Mitt Romney‘s wealth is estimated to be between US$190-250m. He was the CEO of Bain & Co (renowned management consultancy). He co-founded Bain Capital one of the largest private equity firms in the USA. He was the the Governor of Massachusetts from 2002 to 2006. He then got busy on his ambition to become president of the USA. Just keep this in mind, I will come back to Mitt Romney later in this post.
I notice that a lot of people are hurting. I notice that some of the people that are hurting, are hurting so badly that they are on their knees. Thankfully, I am not one of these people. You might be one of them. What am I talking about? I am talking about the tough economic times in the western world (Greece, Spain, UK, USA..) where many people have lost their jobs, their businesses, their livelihoods. This is new for us – not new for many others that live in this world that peoples us and is our home.
In many parts of the world life is difficult and has been difficult for a long time. It is not only difficult it is oftentimes harsh/brutal/unforgiving. Because this applies to just about everyone (except the elite) people in these parts of the world do not say “I am in this position because of me. If I am in this position then that means there is something wrong with me. I have failed. I am defective….” Nor do they go about saying that about others.
This is not a luxury that is available to those of us who live in protestant countries especially the UK and the USA. Why? Because the dominant narrative and thus listening that one person has for another is as follows: how your life turns out depends on you; look everyone, EVERYONE, can make it; if you have not made it then you must be responsible; you are at fault – you are the source of the hardship that you are experiencing. With this narrative comes a lack of compassion, kindness and generosity towards one another.
What is astounding is that so many people in the USA/UK have bought into this myth that they are hard on themselves. That is to say that you/I find ourselves on our knees and we blame ourselves. We are ashamed of ourselves. We berate ourselves. We think that we have failed and that there is something wrong with us. “Look, I live in a country where ANYONE can make it. I have not made it so there must be something wrong with me!” Put differently, we lack compassion towards ourselves because we have a FAULTY map of the world.
I say get real. I say get that you/I are not Gods – we are mortals and as mortals our circumstances and our destiny is to some extent ‘shaped by the Gods’. The Greeks got this beautifully. The Greeks got that at the end of the day man is subject to the ‘whim of the Gods’ and the best that s/he can do is to ‘fight the good fight’. This is what makes the human situation a tragic one; we are not like the stone, the plant nor the tiger – we can do so much; and yet we are mere mortals, not Gods. This might not be concrete enough for you so allow me to make it real by going back to Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney lost! He spent six years of his life and a spent something in the region of US$750m and he lost. The richest person to run for the presidency lost. One of the most influential people in the USA did not get to realise his ambition. Many thought he was going to win. He, himself, thought he was going to win and so had a massive celebration including fireworks planned. And how did it work out? He lost! All his wealth, his fame, his track record, his influence, the $750m he spent .. did not get him the presidency. In Greek terms ‘the Gods’ were not on his side, they favoured Obama.
I say get real! I say be compassionate towards those who are hurting right now – whether that is your fellow man or yourself. We are not masters of our fate. Whilst we can do a lot, we cannot shape, entirely, how our lives turn out or how the world turns out.
Werner Erhard, found this out in 1991. Many thousands of people flocked to take part in his seminars (est, and later the forum). Werner created ‘transformation’ and he touched many lives – indirectly he has touched mine through my participation in the courses delivered by Landmark Education. Werner preached ‘responsibility’. He urged the est participants to take responsibility for their lives – just they are and are not – rather than play ‘victim’ and blame others. Werner was soaring at the heights – both in terms of the impact he was making and his fame/fortune. Then in early 1991 he found out that CBS News were going to show a programme that was going to ruin his reputation. Despite his best, including his offer of taking a lie detector test, he could not persuade CBS News not to run the programme. And he left the USA and found himself in exile – reputation ruined. Many years later the allegations in the CBS News were retracted. And the impact on his life had been made – there was no ‘going back’.
Finally, I say that if you/I find ourselves on the receiving end of the ‘whims of the Gods’ like Werner did then we can put ourselves in a powerful position to be with and deal with what is so. First we can be compassionate towards ourselves. Second, we can in the context of this compassion take responsibility for our lives – including getting ourselves off the floor. Werner Erhard did just that. He left the USA and he invented a new life for himself outside of the USA and he has been making an impact all over the world.
And finally, if you find one of our fellow human beings hurting and/or on the floor (emotionally, financially, physically) then I ask you to give that person a helping hand. If you are finding that difficult because you are under the myth of ‘man as God’ that is so dominant in the USA (and to some extent in the UK) then I remind you of Mitt Romney, six years, $750m spent, and no presidency!