Category Archives: Communication
I’ve been meaning to write a post about this for a long time, and reading Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack (2013) has gotten me to actually do it! Womack says that in 2011 she “attended the Think Galacticon conference. Unlike the typical science fiction conference, its creators hoped to use science fiction as a platform for broader changes in society. Held at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, the conference brought activists, science fiction writers, and fans together to share perspectives on social change and privilege. Panels included talks on classism in fantasy novels (why don’t the paupers ever challenge the prince for power?), the growing black independent comic book scene, and personal growth tools for revolution.
In her workshop, noted activist Adrienne Maree Brown said, ‘It’s amazing to change the world, but it’s heartbreaking, bone-cracking work, and you don’t often see the change in real time. For me as an organizer, what gets me through has been immersing myself in certain sci-fi worlds.’ She uses sci-fi to frame an inspirational perspective for youth that she works with too. ‘Your life is science fiction,’ she tells them. ‘You’re Luke Skywalker, but way cooler; you’re trans and black and you’re surviving the world of Detroit.’
Brown began her activism work in college. She’s a former executive director of the Ruckus Socity, a nonprofit that specializes in environmental activism and guerilla communication, and is heavily involved with the League of Pissed Off Voters. A Detroit resident, she describes herself as an organizational healer, pleasure activist, and artist, obsessed with developing models for action and community transformation.
She’s also a sci-fi fan. After discovering Octavia Butler’s work, she was inspired to develop new work of her own. Brown is using Butler’s pivotal Parables series and its post-apocalyptic tale as a template for change agency in desperate communities. Her workshop at Galacticon was titled ‘Octavia Butler and Emergent Strategies.’ The workshop description read as follows: ‘“All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you. The only lasting truth is change. God is change.” These words of Octavia Butler’s have impacted people seriously on a personal level, but how do we apply her wisdom on a political organizing level? How would accepting and coming to love the emergent power of changing conditions affect our strategic planning? This session will be half popular organizational development training and half inquiry into what the future of organizational development and strategic planning will look like.’
As far as Brown is concerned, many abandoned urban communities in New York City, New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, Cincinnati, and Detroit are post-apocalyptic and ripe for community-borne transformation. Seeing supports and humanity in Detroit, her new home town, made Brown look at other cities with blighted communities differently. ‘There are people living in places that we associate with the end of the world, but it’s not the end of the world – it’s the beginning of something else. An economy based on relationships and not the monetary value you can place on someone else.’
Brown now teaches activists how to use strategies from Butler’s books (like community farming, building relationships with neighbors, and essential survival skills) to build communities in areas where resources are scarce. She emphasizes that people in troubled areas need to have self-determination over their food supply, harking back to the Acorn communities in the Parables – intentional communities, ‘places where people come in an intentional way to build a life together. They’re farming with accountability to one another. They have a spiritual community. This is a strategy that could enable people to survive a future where our resources are unsure. Another is door-to-door relationship building that’s nonjudgmental. After the Acorn community is trashed, the main character goes door-to-door and starts to build a community of believers who aren’t rooted in one place, but in a shared ideology. It’s very similar to the Zapatista ideology. They went around for ten years building relationships one by one. Now a lot of organizing is done around the internet and tweeting each other. If we weren’t able to do that, what would we do? We would work with whoever is there with us.’
Brown is also a big advocate of teaching basic survival skills, including gardening, care for the sick and wounded, and midwifery. ‘I’m also looking at building homes and bathrooms. How do you make a bathroom where there is none?’ Her main point is to generate solutions. ‘We shouldn’t spend the majority of our time trying to get someone else to be accountable for what happens in our communities. Don’t wait for someone to do it for you; provide the solutions yourself…
What is the biggest story we can imagine telling ourselves about our future? It can be a utopia or a dystopia, but we want to get a perspective from people who are actually trying to change the world today. What do they think will happen? What’s the best-case scenario? How do we get people to think of themselves as the creators of tomorrow’s story?’”
I’ve been inspired by Butler’s Parable novels too, and many others, including Starhawk’s Fifth Sacred Thing trilogy. In the next few days, I’ll put notes on these books and a list of utopian/dystopian fiction in the Resources section (see top menu bar).
Let’s get inspired!
I like Joanna Bock’s take on the #MeToo phenomenon, published October 19th in Yes! Magazine, except that she calls it a “movement,” which I think is a much bigger thing than just a Facebook/Twitter hashtag. Here are the main points in the article with which I agree:
“Movements like #MeToo can be powerful in many ways. But we limit their potential and pervert them when we insist that everyone get in a box and become one of three things: perpetrators, victims, or allies. How many of us don’t neatly fit any of those categories? How many of us are weakened by the divisions?Something similar happens when we talk about race and racism. People of color are the victims. Outright bigots are the villains. And among the rest of us, we make a mad dash to position ourselves as allies. To be allies, we have to publicly condemn the racist ‘other.’ [Or his/her behavior…]
#MeToo has given voice to the rage many female friends of mine feel at specific perpetrators of harassment and violence in their own lives. But the truth is that no one human being is to blame for this sickness of the culture we’re a part of. And our scramble to crucify the Harvey Weinsteins and Donald Trumps of the world only obfuscates the issue, just as our scramble to line up simply as victims does.
In this oppressive system – where women’s bodies are not safe, where people of color’s bodies are not safe, and where women of color’s bodies are unspeakably violated terrain – we are all suffering. And in this system, where men’s internal and emotional landscapes have been violated from birth, as well as the bodies [and minds] of women, we are all victims – playing out our roles or resisting them when and where we can. We’re enormously alienated from one other. Our most radical option is to undo that alienation, but easy labels and unjust oversimplifications deepen it. We’re all responsible for saving each other.”
I agree with the gist of Bock’s message, but want to say that I Facebook-posted “Me too” to help show the extent of the problem and to show solidarity with other women similarly violated – not to express anger at my rapist, though I don’t go so far as to feel empathy with him. I don’t feel anger at men in general either, and deplore the boxes our society tries to put them in. My main concern is that we all recognize the extent of our sexist, racist, and violent, war-mongering culture as a necessary prelude to changing it for the better. It seems kind of ironic to say this while we have a racist, sexist, war-mongering president, proud of his selfishness and sexual predation, but maybe that’s what’s opened up the wounds – and the necessary conversations.
Let’s use empathy in those conversations – really listening to what others need to express. Some of it may be ugly, even poisonous. But feelings are never wrong – only behavior can be – and the poison needs to be exposed and transformed, however gradually, in love and acceptance. We’re challenged as speakers to be that trusting and honest and as listeners to be that compassionate. Alienation can become connection and caring community, but we can’t skip any of steps.
My last blog post mostly quoted from a radical political article about police and police violence against black people. My “politically correct” radical, political mind resonated with the article, but life’s a lot messier and more complicated than that. For example, technically I believe being a police officer or a soldier is wrong livelihood, supporting an illegitimate system. But police officers and soldiers do a lot of good things, too, like – at times, at least – protecting us from criminals and, potentially, attacks on our country (not our country’s “interests,” which are those of the 1%, our country as a geographic entity).
Also, I myself worked as a juvenile probation officer for 16 years. People have to make a living, and can do good in almost any job.
My goal is to make my blog posts humble and respectful, as well as politically relevant and radical in the sense of challenging a largely illegitimate system. I don’t want to preach, lecture, or judge, or come across as if I am. That just turns people off who don’t already agree with you.
I want to reach out to everyone, in the spirit described by President Obama in his (I thought) excellent speech in Dallas this past Tuesday. We need to cooperate, see the good in each other, and the good in ourselves as Americans, despite our huge challenges and problems.
As far as the racial situation is concerned, I think our country’s leadership and educational system need to acknowledge our racist and genocidal history – toward African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos. We need to apologize for the wrongs that have been done, and talk with the groups involved about making reparations and planning respectfully and equally for the future. (The unequal criminal “justice” system needs an overhaul for sure, in the direction of restorative justice.) Those of us who are white need to look at our racist thoughts, speech, and actions, conscious and unconscious. For example, we need to understand that countering the slogan Black Lives Matter with “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” is, purposely or not, failing to understand its purpose. It’s countering, dismissing it. Of course, all lives matter. But putting the priority on black lives for now and seeing how and why they’re being discounted must be at the top of our to-do list, so that someday we can honestly say we’re ensuring that all lives matter.
Thanks for “listening.” Let me know what you think.
I was just looking over my notes on a book I read several months ago, and got excited enough to want to share them with you. The book, published in 2012, is Birth 2012 and Beyond: Humanity’s Great Shift to the Age of Conscious Evolution by Barbara Marx Hubbard. Full disclosure: when I take notes on a book, I edit the author’s words (without changing the meaning) for brevity and, I believe, better understanding. I don’t use quotes for the most part, so you won’t always know how and where I’ve edited. This is done in the spirit of open access to information, as well as co-creativity, a concept this author believes in. If you want to read the author’s words exactly as written, get ahold of the book!
What’s being required of us, if we wish to avoid extinction, Hubbard says, is learning how to “co-evolve with nature and co-create with Spirit.” If it takes place, this will involve the maturation of a significant portion (critical mass?) of humanity. This is all part of natural evolution, which involves “jumps in synergy and cooperation within and among species.”
We’re being called upon to shift from egocentrism to living from our Essential Selves, so that we can give our unique gift(s) to this shift. Hubbard saw 12-22-12, the Mayan solstice, as the first day, the birth day, of the next era of evolution, the beginning of our opportunity to shift.
In 1966 Hubbard realized that empathy – the pain of one being felt by all – was starting to spread throughout the planet. We were connecting with each other, feeling with each other as members of one body, she says. The Spirit within was rising up in each person like a great tide of love, inspiration, and oneness with the source of our being, activating us by the millions. Hubbard saw that when enough of us felt this connection, there would be a shared feeling of joy and “global coherence.” Our story, she believes, is the birth of humankind as one body, made possible as more and more people recognize that we’re one, we’re good (whole), and we’re being born/consciously evolving.
We’re now at a chaos point, Hubbard says, meaning that our present state is breaking down and can no longer be returned to prior, more stable states. In fact, efforts to restore or reform are intensifying the crisis. We’ll either break down completely, Hubbard says, or break through to a new structure and mode of operation.
“Cultural creatives,” “universal humans,” are waking up and connecting and communicating, in person and digitally. What’s emerging is, and has to be, more than a new religion, political party, or enterprise – because these are never truly inclusive. And we’re all together on this ride.
We have the resources, technologies, and know-how to make the world work for everyone, but do we have the will and the courage to make it happen?
Coherence is a heartfelt connection with others, feeling them as part of oneself. What we need now is global coherence, an awakening of the global heart, the feeling of being one interconnected planetary body with a shared purpose of mutual growth for the sake of the whole earth community. Hubbard believes this is beginning to happen.
It happens on an individual basis when we no longer see each other as “other.” Our hearts are open, and we know we are, that everyone is, one with All That Is.
When you feel frustrated, discontented, or depressed, as if that your life lacks meaning, it doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you. It means that something more wants to be expressed through you. Recognizing this is the first step. The second is to reach out to others you’re attracted to in the spirit of creative synergy and co-creation.
What do you want to give others, the world?
Hubbard says that through daily meditation, she’s realized/remembered that her essence is Spirit/Love, that she, like all of us, is part of the divine. With the help of continued meditation, she’s integrating her local, separated, egoic self with that essence. The next step, she says, is to create a “resonant core group,” an evolutionary or Shift circle with a friend or two, in which you can share essence to essence. “Resonance” in this sense means reflecting or echoing back the Essential Self in one another.
Spirit, Hubbard reminds us, is our essence – it doesn’t need to be projected onto a god.
The question becomes “What is my unique way of expressing essence that’s both self-rewarding and of service to others?” Also, “How can I remain in essence while making my contribution?”
A New Myth for Our Times
The last great myth took root during the Renaissance: the myth of progress through knowledge, science, liberal democracy, and technology. This “big story” began to collapse after the two world wars, in which tens of millions of people were killed by the most sophisticated nations and technologies. Since then, things have only gotten worse – weapons of mass destruction, pollution, an increasing gap between haves and have-nots, etc. New technologies are actually dangerous in our current state of self-centered separation consciousness.
The only new myth that’s arisen to give us a sense of meaning, direction, and hope, Hubbard says, is the one she’s describing: being part of an evolving and expanding universe in which we have an intrinsic part to play, lovingly and creatively.
We learn from biologist Elisabet Sahtouris that when a species is young it tends to overpopulate, pollute, and compete with and eventually destroy its environment. It either learns to cooperate with itself, its environment, and other species, or it goes extinct. We can certainly see the meaning of these lessons for us!
The birth/crisis is happening either way. We can make it easier and give it more of a chance for a positive outcome, if we act consciously together with love. The suffering prevalent in the world today can activate the empathy, love, compassion, creativity, and courage needed for us to mature as a species.
The attractive and attracted energy that’s moved the evolutionary process all along became (self) conscious in us. It just needs to move to the next level.
Create times outside of time in which you can temper the compulsions, obsessions, and fears of your local egoic self, the manifestor, with the realization, the remembering, that your essence is divine, is Spirit, is one with All That Is – that you and all other beings are one, in this together, in love. In this inner sanctuary you can hear your inner wisdom, feel at peace, and experience limitless joy. Cultivate global coherence by engaging in any heart-based, essence-experiencing spiritual practice on a regular basis. When we do this on our own, we’re ready to experience love and engage in synergistic co-creation when we’re together, however we connect.
Sounds good to me. Want to start a group?