Cause Without Effect
Unity by the Bay on 14 January 2018
SONG (Bob Sima): Be The Change, from Thin Little Veil
We all remember learning about Cause and Effect in grade school. We were often shown pictures that easily helped us identify the Cause – the Why something happens – and the Effect – the What actually happens. Here are a few examples:
The reality is that everyone in this room, everyone on this planet, has the potential to become a cause. Every person in this room, every person on this planet, has the ability to effect others in a positive way. In my opinion, one of the deadly sins is cause without effect. We can dream up a million causes and we can watch other people take action toward something we feel passionately about as well. Maybe it is time to take our own action. Become the cause with effect. Be the change you wish to see in the world, as Gandhi said. And as Bob made clear in his opening song, it all begins on the inside.
We can all give rise to an action. We choose our actions in every moment. Often because of a deep commitment to something within ourselves that we are prepared to defend or something larger than our self that we are prepared to advocate. When your passion for something creates a commitment within your core to give rise to take action, there is no doubt and no question that you will have an effect on another.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr weekend, I began a little research to support my talk this morning. I admit that I got plenty choked up remembering things that I was taught and had forgotten, and learning details of things that were never presented to me in my formal education. There is rich effect in our own lives that is seeded in decades of history that has yet to be fully resolved. That, in and of itself, is inspiration to be the change, to become a cause, and to have a lasting effect on ourselves and on the writing of the future of humanity.
Let’s begin with a familiar face.
Abraham Lincoln was the president of the US during and Civil War. In 1863 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves in states who were anti-union. The cause was clear. The effect was minimal in a country in deep conflict with itself and where implementation of such a proclamation was not defined nor able to be legally supported. In 1865 the 13th Amendment abolished slavery of any person stating, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Five years later, the 15th Amendment granted African-American men the right to vote stating, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” At the time women were still not allowed to vote as they were not considered citizens, but ALL men were granted the right to vote.
Lincoln was the figure head to massive efforts in a country that was – not only divided among itself between states – but that was literally fighting hand-to-hand among itself. Brothers and cousins and fathers-sons fought against each other to stand up for their own one-sided beliefs. There was a large population who were opposed but Lincoln pushed through because he was a PERSON with DEEP COMMITMENT to the equalities of men and took steps to give rise to action appropriate for his time in history.
Lincoln had a cause. Lincoln became a cause.
Let’s fast forward to another familiar face whose very feet touched the very earth we walk upon.
Martin Luther King Jr was the most memorable face of the Civil Rights Movement. A movement that was at its height less than 60 years ago. African Americans were standing up for common use of public service, public space, education, medical care, and other social support. Why????? Because the 15th Amendment was not being enforced. Let me repeat in a different way: The 15th Amendment that was passed 90 years prior was still not being enforced. In 1963 King delivered his infamous ‘I Have a Dream speech’ in front of 250,000 marchers on the mall of the nation’s capital. His most quoted paragraph rang through the streets, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.” He went on to say, “1963 is not an end, but a beginning.”
What King recognized was that 1963 was a new beginning of the next step in the evolution of civil rights as he knew them to be. The reality of 1963 is that many voting polls still refused to allow the African American vote. In 1965 the Voting Rights Act removed legal barriers to enforce 15th amendment. 1965. Do you recall what year slavery was abolished? 1865. 100 years since slavery was abolished under the 13th amendment and 95 years since African American men were given the right to vote under the 15th, the Voting Rights Act finally enforced what Lincoln and his predecessors saw in their vision.
The beginning of equal rights for African Americans began long before MLK Jr impacted the world with his eloquence and commitment to taking action through non-violent activities. There was a large population who were opposed but King pushed through because he was a PERSON with DEEP COMMITMENT to the equalities of men and took steps to give rise to action appropriate for his time in history.
MLK Jr had a cause. MLK Jr became a cause.
These are two examples of the hundreds of thousands of actions that it took well before Lincoln and continued through and beyond MLK Jr to – not only address – but to produce a positive EFFECT on the lives of the African American population in the US. MLK Jr could not have EFFECTED the civil rights movement to the degree that he did without all that came before him, without conditions that inspired action – a CAUSE – within him, and without a community of supporters who rallied with him.
The reality of 2018 is that the African American population still requires a community of supporters who rally with them. We may not be addressing the same details that Lincoln or MLK Jr addressed, but we have our own beginning to continue as we evolve through civil rights. Today’s population still has inequalities of privilege, action, and racism that exist.
There is a large population who are opposed to full equality of all races. But we – as individuals and communities – will push through. Why? Because there are PEOPLE with DEEP COMMITMENT to the equalities of humanity and who will take the necessary steps to give rise to action appropriate for today as we know it and for tomorrow as we dream it…. and as today’s teenagers will directly experience it in their adult lives.
I can’t stand up and personalize the life of an African American. I can’t stand up and say, “Yeah, I know what you’re going through.” I can’t imagine standing in those shoes because I was born into the body of a white female. But I can stand with compassion. I can listen. I can smile. I can hug. I can engage in conversation. I can try to understand. I can walk next to my brothers and sisters of color or no-color and see a world with no division because I feel that vision in my heart.
I can stand as a white female and talk about a different movement.
Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were two of the most prominent women in Feminism and Women’s Suffrage. They campaigned for equal education and equal pay for women, women’s property rights, voting rights, and citizenship. In 1848 Stanton organized the first national women’s rights convention where the Declaration of Sentiments document was introduced, modeled after the Declaration of Independence. The declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Many Suffragists opposed the 15th Amendment giving African Americans the right to vote ONLY because they felt it should include ALL people of voting age, including women.
In 1868 the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” to include slaves who were recently freed under the 13th Amendment. The 14th Amendment did NOT consider women citizens. Shortly after, Anthony and Stanton began the National Women’s Suffrage Association. In 1872 Anthony could not sit quietly and took non-violent action; she was arrested for voting in the presidential election. These women were taking a stand and creating huge movements in a country that was working through Civil War and post-Civil War issues and moving into WWI. There was a large population opposed to women’s rights but Anthony and Stanton pushed through because they were PEOPLE with DEEP COMMITMENT to the equalities of women and took steps to give rise to action appropriate for their time in history.
They had a cause. They became a cause.
In 1920 the 19th Amendment finally granted women the right to vote. This was during post-WWI when anti-feminist propaganda began showing the classic “happy housewife” ads. In the 1930s the Great Depression forced women out of the workforce. Many states justified not employing married women because they could be taken care of by a man. In the 1940s and in the midst of WWII, women were needed to keep businesses running since most men were drafted into the military. Women stepped out of the homes they were forced into and took jobs in factories and commercial outfits to keep businesses operational during the war. And as the war came to an end and the men returned from military duty, women were laid off and forced out of the workplace once again. Media encouraged the return of the “happy housewife”.
In the 1950s women could not own or sell property or manage their own earnings. Their affairs were managed by their father or husband. A limited number of women received a form of higher education, unless it was in nursing or teaching. They rarely held political office. They could not open a checking account, and women were considered property of their husband. 1950s. The same time that Civil Rights began to flourish.
In 1963 the Equal Pay Act intended to abolish wage disparity based on sex. This led to the Feminist Movement of the 60s and 70s. Though we often associate that with hippies, sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, there was much more to the picture. Feminist passion yearned to develop independent women who lived beyond the box of the “happy housewife”, who received higher education, who strived to hold jobs that women never held, who was not married with children before age 30, who established and managed their own earnings, who was an equal partner in a household, and who shared responsibilities with her partner to keep a house in order.
Gaining independence outside of societal norms comes with consequence. In a male-dominated society used to a women who took care of the home and the children, women in the workplace caused friction with this engrained and society-bred concept. Sexual harassment and predation became a “thing”
There was a large population who were opposed to women in the workforce but women pushed through because as a PEOPLE with DEEP COMMITMENT to the equalities of women, they took steps to give rise to action appropriate for their time in history.
Women had a cause. Women became a cause.
I, personally, graduated college with an engineering degree, a mostly male-centric field. I entered the work force in the 1990s as a fiercely independent and extremely competent worker with morals and ethics, thanks to two parents who showed me how to build powerful principles within and for myself. I was a young female in a male-dominated industry who could hold her own and who chose to work a little harder to learn my area of expertise because I knew I would naturally be tested in ways excused for the middle-aged men doing the same job that I was doing. I have had my fair share of inappropriate dialogue and gestures directed toward me.
- I had a man who was age-eligible to retire suggest to a room full of 30 people that myself and the only other female in the meeting might get on the table and entertain the room while we waited for the final participants to arrive. Even in my mid-20s, I knew I wasn’t going to sweep that under the rug.
- I had a colleague hire a private investigator to support his claim that I was sleeping with a senior manager in our office so I could get the best project assignments in the office. Disregard that I worked and proved myself worthy of the assignment. I sure laughed when I heard it because I immediately felt sorry for the poor private investigator who watched me for months get up at 4am, workout, go to work, make myself dinner when I got home, and see my lights go out around 8pm!
- I had a subcontractor sing Billie Joel’s “Uptown Girl” as I walked nearby inspecting rebar ties before a concrete pour. I know he did not expect me to walk over, hunch next to him, and clarify that I am actually a coal miner’s daughter.
- I had colleagues who only wanted to hug me and nobody else at multi-nation inter-agency meetings. At first I questioned the international distinction of personal space and personal greetings. I was told not to create an international incident over something so trivial. Creepy is creepy no matter how you package it and I knew I had to establish clear boundaries or it would spiral out of control.
- I had the owner of a company – my employer – threaten to do one of two things to me. Both 4-letter “f” words. One was fire and you can guess the other. I left the room and by the time I walked to my office, I had already created a plan in my head to take care of my business, organize my files so they could be easily transitioned to someone else, and knew the date that I would calmly leave my devices and assigned property on my desk and silently – without word or explanation – walk out of his office with no intention to ever return.
As I mentioned, I can’t stand here and personalize the story of or know what is it like to be an African American. But I can stand here as a white female and tell you that equality has yet to be reached as experienced through my own life. I can also stand here as a female with a conscience and a female that has always stood up for herself and tell you that I addressed each and every one of those incidents directly… and those are just a few of the highlights. I may or may not have reacted in the exact moment that they occurred, as the intention of most antagonizers is to trigger you into a reactive emotional dilemma. The easiest thing to do is lose your cool and become defensive. The hardest thing to do is let it go, regroup, and determine the best next course of action.
Did I have a cause? You better believe it.
Did I become a cause? You better believe it even more.
I invite you into meditation. Identify a motivation within that can turn into a cause – a deep commitment to make it happen – that would significantly effect and impact another. Start simple. If you believe in children’s education, maybe you can commit to reading more to your children or grandchildren, or helping the neighbor’s children with their homework because they have two working parents. Maybe the teens in the room could commit to small steps to get a 3.0 or better on their report card. If you have taken for granted the intimacy with your partner, maybe start with a commitment to read a book together. From that starting point, expand the cause. Expand the motivation. Expand the “why” something could happen and see where it might lead.
SONG (Bob Sima): The Measure, currently unreleased
I invite you to commit to take one action that will give rise to your cause.
At this time of year, we’re often making new year’s resolutions to lose weight or talk less or cut out sugar from our diet or journal more or meditate more. Those are all great goals. A goal doesn’t necessarily effect someone else. And once it is reached, where do you go from there? I challenge you to make at least one new year’s commitment to find that motivation within you, that thing that you are truly passionate about, and turn it into a cause.
Every person in this room has the potential to become a cause. You may not instigate a 200,000 person march or may not influence the next constitutional amendment. But a cause is a cause, regardless of the magnitude of the effect. What is critical is that you have an effect. That you become the “what happened” in someone’s life. Any positive effect on another life will ripple further to the people that they effect with their own cause.
Again, in my opinion, one of the deadly sins is cause without effect.
What do you want to happen in your life this year?
What effect do you want to have on yourself?
What effect do you want to have on others?
What is your cause?
What do you want to see change in your lifetime?
What do you want to see change for the life of these teenagers?
What do you want these teenagers to do to set the stage for their teenagers?
This is vision.
This is cause.
This is becoming a cause.
This is having an effect.
I wish that you find a deep commitment within yourself this year to – not only think about – but to birth a cause that will create the effect you wish you have on others.
SONG (Bob Sima): The Movers The Shakers and The Peacemakers, from The Movers The Shakers and The Peacemakers