Last week I was down in NYC’s financial district, an area where I hadn’t been in ages, not since it was generally unrecognizable due to all the construction. This was the first time I had encountered, if only peripherally, the 911 Memorial & Museum along with an interesting structure called the Oculus, a boney / winged / futuristic transportation hub and high-end shopping mall. The outside is meant to look like a dove, but the word oculus can also refer to an “all-seeing eye,” and with the ubiquitous security in and around the area it sure felt like it.
Looking up West Street and seeing the massive expanse of shiny new buildings in and around the World Trade Center complex, I had to wonder: Is this was the best we could do? In the rebuilding after a tragedy of this magnitude, was it really just about fancy corporate offices and malls with armed guards? What about art and community, or something more organic and aspirational? Yes, the memorial pools are lovely and peaceful, but they are only one aspect, honoring the past and those who perished on that tragic day. In the surrounding environs, couldn’t the developers have sacrificed some rent for something more forward-thinking, inspirational and meaningful than yet another Starbucks, Apple Store, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc.?
With all the negative energy and residue from that fateful day, isn’t there something more uplifting to counteract and mitigate such a blemish on our civilization that could elevate our existence not just as Americans but as humans? If this really was an act of religious war on our way of life, then this only proves that ours is one of consumerism. And then I remembered, oh right, this is the epicenter of a universe in which Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko proclaims that “Greed … is good.” I felt like an alien in my own city and commented to many friends my dismay.
Two days later was the horrific mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.; one week later there is huge momentum and a national March for Our Lives scheduled next month to demand #NeverAgain. It’s as if we reached a tipping point of evil that now has a wave of frustration and grief transformed into action as the good rising up to meet it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the force behind this movement, the juniors and seniors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, were born in the months leading up to or right after September 2001, and/or will be eligible to vote this year. Most would agree with the students that, mental illness or not, these heinous acts would never happen if there were not such easy access to killing machines. This is not about the Second Amendment, it’s about corporations, politicians and the money that feeds and breeds them.
Two days after the mass murder, there was a major indictment of Russian nationals for having interfered in our elections in such a strategic, pervasive way that it could be considered a political massacre. Were they just having some fun meddling in our affairs? No, it was about the calculated quest to control oil, further enrich their oligarchy, and regain status as a global power. Facebook was an unwitting, but more than willing, accomplice in the coup as it increased its reach and overall revenue at any cost to our society and way of life, and we were all too eager and primed to take the bait.
Then just a few days ago, we had record low and high temps across the country — 78 degrees in February in NYC?! These extremes and other violent weather we have recently experienced are symptoms of climate change, aka “abuse” our planet has endured, which is largely a result of those who choose to place current financial gains over profound long-term losses for our environment that will affect generations, and could perhaps lead to the eradication of our species. (See also: Russia in the above paragraph.)
It seems as if every two days we discover someone else in Hollywood who has abused their power as we hear of one sexual harassment claim or assault after another. The cover-ups, silencing and elaborate systems in place despite the “secrets” everyone knew, kept the machine running, ticket sales flowing and shareholders happy but destroyed many along the way. And over the last couple of years, the studios have been more publicly shamed over a lack of diversity and pay inequality; there has been an increase of violence and mayhem in many, if not the sole premise of movies, which apparently are the only ones that could be blockbusters or bring home the box office bacon internationally. All of this is inextricably tied up with the business part of show business, but with the brave women and men of the #MeToo, #TimesUp movements speaking out and Black Panther breaking box office records, there is hope that all of those issues and themes are being “blown out of the water” in one fell swoop …
I was then reminded the other day when rewatching Spielberg’s film Lincoln in honor of Presidents week, that it was Rep. Fernando Wood from New York who rallied against the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery. For many above the Mason-Dixon Line who opposed the amendment, it had little to do with the equality of the races or basic morality; it was about the slave economy of the South, which was tightly linked to Wall Street through the commodity of cotton. Needless to say, for many, the commercial interests at stake rose above any others. Fortunately, that was not enough to overtly stop the scourge of our nation at the time as the amendment narrowly passed, but the avarice for trade rather than maintaining the dignity of human beings seeped into our fabric more subversively through our long history of institutional racism and mass incarceration, the ramifications of which we continue to deal with today. (And some would say tied to the Second Amendment issue mentioned earlier, file under: slave patrols).
I am not anti-money or even anti-capitalism. Money is a necessary part of life; it’s the way we have a civilized exchange of goods and services, and it can be used to demonstrate love for ourselves and others, through gifts and donations to causes. The problem is when we value PROFIT over PEOPLE. It’s when the cost of doing business is literally costing lives — whether psychologically, professionally, emotionally or the ultimate cost: physical life.
Unless you are part of the 1 percent, it’s easy to feel helpless under the weight of all this power via the proxy of money. Although we can certainly use the tools of our votes and our pocketbooks to fight back, real power is something else and is inherent in each one of us and our actions. It all starts with how we approach and interact with our own lives and relationships. We each have the power to choose sensitivity over security; to transform our fear into friendliness, our anger into action and our evolving awareness into a constant affirmation of positive over negative.
As the saying goes, what you focus on grows. So what or who are you worshipping or idolizing? What are your values? Where can you help replace greed with goodness?
Every major religion has its form of the Golden Rule, which admonishes us to treat others as we would want to be treated, so what does that mean about how we are treating ourselves and others? Where are you committing violence against yourself or those closest to you? Where are you putting profit over your purpose? Are you indulging in passivity instead of persistence? Do you prefer purely financial interests with disregard to innate integrity? As individuals, corporations and a nation, we must balance our moral bottom lines with our bank accounts and neutralize the negative aspects of the monetary monster we have materialized and metastasized.
There was a time when many cultures and civilizations prayed and sacrificed to gods and idols for blessings and protection; we then had the monotheistic traditions of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, who call upon the Almighty Yahweh or Allah for salvation and healing. We now need to recognize that we are the ones who can save ourselves, and can do so in tandem with the Universe or God by any name we call it, and/or by simply relying upon the pure willpower, strength and generosity of spirit that can be cultivated within each of us, many examples of which have been demonstrated, yes, these past two weeks, in perfect divine coordination from the big U.
Because you see, much of this chaos and calamity was going down simultaneously as the athletes of the Olympic Games, an event inspired by the Ancient Greeks, bring the entire world together to remind us of how human excellence and greatness, both literal and metaphoric, can be achieved. With discipline and dedication, teamwork and tenacity, passion and perseverance — along with a firm belief and utter faith in our ability to attain our highest and best potential — we can create boundless beauty, inspire breathtaking awe, and indeed, fly.
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This past June I had someone film parts of my New Attitude Summer School series, which resulted in this very-roughly-edited-not-the-best-quality video of uninterrupted remarks wrapping up the workshop “Lead Yourself to Success (in Work & Life!)”
In this excerpt covering the final ten minutes, I summarize my thoughts about confidence, being a leader in your own life, maintaining your individuality and humanity in the times we live in, and why the world is relying on you to be successful.
About the Author:
Kristina Leonardi is a career/life coach and motivational speaker who has a proven record of getting “stuck” clients empowered to make lasting changes aligned with their true passions and talents in a short time. She provides a practical framework for each individual to make the most of their personal and professional lives, allowing them to recognize, connect to, and fulfill their role in the world at large and live with clarity, balance and direction. For more information visit www.kristinaleonardi.com or check out her profile on The Muse’s Coach Connect.
Click here to check out Kristina’s book of 131 “thought-provoking, inspirational and entertaining essays to keep you connected to yourself and this journey called Life” Personal Growth Gab (PGG) Volume One from Amazon.
Read more about me and my work in these essays, which I refer to as PGG’s:
If you like what I write, you’ll love what I have to say in person! Click on above links for info about my coaching and speaking services and contact me today.