I can learn to resist
Anything but frustration
I can learn to persist
With anything but aiming low
I can learn to close my eyes
To anything but injustice
I can learn to get along
With all the things I don’t know
You can surrender
Without a prayer
But never really pray
Pray without surrender
You can fight
Without ever winning
But never ever win
Without a fight
Last week sometime I listened to a Derrick Jensen interview on WOJB: he does an interview with them every month but this is the first time I got to listen. He was a little off at first – his head was elsewhere, I think, but after a few minutes he got focused and it was an interesting conversation. A lot of that conversation focused on resistance. Now, a week, later, having read his most recent Orion article, I understand where that discussion came from.
The whole thing got me thinking a lot about recent discussions around the blogosphere. Dave has been writing about overt resistance strategies, Hacking Massively Complicated Systems and Throwing off the Shackles of Debt. Both intrigue me: I’m not sure yet whether his “hacking” approach can or will succeed, but I will be interested in following along as he develops these ideas. His commentary on debt is right on, but as it happens does not apply to me. Part of my simplification process has been to reduce my debt to zero – unfortunately (or perhaps not?) this has also reduced my assets to near zero. That means that my approach will have to stay in the low budget realm as I have no intention of taking on new debt under any circumstances.
Meanwhile, over at the Archdruid report, JMG wrote a series addressing The Costs of Community, Secret Handshakes and The Presupposition of Passivity. Underlying those essays was an accusation of laziness: that because current communitarians are not supporting organizations such as the Masons or grass roots activism, that this implies that we are not willing to pay the costs of community. I understand his point and I am certain that in some ways people have become lazy – or more precisely, docile.
But I think there is a different lesson in all of this.
I totally agree with Derrick that if we love this world, if we love the salmon, the wolves, the bears, the mighty oak tree – if we love then we must do something. Or many things. Give everything we’ve got. But at the same time, I think there is a fallacy in his argument – the same fallacy that JMG brought to light for me. (In my disagreement, that is)
Historically, change has been brought about by activism of some variety or another. The Suffragettes, the Civil Rights Movement, The American Revolution, local political organizations. But stop right there. Yes, the Suffragettes gave women the vote. A hundred years later, we are still fighting for equal treatment. We are overburdened by the double-income trap. We are looked down upon for any perceived interest in “traditional women’s work” (oftentimes even by ourselves). And the system as a whole? The civilizational system itself? More devastating than ever.
The same things could be said about every revolution in history. The details change. In that change, people feel better. Mollified. Proud, even, that they stepped up and made a difference. But that “difference” is a lie. Because when all is said and done, civilization is still destroying the planet. People are still being abused, exploited, killed. And the salmon, the wolves, the bears, the mighty oak – are still being hounded unto death.
Regardless of the title I chose for today’s essay, I am not saying that we should give up. I am not saying that we should not resist. I am not saying that we should not do whatever it takes. But I am saying that we need to step back for a moment and look at what it is we are honestly trying to accomplish.
If we are trying to feel better about ourselves, feel like we are doing something good for people, for the planet, for the salmon and wolves and bears and oak trees, then by all means we should be doing what we have always done.
But if we are trying to actually make a change that matters then we need to step back and look at our efforts honestly and see if what we are doing is accomplishing our goals.
We are standing at a unique point in history. Civilization has overrun the entire globe and it is straddling the apex of its trajectory. We are facing opportunities and calamities that have never before existed. That will never exist again. How we each respond to these factors may have exponential effect: resounding through future history in ways that we cannot even imagine. So I figure we need to do two things.
First, we need to be creative, with integrity and conscious direction. In the nineties the big buzz was “out of the box” thinking. I say, throw out the box. Forget the box. The box is a trap. Envision possibilities completely beyond our current experience. Create something new. The past can be our guide, but only so long as we are looking at it honestly and recognizing the pitfalls that civilization has exploited for the last ten thousand years. Particularly those “opportunities for change” that have been co-opted by the system itself.
Second, we need to stop judging the efforts of others, whatever direction they may take. Some, perhaps most, will fail. But the more things we try, the greater the likelihood that some will succeed. Embrace the ten thousand ways. Not only in the sense of post civilizational culture, although that is vital, but also in the current application of resistance. Bluntly: stop dis’ing those that choose different paths! As Derrick keeps saying: we need it all. Yet we have been so well indoctrinated into this civilizational system that in practice, we fight each other far more than not. Support one another in seeking out paths that are not more of the same. Even when those paths would not be ours to choose.