the philosophactivist

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Visionaries don't need to dream

I'm pensive today. An elder/shaman/ex-black panther told me today that there's no question that I'm before my time and I've heard this a few times before from elders in different movements. As I reflect on not only what this means but what it means for me and the work I strive to do, I wonder how one avoids the pitfalls of being the square peg with radically different ideas?

How does a person with such different ideas avoid deafened ears, silencing, and even violence? "Radicals" are always seen as having a voice of dissonance. And honestly, some go against the grain to go against the grain. I feel sometimes like I never even saw the grain or I mistook it or interpreted it as something else. Sometimes I feel like I'm from another planet when folks talk strategy.  I want to think about things from a micro and macro level. I want to be thorough about taking action and what that will look like and how these actions can be sustained. Look at it from all sides and come up with multiple strategies that can be enacted at the same time. I want to provide resources for the people...but not just literature and websites or even about programs, ways to heal (physically, spiritually, emotionally), and ways that the people can gain their autonomy and take on the work and not depend on any organization who, because of funding, must have an agenda.

I don't believe that there are any good solutions that just address one facet of any particular oppression. We can't parce apart trans issues from LGB issues...housing issues from labor/employment...immigration issues from those sovereignty from the plight of farm workers, health care from any of the issues mentioned before.  They are all interconnected. One of my favorite quotes from King is that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We might not feel like that. We might think that we have to organize within subgroups and in silos around singular issues ...but how has that been working out for us?

We have to understand what is at the core and be willing to address what is happening systemically in a real, substantial way. It's going to take more than one group to dismantle injustices with food, health, employment, immigration, etc. We need even more collaboration than what is happening now. And we can't just "educate"...we've got to figure out how to provide services. And these services shouldn't just be folks who show up with some money from outside of our community who are willing to help out for a couple years and disappear. We've got to support each other and pool our resources. We have to stop thinking of helping each other as taking away from our own survival. We have to stop allowing ourselves to operate from a place of scarcity- a poverty consciousness. And I know that selfishness and getting rich quick is part of the "American Dream"...but we're not just Americans, are we? And that dream sure feels like a nightmare with all its implications and built in expectations and definitions for what success looks and feels like. I'm sure our ancestors had another vision for us and this earth. And what does it mean if we've all got to fall asleep for this dream?

When I began to write and organize it was my way not to be silenced and my way to not be met  with indifference. I was concerned about getting issues heard. And I'm realizing that now it's about actions being seen. You can forget what I wrote. Block it out. Delete it. Erase it from your memory bank. But you won't undo what a whole community has done. It's harder to "unsee" our actions. And once a community sees its visions realized...there's no looking or going back. There's got to be something to the combination of being seen and heard. That's the true revolution. I'm not just talking about protesting - I'm talking about envisioning what you want and making it happen. Telling our stories as this happens so we can document it for future generations.

Internalized oppression can make us feel like things will never change. That we're not worthy or capable of creating change. It can contribute to us lashing out at those in our community who want to help us. It can make us critical of our family members...our children. It can make us skeptical of visionaries. It can even contribute to us working against change. Sometimes if we've never seen something before, we don't think it can happen and that is to our detriment. Change doesn't come from old ways of thinking or old patterns of being. Why do we hang on? You can't say we're comfortable. In my opinion, it's because we don't want things to get worse. We don't necessarily like it the way it is, but we're not trying to take steps backward or give up what little we have. And those who benefit from the system being the way it is- well, obviously we know why they want to keep it the same. (Those who are aware of it anyway).

I know we're busy. We're tired. We're upset. We're disillusioned. We're wounded. But this generation has got to heal and come together to address what's going on if we are to survive. Sometimes it's so hard because we're trying to shake hands with clenched fists and trying to hug others without letting go of holding only ourselves. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to put an end to the Struggle and though I'm not sure what that's going to look like, I'm not so convinced that it can't happen that I won't venture to envision what it will look like and take to make it happen. I don't have to see the top of the mountain to know it exists. Does it hurt more to have to go to sleep for the "American Dream" or to wake ourselves up to realize what should be everyone's reality.

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