Interview with James O'Dea, Institute of Noetic Sciences and formerly with Amnesty International

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December 29th, 2004
Transcribed by Mark Baber and Ben Tupper

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. So why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and some of your experience at Amnesty International -- regarding the human rights, and what you were doing there.
JAMES O'DEA: Sorry. I mean, do you want me to say my name?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Just say, "My name is James O'Dea"
O'DEA: My name is James O'Dea, and for 10 years I worked for Amnesty International -- most of that period -- as the director of its Washington office. And really spent those years confronting governments about their involvement and complicity in human rights abuse. Both meeting foreign heads of state, defense ministers, foreign ministers, foreign representatives in the embassies in Washington, and of course the US government at Congressional testimony, and lobbying of the State Department, the White House, the Justice Department, National Security Council, to explore with the US government its own role in promoting human rights, and its obvious need to deal with some of its own complicity.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when we -- In the project I'm looking at is that build-up to the military intervention in Iraq. So from your time period at Amnesty International, were you doing anything regarding Iraq and with the United States? What was your experiences with what was going on?
O'DEA: When I recall some of the nightmare images of human rights abuse that are burned into my memory and even to the farther reaches of my soul, I think of images from Iraq. I think of Kurdish children whose eyes were gouged out to send a signal to their parents. I think of images of Kurdish people going over the hills with their flesh dissolving from chemical weapons attacks under Saddam's regime. And the attempts that our organization made to activate the necessary levels of moral outrage, and the translation of that kind of outrage into creative action by governments. I remember vividly Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Richard Shifter, in Congressional testimony not being able to say that the abuses in Iraq constituted a gross and consistent pattern of human rights violations, because to do so would have triggered the full weight of US law. And so, the State Department, the Assistant Secretary of Human Rights was reserving that final blow even in the face of the starkest of cruelty by Saddam's regime. And then to see as the story unfolded and Saddam tried to export his brutal regime in the invasion of Kuwait to see how the US government shifted its interpretation of the past, its interpretation of the human rights record of the government. And initially that was slow, but as you know the Bush administration formed an international coalition to warn Saddam that if he didn't withdraw from Kuwait there would be consequences. And in the process of beating the war drum of preparing the international audience and the coalition for US action, the Bush administration became very interested in the human rights record of Saddam and of letting people know that this man was indeed "The Butcher of Baghdad." That phrase emerged after the invasion of Kuwait. And then it began to focus in even more acutely on what the abuses were by the regime where in Kuwait. And so Amnesty International had a report about the abuses by Saddam in Kuwait, which were truly horrendous. And the White House knew that this was in the making, and I got regular calls asking when the report would be ready. And even putting as much pressure as they could to get a pre-press-embargoed copy of the report, which I gave to President Bush the weekend before it was released to the world. And I wrote on the cover "Press-Embargoed Report." He read it at Camp David that weekend, and as he returned there was a kind of press uproar because the President had said his wife had attempted to read Amnesty's report on Kuwait, but it was so sickening she had to put it down. And while he didn't specifically break the embargo, he let the world know that the Amnesty report was about to be released and was horrific in its denunciation of the abuses of Saddam's regime. And so -- What the White House actually started to do was to print up copies of the Amnesty report on Kuwait. And I had a call from what I believe was an Episcopal Bishop, who said "Did you know that President Bush is handing out copies of this report?" And so you had a deeper and deeper involvement -- engagement in the human rights story, but used very centrally as a rationale for military action. And this conversion to the human rights arena happened precipitously. And was not, I think, out of the deepest motivations for the human rights story per se.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when we flash forward to the intervention in 2003 -- the US going into Iraq. Part of -- After the intervention was undergoing, they were saying, "We're bringing democracy, and we're getting rid of a brutal dictator." And I they sort of framed it as this moral dilemma where Saddam had committed all these human rights atrocities, and we have to get rid of him. And can you speak to the human rights and the moral reasoning? And what are some of the alternative options that could be used that have more love or compassion or a different approach than going to war?
O'DEA: It is deeply frustrating to human rights activists to find themselves in a position where they are not listened to year in, year out, as they begin to document human rights violations, as they publish reports, as they publish in-depth findings about deep levels of cruelty by governments. And in this case Iraq, to be essentially ignored for so long, and then used as a pretext for war -- That somehow this level of conversion to human rights only occurs when the government is willing itself only to use the last resort. And so the first basic -- you know, moral position here is the attention that is required when human rights situations are building. This was clearly the case in the former Yugoslavia of repeated build-up of human rights information, and finally military action -- as it was in Iraq. If there is truly a commitment to human rights, it needs to be when something can really be done about it. And I think it's quite distressing for human rights activists to see that their work ignored when thousands of lives can be saved. And in this case, many years later, after the peak of the atrocities have really been over -- I mean, the most egregious violations were not happening in Iraq when the US invaded. They had happened in the previous decade and were essentially not acted upon.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when you look at -- Coming to work every day being morally outraged, eventually you move to the type of work that you're doing now. Can you speak to -- What you're doing now? And how you see how effective it was to be morally outraged and be ignored? -- is sort of what I hear you're saying.
O'DEA: I think that one of the things that so powerfully activated me in Amnesty International was, those examples -- all around the planet really -- of people of conscience who were willing to stand up to governments, who were really willing to face the most powerfully oppressive regimes in the world with their own bodies, with their own spirit, with their own sacred purpose in raising aloft the human enterprise. And that to align oneself with those forces is an incredible privilege. And to exploit the human rights story for other purposes, I think is deeply demeaning of the true enterprise that is in the human rights story, of the people of conscience and courage in the world, who are really trying to protect the fundamental freedoms -- the freedom of thought, the freedom of speech, the freedom of creative action. And so -- You know, when I think about Iraq, for example, and I think of all of those people in Iraq who desperately needed support at the right time, who need the world on their side, who were largely ignored where action really wasn't taken. And then to have -- In another context, action devised that is said to be on their behalf, I think requires really deep scrutiny at a moral level. And to enact a war requires the highest level of moral scrutiny, particularly a war that is a pre-emptive war in the name of all of those who have suffered and who have been slaughtered. It requires deep moral scrutiny for us to really see "What were the designs, and purposes, and the intentions of a war like this?" For it to be truly a just war would require, I think, much more than we ever saw delivered in terms of moral argument or persuasion in this case.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And talk a little bit about the dualism between outer action and inner peace. And do you see the outward actions that you were doing before as more outer? And the stuff you're doing now as more inner? And talk at little bit about IONS -- the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and what you doing now.
O'DEA: Could we just stop for a second? [pause]
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And so just speaking about the spiritual aspects of these types of issues and what we see in the media -- What types of things or messages would you have like to seen incorporated in the debate leading up to the war in Iraq?
O'DEA: It's really important for us to understand the depth world of the human rights story. So -- At one level, we have people who are murdered, tortured, executed. And we have a search for justice to bring those people responsible to justice for their crimes. But what we understand is that it's not quite that easy -- that families are wounded, that the suffering is taken on into an intergenerational journey, and that the wounds of the psyche and of the soul are profound. The grandmothers who were raped in Bosnia weren't raped out of licentiousness by the soldiers. They were raped because they were images of something that was sacred to the community. If you rape the grandmother, you're stabbing the deep psyche of the community in an intergenerational wound. See oppression is always about making dirty -- making trash out of the dignity of another. It's trying to rob the spiritual depth, the soul, the dignity, the honor, the beauty of whatever it is you're trying to erase -- disappear. And so -- In the deep unfolding of the human rights story we have to be able to look at where those wounds go. Where they go into hiding. Where they lurk. And where responsibility lies. And you begin to see as you look historically it's almost like artic wastes of incredible levels of responsibility for abuse that are left unaddressed, untouched. I think of the US government. And I think of the US as a country, and its beautiful aspirations. And its search for the soul of democracy. And yet, there are great areas of consequence that have to be confronted in the soul and psyche of America with regard to being the world's largest exporter of all kinds of weapons of destruction. That once you get into the deep story, you have to look at consequences. You have to look at the whole behavior. You have to look at the dark underbelly, the hidden places to see the whole story. And so, just as the person of conscience brings their own light, there is in the depth of the human rights story, the word "truth" is there. What is the truth? And again, that's a very layered experience of -- there are superficial truths, and the media know how to report those. The deeper truths -- the deeper you go, they require more courage to explore. They require looking into that dark underworld, and facing stuff that is difficult to face. But we know that even in a simple psychological equation that unless one does that as an individual, one is going to have some psychological problems. And so the psyche of America is one that has some very lofty purposes, and has a dark underworld that it has not made itself accountable for. And the media in large parts reflects less and less an ability to explore that dark underworld. And it's not just about conspiracies and stuff like that. It's about facing the consequences of certain avenues of action -- of looking at relationship. And as one explores the field of consciousness, for example, one can no longer live with any sort of ease in a polarized dualistic framework that says, "Good is here. Evil is over there. They are not related. They are inseparable." When the people of Bali --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay -- Just --
O'DEA: Okay.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: In the film, I'm focusing on just Iraq. So I don't want to go too far off --
O'DEA: Okay. Okay.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: These stories that are important, but are not going to be integrated. So another --
O'DEA: So 9/11 is not?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Well 9/11 -- I mean, to follow up, I guess -- When you look at the trauma of 9/11, and what it did to the psyche of America during this time period, you had a lot of fear still, so can you talk a little bit about --
O'DEA: Right. Well, that's what the Bali reference was. But maybe --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Oh, okay. But -- Yeah -- So --
O'DEA: In Bali, what they -- When they were hit by the terrorists -- Shall I? You can edit --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Just start from the --
O'DEA: When Bali was hit by the terrorists, the dominant Balinese response was, "What is our relationship to this?" Think for a moment what might have happened if the us government had for a moment asked itself, "What is our relationship to this attack upon us? What might we have done in the world to have drawn so much anger towards us?" Not that there is a simple "Let's beat up on ourselves equation" here, but at least that basic question, "What is our relationship to this? And how can we change our relationship to it?" is really fundamental. And the level of denial, the depth of denial in the US government's response to create a scenario in which the only way out of this wound -- out of this terrible wound -- was to deny the truth system around the wound, and to look for some alterative, attention-grabbing phenomenon. And so the whole response of the country was drawn into this level of theater -- a theater of denial. A theater where the substance of truth was really lost -- at every level, the substance of truth was lost in the basic arguments about this war. Those were proven to be great falsehoods. And then when you get to the level of moral truth, it isn't there anywhere. So the more you dig into where the substance of truth was. It was gone. And -- It serves, I think, to really analyze how the population were fed this. Where is the psychology of it? And where is the politik? And fundamentally, why the media had lost its own bearings in relationship to core truths? It's as if the media had started to consign itself to a rather trivial level of surface reporting, and where the great questions that the media should be pursuing were abandoned. That does not bode well for the future, because if the deeper questions of truth are not explored by the media, where are they explored?

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay... Alright -- And when you look at -- When politicians are creating this false dichotomy in a way of "Good/Evil." Or "This is our right way. The other way's the wrong way." And losing a lot of the ambiguity -- Can you speak to what effect does that have on consciousness in engraining us into these very stiff paradigms?
O'DEA: So we would say that Western civilization has come into being around a fundamental dichotomy or split between spirit and matter. And you know we talk about this in terms of the Newtonian approach and so on -- that there's a fundamental difference between "Material Stuff" and the "Nature of Spirit." That split works really well also for a simple moral equation of "Good" and "Evil" -- that there is a fundamental split. That things -- The nature of reality can be just like that. You have "Good" over here, and "Evil" over here. You've got "Spirit" here, you've got "Matter" there. But everything in scientific research and study and the study of consciousness itself suggests that that is really a false dichotomy. That in fact matter itself is pervasively interfused with subtle energy. We know from quantum reality that the whole structure of the material world is of the subtlest, most refined forms of energy itself. And so we begin to look into a mapping of reality that is much different than the old "Right/Wrong," "God Above/Matter Below" kind of universe, into a universe of interconnectivity. And so interfused and interrelated that it's inseparable. And as we study this arena, we see so much of the nature of the interconnection of our own thoughts and intentions and perceptions about the world. Now in that kind of mapping, what you can see clearly is that "Good vs. Evil" is a simple polarity. But that the framework of even the quantum world itself is non-polarized -- is a "Both/And" structure, not an "Either/Or" structure. And that we have to be able to work these levels of subtlety and complexity if we are to, I think, survive a story that is at best, fundamentalist. And the fundamentalist approach is one of a meaning system that is self-enclosed in its own argument. And I think we need to examine systems that are self-enclosed in this way, whether they exist in religions or in politics, or even to some extent in the realms of the public media. Because they contain nice dichotomies that are easily marketable, but that do not reflect reality.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And so when you -- Speak to a little bit about the evolution -- cultural evolution in the sense that realizing that there are these new categories -- And trying to integrate new categories, and how that flows into personal evolution, and then on a macro-level a sort of cultural evolution.
O'DEA: One of the elements that I think is very hopeful in our evolution is that while on the surface and from a simple analysis, we have uni-dimensional or at least easily-named identities. The reality is much more complex and more interesting. We are emerging into a period when human beings are carrying multiple identities. And it's this multiplicity of identities that is beginning to have, I think, a very hopeful message for the future in the evolution of the species. Because if you only have one identity, and it is your religion and your gender and the place where you come from -- so your nationality, your gender, and your religion -- and those identities are fixed, and you stand by them and they don't change, then you're locked into something that's manageable in terms of simple dichotomies, "Us vs. Them. Right vs. Wrong. They're either a part of us or they're not. They're either for us or against us." It's a very simple painting of the identity equation. And yet, what is happening is that as we evolve, people are merging their identities. There are modern identities that have taken on very deep indigenous aspect to them. There are indigenous people from many parts of the world who are out there on the Internet talking about the planet earth from the same vision of an indigenous perspective, but incorporating many of the tools of the modern world and trying to grapple with the things that the modern world grapples with. And I think this fluidity is growing in many, many ways. If each of us looks at our lives, and looks at the complex dimensions of our cultural view. How much do we -- when we wake up in the morning -- do we really think of ourselves as planetary citizens? Some of us wake up in the morning -- more and more of us wake up in the morning and think about the skies around the earth. We trouble ourselves to think about the skies around the earth, because that is part of our identity now to think that there are holes in the ozone layer, and that we as a little citizen in some remote location have to now trouble ourselves. And in fact, it's not only troubling ourselves, it's actually entering into an identification with the planet. An identification with the emerging cultures of the planet, and their aspirations for sustainability. So I think that the new mapping of identity and the porous nature of the flow between meaning systems is very helpful, because it will pull us out of small, confined, parochial views of reality. Governments that can talk about morality, but not really live morality in a way that common people understand.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when we look at even the political system in America we have this dichotomy between Republicans and Democrats. And can you speak to sort of the polarization that's even happening between those two parties? And sort of what you see as a way to reduce that polarization through understanding or conflict resolution? Or -- Look at the state of United States now and see how divided it is, and the importance of trying to bring understanding.
O'DEA: Arthur Koestler coined this term "holon." And a holon is something that is a whole thing in itself, but part of a greater whole. And that it's very helpful for us to begin to see how we are whole in ourselves, and how we are part of greater wholes. So -- Whatever shades of political opinion exist, for example, in the United States -- Democrat/ Republican, Progressive/Conservative -- those things may be whole as views in themselves, but "What is the larger whole that they are a part of?" And when one goes to that dimensional level of seeing, "Well, what is it that, in fact, is the higher state of unity of things that at a lower dimensional level are different?" That's a really interesting question. Because again one sees that at a higher level of unity there is much more flow happening than is perceived in this rather comic stereotype of the so-called Conservative and the so-called Progressive. There is an ocean's flow that is moving between them. And the danger would be obviously, if there was a really rigid division between these views, but I can't see that that is possible. I know that the media play a tremendous role in affecting peoples' perceptions. In fact, we even talk these days about "media trance," about levels of pulling in peoples' attention and awareness in ways that are heavily conditioning -- much more deeply conditioning than picking up a newspaper in the morning alone. But when you combine the full effect of all forms of media, it can be deeply conditioning. And if the thrust of the media is an oversimplified, consumable version of the Conservative vs. the Progressive, it does exacerbate the polarity. But it is fundamentally a superficial one. And one that in evolutionary terms, we are not far from a much greater confluence of meaning that pulls people together around -- in this concept of a holon -- a much higher level of relationship around planetary issues, sustainabilities, and real value. Because what I think is in the human quest is a deeply moral purpose, that human beings, of course, go through all shades of political development in their evolution. But when you look at the whole evolutionary wave, what you see -- is maybe not what manipulators of attention or political manipulation sees as easily -- is a basic moral quest in human beings to find greater meaning, greater purpose, a greater sense of unity. And that we are permeable membranes, that whether we like it or not, the world is flowing into our psyche and out of it. It is washing us with its own struggles for meaning. And that eventually, that level of truth, the truth of experience, the truth of what is really happening on the planet washes through us and creates a new evolutionary moment where there is a greater sense of integration and purpose.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And... [technical alteration] -- And so when we think about people's own moral belief system -- attitudes and beliefs that sort of serves as a filter. Can you kind of speak about these filters that people have in perceiving reality? And how easy it is to get stuck in your own paradigm of what you see is right -- either reality-based or political-based?
O'DEA: Perception is very causal. What you perceive is happening is what is going to precipitate your response. And so those who understand how to affect your perceptions, how to create filters so that you are tempted to perceive things in certain ways, know that they are going to have a causal result. And that we then have to ask ourselves, "What is the practice around dealing with my own perception? Okay. How deeply entrenched in some matrix of manipulation am I? And how would I ever find my way out it?" It's a very potent question for contemporary civilized beings to be able to say, "How can I use my own tool of consciousness to get out of the matrix?" -- Particularly if it's a destructive matrix, into a more whole creative matrix of human creativity and the maximal expression of my sense of being. And so, it is to go to that place of perception, "What am I seeing? And how does it relate to who I am?" And -- "What are the questions that I ask?" So that really -- You know, constantly one has a view of the world, we call it a "worldview." This is how I make sense of the world. Unless you are revising that worldview constantly, you are in trouble. So there's a clue. If the worldview is fixed, if it's like "The movie is stuck," and you are constantly being fed the same vision of reality, there's a warning sign. Something's up. You're deeply caught in what the spiritual teachers would say, "the depth of the illusion." So to move out of the depth of the illusion so that your own perception -- your field of perception widens and you begin to see, "Okay. I can generalize a little bit more. Or I can say "this" is true and "that" is true." The more I can generalize, the more my field of perception is going to widen -- the more I will be revising my worldview. We know that in consciousness studies that the most central activator of meaning is belief. What do you believe? Do you believe that the table is made of wood? Or do you believe that below the wood is a sea -- an ocean of energy? What you believe creates the context of your reality. And if your belief is fixed, then how can you be free? How can you as a player in the whole system, work it out, and contribute your part to creating new value and meaning? You have to be revising your belief, extending your belief. There's a 13th Century Sufi philosopher, Mohiuddin ibn El-Arabi, you know, and he said, "You can never challenge the god of another person's belief." That's missionary enterprise, right? I can't come along and say to you, "You know what? You out there. You're believing the wrong thing." That's to interfere with you and how you make meaning. But what I can say is, "Well, you believe that. And you over there, you believe that. Ah! That's interesting. I can generalize." So where you specify and say, "God is only this." I can generalize cause I can say, "Well, and that person believes that God is only that." So I'm now in a position to expand the territory of meaning. And it's up to each individual to be that alive to expand their own capacity to create meaning. We do not deliver that to any media outlet, any government, any religion in the world, because that is the center. You know, Giordano Bruno talked about the "omnicentric unvierse." The omnicenteric universe -- the center is everywhere. That's the most fool-proof system for matrixes of media manipulation and trance that exists in this structure of the universe. Because maybe evolution realized at some point that there would be dangers for the human imagination, or for the human soul and freedom, and so it had to construct a modality that would inherently give the human being the absolute right to its own freedom. And it did so in that way, by having within it the capacity to extend and create its own meaning and value system and to share, of course, that with others.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I think -- Hold on... When you look at people's... When you have -- Oh. Sorry. I lost my train of thought. Hold on. When you look at -- I would know people who would say, "Well, I'm comfortable in my belief system. I like where I live. I don't want to change who I'm voting for -- or what my belief/" And why -- What's the worst case scenario for being completely comfortable, and locked in your own belief system?
O'DEA: I believe there is grave danger in battening down the hatches and stopping the evolutionary clock and fixing your belief in space and time, and not opening it up to the possibility of other encounters with belief. In some ways that is my definition of "fundamentalism." And your belief may look beautifully progressive, but if you are only going to stay there, it's a meaning system that does not know how to wake up in the morning and extend itself towards other meanings. It has made some determination that those over there -- whether you call them "Progressives" or "Fundamentalists" or whatever name or label you put on them -- are not a place I want to go, because I am so happy putting my feet up and soaking into my own belief system. It's quite enough for me. There is great danger there. There is not only the danger that you'll be swept away by the meaning systems that are gathering together, that communicating with each other, that are in dialogue with each other, that are learning from each other, that are growing together where you'll be left alone in your own meaning system. But you won't have the fun. You won't have the experience of the fecundity of meaning where you grow in meaning. And to grow in meaning -- to feel a deepening sense of how life can come together is an expansion of being itself. I think one reflects a contraction of being. And the other because -- Because being essentially wants to reach out, to extend, to know the other, that the fundamental relationship of the universe if very relational. We are in relationship to each other whether we like it or not. And certainly, when we look deep into the substrate of matter and its relationship to consciousness, we see that we are profoundly interconnected. Scientists refer to it as "entanglement." We are entangled.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And so when you look at sort of this interconnectivity, what is your vision for where we are at as a world and the state of things, and where we need to go to achieve a more sustainable -- or more -- world peace as well? What are things that the country and individuals can do within the United States to get to that point?
O'DEA: Toinby had a theory of the cycles of history, and there are other theories about generational cycles. And we can see clearly in the path of evolution that there are great cycles of conflict. And out of that period of conflict arises a whole new synthesis of meaning, and the beginning of a new Renaissance of thought and human creativity. And that lasts for a period. And that begins to decline. And it declines so much it unravels. And in the unraveling you begin a period of conflict again. And so, what I think we see on an evolutionary scale is that those cycles don't simply repeat themselves, but that they broaden in scope, because each cycle brings a greater sense of inclusion of meaning -- an inclusion of our understanding and purpose. So now we're at an epochal cycle in which the emergence of a planetary consciousness is trying to -- is not trying, is coming forth -- there are people around the planet who really think in terms of planetary sustainability, planetary life, ways in which the multiplicity of cultures can learn from each other, ways in which the great wisdom of the spirit traditions can share with each other. This isn't a theory. This is happening for a number of people. And so -- That pushing up -- evolutionary pushing up into that cycle is creating a clarion call to those entrenched meaning systems that say, "No. I don't want to go up there. I'm quite comfortable down at this other level. I'm making a big profit out of this." And that will no doubt create conflict. Our challenge is -- not that conflict is bad -- not at all, I think it's part of the evolutionary thrust. So conflict is simply a part of reality itself. How can we engage in conflict in ways that don't create so much pain, destruction and suffering? How can each of us look at the ideas that we're thrusting out into the world in terms "What their consequences will be for the lives of other people?" We must dialogue or we will destroy each other. So the dialogic emphasis, I think, is central. Because in that approach, we have a reaching out for higher levels of integration of meaning. And truly, the adventure is limitless in that sense. And for those that can imagine it, who see it -- you know, Einstein, this brilliant thinker said, "It is imagination which encircles planet Earth. Mere knowledge is limited." It's our ability to imagine that next state of the human enterprise, and see it's beauty in our minds that, I think, is part of an extraordinary adventure.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. And when you look at on an individual basis, here at IONS you speak of a shift -- an upcoming paradigm shift. And a different way of seeing the Western way of thinking to a more Eastern way of thinking. Or can you describe this shift? And what does it mean? And how do you -- What sort of things do you see that are indicating this?
O'DEA: The evolutionary shifts in consciousness as with the entire struggle for human rights is all about greater inclusion. So in the great story of human rights, we can now talk about the universal declaration of human rights. We can start talking about the rights of disabled people and the rights of gay people and the rights of people who were never included before. And in a similar way, as our consciousness evolves it becomes more inclusive. It can gather more and more with it, and still feel whole and still feel centered. And so I think that that sense of inclusion, and our ability to include others is a central theme.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And so if you were to tell that to someone who was very afraid of terrorism, and see that as just wanting to kill them -- How can you include them as being part of the same whole if terrorists want to come and attack us? How do you deal with that?
O'DEA: When we ended the second World War, we had the Nuremburg trials. And we thought, this was a great benchmark in history to end the greatest conflict that humanity has ever known with legal trials and a legal solution rather than more war and more oppression for those who created the war. And since Nuremburg we've come a tremendous journey and very fast. South Africa ended its years of terrible conflict with a truth, reconciliation, and forgiveness approach that said, "We can go even beyond the legal into the emotional and the spiritual. We can tell the truth to each other. And the very hearing of that truth will help us forgive the other. Because if I can hear the other person's story, if I can hear what it was really like, I might be able to understand them." And so I have been in dialogue with former Nazis and Holocaust survivors where they deeply forgive each other. They recognize that they were caught in stories. They were caught in the velocity of meaning systems that simply took hold of whole groups of people and ripped through society like a wind. And to isolate out individuals and their culpability is important at one level, not to be denied, but there's a greater story. And so, you know -- Wherever we are and however afraid we are of "the enemy at our doors" and the one we are told is "the truly evil one" and "darkest of all forces," if we can imagine what humanness lies there -- what is reaching on the other side. It won't immediately solve all of our problems. We may have to take very strict measures to protect ourselves. But we begin to open up our own awareness to the story of the other. And the story of the other is often bitterly mundane. You know, Saddam Hussein did not have a happy childhood. And of course, that's not to explain away his level of evil, but it is to see him as a human being who got caught and who contributed to many terrible things. So the beginning of the story is always relationship. What is my relationship to this thing that comes towards me? And if we think we have no relationship, and that we can simply close our doors and windows and crawl under the blankets, we will find that what we are most afraid of is right inside us, there right under the blankets, and we have to deal with it still. We still have to relate to it.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay, let me do some room tone here. So just sit tight for like 10 seconds. -- Okay and just finally, how can people deal with their fear? What are some practical tools that you might have so that people can deal with whatever fear they have with current events and world affairs?
O'DEA: I believe we are drawn more by the possibilities, than by describing the calamitous. And there are so many ways that we can learn about the courage and conviction and heroism of human beings. In my years at Amnesty International, I learned so much about people like Irina Ratushinskaya, who was sent into prison for seven years hard labor for writing her poetry about love. And in prison, she would receive a bar of soap occasionally to wash herself. And the poet must see her words in writing, so with her finger nails she write her poetry onto this bar of soap. And then under the eyes of her oppressors the poet washed herself with her poetry. [End of Tape]