We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Friday, June 3, 2011

Time to be honest [Revised commentary]

Click here to access article from Red Pepper (UK) featuring an interview by writer Nick Buxton with Tim DeChristopher, an environmentalist extraordinaire.

One of my initial reactions to this article was surprise that I hadn't heard about these events related to Tim DeChristopher, a serious American environmental activist. I spend about four hours every day perusing articles on the internet, particularly ones referring to environmental concerns, social justice, and peace. I had entirely missed any reports of the events reported here which were happening virtually in my back yard. I apologize. I think that I was too distracted by dramatic news coming out of the Mid-East and the labor struggles in Wisconsin and nearby states.

I think...the problem is that we have too many rich people in the leadership of the environmental movement, who have benefited from the status quo. It is hard to change the world when you have little personal investment in changing it.
I find it hard to express how inspiring this piece was after reading yesterday's mainstream media announcement that we must simply adapt to a "new normal", hotter climate in which we will experience more, and much worse, devastating floods, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.
The turning point for me was when Terry Root, a lead author of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told me privately after an event at Stanford University that it was too late to stop a climate crisis, that her generation had failed mine. I was shocked and asked why she had not said that on the public panel. And she said that she was scared that saying the truth would paralyse people. And it is true, what she said did first put me into a dark place of despair. I found myself mourning my own future, knowing it could be nothing like my parents. But sharing that grief with others, I found knowing the truth also empowered me to fight back in a more serious way.
Clearly DeChrisopher, and people like him, are extremely dangerous to the capitalist system, or any system that is based on endless growth. The most effective weapons we have to confront this suicidal system is the raising of the public's consciousness--and that is precisely what he intends to do. It is finally, and most decisively, an ideological battle. 

Remember how suddenly the Soviet Union collapsed? It happened because people simply stopped believing in it, and then stopped cooperating with it. The huge mistake that the Soviet citizens made was to adopt capitalism. Apparently they saw all the glittering stuff we had and thought that capitalism was the answer. Once people stop believing in the capitalist system, it will collapse virtually overnight. I don't think that anyone has expressed this phenomenon better than Mario Savio:
"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."
For Tim DeChristopher, and others like him, the time is NOW.