Clearly the American empire has begun to implode and it will take much of the world with it. Where do we go from here. This writer has a few very level-headed and emotionally balanced suggestions that are most relevant for Anarchists.
By Carolyn Baker
Sunday, 04 November 2007
What The Question «What Can I Do?» Prevents Us From Experiencing
As I teach, write, and travel throughout America, I have come to understand that no one who asks «What can I do?» really wants an answer-at least not a real answer. For this reason, the charade of political candidates, elections, and the corporate media that guarantees the success of that particular con game has hypnotically entranced the electorate who overwhelmingly prefer to remain delusional. The majority take little interest in the candidates anyway, perceiving them as yet another group of celebrities. Yet even more delusional are those who call themselves progressive. These individuals are desperate to keep the show on the road and sanction its validity, and they are the ones who least want to know the answer to «What can I do?» because of what it would cost them. Consequently, they must pre-occupy themselves with «solutions» that have nothing to do with the actual state of the earth and its inhabitants but which offer a false sense of making a difference. When I think of them, I cannot help but note that as the Titanic was sinking it would have made no difference if hundreds of its passengers had collected endless buckets of water the ship had taken on and emptied it back into the sea, but it may have provided them with a momentary sense of participating in a «solution.»
Tenaciously grasping for solutions serves no other purpose at this point in human history than distracting us from the myriad layers of feelings we have regarding the death of planet earth. As Americans we are more afflicted with «death phobia» than are other cultures around the world. Most indigenous traditions have some sort of «good day to die» perspective, but we heroically persevere in our war on death. It seems this is what Tim Bennett meant earlier this year when he wrote a blog piece in which he stated that the switch had flipped and that it is now time to let go of the shore, sailing into the unknown in the lifeboats we have created. As we do so, we exit the paradigm of suicide and opt for survival, knowing all the while that there are no guarantees that we will not succumb.
Whereas many collapse watchers disparage feelings as extraneous and insist that we must focus on taking action dispassionately, I argue that action must be informed by emotion. Otherwise, we will only perpetuate the paradigm of doing estranged from feeling, that is, living from the head while disowning the heart-one of the fundamental premises of the culture of civilization which has brought us to where we are now. Thus, as one part of us may minimize the importance of our actions being informed by emotion, the seasoned sage in us must continually ask ourselves how different we want the new world/community/individual that we are becoming and shaping to be? If we merely pour new wine into old bottles, we fundamentally change nothing. If we take action without feeling the full impact of our fear, grief, and anger, as well as our gratitude for what resources we do have in our lives, we are likely to re-create the culture of empire in another form elsewhere.
Lose The Word «Solutions»; Embrace The Notion Of «Options»
At the same time that I’m pleading for the end of «solution obsession», I’m suggesting re-focusing on options. We cannot «solve» the issues of climate change, energy depletion, species die-off, global pandemics, global government, or the rampant proliferation of fascism. For those awaiting a mass awakening or mass resistance, I fear you wait in vain. We would be hard-pressed to find any population in the history of the human race that is as comatose as that of the United States in this moment. In my opinion, focusing on «mass» anything is the opposite of where our attention must be, namely, local and community survival. Notice, I did not say local «solutions» but rather, survival. As I have stated repeatedly, the issues are: Who do I want to be in the face of collapse? Who do I love and trust and want to share my life with? Who do I need to reach out to in order to enhance all of our well being? As the «I» becomes «we», we all must ask: Do we need to remain where we are in order to survive, or do we need to go elsewhere? What actions should we be taking? Have we put in place a structure or process for practicing and improving our communication skills and resolving conflict? What is our level of food and water security? What is our access to alternative or traditional medicine?
These are merely a few of the plethora of questions that must be addressed, and putting our attention on «solutions» will only distract us from doing so. In other words, «What can I do?» is not only not useful, it could actually get you dead.
I borrow again from the film makers of «What A Way To Go» when I offer «Five Things You Can Do» from their website:
1) «Fully acknowledge and internalize that the culture of Empire is destroying the support systems on which the community of life depends, and robbing us of our essential humanity.»
I suggest mulling the words «internalize» and «humanity.» Then ask yourself how electing presidential or Congressional candidates, not unlike putting lipstick on a pig, can stop the evisceration of your essential humanity. Ponder the system that nominates and owns those candidates and determines their political positions during their terms in office. Notice that all candidates, in order to be nominated or elected, must participate in the evisceration of your humanity.
2) «Talk about your concerns with everyone you know.» Notice their reactions. Notice the incredulity, the apathy, the denial, the false hopes of «solutions.» Then notice how you feel. Notice also the individuals who hear you and sense that what you are feeling is valid because they feel it too. Continue to connect with those individuals; they are inestimably valuable to you.
3) «Find your work in the world to preserve life, change this culture and /or create restorative ways for individuals and communities to live in harmony with each other and the non-human world.»
Start asking yourself why you are here. What did you come here to do? Why did you show up on planet earth at this time and not another?
4) «Assess what you actually need during this transition in order to live and do your work. Only buy what you need and buy from local sources in order to support the creation of local economies.» To what extent are you powering down and simplifying your life? Do you know your neighbors? Local farmers? Local business people?
5) «Find or deepen your spiritual connection to that which is greater than you. Ask and then listen for guidance about how to live joyfully and creatively in the face of these unprecedented times.»
Notice that none of these has anything to do with mass movements or political candidates. In fact, they are all about you and your internal and local worlds. Could it be that for some of us it might be easier if the options were all about the macrocosm instead of the microcosm? Is it not more comfortable to focus on mass movements and political candidates instead of the personal responsibility that collapse throws in our faces?
Options Engender Opportunities
Collapse is a multi-faceted word which I frequently use in my writing and speaking. It is important to use the word and not resist it because the entire construct of civilization is collapsing in front of our eyes. For example, the U.S. has not «entered a recession» but rather the first stages of global economic collapse.
Our public schools are not merely turning out undereducated students, the entire educational system is collapsing. It’s not that energy depletion will make it more difficult to «grow our economy,» but rather that in reality, growth is over! Although we refuse to recognize our limits on planet earth, planet earth is setting limits whether we like it or not. As James Howard Kunstler says in «Escape From Suburbia» in response to Dick Cheney’s maxim that «The American way of life is not negotiable,» if we refuse to negotiate our way of life, then energy depletion will make sure that we get a new negotiating partner called «reality.»
When we refuse to accept the fact of collapse, we armor ourselves from endless opportunities for personal and community growth. Perhaps other collapse watchers would prefer not to hear about «opportunities» inherent in collapse, but I feel compelled to name them!
I would be the first to admit the possibility that nuclear war may erase all potential for human survival as collapse more fully unfolds. However, I would also adamantly insist that it may not be inevitable and that local communities and families who have consciously prepared for collapse can not only navigate it but create mini-societies where an entirely new paradigm prevails. In the latter scenario unimaginable opportunities (a word very closely connected with «options») abound for remaking human relationships, human connection with the earth and the non-human world, and the reclaiming of our ancient memory of living within limits as partners with, not dominators of, the earth.
Paradoxically, «solutions» obfuscate opportunities whereas options nurture them. Not only is it too late for «solutions» but the process of collapse, which is well underway, challenges us to revere and seize options in which reside unfathomable opportunities. The switch has been flipped; there’s no turning back to antiquated means of addressing unprecedented challenges. Time to stop asking «What can I do?» and start doing the five things you can. It could mean the difference between suicide and survival.