Martin LeFevre: Celebrity Activism
In a recent essay in “Time” magazine, Bono said, “Looking inward won’t cut it. We discover who we are in service to each other, not the self.” There is some truth, and a lot of falseness packed into that statement. Let’s unpack it.
Bono is to be commended for using his celebrity status to raise important issues, but how much has the world actually benefited by celebrity attention to problems? Rock stars and actors have made no real difference. So it’s celebrity activism that won’t cut it.
But one has to address a case on its own merits, or lack thereof. It would be just as unfair to dismiss Bono as a globetrotting celebrity, as it is for him to derisively dismiss the spiritual dimension in human life, and those who feel compelled to make it central to their lives.
Bono says some good things in his essay, such as, “our humanity is diminished when we have no mission greater than ourselves.” And to the degree that looking inward serves the self, he is correct in implying that it’s the ultimate form of self-absorption.
But Bono’s activist prescription is very much in the American model, which not only puts doing over being, but makes personal perpetual motion a religion in itself. One has to learn how to be before one can see what to do. Putting doing before being not only insures an inadequate response, but it does more harm than good.
What Bono and many activists don’t realize is that we face a crisis of human consciousness, unparalleled in our evolutionary history. Models such as the Marshall Plan and the European Union (which he holds up as examples of the past that promise hope for the future) simply won’t cut it.
The question is not, “how will Europe [or America] respond?” but rather, how do we as individuals respond? Nations, or even regional federations of nations, matter less and less in a fragmenting world of increasingly porous borders. The remedies proposed by professional activists and celebrities (‘Cancel Third-World Debt!’ ‘Send More Aid!’) are almost as inadequate as those of nationalists and reactionaries (‘Close the Borders!’ ‘Build Higher Walls!).
Equating looking within to “navel gazing” is therefore a confusion of the highest order. It willfully denies the source of clarity and right action, which flows from inside, not outside us.
The whole of human consciousness is, like a hologram, enfolded within each of us. That means when one honestly ‘looks inward’ and delves deeply, the entirety of human consciousness is an open book. On those pages, ‘my self’ is inseparably written. Thus, learning how to read the book of oneself, one reads the entire story of humankind.
Awakening the meditative state is not the personal pursuit of the privileged few, but the indispensable basis for balance, clarity, and freedom from the rising sewage of human consciousness. Meditative insight is also the foundation of the only thing that can change the increasingly disastrous course of humankind—a revolution in collective consciousness.
The title of Bono’s essay is “A Time for Miracles” (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1601932,00.html). Yet Bono calls for “a little more poetry,” which, in these cynical times, is like calling for a little more frosting on a rotten cake.
The word miracle simply means “a wonder or marvel.” The essential miracle is far deeper and greater than activists prosaically imagine. Even so, as Bono indicates, the revolution in consciousness must manifest in Africa, where hominids took their first steps, and modern humans first stepped forth onto untrammeled continents.
There have been two great creative explosions in human history--a spiritual leap in India at the time of the Buddha, and an intellectual leap in Greece at the height of Athenian genius. The momentum from the intellectual explosion has produced the science and technology of the West, as well as its emptiness and darkness. Whereas the spiritual explosion in India and Asia has petered out, and is running on New Age fumes in America and Europe.
What is urgently needed is a spiritual explosion in human consciousness as a whole. That begins with and turns on the authentically awakening individual. Consequently, looking within, without turning inward, is the only thing that can really make a difference.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.