In thinking about shadowy things, images come to mind of the dark, deceptive, even negative and dangerous. Shadow government often fits into this perspective as it is typically seen within the “official” state structure as something which seeks to do harm to or overthrow the current model. In many countries and throughout history those who seek to advocate for alternatives, and usually just in theory, are persecuted and their plight becomes propaganda of the state which seeks to rally its constituents in renewed patriotism and support for the status quo.
But shadows needn’t be seen in this manner. Shadows are also shade, which protect us at times from the harmful effects of what can be an oppressive and penetrating presence in our lives. And just as the sun rises and sets, comes and goes in the lives of those it penetrates, so too do the histories of empires. All those governing bodies which become so powerful and invasive in the world of humanity, can burn those who do not protect themselves from too much exposure. These burns in turn tarnish our being in ways that last long after the sun has set, the empire declined or collapsed. Thus seeking refuge in the shadow of alternative organizing structures has the effect of maintaining a healthy condition for us to undertake the important work of being in community with others.
Taking this metaphor further, within the shadow of empire exists a fine condition to begin to grow alternative governing experiments. Because of its inherent inability to be participatory, empire dominates the mind-scape as an uninviting presence which tends to shade out any other such seedlings of participatory community building of so-called constituents of the empire. But what we must understand is that to nurture the seedlings is to begin to undermine the foundations of the invasive dominant entity which covets our energy. The canopy may be too grandiose for us to have much effect in our attempts to trim back the foliage of false patriotism. But the roots, no matter how large, are in poor soil and cannot continue to provide support for the ever growing reach of the empire’s quest to dominate and exploit. Eventually this foundation will give and those seedlings which we nurtured with such care, patience and participation will be free to grow into beautiful fruit bearing trees from which all will taste the flavor of true freedom.
Many would say that though this all may be true, we cannot allow the giant tree of empire to go to ruin and fall as it will collapse upon and destroy multitudes within its reach. This perspective underestimates the power of the seedlings however. For each seedling, given proper care, has established deep and powerful roots in the productive soil we have provided. Their trunks and limbs have thus become strong and though some may fall, a great many will remain and with them other species which have thrived in healthy co-inhabitance.
Leaving behind this metaphor for the time being, we can explore the quite literal consequence of shadow governments. Government exists primarily as a means for disparate points of view to find common ground to accomplish specific ends. It exists also to safeguard the individual liberties of its constituents. Without government we run the risk of feudal takeovers of our lives and liberty for the benefit of the few. On the other hand, when government outgrows its personal connection to its constituents, it runs roughshod over ideals in an attempt to provide for the few who have once again sought to further their own narrow desires through the co-opting of the life and liberty of the many. It is in these moments that the people lose control of their own organizing structure that they must re-mobilize to create another. Once an empire is let loose upon the planet, there is no rearing-in of the out-of-control monster. There is however a blind spot in the shadows of this beast. Community building, as participatory democracy, poses no immediate threat to empire and thus is typically left to its own harmless endeavors.
These seemingly benign blind spots are where we must act. It is our best opportunity to create the world that we know is possible, that we can feel and imagine and dream. And it is here that we are provided the safe havens for the building of solidarity which is necessary to stand up to the eventual challenges that will come from empire. At first our energies remain mostly dedicated to supporting our lives within the established systems that attempt to maintain an illusion of being one’s only choice. But as our alternatives become established, they gain the possibility of providing for the needs of participants. It becomes possible to remove one’s energy from the status quo completely and to redirect it into the alternatives. Thus the shadow aspect of these blossoming communities becomes important as to remain out of sight of an empire that will seek to co-opt or destroy any potential challengers. Once discovered to be energy sinks in a system that requires constant expansion and consolidation, alternative organizing structures will be targeted and the solidarity within them challenged. It is in these moments that the establishment of solid foundations in place, and through livelihood and community, will determine the survival of these alternatives.
Envision Cascadia is thus a tool for the communities within Cascadia to be able to use to organize and self-reflect. It exists as a means for self discovery and the umbrella by which alternative organizing attempts may gain some shade and find solidarity. Envision Cascadia places an emphasis on the creation of shadow culture, commencing from beneath the surface as subtle realizations of belonging, not to abstract mental constructs meant to foster patriotism rooted in ignorance, but to ecological systems that are the products of four billion years of evolutionary response to the nature of places. We belong to these processes of creation and must find a way to become witting participants once again. The beauty and illumination that we as a species are capable of creating should be intertwined in the ecological systems that all other species of our planet dwell within. Envision Cascadia seeks to provide one means of striving towards that end.