One of my favorite Green Party bumper stickers says “Vote Green: Overgrow the Government.” I may not be a member of the Green Party, but I’m certainly a supporter and an ally, so I don’t feel too bad about using part of their slogan as a focusing point for my latest thoughts on revolution. The difference, though, is that we’ll be doing more than just voting, and it’s more than just the government that needs overgrowing.
I’ve been reading Starhawk’s book Truth or Dare, and even though I’m only about halfway through, I’m already finding myself once again inspired and transformed by her writing. It’s a bit dated, and it’s not my favorite book of the series, but it’s still filled with the rich strands of radical analysis and powerful “mytho-poetic exploration” that make her writings always worth reading.
One of the most exciting aspects so far has been her exploration of the social evolution from the Goddess worshipers at the dawn of history to the patriarchal societies that supplanted them. Of course, I don’t believe that any of us know for certain what really happened back in those days… but based on the information available to her, Starhawk offers her telling and framing of the tale through a mix of ordinary text, fictionalized accounts of a day in the life of an ancient Goddess-worshiper, and poetry between the chapters.
It’s amazing to consider the possibility of societies that may have existed before patriarchy, and war, and the rule of kings and corporations. It’s amazing to experience what a living, breathing, personal moment from one of those societies may have been like. And yet, it’s equally devastating to continue forward through history and witness the descent into a war-mongering, life-annihilating, freedom-destroying, global madness.
Was it really necessary? Did we have to tumble headlong into several thousand years of violence and oppression just to learn how truly precious life, and love, and joy, and freedom, and equality really are? Or is there some way that we could have avoided it all?
Who knows. But whatever the case, the world is burning all around us, and I for one am in favor of doing everything that we can to heal and liberate ourselves, each other, and the planet,
One of the big steps that I haven’t talked about much in this blog lies in the difference between “power-over,” “power-with,” and “power-within.” Power-Over is when a person uses some form of coercion in order to achieve some supposed personal gain. Power-Within is when a person relies on their own inner strength, creativity, and personal resources to achieve some goal. Power-With is a balancing act where people choose to cooperate with one another in a free and egalitarian manner in order to achieve their common goals.
One of the biggest flaws in revolutions past is that they’ve often been stuck in the rut of Power-Over. The thinking goes something like this:
“The King is using his army to oppress us. We need to raise our own army/mob to attack and defeat his army. If we can hit them harder and faster and better than they hit us, we win.”
At times, there’s something to be said for this argument. In the short term, especially on a personal self-defense level, circumstances may leave you with little choice but to choose between using force or suffering dearly from the use of force against you. Therefore, I can’t really fault peasants for using force to overthrow their violent king, or people in occupied nations for using force to overthrow their violent occupiers. But in the long-term, all that the violent rebel has done is demonstrated to the king, to themselves, and to the world that the only sure way to solve problems is by using force to assert our power over others. If the rebels truly have freedom and justice in their hearts, then a brief period of freedom and justice may ensue. But eventually, the same logic that put them in power will destroy any good intentions, and the cycle will continue.
The only way off of this mad merry-go-round is to develop entire societies of people who think, feel, and act differently. The only way to create a socially just, ecologically viable, economically cooperative, and politically free society is to grow that society from the grassroots — in the heart and mind of each and every citizen.
To some, this may seem like an absurd, fantastic, wildly utopian notion. How can we truly hope to grow a new society from the ground up? How can we encourage people to live in a radically more free and cooperative way when the current organization of society is all that they know? But when you think about it, at some point in history, the societies that we all live in grew from the ground up. It may have taken years, or centuries, or even millennia, but their internal and external landscapes changed so dramatically that they wouldn’t be able to grasp the psychology or social-political dynamics of their great-great grandchildren.
Maybe if we do things right today, our great-great grandchildren will know a life so wonderful that it will be beyond our comprehension.
That’s my dream, my passion, the one great shining beacon on the horizon that fills my heart with hope. When I connect deeply with my heart, and the hearts of those around me, and the heart of the Earth, I see a vision of our potential for liberation and actualization that goes beyond anything I can articulate. My hope is that if we all pursue our own unique interpretation of this vision, then we really will grow a new society that is radically better than the old. With our aid, our descendants may one day find the power within themselves to co-create a world of such freedom, such joy, love, such beauty, such harmony, that our 21st century minds would scarcely be able to comprehend it all.
A better world will only come into being if we start growing it today. In our personal lives, we must choose freedom, cooperation, love, passion, joy, and hope. In our communities, we must choose connection, cooperation, and transformation of our social, economic, political ecological, and spiritual relationships. If we do this, then a new society will grow in the cracks of the crumbling blacktop parking lots of the old society. At first, they will use their power-over to spray weedkiller on us and drive us back beneath the pavement. But in the end, if we focus on power-with and power-within rather than trying to best them at the game of who can be the most powerful combatant, then we WILL be growing a world that our children, and our children’s children, will be truly happy to call home.
I’m excited about that possibility. I’m also excited about some of the possibilities on the horizon in my life and in Southern Illinois. I’ll have more news on these soon… in the meantime, I’m up in the suburbs of Chicago visiting family, so I’m going to go and actually visit with my family! This has been a good trip so far, but I’ll be happy to make it back home to Southern Illinois for many more adventures…