clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world


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Towards a year of real change for the Good

Happy new year, Dear Readers. Here we are again, standing at the precipice of what has been and what is yet to be. How are you feeling? If you are awake and breathing deeply, most likely you experience a whole gamut of emotions as we are about to embark on 2017.  2016 was one heck of a year: turbulent, uncertain, roller-coaster, full of surprises, with big doses of angst thrown in regularly. What will the new year bring to us earthlings?

Perhaps, more than ever before, we need to cultivate our imaginations. After all, the realm of imagination is one where anything can happen, where we create entire worlds, universes, and all manner of stories. We have all grown up in this world of ‘facts and reality’ that is called The Truth. We have been taught since childhood that our imaginations aren’t real, that fantasy is simply that, and often been told, quite harshly, to ‘grow up and get over it.’ But what if the greater truth is actually that what we imagine, particularly if many hold a similar imagination idea and picture, is what manifests as our common ‘reality’?  If this were true, then life could be very different for us earth walkers than the one we currently agree to be in, couldn’t it?

Dear Readers, I have written many times in this blog about the power of the imagination, and the power of Love in creating a world that is healthy, whole, and healed. A handful of those who have read these words over the past years agree with me. But when I look around at the majority of humans, I do not see this world.  Instead, I see a world that is still ruled by fear, anger, intimidation, sorrow, injustice, extreme violence, and darkness. I wonder what it will take for the majority to awaken and realize that there is another, infinitely better, more beautiful and kind world that is also right here, living parallel to the fear based one.

It is easy to be discouraged, feel small, insignificant, fearful of what may lie ahead. It is so very easy to give one’s human power away to others, to cling to the idea that you are just one tiny, powerless human being swimming in a vast ocean of humans, and that your voice, your presence, and your ideas do not matter, cannot possibly matter within the huge forces at play in this world. The majority of people seem to believe this scenario, and play it out day after day. So the world goes on, and nothing much seems to change or improve, in fact things are looking pretty bleak for the future of Earth and all of us. This is the old story, and frankly, a pretty boring one at that. Aren’t you all getting quite sick of dystopian near future worlds yet?

On the other hand, it is not so easy to stand in your nobility as a human being, to stand for strength, courage, moral high ground, integrity, dignity, compassion. These are the eternal qualities of the ones who have led humanity out of darkness since prehistory. Name your most favorite heroes, the humans who embodied qualities that spoke of divinity, of superhuman strength, of love unbound. We all know these ones, they are the saints, gods, and enlightened beings of both the ancient and modern worlds.

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Our superpowers reside within us, waiting patiently for us to acknowledge and use them.

I am suggesting that it is high time, now, for the rest of us ‘ordinary’ folk to realize that we too have the very same qualities within ourselves of these our heroes and gods. That we do, in fact, receive divine help and assistance every time we ask. That the days of the old fear-based paradigm are past. That humans full of petty ego desires and maniacal schemes to rule the world and all of the people are no one to fear or even pay attention to; that by withdrawing your energy from those ones their puffed up, negatively driven speeches and threats will blow up in their faces, will be exposed for the smoke and mirror show that they truly are. We can see the Man behind the curtain so clearly now, and he is but a small, insignificant bleep on the radar screen of this world. That is, if we use our collective imagination to envisage another kind of earth, one that is held and designed with the highest moral and ethical principles kept uppermost in mind. And why, dear Readers, would we not choose to do so?

Peter Gabriel once wrote a song with the refrain, DIY. Do it yourself. Now is the time to take up this refrain in a stronger way than ever before. Our governments have failed us and will continue to do so. In 2017, let’s make a more concerted effort than ever before to Do It Ourselves: work in your neighborhoods, communities, with your local elected officials, grassroots organizing to create the new Earth. If you are already doing it, then continue and do even more. Grow your networks, create regional organizations. Lead by your good example, for many others could use your wisdom and expertise as they learn skills and hone their talents. Let the young people show the way; they have a lot of unbridled enthusiasm and energy. Teach the children what is important, real and true, and encourage their imaginations. They are the ones who will inherit this earth, and it is so very important to listen, respect and support them.

I give blessings of peace, joy and strength to everyone who reads these words. May 2017 be the year of real change towards the Good, True and Beautiful on Earth.

 

 

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Why embracing idealism is being a realist now

It is the end of September, 2016. Here in the United States, the presidential elections loom before us in about six weeks. As I am sure you are aware, the ostensible choices for the next president (POTUS) are leaving the majority of us quite disgusted, to say the least. Never before have the American people had such absurdly unpopular humans running from the two main political parties. Never before have so many had the quandary of feeling they are not being represented by their political leaders. In short, this election is a fiasco.

But: We, The People, in fact DO have choices that many simply do not, or cannot yet see. The old and extremely tired argument that we MUST vote the lesser of two evils is simply one of the biggest lies ever fed to Americans by the power-elite. It is simply not true that we must vote for one or the other party, or else we throw our vote away. If only people would wake up to realize this, our votes would have infinitely more power than they do. There is no law stating that an American must vote for either the Republicans or the Democrats. It is not mandated by the laws. In other words, we have the ability to change our system by voting for a third, fourth or fifth party.

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Look, most of us realize by now that the American system is grossly corrupted, that there is no actual democracy (if there ever was) and that the power-elite are running this world. The United States is a major, though not the only, decider of what goes on in our world. Folks, when you look around you, what do you see? Obviously we are in a tremendous crisis moment here on Earth. However, within crisis is opportunity, as Taoism reminds us. And right now, this election, is one of those opportunities to actually change our trajectory from disaster towards a world that is healthy.

When I look around and listen to what others are saying and feeling, I observe great cynicism, denial, resignation, anger and fear. All of these are the tools of the power-elite, to keep us ‘in our place’. What is that place? One word sums it up: Powerlessness. The solution? Take our power back.

When Bernie Sanders ran his presidential campaign, millions of people in America, and also the world, heard him. Millions of people got behind him, because he was speaking Truth to power.

Speaking Truth to power.  Isn’t this what we really need to do? Where is your power, where does it live? We are a country made up of 320 million humans, and we are astoundingly diverse. And, we are simultaneously similar. I firmly believe that the vast majority of us desire to be free to live our lives and raise our kids in peaceful and healthy ways. We desperately want to save our planet from further destruction. And yet, we give our power away to idiots and blackhearts every single day. Why? Because we are living from a place of deeply rooted fear. Fear blocks us at every turn, and paralyzes us from standing up and speaking out for what we deeply believe in. As long as we do not raise our voices and our fists to the elite power structure (read: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and all of their supporters and money-backers) NOTHING WILL CHANGE.

Tragically, Bernie Sanders stepped down from his fight for the presidency. The real reasons for his decision are still unknown, but I can imagine he had good ones. But, Jill Stein is still in this race as the Green party candidate. If you haven’t yet heard her platform, please look her up and hear what she is standing up for: it is for the human beings, the animals, the land, for the Earth and for peace. These values are at the very heart of what the whole mess we call Life is about. If you don’t think so, then I implore you to look inside your heart and find out what is inside it. Where do you stand? Why are you taking up space on this planet, if you are not here to help the Earth, the animals, the land, and the people?

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The times of ‘it’s all about me’ are done. This is a new time and the time is now to stand up for what you truly believe in, to awaken to the realization that we are the ones we came here for. Our first nation tribes are fighting for the Earth, for the Water, Land, Animals and People in North Dakota. They are putting their bodies on the line, they are opening their mouths, they are shouting, dancing, singing, standing up and praying: Save our Earth. It’s really so simple. Save our Earth, save ourselves.

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Will you vote with your fear voice in November? Or will you finally allow your heart’s voice to sing out loud and clear across this country, across this world? Our future is being created now. What do you choose?


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Rejecting the lesser evil, embracing the greater good

Today is a pivotal day in my political life, an Aha! Moment kind of day. Today I have gone to the mountain, and seen the proverbial Light.  I gained inspiration today, and also some sorely needed encouragement from a community of like-minded others. Today I went to a Jill Stein- Green Party rally.

Now some of you may be groaning, and ready to delete this post from your trigger-happy finger. Please don’t.  The last post I put up on facebook of a political nature (yes it mentioned Hillary Clinton in not the most glowing terms) landed a long and rather heated debate on my wall for a couple of days. That’s okay, at least people were reading and thinking and offering their opinions. Politics is one of the most emotionally charged subjects that we humans can address. I’d vastly prefer strong opinions, even anger, than apathy and denial.

Back to today’s rally. As some of you already know, I have been an ardent Bernie Sanders’ supporter this year. After the democratic convention and Bernie’s concession speech to Hillary, I (along with millions of other Berners) became despondent about the whole mess. I couldn’t go near the subject for the past month. And when I did speak with a trusted friend about the matter of what to do come November, his advice was to put aside the presidential nominee and rather focus on the issues at stake. The dems obviously have a better track record concerning matters of social justice, the environment, and then there’s the little matter of the future Supreme court appointees.  As I listened to his patient explanations, that made perfect sense, my heart and gut simply refused to listen. As logical as his argument was for voting ‘the lesser of two evils’, I went home feeling uneasy and anxious. No matter how plausible, I simply could not fathom myself actually ticking the box next to that woman’s name. Everything she stands for screams Status Quo. She is the Powers-that-Be’s gal, their latest puppet, and a vote for her is a vote for Business-As-Usual. Honestly, who really wants more of that?

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The crowd at Mercury Cafe’s Green Party-Jill Stein rally.

A friend told me about the Green Party rally to support Jill Stein happening today at a favorite café and meeting place for all things alternative here in Denver. I decided I’d go out of curiosity, since I really didn’t know much about her or her platform. As I sat and watched the event unfold, it became more and more interesting. Arn Menconi, a candidate for US Senate from Colorado, spoke and did his best to rile up the crowd. He’s a very progressive candidate who is needing many thousands of signatures to get on the ballet this November. Then there was a funk band who did a great job of raising the collective energy in anticipation of Jill Stein. Finally she arrived, to thunderous applause. Stein spoke for about 45 minutes, and by about halfway through, I was won over. My cynicism, which began with the thought, ‘this woman doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning this or any election,’ was overtaken more and more with head nodding, agreement, then clapping and WoohHoohing. Jill Stein is no slouch, folks.

She told it like it is to the crowd, in plain and eloquent language. There was no hedging nor skirting issues. The Green Party’s platform is calling for a “Green New Deal” as a 2016 version of FDR’s famous New Deal during the Great Depression of the 1930s. She called for the creation of 20 million new jobs in the clean energy sector, a $15 minimum wage nationally, an end to fracking and a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure. They want to cut the military budget in half, thereby using all those trillions of dollars on social programs and green energy. Their goal is 100% renewable energy by 2030 (admittedly  a lofty, if important goal).  She spoke at length about racial injustice, and the need to create a Truth and Reconciliation commission that would engage in dialogs around racism and slavery that have existed for the past three hundred years, creating pathways for healing of those very deep wounds. She also spoke passionately about immigration, reminding us all of the fact that, other than the first nation tribes, all of us are immigrants in the United States. Their platform includes a roadmap for gaining Medicare for All at a national level, using a single payer system. She mentioned wanting to create a system for reparation to those who have (and continue to be) oppressed in this country. She came back to the goal of ending the United States’ role as warmongers in the name of peace repeatedly. She spoke about our Common Humanity on a world-wide level. She talked of forming a new Foreign Policy based on international law, human rights and diplomacy. She spoke of creating a Peace Offensive, and mandating a weapons embargo.

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Jill Stein telling it like it is and how she’d like it to be.

In short, Jill Stein’s speech embodied all the ethics, moral values and ideals of social and political justice, along with the creation of new ways of being a country for the greater good of everyone, not just those who are in power and want to remain so. She is a feisty, highly intelligent and non-corrupt human being who happens to be a white woman, and she is running for presidential office this November. She and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, are working hard to gain enough support to be able to be included in the presidential debates next month. If enough people supported them, they could be a part of the conversation, so sorely in need of intelligent and compassionate voices for us all.

Jill Stein put it plainly today: the idea of ‘voting for the lesser of two evils’ is simply propaganda that is promoted by the Power Elite through their arm of disinformation, The Media. She urged us to not buy into it any longer. It simply isn’t true that you must vote for one of the two corporate party candidates. You can, and indeed absolutely should, vote your conscience. Vote for what you most believe in, dear Readers. Are your beliefs based in fear, or in strength, in your own human power?  Stein urges us to take our power back, to choose to go from feeling powerless, to claiming the truth of our powerfulness. And this year proves that fact:  Millions of people turned out to vote for Bernie Sanders, enough to have voted him into the White House. Why he chose to concede to Clinton, and in fact support her efforts to become president, is frankly beyond me. But nevertheless, now Jill Stein is standing up to continue this fight for the future of not only the United States, but actually the Earth. What happens in America has huge implications for the rest of the globe. Do we really want to acquiesce to Business-As-Usual, the warmongers, fossil fuel execs and banking corporations that have done a fine job of utterly devasting large swaths of our land, water, wildlife, people and societies?  Think about it. If you give up and do nothing, then you simply give your power away. And if you choose the ‘lesser of two evils’ well you are still choosing evil, aren’t you?

I am telling you, it is NOT a pipe dream to change how things are, how they have been. We are powerless as long as we believe that we are, that They are too strong and We are too weak and our voices don’t matter. Our voices DO matter, every single one. If every disenfranchised person living in the United States woke up and decided to be powerless no more, to raise their collective voices for themselves, their families, their communities, their land, their waterways and foodways: in other words, if we collectively stood up and spoke our truth to power, well it’s pretty obvious what would happen.

Martin Luther King Jr., one of the bravest and strongest humans to walk this Earth in recent history, gave one of the most powerful speeches in the history of the United States in 1963, on behalf of Blacks in their struggle for Civil Rights. I feel that his words apply today, not only to people of color, but for all of us who are oppressed and have lives of hardship and injustice here in America in 2016.  Therefore I am changing his speech to reflect all the people who feel this sense of urgency. He said:
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of The People’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 2016 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that The People of the United States needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until all The People are granted their citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

Dear Readers, I implore all of you who are feeling even the tiniest bit uneasy with your political choices for the upcoming presidential election, to consider looking further into the Green Party’s platform and what Jill Stein is standing up for. Especially those of you who wanted Bernie Sanders for president. Look them up online at www.Jill2016.com or just google her, Ajumu Baraka, or the US Green Party. Find out more and really learn about the choices and issues at stake. Take the time to do some research on your own and ignore the naysayers. As the old Zen saying goes, ‘The people who say it cannot be done should not get in the way of the people who are doing it.’

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Change, awe, disgust and disillusionment

(Warning: this post will be a rant, so if you are feeling light and happy and wish to stay that way, don’t bother reading this one. Thanks for your understanding, Leigh)

In the space of the past twelve hours, my emotional soulstate has run the gamut from peaceful, strong and grounded, to disappointed, bored, anxious, resentful, sad, angry, doubtful, curious, frustrated, and even nauseated, and now simply grounded and resigned. Quite a boatload for one day in the life. Are you feeling alright?

If I had a magic wand or superpowers to change this world, I would not hesitate. Everybody would be in for quite a surprise after my rework of this third dimensional world was complete. The first thing I would do, I think, is to obliterate television and all the industry that feeds it while being fed by it. What a disgusting monster it is. It works to portray the absolute basest and worst of human nature while also drawing people into its poison trap. But no, that is only a small sidebar of what I need to rant on tonight, dear Readers.

Paramahansa Yogananda, the great Indian guru who came to the United States during the early 20th century to help raise human consciousness, once said (I am paraphrasing), “This world is like a terrible horror movie. All the people sitting in the audience don’t know that it is only a movie, and so as they watch it they are believing it is real. But the best thing to do is to get to the beam. Get to the light, for it is only a play. What is Real is the light of God.” His words are absolutely true, and more important than ever.

What is real, and where is the beam in 2016? Nearly everywhere I look I see disillusionment, despair, disappointment, disaster and people trying in various ways to cope. Self medication is popular through the use of tobacco, recreational drugs and alcohol, gluttony, and caffeine. Many use electronic devices to distract. There are hundreds and thousands of ways to check out of this world for a minute or a lifetime. Yet for most of us, sooner or later we once again must come back to the basic nature of our life, and we find what? One of the great mysteries, ourselves.

It takes real audacity to live on this planet now, and to do it well, yes, superpowers. I mean this not metaphorically as much as literally. To stay sane and sober in the middle of it all takes creating some super powerful energy from within to develop ways to cope and smile and be compassionate.

Four weeks into my job as a cheese clerk at my local supermarket and I can barely stomach being there. It’s a Great American supermarket, full of just about every kind of food imaginable that’s available in this country. It’s bright, shiny, colorful and packed with foods and merchandise of every description. And it’s all on offer, every single day and night for one’s shopping convenience. All you need is money, honey.

Each shift that I work provides me with yet another opportunity to see how much food gets thrown out for the flimsiest of reasons. To be fair, my store donates a considerable amount of unsellable food to the food pantries, and so helps people to get a myriad of free groceries when they go for their allotment. But. So much more perfectly good food gets tossed into the garbage compactor or industrial compost bin even as people are sleeping on the streets of this town, cold, hungry and about as low as one can get in their station in life. Why can’t any of this food be given to the homeless?

As I am sure many of you know, Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is gathering a lot of momentum now. Following the trail on facebook each day, it is obvious that the Occupy Wall Street movement has devoted itself to getting Bernie into the White House this autumn. He is the Everyman’s Hero, a regular guy who is honest, cannot be bought, has been playing the game of Washington politics for a very long time, and he’s rallying the troops big time. He’s calling out Wall Street and the “billionaire class” for their crimes against humanity, he’s taking names and he’s intent upon dealing with the criminals in the way that so many of us would like: throwing them the hell out of their cushy seats of power and sending them to jail with no bond. Bernie is making all kinds of promises about what he will do to right all the wrongs done to Americans by those evil billionaires when elected. And it sounds so good, and I want to believe it could happen so very much.

Then I catch myself. Our American political system is at the point of being so corrupted, so full of arrogance, greed, self-interest, blasphemy and idiocy, that I honestly do not know how it can really be fixed. It really needs a complete and real dismantling and starting over again. Ben Franklin said it: About every 200 years, governments need a revolution and a new plan. That is where we are now.

Thomas Jefferson engraving after painting by Rembrandt Peale.

Today I saw a video made by a couple of scientists who were in the Arctic in November and filmed a gigantic chunk of glacier ice calving, or splitting apart and crashing into the sea. They said the size of the piece that broke off was around the size of lower Manhattan, except the walls of ice were more than twice as high as the skyscrapers. Watching the short clip was utterly awe-inspiring. Before my eyes, the ice that has made up the top of our earth for thousands of years was deconstructing itself. I do not doubt that it won’t be too much longer before all of the Arctic has melted completely. Then our world will look considerably different than it does today.

http://www.upworthy.com/the-longest-and-probably-largest-proof-of-our-current-climate-catastrophe-ever-caught-on-camera

The buds on some of the big trees in the park near my home are getting fat. It is the last day of January, I am writing from Denver, Colorado. What we used to think was normal, for example, trees budding in late April and blooming beginning of May, is quickly becoming a history lesson for the young. So much of nature is having to adapt to new patterns of growth and decay, or else will probably not make it into the earth’s future. Animals and humans as well. I envision a future where it will be virtually impossible to tell if the creature next to you on the street or in the commuter train is natural or a human constructed android of some kind or other. The science fiction authors are closer to the truth than we can really know.

I admit it freely: this future is not one that I want to live in. Not At All. I know I am an old-fashioned person with peculiar ideas, but living on a world that no longer differentiates between what is natural (meaning not messed with by man) and what has been created in a laboratory somewhere, where no one understands much of anything about the substances they ingest, including what passes for food, and where people are so disconnected from each other and themselves that they can no longer acknowledge another’s presence, is a world that I refuse to be a part of any longer. Sorry, but the game is over for me at that point. And it seems like it is fast approaching, already here.

Send me the map, give me the plan, help me to find the way. The way out of this madness that passes for our world, our common life, and into some nice bubble world where the people are kind, where society doesn’t undermine one’s efforts to simply live in peace, and where things are still Real. Does such a place exist in time and space? I don’t know the answer to that. But I surely want to believe that it does. Over the rainbow, perhaps. On another world. Maybe in another universe even. Tonight, I am ready to have them beam me aboard.

Here’s a quote I found by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Thanks for the encouragement! Pinkola_Estes_discouragequote

 


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Tell It Like It Is

At the start of this new year, 2016, the world is looking messier and more chaotic than ever before.

In nearly every arena, from political to economic to cultural to environmental, people are behaving badly, with cruel and barbaric actions the norm for far too many humans on Earth. How much longer will we collectively tolerate such inhumanity on this planet? Why do we keep allowing it to play out this way? What can we do to turn this boat around, if anything?

As I look around at the industrialized world (both in the larger world via various internet sites and my own small, personal world), a few things feel crystal clear. One, the vast majority of people remain committed first and foremost to their own small world of themselves, their families, friends, pets, and work. This accounts for (I am guessing) about 90% of their thoughts, feelings and actions in the world. The other 9% seems to be divided into leisure activities such as drinking and eating, sex, shopping, and entertainment. For those few humans who have 1% of their thoughts, feelings and time free, the ideas of charity, do-gooding and saving the world belong here. Hence the state of our planet currently.

Perhaps this completely unscientific analysis seems rather harsh or unfair to you, dear Readers. After all, the people who read this blog are those few and rare individuals who probably spend considerably more than the average person’s amount of time and resources on doing good in and for this world. For that, I can only simply say, Thank You. But tonight, after seeing too much news, mainstream television (about 5 minutes is too much for me), and listening to ‘regular folks’ talking during the past week at my new job (as cheesemonger for my local grocery store), this is what I have surmised: few, if any, care about anything other than themselves and their own lives.

This is not the first time I have felt discouraged about the state of humanity, obviously. But at this moment at the beginning of this new year, this knowledge saddens me more than I can express. Even the simplest actions, such as recycling metal cans or glass bottles, fails to register as even mildly possible to do for far, far too many people. Sometimes I feel pretty hopeful about the future of this planet and its humans, even contemplating the idea that one fine day we will wake up as a collective and realize that killing each other and destroying our home, Gaia, is senseless and an utter waste, and we will stop it. Then I remember. People can’t even figure out how to set a can in a recycle bin, how are they possibly going to find out how to live with each other and the planet in a non-harmful way?

My big fascination right now is following all the folks who are grassroots organizing for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In the past month, thousands of people across the United States have sprung into action to help get him the Democratic nomination. It has been very inspiring for me to see what seems like many people actually rally around this humble man, as he bravely and tirelessly tells us all where it is really at in this country, and why it seriously needs changing. The word he and his followers is using is one that is at the heart of what the United States was founded upon: REVOLUTION. It is a word that some people (the ones who have had an iron grip on this country for far too long) are deathly afraid of, and will probably stop at nothing to prevent from happening. And yet:

Stop it they cannot, for the time has come, things have coalesced to the point in time and space where The People (at least some of them) are standing up and shouting, with Bernie Sanders as their leader: NO MORE BULLSHIT. WE WANT CHANGE IN OUR GOVERNMENT THIS YEAR. EQUALITY. LIBERTY. JUSTICE. INTEGRITY. HONESTY. WE WANT OUR ELECTED GOVERNMENT TO WORK FOR US, HERE AND NOW. WE ARE MAD AS HELL AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.

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Americans are pinning their hopes on Bernie for president in this year’s election.

Words and rants similar to these were used during the American Revolutionary War. Those were also some dark and painful days in the history of the United States, and hope seemed dim against huge, nearly insurmountable odds. Yet the Americans eventually won that war against the English king and government. Some of the most beautiful words ever written were used as the foundation of the new constitution. And now, 240 years later, it is time to declare them again, just as vehemently: Give Us Liberty or Give Us Death!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, Bernie-WEderiving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The United States Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

 


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Looking back, envisioning ahead

Here we are again, at the end of yet another tumultuous year on Gaia, our beloved planet Earth. Would you not agree that a whole lot happened for us humans this year? 2015 has been a year of action, and incredible energy by humanity. Many of us have awakened in a whole new way this year, and realized that the only way through the catastrophic mess we currently find ourselves in is by standing up, standing with, raising our voices, our fists, carrying signs and taking ourselves to the streets.

We are speaking out and fighting back against the powers that have kept humanity enslaved like never before in human memory.

To everyone who helped take a stand for Earth, for Nature, and for Humanity, I congratulate and thank you. We fought the Good Fight this year, and we will be continuing with even greater intensity in the year to come.

The following is an excerpt from a beautiful letter written by Kumi Naidoo, the Executive Director of Greenpeace. He is stepping down as director after holding that position for the past six years. He writes,

Greenpeace had me stepping out of my comfort zone many times. And that, of course, is the place where you learn the most about yourself, when you stand at that line between courage and fear, weighing personal risk against what you believe to be right. I’ve spoken to so many of you who have had the same experience. People who spoke out, or stood up, who volunteered or took some small step or giant leap for the sake of a better future. So often those steps and leaps take us beyond what we thought we’d ever do – either because we were inspired, or angered, or feeling a bond of unity with others. If anything Greenpeace has ever done has catalysed one of those moments, we’re doing our job. We’re setting off a chain reaction of contagious courage.

For me, a series of ever escalating life choices eventually led me to a moment I will always cherish from my time at Greenpeace: the boarding of an oil rig in the Arctic, having an icy water cannon trained on me as I struggled to climb a ladder to oppose the absurdity of Arctic oil drilling. Experiences like that change you. And by “like that” I don’t necessarily mean that extreme form of activism: I mean any action that disrupts your sense of self or your idea of who you are and puts it in a larger context of the human journey and the future of our world. It resets your notion of what you’re capable of. And in so doing resets your notion of what humanity is capable of. And in so doing redefines your sense of what’s possible.

I came to Greenpeace wanting to break the dichotomy between the environment and development. I knew, rationally, that there is a link between addressing poverty and human rights and addressing environmental injustice and climate injustice. But my time with Greenpeace drove this awareness deeper into my heart. Once you see it, you can’t stop seeing it. From the woman who can no longer fish the African coasts for her family because European factory trawlers have emptied her seas, to the child in India choking on ash and coal dust in a village pillaged by the coal industry, to the infant breathing in toxic fumes in an electronic waste dump in China while his mother sets fire to a circuit board to scavenge components, to the devastated family living in a cardboard box after their home was destroyed by typhoon Hagupit in the Philippines: the people who pay the highest price for overconsumption and pollution are those who see the least benefit.

Greenpeace strengthened my belief in the power of nonviolent direct action and my conviction that civil disobedience is essential to addressing this core injustice, to bringing about a truly transformational change not only in the way we feed and fuel our world, but in how we think about wealth, growth, and value – how we reinvent the future in the face of what Naomi Klein has described as an incredible opportunity disguised as a crisis.

In the six years I’ve been with Greenpeace, we’ve secured so many victories – from Shell’s decision to abandon Arctic Drilling to Italian energy giant ENEL’s turning its back on fossil fuels. From dozens of major retailers agreeing to Detox their clothing lines to agreements with major deforesters to end peatland destruction in Indonesia. From Facebook’s agreement to friend renewable energy to new Marine Reserves that have increased the size of our protected waters. But these are but small contributions to the vast changes that a far wider movement is driving – from the unprecedented court decision in the Netherlands that the government is negligent of its duty to protect its people if it doesn’t cut CO2 by 25% by 2020 – driven by tiny NGO Urgenda – to Elon Musk’s decision to open source the design of the Tesla electric car and the PowerWall smart battery, to crowdfunding campaigns for oceans plastic cleanup and prototype solar roadways to new models in the sharing economy to The Guardian’s coal divestment campaign. I have found myself on podium after podium speaking from the same agenda of climate urgency as Sharan Burrow, the head of the global trade union movement. I leapt from my chair in celebration after reading the Pope’s recent encyclical on stewardship over the Earth. From every category of human endeavour, from every continent, we’re witnessing an awakening – an unprecedented conspiracy of courage and commitment to change.

My friends, I leave you with a final thought. As you look around you, remember what the history of the human journey teaches us. The greatest struggle we face is not inventing clean technologies or fundamentally changing the way we produce value or measure growth: these are small challenges compared with how we have changed the world and our own civilization over the course of the few centuries that we’ve risen up. I refuse to believe that the pace of change for survival will be slower than the pace of change for profit. In times of war, in times of threat to our families or nations we’ve found unforeseen strength, and we’ve done impossible things.

But there’s an essential ingredient. Without it, the burst of efforts and evidence of change that we see today will remain too little, too late.

That ingredient is hope. It’s the belief that change is possible.

I saw with my own eyes what happened to the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa once people in large numbers came to believe change was possible. I look around today, and I see more and more evidence that we can beat the worst ravages of climate change. It will take fast action. It will take courage like we have never witnessed on a global scale before – from banks, from corporations, from artists, governments, religious and labour leaders, the charity sector, the billionaires, and from every one of us. Every time the world takes a step forward, be it Apple powering all of its data centres on renewable energy, be it Obama saying no to Arctic oil, be it your university’s decision to divest from coal, your neighbor’s decision to grow their own vegetables, your parent’s decision to volunteer for a cause, or your colleague’s decision to eat less meat – whenever anyone makes a contribution to building that better world we know in our hearts it is possible, we have a duty. A duty to share. To tell the world. To make that courage contagious. Make it a norm. Make it an expectation that this is how the world works. Belief requires evidence, and the stories we tell one another evidence our beliefs: some stories propel us forward. Others hold us back. We can believe that change is impossible, or too expensive, or naive, and consign the fate of this earth to death by business as usual. Or we can fight back. We can stand up and say that a better world is not only possible, it’s being built right now, by the individual and collective acts of courage of every one of us.

http://m.greenpeace.org/international/en/High/news/Blogs/makingwaves/Kumi-Naidoo-departure/blog/55151/?platform=hootsuite#.VnwaEgZ8xRQ.mailto

You_are_here

Dear Readers and Friends, I know there have been many moments during this past year when things looked very bleak, when it seemed that the Dark Forces (Star Wars aside) have had the upper hand in our world, and I am keenly aware as I write these words, on this Christmas eve, of the many millions of suffering humans on Earth right now. The needs of humanity are greater than ever, and the task of working towards ending war, extreme poverty, violence and strife feels overwhelming. And yet. Progress is happening all across our planet, by many thousands of us in a vast and dazzling array of human kindness, compassion, innovation, inspiration, and acts of will for what is True, Good and Beautiful. The Light that we carry can no longer be squelched by those who would keep us forever in darkness. The tide is turning, at this very moment. We are reaching critical mass for a clean, peaceful and hopeful future for humankind. Every time you give a positive thought, word, emotion or deed out, it reverberates into the human collective and gains momentum. Your words matter. Your thoughts matter. Your kindness matters, more than you can even imagine.

One of my great heroes, John Lennon, penned the following song lyrics as something for humanity to aspire towards. They are simple words, with profound meaning underneath. The more we can cast aside our cynicism and pessimism, embracing instead the power of imagining a world without border guards, guns, greed, wars, violence and lies, the sooner “We can stand up and say that a better world is not only possible, it’s being built right now, by the individual and collective acts of courage of every one of us.”

You say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change the world.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one


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Staying in the Good Fight

This article feels important and very timely, so I share it with you all in the spirit of hope. Leigh

To My Friend the Climate Defeatist: Here’s Why I’m Still In the Fight

(Photo: Trekking Rinjani / Flickr)

My English friend Paul Kingsnorth was the subject of a long article two weeks ago in The New York Times magazine, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It … and He Feels Fine.”

A former editor of The Ecologist, Paul has gained new attention of late for his passionate and public despair over “an age of ecocide” and his proclamations that we are now powerless to do anything about it. That expression of despair coincides with an equally public withdrawal from the battlefield of big-scale climate and environmental activism. He warns, “What all these movements are doing is selling a false premise. They’re saying, ‘If we take these actions, we will be able to achieve this goal.’ And if you can’t and you know that you are lying to people.”

We find ourselves at each step battling against powerful corporate forces pushing hard from the other side.

The article and his previous writings in the same vein have struck a resonant chord as the hard reality of what we face reveals itself, not in theories about the future but in the current realities of fierce storms, unprecedented droughts, mutating weather patterns, and a lack of political will to take strong action. More than 500 people left comments on the Times web site. A young activist who works with me at the Democracy Center, also from the U.K., emailed the article to her parents with a note saying, “This is exactly how I feel!”

The hard question that Paul Kingsnorth provokes is neither a new one nor is it only about the climate and environmental crisis. It has been a question inherent in political activism as long as there has been political activism: What action do we take when we have no guarantee at all that what we do will make any difference?

To be an activist is to plunge into the unknown and into a world where guarantees of results do not exist. On climate and the environmental crisis we don’t know how far we’ve already pushed the planet toward ecological Armageddon or what impact we actually have when we block coal trains, hold impassioned news events, or get arrested at the White House.

So we guess, and there are two different ways we can guess wrong. The first is to overestimate our power to change what’s coming and to give people the “false hope” Kingsnorth warns about. The second is to underestimate what is possible, to believe that we are less powerful than we actually are and to do less than we can. That’s the wrong guess that worries me more. Faced with a choice between disappointment or failing to do all that is possible, I don’t find the decision a hard one to make.

The dictionary defines hope as “to want something to be true and to believe that it can be.” Despite so much evidence and sentiment to the contrary, on the climate crisis I remain radically hopeful. I am hopeful because the fundamentals of what we need to do—abandon fossil fuels, protect the planet’s forests, and organize our communities for resilience—are not mysteries nor are they impossible. I am hopeful because I see among the young a powerful, rising culture of environmental consciousness, creativity and action that far surpasses any generation before it.

And I am hopeful because I’ve seen things happen that weren’t supposed to. A decade ago in the U.S. gay marriage was an issue Republicans put on ballots to bring out homophobic voters to the polls. Today it’s riding a juggernaut of support and inevitability.

What is truly possible never reveals itself until we take the risk to seek it.

That said, as an activist I am also radically realistic and action on climate is an especially hard case. Issues like gay marriage require changes of hearts and minds and public policy. Action on climate requires all that as well, and then on top of it we still face the great unknown of how nature will respond to the changes we are able to make. And as we press for action, we find ourselves at each step battling against powerful corporate forces pushing hard from the other side. There is no doubt that the challenge we face is enormous and that major ecological damage is now an inevitability. As Kingsnorth says, “Things that we value highly are going to be lost.”

It is easy to see how all this adds up to a crisis of hope at the heart of climate activism. To those activists, young and not so young, who feel this way, my message is just the opposite of Paul’s. Don’t retreat—step it up, and as we do keep these three things in mind.

First, we must be strategic. Citizen action and energy is too valuable a resource to waste. We must be realistic about where we are starting from, especially in terms of political support. We must be clear and smart about our goals and where we are trying to go. Then we need to develop plausible (not guaranteed) paths that have a real shot at taking us there, along with a commitment to making mid-course corrections in our strategies as we learn along the way.

Second, just as the world we seek to protect relies on natural biodiversity, we must respect that effective action requires “activism biodiversity.” Some of us will act locally, as Kingsnorth does now, teaching his neighbors how to wield a scythe and campaigning against construction of a local supermarket. Others will unmask the actions of fossil fuel companies, or chain themselves to trees, or campaign for more public transit, or take action in international forums. We need to do not one thing but all these things and more.

Finally, we must not let despair and resignation become the greatest gift we could ever hand to those who would love nothing more than for the climate movement to lose heart. Our truest strength does not come from any guarantee of outcome. It comes from the power of acting on our deepest convictions, of forming real community and acting together, and from knowing that what is truly possible never reveals itself until we take the risk to seek it.

Like Paul and others, I also mourn for what is being lost. I mourn most deeply on those days here in rural Tiquipaya when I awake to the roar of a chain saw and the wrenching thunder of a falling giant. What we can’t do is let that mourning stop us from doing all we can. As the labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill said on the eve of his execution a century ago, “Don’t mourn, organize!”

Jim Shultz

Jim Shultz, founder and executive director of The Democracy Center, has led citizen advocacy projects in more than two dozen countries across five continents. He lives with his family in Cochabamba, Bolivia and tweets at @jimshultz.


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The courage to act on behalf of the truth

“I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made.” –Edward Snowden

It has been a few weeks now since Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s spying program hit the internet and news media. For many people, this information has been shocking; for others, simply a sad confirmation of what they had long suspected: The United States has indeed become the world’s largest corrupt government in the world. The main principles upon which it was founded, namely that of democracy, liberty, and freedom for the People, largely no longer apply. There is no more compelling evidence to this fact than the tremendous gift that Edward Snowden has given to the world; the truth.

As of this writing, Snowden remains in Moscow, waiting to hear from all the countries he has applied to for political asylum. So far, no country has come forward to help him, which I find extremely disappointing. It makes one wonder if there isn’t ONE free country left in our world who refuses to be intimidated by the United States’ bullying tactics. The EU, upon finding out that their closed door meetings have also (not surprisingly) been subjected to the NSA’s spying protocol, has declared that they are shocked and are demanding an explanation. Explanation? Pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?

Big Brother’s watching All. Who can stop them? Snowden comments, “The greatest fear that I have, regarding the outcome, for America, of these disclosures, is that nothing will change. People will see in the media, all of these disclosures. They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to, to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society, and global society, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and to fight to change things, to force their representatives to take a stand in their interests.”

Here then, is some of the transcript from his interview with Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian. I hope you will take 12 minutes out of your life to watch it, if you haven’t already. In my view, Snowden is a person of great courage and moral character. He chose the high moral ground in his actions, instead of simply leaking information anonymously, he deliberately decided to be open about who he is and what he has done. He is a rare and extraordinarily brave soul, and I have nothing but great admiration for him.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video

“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk because they are such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningfully oppose them. If they want to get you, they will get you in time. But, at the same time, you have to make a determination about what it is that is important to you. And if it is living unfreely, but comfortably, something you’re willing to accept, (and I think many of us are, it’s the human nature,) you can get up every day, you can go to work, you can collect your large paycheck, for relatively little work, against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching shows, but if you realize that that’s the world that you helped create, and it’s going to get worse with the next generation, and the next, who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is, so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that’s applied.”

“It’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody– even by a wrong call– and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to derive suspicion from an innocent life, and paint anyone in the context of a wrong-doer.”

“You have to think, you are living a privileged life, as you are living in paradise, in Hawaii, and making a ton of money, What would it take to make you leave everything behind? The greatest fear that I have, regarding the outcome, for America, of these disclosures, is that nothing will change. People will see in the media, all of these disclosures. They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to, to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society, and global society, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and to fight to change things, to force their representatives to take a stand in their interests. In the months and years ahead, it’s only going to get worse, until eventually there will be a time, where policies will change. Because the only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy. Even our agreements with other sovereign governments, we consider that to be a stipulation of policy rather than a stipulation of law. And because of that, a new leader will be elected, they’ll flip the switch, say, because of the crisis, because of the dangers we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.”

The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”

Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them.”

He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”.

But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

For Edward Snowden, it is a matter of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said. “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance

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Change is coming fast

Dear Readers, Today I share with you an interview with several younger leaders of various activist groups in North America, by the good folk at Yes! magazine. Enjoy, and keep the faith in better days ahead for our planet. namaste, Leigh

“Sometimes the most radical thing to do in a polluted violence-based system, is to be still. The mud settles to the bottom and we then have a clearer vision about our next steps—for example, facilitating the growth of the communities we want to live in or realizing that the most efficient tools against a system based on greed, fear, hurry, and violence, are generosity, courage, slowing-down, and loving-kindness.” – Pancho Ramos Stierle

Occupy-Oakland-protest-2011

(from Yes! Magazine june 2013 http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/love-and-the-apocalypse/for-young-leaders-it-s-personal

Change is coming fast. The brief window we have to turn around the climate crisis, the growing gap between rich and poor, the violence at home and abroad, debt and austerity politics—these are among the most pressing issues facing all of us, especially young people. We asked a group of leaders, all under 40, to talk to us about how they see their lives, their leadership, and their future.

Sarah van Gelder: How do the challenges facing your generation (people under 40) compare with those faced by leaders of the civil rights, women’s, and labor movements? What’s at stake now?

Adrienne Maree Brown: I would say the biggest difference is we’ve increased our exposure to all the suffering and struggle in the world without increasing our capacity to handle it.

The speed of knowledge has increased—now it’s a nearly instantaneous flow of crisis, tragedy, and need, sprinkled with glimpses of triumph, resilience, humanity. And we are supposed to have a coherent opinion on all of it and stay focused on those things we can impact. We need mindfulness practice to come with our smartphones!

Henia Belalia: We’re looking at the frequency and impact of climate-related “natural disasters,” and it’s daunting—how do we take our foot off the gas pedal when we have very few years before we hit a point of no return and it’s game over for the planet?

Clayton Thomas-Muller: I think of our aunties and uncles who were in the American Indian movement, the Black Panthers movement. Back in the day, there was a lot of responsibility on a very small group of leaders, and it was relatively easy for agents of oppression to target those individuals. Whereas today, through social media and digital technologies that can transfer popular education materials to vast audiences, we have a more level playing field.

Carlos Jimenez: Power is becoming more concentrated and more removed from our daily experience. I assume it never was cool to question capitalism or ask hard questions about systems of oppression. But these days, it feels like we have to stretch in ridiculous ways to question the structures of our society without being seen as radicals or crazy people.

Pancho Ramos-Stierle:
In fact, sister Sarah, we are not under 40, we are 13.7 billion years old, our cosmic age, and we are part of an unfolding story of love.

Our pioneer brothers, sisters, and kin of the civil rights movement during the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s didn’t have that gorgeous picture of ourselves, the Earth, from space. And now, we’re able to detect planets outside the solar system that might support life, which is bringing a new sense of our humanity. All of a sudden, all of the nonsense divisions based on the colors of our skin or culture or spiritual practice or religion just vanish, and we’re one sacred living organism that is the wonderful Earth.

van Gelder: How do you see where we’re headed as a human community? How does that shape your own choices?

Belalia: One has to believe that another world is possible, but we need to be very real about what that looks like and not just put on Band-Aids.

We’re going to have to make some big changes in how we live. We’re going to have to consume a lot less and give up luxuries. Living in the Global North, in the United States especially, we have a responsibility to the rest of the world to reassess how we live.

Brown: In the stories I hear of past generations, we weren’t just moving toward a better world, there was a sense of responsibility to maintain and/or create a better world for the next generations. Right now I think we need to move toward being better and better ancestors.

Thomas-Muller: We need to be talking about a new economic paradigm, not patching up the existing one like some crazed engineer obsessed with patching up the Titanic. For example, green jobs are not created by producing photovoltaic panels under indentured servitude in massive industrial wastelands in China, then shipped to California where young African Americans are hired at minimum wage to install these panels onto rich people’s houses.  If instead we look at the establishment of local economies, the 100-kilometer diet, urban farming, and radicalizing the conversation around the distribution of wealth and land—that’s the conversation that I’m interested in.

Ramos-Stierle: Seeing with the eyes of an astrobiologist has given me an appreciation for technology. Everything can scale up very quickly. Small decisions can have big impacts in all directions—exponentially more so than a few generations ago. Scalable new design principles—local, decentralized, open, non-linear, emergent, biomimetic—all can spread like wildfire today. We not only have the chance now to name a new story, but our generation has the means to live a new story into being.

van Gelder: Can you tell a story from your own experience about how social change is happening today?

Thomas-Muller: We’ve seen the rise of Idle No More, which is being led by the most marginalized group in Canada: First Nations women. Canada is going through a painful process of reconciliation, not unlike what South Africa continues to go through post-apartheid. Idle No More and the tar sands movement and other indigenous struggles have ripped away the scabs of racism. We’re seeing television, print, and radio airing the voices of the most extreme racists against indigenous peoples. What’s kind of beautiful about it, though—as ugly and as painful as it is—it’s driving people to our side of the movement who are sick of the hatred, bigotry, and overall nastiness. So it’s actually expanding our political base of allies and our overall resistance.

Brown: Recently I was involved in facilitating a gathering on black reproductive justice. The folks came into the room with a lot of painful history, and they committed to healing, whatever that took. And it took sitting in that room with each other and listening to each other in new ways, hearing each other’s ancestral stories and current stories. This meeting felt so different. Instead of: “Who’s got the best strategy and the most resources?” it was: “Who’s really committed to transforming inside themselves, how they show up in this movement, and then how we can be together?”

Ramos-Stierle: One of the most revolutionary direct actions I’ve been involved in was building a 20-by-30-foot greenhouse on a third of an acre in San Francisco. We had 100 volunteers show up at the Free Farm to help, and since then, we’ve given away close to 9,000 pounds of local, organic produce.

That greenhouse became one of the main providers of Occupy the Farm a year ago on land administered by the University of California. We planted close to 15,000 seedlings in one day with 300 people, and it was such a celebration to be there disobeying with great love. Children and all the generations stood up for life and beauty.

So how can we create alternatives that are so beautiful that they just naturally are in conflict with a collapsing, broken system?

van Gelder: Sometimes people working for change get separated into silos. My impression is that those silos are getting less rigid—that people are more open to each other’s perspectives and issues. I’m wondering if you think we’re getting better at working together?

Jimenez: Yeah, I feel like there’s less time spent trying to tell each other what to do and more collaboration, both among members and leaders.

Belalia: For me it’s a systemic change. The corporate powers that are running the world today are all-pervasive, involved in everything from our food to our education to our elections. So for me the systemic is what feels the most authentic.

In our movement, we’re pushing for a paradigm shift that will require connecting migrant rights, economic justice, housing justice, and other social justice issues with the work on runaway climate change.

Ramos-Stierle: I’ve heard a lot of people say, “How can you bring peace if you’re not peaceful with yourself?” And then I think, “That’s over!” We need to have both. We need the inner revolution connected with the outer revolution. It’s time for activist people to become spiritual, and for spiritual people to become active.

We need to focus on our means. It really doesn’t matter what you’re doing if you’re making a more violent and resentful world with your brothers and sisters and kin through your work. There’s no reason why we have to wait; we can be making the world more harmonious right now!

Belalia: Part of my own personal philosophy is learning to just be in this moment. What we envision in our minds is part of what we create in the world, so we need to take care of soul and heart, and create a much more tranquil and sane inside to be able to carry out our work on the outside.

Thomas-Muller: Yeah. I share that perspective. Coming from an indigenous perspective, that’s one area where we actually have a bit of privilege: We have only been separated from our relationship to the sacred for a few decades, whereas for other groups, it’s been millennia. The connection we have to the sacredness of Mother Earth has been damaged by the psychotic Western industrial experiment called capitalism. Through re-evaluating our relationship to the sacred and embracing our place in the sacred circle of life, we can fill the gap left by hyper­individualism and consumption.

Activism has to be grounded in something bigger than yourself. However you perceive God, whether that’s through the smile of your child, or by connecting with the sacredness of Mother Earth through hiking in the forest, or going to church, or practicing Buddhism, or being a sun dancer, it’s important to have those elements in your activism so as not to get overwhelmed and to fall. And even with those elements you still fall, because we are facing unimaginable foes in our struggle.

van Gelder: We chose this issue theme now because there’s such urgency around the climate crisis, extreme inequality, and the growing power of the 1 percent. A lot of our change strategies don’t seem to be working in terms of these critical questions. How do you think we can get the real change that we need?

Belalia: Building networks of resistance and resilience is a really powerful way to look at change. From Occupy grew a kind of sustained resistance—the idea that “We’re going to be in a space, and we’re not going to leave until we get something done.”

But Occupy also has done a lot to build sustained resilience. I just spent time in New York with friends who are part of the Occupy Sandy networks, which set up distribution centers after Hurricane Sandy and are still working with those communities. One group I met with is creating workers’ cooperatives.

Jimenez: I’m becoming a big fan of assemblies. Occupy was a space for assembly, but I’m also talking about people’s assemblies like those the social forums tried doing. I can’t emphasize enough how powerful it is when people come together from different walks of life, different traditions, and see that we can work together. I’m thinking a lot about how we can extend invitations and bring in more people so that it’s a bigger assembly every time.

Ramos-Stierle: As brother Carlos was speaking, I was having this vision. Wendell Berry said that if you eat, you are involved in agriculture. I say, if you eat, you’re involved in the movement, like Occupy the Farm, which some of us call Occupy 2.0. Our elder Wendell Berry says, “An economy genuinely local and neighborly offers to localities a measure of security that they cannot derive from a national or a global economy controlled by people who, by principle, have no local commitment.”

Brown: I’m writing and collaborating around speculative and science fiction, which involves strengthening our capacity for vision and for imagining ourselves in a future where we’re experiencing abundance. I’ve been reading a lot of Octavia Butler and trying to get more people to read her work and to write their own work.

And I’m a facilitation evangelist! Facilitation means to make things easy—facil—to make sure that the time we spend in each other’s presence is authentic, invigorating, and healing, and that it leads to real impact.

van Gelder: My last question: When you think about what you’re doing now and when you look to the future, what do you find most daunting, and what is most hopeful?

Brown: The most daunting thing to me is the scale of change that’s needed.
What makes me the most hopeful is that so many people are asking “How do I live my life? How do I spend my money? How do I care for my babies and care for the loved ones in my life?”
People are realizing the front line is within us, and we have to practice. And that makes me hopeful because I can feel that change in myself and see it in the people I love.

Jimenez: It’s the little things that give me hope, like that I’m starting to see people leading meetings and conferences who look like the people I grew up with—who look like my family.
In terms of fears, the scale, as Adrienne said, is really freakin’ scary. The world could literally collapse. It’s daunting that people don’t even realize how grave the crises are.

Thomas-Muller: What overwhelms me the most is patriarchy. Speaking as a Cree man, I fight internally all the time with patriarchy as it plays out in my life. We come from a matrilineal society. In our traditional way, it was the women who made decisions, and the men were told what to say. We were the spokespersons for some really tough old Cree ladies!

The most daunting question for me is, “How are we going to take out this system of predominantly white male patriarchy that’s driving the destruction across Mother Earth?”
And what is most empowering is seeing the rise of strong First Nations women all across Mother Earth who are rising up and leading the movement, teaching all of us what the sacred feminine creative principle is about and what it means to think seven generations ahead.

Belalia: One of the things that’s the most daunting is how closely politicians are working with corporations, and how blind a lot of people are to their own power.

I was recently invited to work on the next U.S. Social Forum, and it’s really inspiring to me that low-income folk, people of color, women, and LGBTQ are at the core of the process.

Jimenez:
Thank you for providing a space for us to creatively weave this thread. Even though we’re coming from diverse backgrounds, it’s amazing that we’re saying similar things, and I’m grateful for the space and definitely think that was cool.

Ramos-Stierle: We’re kind of orphans in this generation. We better pay attention to the elders and listen to the re-generativity of cultures that have been living here for millennia and be a little less arrogant. We need to listen to many examples of selfless service and to everyday Gandhis and everyday Emma Goldmans and everyday Dolores Huertas, everyday Martin Luther King Jrs., and everyday Cesar Chavezes. One little star at a time forms a galaxy, and one little drop creates an ocean. And we see these shifts happening everywhere—like the shifts from scarcity to abundance, from consumption to contribution, from transaction to trust, from isolation to community, from perfection to wholeness.

We are overwhelmed by the ways that we put in danger the magnificent biodiversity of our planet. At the same time, we are recognizing that there are small things that we could be doing on a daily basis.

Like, after this call, I just feel that I love you. That’s what I think is happening. I don’t know you physically, and I feel that you are my sisters for real and my brothers, and we’re connecting with this technology that wasn’t there before. And so if this is the last time that we talk, I’d like you to know that I am going to keep this for the rest of my days in my heart to continue this great journey.

Brown: I love you back!

Jimenez: Much love!

[Sarah van Gelder facilitated this panel for Love and the Apocalypse, the Summer 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is executive editor of YES!]

Henia Belalia is director of Peaceful Uprising, the organization co-founded by Tim DeChristopher, who just completed his prison term for disrupting an auction of oil and gas leases of Utah’s pristine canyon lands.

Adrienne Maree Brown was national co-coordinator of the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit and head of the Ruckus Society, but today focuses on her practice as a doula and facilitator.

Carlos Jimenez is Midwest regional organizer for Jobs with Justice and before that, with the United States Student Association and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Pancho Ramos-Stierle is a full-time ServiceSpace volunteer who lives now in Casa de Paz at the Canticle Farm in East Oakland. His nonviolent activism centers today on meditating—including in public spaces like Occupy Oakland—as well as disobeying with great love through guerrilla farming.

Clayton Thomas-Muller heads up several First Nations’ campaigns to stop the tar sands.

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More Women Rising in Sudan

For those of you who are interested in ending violence to women in this world, a beautiful and poignant film about the Rising movement in Sudan, a land where women have very few rights and humiliation towards girls and women is still lawful, including the threat of being stoned– in 2013.  Please take the time to watch this film, and then send as many prayers and healing to the women and men  and children of this very troubled area of our world.  namaste, Leigh

from  One Billion Rising blog: ( http://onebillionrising.org/blog/entry/khartoum-rising)

Last February 14th, more than a thousand young women and men rose together to demand an end to violence against women and girls in Khartoum, Sudan. Organized by Salmmah Women Resource Centre and Open Mike, together with the support of civil society women’s organizations and youth groups – Ahfad University for Women in Khartoum became the site of an extraordinary rising in a country where participation in public spaces by women is not easy – and where laws that continue to humiliate Sudanese women and girls, and remove their dignity, and where discriminative legal systems are still in place. The university rang with cheers as the women and men danced to “Break The Chain” – opening a five- hour program that included Sudanese dance and music by performance groups Nuba Mountains dance, Makaan, Sudan Roots and Solo Band.  On One Billion Rising Khartoum, Fahima Hashim, Director of Salmmah Women Resource Centre said “the way it has been taken, the way the energy transferred and travelled – and the involvement, even of the people….they just took the idea and made it their way”. Sudan is Rising to end violence against women and girls! Watch their Rising in this incredible new film.