“A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark.” —DANTE
He knew he must stop them. With a mere $800 in his pocket, Sam LaBudde drove across the Mexican border, stood on the fishing docks of Ensenada, and waited for his opportunity. Toting a video camera to get some “home movies” of his excursion, he posed as a naive American tourist and offered his services as a deckhand or engineer to each captain who docked his boat in the harbor.
He was hired on the Maria Luisa as a temporary crew member, and as the Panamanian tuna boat pulled away from the Mexican coast, La-Budde began to secretly film the activities of the crew. He knew that if he were discovered his life would be in jeopardy.
Finally it happened: they were surrounded. A whole school of dolphins, known to many as “water people,” began jumping and chattering near the Maria Luisa. Their friendly nature had drawn them to the boat; little did they know that they were also being drawn to their death. The fishermen trailed the dolphins because they knew that yellowfin tuna usually swim below the playful creatures. With coldblooded calculation, they lay their nets in the path of the dolphins, not noticing or even caring what happened to them.
Over the course of five hours, LaBudde’s video recorded the horror. One after another, dolphins became entangled in the nets, unable to free themselves and come to the surface for the oxygen they needed to stay alive.
At one point the captain bellowed, “How many in the net!?”* As LaBudde swung to capture the slaughter on video, he heard a crew member yell, “About fifty!” The captain ordered the crew to haul in their catch. Numerous dolphins lay strangled and lifeless on the slippery deck as the crew separated them from the tuna and discarded their sleek, gray bodies. Eventually, the corpses of these magnificent animals were tossed overboard as casually as sacks of garbage. LaBudde’s footage gave clear-cut evidence of what others had claimed for years: that hundreds of dolphins were regularly being killed in a single day’s fishing expedition. Estimates are that over six million dolphins have been killed in the last ten years alone. Edited down to an eleven-minute format, LaBudde’s video stunned viewers with the heart-wrenching reality of what we were doing to these intelligent and affectionate beings with whom we share our planet. One by one, outraged consumers across the nation stopped buying tuna, launching a boycott that only gained speed as media attention became more pointed. Just four years after LaBudde first captured the tragedy on film, in 1991 the world’s largest tuna canner, Starkist, announced that it would no longer pack tuna caught in purse seine nets. Chicken of the Sea and Bumblebee Seafoods followed suit, issuing similar statements just hours later. While the fight is not over—unregulated foreign tuna boats still kill six times as many dolphins as did the U.S. boats—LaBudde’s day on the Maria Luisa has served as a catalyst for major reform in the American tuna industry, saving countless dolphin lives and undoubtedly helping to restore some balance to the marine ecosystem.
“Every man is an impossibility until he is born.” RALPH WALDO EMERSON
So many people feel powerless and insignificant when it comes to social issues and world events, thinking that even if they did everything right in their own personal lives, their welfare would still be at the mercy of the actions of others. They feel beset by the proliferation of gang warfare and violent crime, perplexed by massive government deficits and the S&L crisis, saddened by homelessness and illiteracy, and overwhelmed by global warming and the relentless extinction of the other species who live on this planet. Such people fall into the mindset of thinking, “Even if I get my own life and the lives of my family in order, what good will it do? Some nut in a position of power could accidentally push the button and blow us all up anyway!” This kind of belief system fosters the feeling of being out of control and impotent to create change at any significant level, and naturally leads to the learned helplessness typified by the phrase, “Why even try?”
Nothing could be more crippling to a person’s ability to take action than learned helplessness; it is the primary obstacle that prevents us from changing our lives or taking action to help other people change theirs. If you’ve come this far in the book, you know without a doubt my central message: you have the power right now to control how you think, how you feel, and what you do. Perhaps for the first time you are empowered to take control of the Master System that has unconsciously guided you until this point. With the strategies and distinctions you’ve gained from reading and doing the exercises in this book, you have awakened to the conviction that you are truly the master of your fate, the director of your destiny.
Together we’ve discovered the giant power that shapes destiny—decision—and that our decisions about what to focus on, what things mean, and what to do are the decisions that will determine the quality of our present and future.
Now it’s time to address the power of joint decisions to shape the destiny of our community, our country, and our world. What will determine the quality of life for generations to come will be the collective decisions we make today about how to deal with such current challenges as widespread drug abuse, the imbalance of trade, ineffective public education, and the shortcomings of our prison system. By fixating on everything that’s not working, we limit our focus to effects, and we neglect the causes of these problems. We fail to recognize that it is the small decisions you and I make every day that create our destinies. Remember that all decisions are followed by consequences. If we make our decisions unconsciously—that is, let other people or other factors in our environment do the thinking for us—and act without at least anticipating the potential effects, then we may be unwittingly perpetuating the problems we dread most. By trying to avoid pain in the short term, we often end up making decisions that create pain in the long term, and when we arrive further down the river we tell ourselves that the problems are permanent and unchangeable, that they come with the territory. Probably the most pervasive false belief most of us harbor is the fallacy that only some superhuman act would have the power to turn our problems around. Nothing could be further from the truth. Life is cumulative. Whatever results we’re experiencing in our lives are the accumulation of a host of small decisions we’ve made as individuals, as a family, as a community, as a society, and as a species. The success or failure of our lives is usually not the result of one cataclysmic event or earth-shaking decision, although sometimes it may look that way. Rather, success or failure is determined by the decisions we make and the actions we take every day.
By the same token, then, it is the daily decisions and actions of each one of us, taking responsibility on an individual level, that will truly make the difference in such matters as whether we are able to take care of our disadvantaged and whether we can learn to live in harmony with our environment. In order to bring about massive and far-reaching changes, both in our individual and joint destinies, it is necessary to commit ourselves to constant and never-ending improvement, to the discipline of CANI! Only in that way can we truly make a difference that will last in the long term.
THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION
What do you suppose is the one common element in all the problems facing us today as a nation and as a world? From soaring numbers of homeless people to escalating crime rates to huge budget deficits to the slow strangulation of our ecosystem, the answer is that every single one of these problems was caused or set in motion by human behavior. Therefore, the solution to every one of these problems is to change our behavior. (This requires changing the way we evaluate or make decisions, which is what this entire book is about.) We don’t have a drug problem; we have a behavior problem. Teenage pregnancy is not the result of a virus. It is the consequence of specific behavior. Gang warfare is a behavioral problem. Even nuclear war is ultimately a behavioral problem! Our decisions built the bombs, and our decisions will eliminate them. All of these problems are the result of actions that people have chosen to take.
For example, when an individual becomes a gang member, that single decision sets in motion a whole series of behaviors and problems. With this new gang identity, he will hold himself to a very specific code of behavior which places utmost value on such things as loyalty to the group, and out of that flows a whole system of characteristic rules and behaviors. A global example of the long-term effects of our decisions is the chronic famines and food shortages that take the lives of so many around the world. The World Health Organization has proven that it is possible to feed every man, woman, and child on this earth, yet every day, 40,000 children die of starvation. Why? Obviously we have the resources, but something has gone terribly awry, not only with the way food is distributed, but with the way our resources are used.
What’s great about all of this? The good news is that once we realize that the root of all problems is behavior (and the decision-making process we use to initiate it), then we know that we are the ones who can change it! As you’ve learned in this book, the one thing we have absolute control over is our internal world—we decide what things mean and what to do about them—and as a result of our decisions, we take actions that impact our external environment. There are actions each and every one of us can take in our own homes, our own businesses, and our own communities that will initiate a chain of specific positive consequences. With our actions, we communicate our most deeply held values and beliefs, and through the global influence of our mass media, even the simplest actions we take have the power to influence and move people of all nations.
While this sounds encouraging for the human race, you may be asking yourself, “What can one person do to truly make a difference in the world?” Virtually anything.’ The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment. The history of the world is simply the chronicle of what has happened because of the deeds of a small number of ordinary people who had extraordinary levels of commitment to making a difference. These individuals did little things extraordinarily well. They decided that something must change, that they must be the ones to do it, and that they could do it— and then they summoned the courage to persist until they found a way to make it work. These are the men and women we call heroes.
I believe that you and I—and everyone we’ll ever meet—has the inborn capacity to be heroic, to take daring, courageous, and noble steps to make life better for others, even when in the short term it seems to be at our own expense. The capacity to do the right thing, to dare to take a stand and make a difference, is within you now. The question is: When the moment arrives, will you remember you’re a hero and selflessly respond in support of those in need?
“It was involuntary; they sank my boat.” JOHN F. KENNEDY, when asked how he’d become a hero
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