the roles listed above – Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders come to mind in the United States from the political arena. Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, and Stephen Colbert certainly provide comedic voices of reason, concern, and compassion. More likely though, today’s heroes will be, as of yet, unidentified individuals who will rise to the occasion. Hopefully, 50 years hence, our grandchildren will be able to look back and thank those courageous men and women of our age who stepped forward to raise awareness and the consciousness of planet.