I hear a lot of people say we have to wake people up... convince them of the urgency of this moment... make them realize that the planet is headed for disaster!
But I don't see it that way. Anybody who needs to be woken up at this point is so deeply asleep that they're not the target audience for global activism. We don't need to wake the sleeping so much as we need to harness the energy of those who are already awake. Enough people know we're in trouble; what they want to know is what to do about it.
We're living at a time when whole systems break down, calling for a whole systems response. It's not just outer change but also inner change that's called for. It's not just that this is wrong, or that that is wrong. The entire direction of human civilization is wrong, as we have placed economic principles before humanitarian values and in so doing have placed the very survival of the human race at risk.
Human civilization as we know it is like the Titanic headed for the iceberg, whether the iceberg be nuclear, environmental or terrorism-related. The probability vectors for the next twenty years are grim, and our job is to turn the probability vectors into possibility vectors... in other words, we have to turn this ship around.
In every advanced mammalian species that survives and thrives, a common anthropological characteristic is the fierce behavior of the adult female of the species when she senses a threat to her cubs. The lioness, the tigress and the mama bear are all examples. The fact that the adult human female is so relatively complacent before the collective threats to the young of our species bespeaks a lack of proactive intention for the human race to survive.
Yet how things have been has no inherent bearing on how things have to be, and I think we're living at a time when Western womanhood is just a moment away from emerging into the light of our collective possibility. Especially given the relative lack of power - even basic rights - given to millions of women in other parts of the world, we have a particular responsibility to speak up not only for ourselves but for them as well. And we are ready. Maybe not all of us; but enough of us. Western women should be a moral force on this planet. We should not be infantilized; we should not be pretending we don't know what's going on; we should not be giving in to the various and ubiquitous temptations to anesthetize ourselves. Quite the opposite, we should be taking the wheel of human civilization and saying to anyone who will listen: We're turning the ship around, and we're turning it around NOW.
One thing we should all be aware of is the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight goals signed on to by all 189 members of the United Nations in the year 2000. The goals are important because they speak to the underlying causes of so many of our most important problems, addressing them on a global level and giving everyone the chance to monitor how we're doing as a species.
The goals are a road map to cutting absolute poverty in half, improving health, getting children in school and reducing disease by 2015. When we think of "women's issues," we should be thinking of these issues. They should be our concern as the mothers of the world, the lovers of the world, and the leaders of the world.
Specifically, the goals are these:
1) Cut Extreme Poverty and Hunger in Half
2) Achieve Universal Primary Education
3) Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
4) Reduce Child Mortality by Two-Thirds
5) Cut Maternal Mortality by Three-Fourths
6) Halt and Reverse the Spread of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, TB, and Other Diseases
7) Ensure Environmental Sustainability
8) Develop a Global Partnership for Development
We are five years away from 2015, the year we are supposed to achieve the Millennium Goals. We are making progress but not fast enough. We need an accelerated sense of urgency from our decision makers. And nothing would make that happen more effectively than for the women of America to learn this information, to take it to heart, and to refuse to shut up about it. No matter what else you're doing to make the world a better place, add a P.S. about The Millennium Goals.
Facts to consider: Putting a child in school is one of the most powerful things we can to do to reduce poverty. An educated child earns more later in life, knows how to keep their own children from dying, produces more food, is less likely to get AIDS, and in the case of boys, is less likely to engage in armed civil conflict. And we already know how to address the problems of AIDS, TB, and Malaria; we just need to do more of it via mechanisms like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.
So what can you do? You can call or write your Congresspeople (go to http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml) as well as the President, and tell them you want them to actively and substantially support the Millennium Development Goals. Remember: our Representatives get lobbied by wealthy corporations every hour of every day, but the poor of the world have no economic leverage. The only voice they have in the halls of power is yours.
And do more than that. Educate yourself. Look at http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ Use your own platform, or create one. Consider ways to help spread the word. http://www.results.org/ Use Facebook and Twitter and every other way you have of building a buzz about something that could matter to the lives - even the survival - of millions of people. And some of those people might someday be your own grandchildren.
Then, when it's all handled, when 17,000 children a day are no longer dying of hunger; when the ecosystems of the planet are well on their way to restoration; when nuclear bombs are scarce if not completely gone; when females of the world are no longer treated like chattel; and the nations of the world are beginning to achieve a real and lasting peace; then, we can celebrate. But until then, we should mourn. Anyone who's looking at the world and not grieving isn't conscious; but anyone who's looking at the world and not rejoicing in the possibilities for how we can turn all this around, is underestimating what human beings can do. We can learn to love each other. We can be conduits for the miraculous. We can stop playing small and start playing large. We can stop giving in to our weaknesses and start claiming our strengths. We can tell truth to power. We can act like we mean it. We can never, never, never give up. We can be the mothers and the fathers of a new and better world. And all of this is possible because human beings can decide. We can decide to say something. We can decide to write an email. We can decide to step up and participate. But we must decide now... not later. There is no more time to waste.
Follow Marianne Williamson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marwilliamson