Toward a Holistic Politics

Marianne Williamson

In order to fundamentally change anything, we must rethink it. And that includes politics.

Until recently, we have thought of politics the way we used to think about medicine. Our approach has mainly been allopathic: Treat the symptom, treat the symptom; do not take time to consider the cause.

Today that's changing, for we realize that not all political cancers, any more than medical ones, can be operated on or just zapped away. Hitler was an operable tumor, but terrorism has metastasized through the body politic, its spider tumors wrapped around healthy organs. We cannot just remove the problem and assume it will disappear forever. Now that we've embraced a more holistic approach to medicine, it's time for a more holistic approach to politics as well.

In a holistic politics, mental and spiritual and emotional factors become increasingly significant when material problems become more daunting. People have often said to me, "Oh Marianne, emotions have nothing to do with politics." Oh yeah? Well what is terrorism, if not hatred turned into a political force?

If we only perceive an issue superficially, "in this case, that our problem is terrorism," then we are limited in our thinking as to ways to deal with it. Attack it, slay it, bomb it, nuke it. But if we perceive the issue from a holistic perspective, then we realize that our real problem is hatred itself; terrorism is merely the effect of that problem. And hatred forms a thought system that cannot just be zapped away. For every hater you destroy, at least one more will then rise up. The only way to rid the world of a hate-based thought system is to dismantle it, and the only way to do that is through atonement, forgiveness, and love.

Einstein said we would not solve the problems of the world from the level of thinking we were at when we created them. If violence is the problem, then violence cannot be the answer. What is emerging today is a new peace movement, in which we recognize that peace is more than the absence of war; it is the passionate, proactive, cultivation of peace. And the only true peace, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., is a peace that stems from justice and brotherhood.

Yet we cannot cultivate justice and brotherhood, if we ourselves "in our own personal interactions" are not just, or do not behave like brothers. Gandhi taught, "the end is inherent in the means." If we want different ends, we must change our means. We cannot give what we do not have; an angry generation can not bring peace to the world. If we wish to achieve fundamentally different political goals, we must transform the very process of politics.

In other words, in order to go wide, we must go deep: If we want to achieve a powerful social effectiveness, then first we must enter the deeper mystery of our hearts. For people will hear us on the level we are speaking to them from. If you speak from your head, they'll just hear you with their heads. But if you speak from your heart, then they'll hear you with their hearts. And the heart is a space that cannot be faked.

How can I talk about Israelis and Palestinians forgiving each other, when I know I have not deeply forgiven someone in my own life? It is easier for me to talk about the violence in the mind of George Bush than the violence in my own heart. But to the extent to which I'm espousing a change in others, without seeking change within myself, my communication lacks moral authority, and thus political effectiveness. We don't just need to get a message out; we need to get a message in.

This is why personal transformation is a political act. Until we change ourselves, we cannot change the world. Until we find a moral center within ourselves, we cannot articulate a moral vision at the center of a new, emerging world. Yet once we do find that center, there is no force that can stand against it. Consider the abolitionist movement, or the women's suffrage movement. Huge, gargantuan material powers were arrayed against them. Yet the sheer morality of their claim reflected through the minds and hearts and actions of people who truly embodied that claim literally moved those mountains, and changed the world.

Now it is our turn to do the same. Old geo-political calculations, based on domination politics and economic organizing principles, have no place in the moral evolution of our species. It is not just that they are politically or socially outdated. The point is that they are morally wrong. The sooner the progressive movement gives up its insistence that morality is a dirty word, the sooner we can claim the moral high ground that is historically and philosophically our due.

So don't worry that we don't have millions of dollars with which to wage our campaign for universal justice. Don't worry that we have so little material power to back up our views. Not one abolitionist had a computer; not one suffragette had a cell phone. What they had, in the words of Dr. King, was "the power in us that is more powerful than bullets." They had a passionate commitment to something more important than their own individual good; they had a passion for the possible, for the spiritual and political fulfillment of humanity's destiny. And they could see the role that America could play in the fulfillment of that destiny. We could demonstrate for all the world to see, a novus ordo seclorum a new order of the ages in which the world is released from its shackles because people are released from theirs.

We do not answer to temporal goals, or even to immediate political expediency. We are here because we are answering to the ages, to generations past and generations not yet born. We are a generation that will be remembered; history will definitely record that we were here. Whether we will be blessed or cursed is the only question, and its answer is up to us.

Marianne Williamson, an internationally acclaimed author and lecturer, is co-founder of Renaissance Alliance (a worldwide network of peace activists), and author of A Return to Love, Everyday Grace and Healing the Soul of America among others.

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