We All Have the Potential to Harm
Think about the kindest person you know.
Maybe it was your grandmother, or it's your work friend that ALWAYS remembers everyone's birthday.
Chances are that the person you are envisioning has also hurt someone with their words or actions.
We are complex human beings who have the capacity to do great benefit and great harm. Most of us live our life somewhere in the middle.
As individuals, most of us do not not exist as binary beings---living on one spectrum of harm-doing or the other. And neither does anything that we have created---organizations, systems, businesses, etc.
Since humans are intertwined with everything we have created, we have the potentiality to corrupt any of the best intended creations---and we do.
From policing to financial systems to health care, many things we've been taught to rely on for our collective safety and well-being were not always created with the best intentions and many that were have been corrupted over time.
It doesn't mean that they don't have benefits, as they currently exist. It simply means that we have to consistently assess the "benefit to harm ratio" and, hopefully, seek to do better.
I think about gymnast McKayla Maroney's recent testimony to Congress about the FBI's failure to act regarding Larry Nassar's ongoing sexual abuse of young gymnasts: "This was very clear, cookie cutter pedophilia and abuse and this is important because I told the FBI all of this and they chose to falsify my report and to not only minimize my abuse but silence me yet again."
I think about the current happenings with four whistleblowers coming forward to expose corruption in the EPA Chemical Safety Office, where they say that management and career staff tampered with the assessments of dozens of chemicals to make them appear safer, so that they could be released to the public without proper warnings---these could be in anything from institutional products to household products.
I think about how things like the above contribute to the distrust that is impacting our public health measures. I shared, recently, that in the early 2010s, the CIA ran a fake vaccination program in Pakistan, to locate Osama bin Laden, which diminished trust and set back global public health efforts.
Some people hear all the above and it makes them write off all the systems as completely corrupt.
I would certainly understand that perspective because it's a little bit like that partner that keeps lying and cheating. How long are you going to keep trusting them?
But, for me, I see all of this as a spectrum of "benefit to harm." Just like grandma or that work friend doesn't exist in a vacuum, all of our organizations, systems, businesses and "social solutions" include humans that truly seek to benefit humanity and ones that seek to primarily serve themselves or even do harm. But often, even the folks with the beneficial intentions are unknowingly doing harm because the systems themselves are harmful. Are we willing to address the ways that all things/people/systems (including you) do not exist as solely BAD or GOOD? And what do those words even mean to you?
Just like if a medication's side effects create more damage than benefit, it *shouldn't* be on the market, if humans, organizations, systems and businesses create more damage than benefit, they need, at the very least, an overhaul...and maybe even a reenvisioning of what would better serve humanity.
We have already been doing that in the last couple decades---I was reminded yesterday that many people didn't even start questioning deep economic inequality until the Occupy Wall Street movement began ten years ago. And most recently with things like #metoo and #blacklivesmatter. These movements have not created perfect new solutions, yet, but they are hopefully lighting the way.
I truly believe this time period on the planet is an opportunity for an overhaul of what is no longer in service to humanity and what never has been.
Because, as you likely know or have experienced, it is often only when an individual hits rock bottom that they/we are willing to change. So, similarly, as we wrestle with a vast array of collective challenges, with more on the way, change is INEVITABLE.
May we individually and collectively release the attachment, resistance, blame, shame, binary thinking, defensiveness, greed and the various other emotional and behavioral vices that contribute to our suffering.
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