You may think it is President Trump and his zealous supporters who are the villains oppressing innocent people, and there is plenty of evidence to support this perspective. However, it is wise to consider that this point of view is exactly what is fueling Trump’s cause. He and his avid supporters see themselves as innocent victims of racial prejudice – against white people.
It is all too easy to write this off as a crazy distortion designed to obscure the truth. But a deeper look reveals that this way of seeing ourselves is a paradigm we all share. No matter how privileged, wealthy, or powerful we are, we each see someone else as having power over us, and are engaged in fighting them to regain our sovereignty.
When our Purpose is Resisting Tyranny
Most of us feel oppressed by a person or institution that seems determined to rob our vital energy for its own nefarious ends. We see ourselves as innocent victims of a villain who is using us for their own gain. This common experience energizes us to resist these evil forces, and sometimes we succeed. Yet there always seems to be another enemy on the horizon, and this chronic cycle of fighting for our freedom never ends.
We glamorize this impossible situation by championing heroes who won the fight, and declare it a noble cause that gives meaning to life. Yet this common way of defining our purpose leaves us stuck in the role of resisting, opposing, and rebelling.
While this may provide bursts of energy and motivate us for a time, it is not a sustainable way to live. It does not result in us being happy, secure, content, or peaceful, and it fragments our world.
Identifying ourselves as victims gives us a righteous cause and makes us feel good about ourselves. The problem, however, is that it sets us up for perpetual opposition. We identify ourselves by what we are opposed to, which requires that we have constant conflict and tension in order to justify our existence.
Despite our efforts to be seen as champions of a righteous cause, many of us feel helpless and defeated as we exhaust ourselves in this never-ending fight for independence. The constant conflict wears us down, and often leaves us feeling bitter, disappointed and helpless.
There is something hopelessly wrong with this paradigm of victim and oppressor that most of us find ourselves mired in. Our history is told by these stories which go back as far as we can see. And it is evident that when some person or group manages to throw off the shackles of oppression, they eventually become the next oppressor.
Everyone, no matter how much power they wield, sees themselves as a victim of someone else’s oppression. There is no way out of this impossible situation. Each of us sees ourselves as the innocent victim and the other as the evil oppressor. It is a self-perpetuating conflict that pits us against each other without hope of a final resolution. And most of us accept this as the condition of life.
The Real Oppressor
Before we destroy each other and the living eco-systems of this planet, let’s use our insight to understand why we keep repeating this pattern throughout history. If you pay attention to your thoughts you will see that you are constantly comparing yourself with other people, evaluating who is right and wrong. The nature of our ego-based personality is that it has to see itself as right in order to justify its existence. And to see ourselves as right, someone else has to be wrong.
This is the paradigm of duality that we use to define ourselves. It is a dysfunctional framework that inevitably pits us against each other in order to secure our place in the world. And it is programmed into us as long as we identify as a separate personality having an individual ego.
It is actually this false sense of individual self, or ego, that is the oppressor. This is the force usurping your true power and authority and using your energy for its own proliferation. The ego has conned you into believing that it is you, and from this misperception all of the conflict and oppression in our world originates.
The truth is that you are not your ego. The ego is merely an idea and is not real. It is the idea that you could be separate from your source and stand alone in the world. We cherish this idea and defend it to the bitter end. But the price we pay for doing this is our own freedom and empowerment.
Finding True Freedom
If we want true freedom we must move toward it. We don’t make progress by merely pushing against opposition. Our challenge is to break the spell of our ego which has us believing we are small, vulnerable, individuals fighting for our survival in a hostile world. When we see ourselves isolated like this, we live with constant worry for our safety.
The way out of this eternal struggle is to join with others to recognize our unity. When we experience ourselves as part of a larger whole, our fear and anxiety dissolves and we feel secure. The more we see ourselves as connected with all of life and part of a vast web, the more our insecurity fades and we feel our true power.
Our ego convinces us that the way to do this is to join with others in a righteous cause fighting a common enemy. While we do get a feeling of power and unity from taking sides like this, it ends up destroying the integrity of the whole. Pitting us against each other perpetuates competitive conflict which weakens all of us in the end.
This impulse for competition seems to be an inextricable part our human nature. Yet it originates with our ego-programming and is not who we really are. To wake up from the trance of ego we have to use our awareness to notice what is really occurring in our own private thoughts.
With self-awareness you can effectively interrupt your judging and comparing mind. This enables you to see that your treasured judgments are actually arbitrary, false narratives attempting to shore up the illusion of an embattled ego at odds with the enemy of the day. Once you see the pattern of always needing an enemy to define and energize your ego, the illusion begins to dissolve.
When you decide that you want the truth more than you want to save your crushed ego, you can see the chaos and destruction caused by this seemingly noble battle of good against evil. Fighting the good fight, and winning the just war, never ends. It only weakens the integrity of humanity and threatens the capacity of the earth to sustain us.
Fighting injustice is a vicious circle we are bound to until we choose to free ourselves. This doesn’t mean we simply look away and pretend that injustice or oppression doesn’t exist. It means that we become aware of how it originates in our own mental programming, and determine to resolve it at its cause.
We have to learn how to collaborate with each other for some worthy goal, not merely against a common enemy. When we unite with each other in this way, our ego naturally fades into the background, and the conflicts are finally able to resolve.
Resolving Conflict while Staying Connected
Conflict occurs when our basic needs are not being met and we see another person or group as the cause. If we approach conflict collaboratively, we can explore the needs of each side, and work together to get everyone’s needs met. To do this effectively we first have to neutralize our ego-programming and see the other side as part of us, and not a separate entity that we have to compete with for our own security.
Even if the other person or institution is operating competitively, we can approach the conflict collaboratively. The only way we will ever find a way out of the destructive cycle of ego driven competition is to not play by those rules of retribution and retaliation. This is what Christ was teaching when he reportedly told his followers to “turn the other cheek” when someone attacks them.
This does not mean that we capitulate when someone else is taking advantage of us or someone else. It means that we call out the competitive ego-programming so it can be seen. To do this effectively we first have to call out the hidden programming inside of ourselves that makes us want to hurt our enemy for our own protection. We have to honestly see where this comes from, and be willing to interrupt it, so we can realign ourselves with the integrity of the whole.
As we guard our own integrity in this way, we will naturally be able to guard the integrity of the whole of life. This means decisively responding to injustice and oppression without the destructive, competitive paradigm of the ego. If we respond to ego with ego, we merely perpetuate ego, and the integrity of the whole remains fractured. If we respond to ego with integrity, we assert the truth that we are all inextricably linked and bound to the entire web of life, from which we can never be separated.
This commitment to honor and serve the whole of life, is where our strength and power lie. Our survival now really depends on our capacity to identify with the whole, and not as a separate individual.
Alone, or in segregated groups, we will always feel vulnerable and insecure, and think we are being oppressed by someone else. As long as this remains our condition, we will live in a state of perpetual fear and anxiety.
Our task is to recognize this as a story made up to secure our ego. We can use our awareness to see that identifying with our ego actually undermines our true security and empowerment, keeping us in a constant state of worry for our safety. While identifying ourselves as part of humanity and the entire web of life, enables us to finally relax, assured of our place within the whole.