Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Slow Revolution

You say you want a revolution, well you know, ya need a culture to make it stick.

There are many people who see Cascadia as an eventual political entity - a state, republic, nation, or region that will be capable of carrying on past the corrosion of the nation states that currently lay claim to its lands. Those who are actively pursuing this plausible eventuality envision varying paths that may lead to one of these possibilities. Some speak of outright secession. Others look towards increased relations of neighboring states and provinces to build a union that might withstand a collapse of the US and Canada. A few believe that it is an inevitable eventuality that will come to pass over time, perhaps after an apocalypse or deadly pandemic. Yet another idea would take inspiration from the region’s ecosystems for the cultural overhaul of how people think of and act within their local places.

It is the latter which has inspired Envision Cascadia to contribute to the task of strengthening regional cultural identity. Via this route of cultural education and outreach it is believed that as regional identity grows within individuals of Cascadia, so too will an innate understanding of the ecosystem attributes that are fundamental to this identity.

This is a process which requires much patience from the practitioners and significant subtle transformation within the public at large. Being that “our time” seems desperate, with urgency the rallying cry for many, this “slow revolution” is much too slow, much too subtle. However, the piecemeal approaches that have been the favored agents for change thus far have been and continue to be fractured and divide as much as they unite. It is certain that any and all tactics to better this world should be explored, experimented with, and undertaken by those who feel inspired to undertake them. But underlying all of the reactionary action, the bandages meant to stop the bleeding of empire, must exist unifying processes of practical significance. It is not the theory but the actions of ordinary existence that will allow for humans to settle in to a peaceful and healthy relationship with others, human and non-human.

Yes, our individual actions do matter. For not only do they contribute to overall change, however slight, they also inform us of our place within a community through the mindful presence of participation. Therefore to participate in a “system”, or community to which one does not desire to have a deep and working relationship, is to remain in a state of confusion as to the real contributions one makes to that which one directs his or her energy. How can a person expect real and lasting change if they are not changing the world through real and lasting action? And how can one person realistically change the world? He or she cannot. At best, one can expect to contribute something of significance to a community which in turn informs and inspires surrounding communities. This draws from the idea of holons and the pattern of concentric circles of influence and existence. Participatory influence always dwindles the further it is experienced from the epicenter of its origins.

All of this has the significance of informing our decisions of how we should act and what our expectations of those actions may realistically be. As one might imagine it takes time for one’s participation to influence and affect others around him or her, and yet longer still for this influence to inspire and persuade others to participate as equally and intelligently - hence the “slow revolution”, the deep revolution. Gandhi realized this as evidenced by his insistence on the participation in community-based enterprises which have the effect of strengthening community bonds, increasing local self-reliance, and advancing personal development. Taken to an extreme, these activities helped bring about the liberation of a nation. But the under-realization and lack of support of these enterprising actions by divided factions within the nation led to continued empire building and continuing divisions between would-be community members of co-inhabited places and ecosystems.

We all still face the oppressive rule and exploitation of a British Empire, though this empire no longer resides amongst one people, one place, or one ideal. It is a global manifestation of the greed and ignorance of so many un-enlightened individuals. It is inherent in the status quo of what is propagated through the systems it has enacted and allowed to exist – economic, political, religious, and cultural. To be “successful” within these entities is to do something that is acceptable to the ideals of said entities. One cannot have true success and remain a part of if one is at the same time undertaking activities which seek to depart from the aforementioned ideals. Built within these systems are mechanisms which weed out the undesirables, those would-be dissenters whose wholesome and healthy action is anathema to a system based on greed and ignorance, exploitation and violence. We are with it or against it, and our options become complacency or “terrorism” as our overlords have come to make us believe that direct action, protest, civil disobedience, or the challenge to empire are defined. Our reactions against become excuses for violence and oppression. We give excuse to these systems to conveniently remove our displeasure and if we refuse to go easily we provoke a strong arm manifestation of the collective suffering from within our societies. We react in turn and a continuum of violence and hatred becomes all that we have to look forward to in our struggles for equality, liberation, peace, and happiness.

Understanding these things brings us to the conclusion that to break the cycle of reaction we must take the step to act first and independently, mindfully of how what we do will affect others of our communities. We must sow the seeds and tend the garden with care and patience before we can harvest the benefits. And it is not the final conclusion of the red ripe tomato or succulent strawberry which we seek, for most anyone can easily and much more quickly gain these ends via the food market. It is the process of production, the role of steward and caretaker, co-conspirator and co-inhabitant - that brings us the true fruits of understanding, compassion, and a healthy relationship with others, human and non-human.

What does this look like in practice, in Cascadia? It is a tending of the garden of our own personal development and our relationships within communities, within places. Highly dependent upon the circumstances of time and space, the interconnected and ever changing realities within our communities, watersheds, ecosystems and the bioregion demand constant vigilance and continued mindfulness of context. This mindfulness cannot be realized without understanding, and understanding beyond the nature of our own existence is dependent upon working relationships with all beings of our communities, appropriate to the scale at which we are active.

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