I gave up hope years ago. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Last evening, President Obama addressed the nation regarding immigration reform. Stated diagnosis—the immigration system in this country is broken.
Soon after the address I flipped to Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. Maher was interviewing Senator Rand Paul, and as the interview concluded, he asked Paul if he would still promote ending the “War on Drugs.” Paul agreed he still promotes this. Why? Stated diagnosis—the “War on Drugs” system is broken.
This morning, I awoke and began watching the CNN Films special, Ivory Tower, that aired last evening. This documentary analyzes whether the cost of higher education in the United States is worth it. Stated diagnosis–the higher education system is broken.
I’m not looking for delusion here. I don’t expect us all to break into the “Everything is Awesome” song from the LEGO movie while turning our backs to these important issues. Also, I don’t disagree that these are critical issues to improve upon.
My curiosity piques, though, when we use an extreme label of “broken” to discuss these issues. When something is broken, yes, the psyche moves toward, “How can I fix it?”, but when everything is labeled broken, does the psyche become broken as well? Do we give up hope? Do we despair? Do our minds become defeated and subdued?
After all, each of these complex systems is made up of countless other human systems with complex human dynamics. If the human system is broken, does that mean we are broken?
I gave up hope many years ago. It was in the Summer of 2002 to be exact, and I was fresh out of college. No, this isn’t a sad story of a young man who tragically did not find his way. I gave up my hope that summer because a now mentor of mine gave me sound advice about a concept he calls “100% Responsibility.”
Taking 100% responsibility means I am responsible for everything I say, think, feel, and do. It also means I give up ‘hope’ and replace it with action. Hope implies something being out of our power and the desire to have our circumstances change without any direct action behind it. If all we do is hope, nothing is accomplished.
Don’t get me wrong. I still hope now and again–old habits die hard. But I find that this very hope, when faced against the ‘broken’ systems that seem to surround me, ends up causing the despair, defeat, and subdued behavior. Because the hope doesn’t seem present when someone is telling me a world around me is broken and collapsing, I feel the need to turn toward action. Action no matter how small.
Our world isn’t broken. We have to believe that, if not for each other, than at least for ourselves. Perhaps, as Pink sings, “We’re not broken, just bent.” It will take collective action to straighten out these issues, but at least we won’t be hoping over a pile of rubble.
Image credit: Fiona McAllister Photography/flickr