Revolution: The Wrong Kind And The Right Kind
By Carolyn Baker
16 July, 2010
Lately I've been encountering articles and news stories touting the need for revolution in the wake of a gansterized U.S. financial system and a government that has itself become a criminal enterprise. I sense that many bloggers and their readers are salivating with anticipation that someone or something will light the fuse of a revolutionary cannon that will eviscerate the present system and replace it with something more just and humane.
I share their enthusiasm for profound, bone-marrow transformation of the status quo. Jefferson really was right when he proclaimed that the United States needed a revolution every twenty years. Many of us who were activists during the Vietnam War era were determined to pull off a revolution that would destroy the military industrial complex, institutionalized racism, and the entire capitalist agenda.
Today's visionaries and activists cherish similar hopes, yet I fear that they do not yet grasp the kind of revolution that the planet seems to be asking for. And unlike the revolution we envisioned four decades ago, this one must be in response to the planet and the earth community. From this perspective, I believe there are two kinds of revolution in front of us: The kind that is inappropriate and the kind that is both useful and critical for planetary survival.
The most truly inappropriate revolution would be one based on false assumptions, principally, the notion that political change on a grand scale is meaningful. Pundits of this kind of revolution include all cheerleaders for the Democratic Party and all others who champion the Progressive, left-liberal landscape. These folks are currently obsessing about the November election and agonizing over Tea Party cacophonies. From this perspective, if the far-right were resoundingly defeated by the election of liberal candidates, the nation might be spared from spiraling downward into fascism.
Other well-meaning but naïve proponents of revolution argue that social upheaval and more people in the streets will signal enough distress among the population to provide fertile ground for a political and cultural revolution. While not directly advocating the overthrow of the federal government, these individuals are poised to organize and assume positions of leadership should sufficient unrest unfold.
Inappropriate revolutions tend to focus on widespread global (whether literal or symbolic) measures that will result in mass consciousness raising, mass movements, and mass political and cultural change. This philosophy mirrors "bigger is better" and assumes that significant change only happens when society at large is involved. Models of this kind of revolution in the modern era would be ones such as the Russian Revolution, the Maoist revolution in China, and the Cuban Revolution.
Such revolutions rarely address the emotional and spiritual aspects of social change because for the most part, the possibility that any force greater than the human mind and ego exists is rejected out of hand. A revolution operating from this assumption is by definition, human-centric. Whereas political revolutions may include individuals who care deeply about the ecosystems and argue passionately for stewardship of the earth, their agenda is not fundamentally informed by the earth. Man is still the measure of all things and therefore, given the desired political context, humans can reverse their species' destruction of the planet and engineer something approximating utopia.
So what is an appropriate revolution? And appropriate to what, you may ask.
An appropriate revolution is one that is relevant to what is actually needed in the light of human and planetary evolution. It is not primarily political but rather informed by what the earth community is asking for. For example, the earth is not asking for more efficient and accessible healthcare. Rather, it is asking that humans live in such conscious intimacy with the earth that nearly all of humanity's diseases and injuries are prevented as a result of that relationship.
Likewise, the earth is not asking for renewable energy but a cellular level transformation of consciousness regarding how we live on the earth-how we eat, what we wear, the products we use, where we live, where we travel and how.
The earth is not asking for jobs, but rather a painfully honest examination of our purpose in walking on her body in terms of the work that is most beneficial for her and all species that inhabit the planet.
The earth is asking, no pleading, for inhabitants who are willing and eager to live and relate locally in small communities, cooperating with neighbors to replenish what has been stolen from the earth and to enhance the well being of all species.
In his essay, "A Revolution That Is Arising From The Earth", William Kotke states:
We who can read these words are civilized people who have been mentally conditioned by the culture of civilization and the industrial society from birth. We have precepts loaded into our subconscious minds which cause us to see reality in a certain way. To a native Maya person in the State of Chiapas, Mexico, the earth speaks through them. They live integrated with the earth in their everyday energy systems and in their mental attitudes. To them the fact that the earthlife has manifest these living things around us, and us, means that we are children of the Mother Earth and we speak as one of the voices of the earth. To the Maya this is obvious on a deep level. To us it is an interesting intellectual proposition only, because we have been conditioned by a cultural upbringing that filters out this deep understanding and we do not mentally link our life with the life of the living earth.
To the Maya security is the earth and its care. The Maya live with the earth and feed from its natural bounty. Historically for a million years our species has been very successful. We have been adapted to the earth life. We lived within the ecological web and energy flows of the earth. Our traditional migratory patterns carried us over our gathering areas. In the season when the game were fat in one place we went there, when the berries were ripe in another we went there. Our success was adaptation to the life of the earth. We also had a culture that respected the earth and living things. The proposition is simple. We are alive, we live because of the other living things which feed us, we are obligated to respect and encourage those other living things so that we too can live.
In order for these indicators of an appropriate revolution to be actualized, a new kind of human must emerge-a new species with conscious self-awareness that knows-not thinks or feels-that it is not "in harmony" with the earth, but that it is the earth. This knowledge can only be acquired if our species is willing to experience, not theorize, that it originated from something greater and emerged on this planet for the purpose of serving something greater in order to perpetuate its values throughout the earth community and for countless generations in the future.
This revolution has already begun and manifests itself in the mission and work of organizations like Transition, Business Alliance of Local Economies (BALLE), and the permaculture movement. These organizations are about much more than growing organic gardens. One of their principal functions is the revolutionizing of how money works-a revolution without which fundamental change is impossible. They are creating self-sufficiency and resilience in neighborhoods and local communities, both of which may serve as mainstays in the event of infrastructure collapse, food and water shortages, natural disasters, economic devastation, and loss of essential services.
The localization efforts of organizations such as these have far more implications than mere "emergency response" preparation. They will eventually become the new normal as the collapse of industrial civilization exacerbates. The sooner these systems become firmly in place, the more resilient their citizens will be in navigating a world that in a couple of decades may be unrecognizable by current standards. They have evolved not merely out of vision and ingenuity but out of
a palpable sense that a new humanity is in the process of emerging-a humanity that functions optimally not in a global economy or through mass consciousness raising, but through networking and smallness of scale.
So with those who argue that a revolution is desperately needed, I would heartily agree-with the caveat that it must be an appropriate one, skillfully moving in response to the earth and the evolutionary threshold on which humans stand. It must focus on building vibrant and discerning communities who will keep ears and hearts to the ground, listening for what the earth is asking of them.
In closing this piece, I must notice that three years ago on the Speaking Truth to Power website, I wrote in depth about the fallacy of placing confidence in Barack Obama as the candidate who would "revolutionize" the United States. I was called cynical, narrow-minded, and hopelessly pessimistic. Three years later I am hard-pressed to find anyone who is enthusiastic about the record of President Obama or the likelihood that if he has a clue about anything, he would actually abdicate his Goldman-Sachs designed throne and implement the platform of "change" on which he ran for office. Even if he were to do so, there is no money for such an agenda, and a cataclysmic Gulf Oil disaster has become an unimaginable game-changer.
All of this only validates my premise that local action, self-sufficiency, and taking charge of issues in one's community are the essential ingredients of revolutionary change rather than dependence on a distant President and Congress, bought and orchestrated by the very system that is annihilating the earth community. Do not take my word for it. Research for yourself what the three organizations mentioned above have accomplished in the last three years. If you still insist on calling me cynical, I would argue that the definition of that word completely escapes you.