Certainly, chants and call-response can be energising
for rally participants. Some chants can
capture an entire message in a few words.
However, chants can also play on our minds, turning neurons on or off,
so that the message is an internal one as much as an external one.
For those of us seeking social justice the response of
“Now!” may be disrupting our equanimity.
Now! yells out impatience.
Now! calls out frustration and anger. Now! shouts out a different message to
that of the “power of now.”
The concept of the power of now has been
popularised by Eckhart Tolle’s multi-million selling book of that title.1 Tolle’s basic teachings are not new; in fact,
they are centuries old.
The basic premise of living in the present moment
(“the now” as Tolle refers to it) is to be mindful of our inner and outer
worlds. We experience the outer world
through our five “external” senses.
With these five senses we can take notice of our
surroundings. Many of us, however,
navigate our daily lives with little awareness of our surroundings. We get caught up in our thoughts, with most
of those thoughts either: remembering what has happened in the past, or
planning our future. We are not present.
Being present also teaches us patience. The future does not beckon us with a sense of
urgency. We are simply present, and time
is something we experience with patience.
We also sense the outer world via our “inner” senses,
such as instinct, intuition, and feelings.
Once again, if we are present, then we allow ourselves the chance to
recognise what is going on inside. We notice
our feelings; the sometimes small sensations in our body.
Why is this important?
Or, how is this beneficial?
Eckhart Tolle puts it this way:
“When you act out of present-moment
awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and
love – even the most simple action.”
Okay, so what does this have to do with the
call-response rallying chant, “When do we want it?”
If Tolle is correct in suggesting that being present
imbues each action with quality, care, and love, then a chant of impatience
would seem to be contrary to those values.
And… if those values are not present in the world we wish to see, then
surely, we need to re-think our vision.
But it’s just a chant, I hear.
Yes, it is a chant.
Yet, as alluded to above, the message in the chant is one we tell
ourselves as much as what we want others to hear. Neuroscience has been telling us for many
years that our internal messages change the way we think. When we tell ourselves that we are stupid, or
a genius, then we become stupid, or a genius.
Messages are powerful. The ones
we tell ourselves perhaps the most powerful of all. The more we tell ourselves these messages the
stronger the neural links that enforce the message and our belief in the
The message of “Now!” tells us over and over to
be impatient, to remain frustrated and angry when “Now!” is not
We need to find other messages to tell ourselves. We need to find other ways to express our
desires for greater social justice. We
need to switch from a “Now!” mind-set to a Power of Now mind-set.
That calls for patience – a very present-centred
1. Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, originally
published by Namaste Publishing, Canada, 1997.