I watched Children of Dune recently, and I couldn’t help but draw a connection between the classic Dune phrase “plans within plans” and my understanding of what’s going on in the real world right now.
What does this phrase mean? Plans within plans… puzzles within puzzles… layers of plotting and strategizing stacked within one another, like layers of an onion that peel away to reveal yet another miniature onion at their center. Reality is extremely complex… therefore, it should come as no surprise that human social structures, and any efforts to control or modify them, are also extremely complex.
I live here in the United States, in a lovely place called Southern Illinois, in a college town named Carbondale. This is where my story of plans within plans starts.
On the surface, everything is fine… people go to school, go to work, spend time together on the weekends, and do their best to live out the American dream. But this is only the dry, lifeless exterior of the onion — a layer that is easily peeled away. Beneath it lies layer after layer of human drama, with Carbondale being a single point on the surface of this very stinky and tear-jerking onion.
I can see it all so clearly… with each passing day, I discover another layer of the onion. In our personal lives, each of us has a hidden depth that most of us haven’t explored… in our communities, there are problems that we ignore, or deny, or simply overlook… in our nations, there are power struggles from the grassroots to the upper echelons, as people all struggle to secure more money, more power, more meaning.
Even in a place with such a surface level of material abundance and social order, there’s a terrible storm brewing… the technologies of social, economic, political, and ecological control are sweeping across the landscape, devouring more and more of the Earth’s flesh that gives us life. Even as this machine gone mad drives the global climate out of balance, it also wreaks havoc with our inner landscape, teaching us that we can only derive our sense of personal empowerment and freedom through external sources like rampant consumption and subservience to hierarchies of authority.
And amidst it all, there are plans within plans… plots within plots… puzzles within puzzles. The Democrats struggle against the Republicans, even as both parties are controlled to an increasing degree by elite private interests… the Greens push to establish a viable third party that may bring us back from the brink of destruction… the odd mix of Neo-Cons and Dominionists who dominate the global economy and U.S. government openly wage cultural warfare at home and abroad in the service of their ends… the rag-tag alliances of radicals and revolutionaries wage their own counter-cultural war to promote their social and ecological values… and beneath it all, epic mythological tales are unfolding in the collective unconscious as all of humanity struggles to make sense of its existence here on Earth.
On some days, I just go about my daily business and act like I believe the consensus reality that has been drawn over our eyes to conceal the truth. I go to work, I go to meetings, I watch movies and TV, I eat my favorite snacks, I hang out with friends, and I just try to get by as best as I can. But on other days, I feel like I’ve taken too much spice… I walk alone in the world, looking and listening and feeling, observing the ebb and flow of broader energy pathways playing out in all details great and small of our everyday lives. I watch TV, and see more than TV… I listen to music, and hear more than music… I talk to friends and strangers, and see more than just individuals… I recognize myself as a grain of sand blowing in the wind, or a drop of water flowing to the sea. I watch as plans within plans unfold, with many people struggling in many ways to shape the destiny of themselves, their communities, their societies, their planet, and beyond.
Today started as one of the “consensus reality” days, but it’s ending as one of the “awakening” days. I don’t even know what exactly to DO about all of this… but I know that I must do SOMETHING! No matter how big or small my contribution may be… I must contribute SOMETHING to the effort for creating a better world.
I’m reminded of an old Paolo Friere quote:
â€œWashing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.â€
As someone who strives to be an empathic and compassionate person, I’m not quick to share my anger with the world or act in a way that challenges other people’s chosen goals and directions in life. I long for peace, and my longing for peace makes me very hesitant to add to the conflict in the world. But sometimes in the pursuit of peace, we must actively challenge the warmakers so that the inherent harm of their actions may be revealed. On the surface, it seems that this challenge is creating conflict… but really, this sort of challenge is simply bringing pre-existing conflict to the surface so that it can be resolved. It’s a “healing crisis”, if you will… unpleasant, perhaps, but necessary, like when a person raises a fever in order to fight off an infection, or vomits to expel poison from their digestive track.
What we need now more than anything is a healing crisis. There’s a sickness on the rise… a sickness in the hearts of our people, and a sickness in the many lands that we call home. It’s the sickness of oppression… the sickness of war… the sickness of ecocide… the sickness of fundamentalism and fascism, spreading from heart to heart and nation to nation like a plague. If we pretend that everything’s okay, then our hearts and our lands will be laid to waste by this sickness… but if we spark a healing crisis, then we may still have time to heal before the global ecology and economy both collapse all around us in a rather unfortunate and downright apocalyptic manner.
We must be healers… we must be agents of change… we must be revolutionaries. In the past, we’ve simply waited for rulers or heroes to solve these problems for us… and when the right leader arose, we flocked behind them, adding our power to theirs so that they might find the strength to create the needed changes. But that won’t work anymore… we’re handing our power to the wrong people, and the only way to fix what’s ailing us is to reclaim that power for ourselves and use it in a free and cooperative manner to create a new society amidst the ashes of the old.
How do we do it, then? This is something I’ve seen on the horizon for years now… but it’s bearing down on us faster than I realized, and so many people of conscience seem to be caught without a plan of action. We see that something’s wrong… we know that something has to be done… but what do we do?
We must reclaim our power — our power as individuals, our power as communities, our power as whole societies. It’s time to raise energy — material energy, personal energy, social energy, embodied energy — in the service of our beliefs. We need to live our lives with more passion AND more discipline than we ever have before. We need to delve deep into our hearts to find what it is that we truly desire, then leap outward into the world to make that desire manifest no matter what obstacles stand in our way.
As long as we sit around complaining about what the people in power are doing, we’ll always be powerless. But once we discover our positive inner vision for a better life, and unite with others in free cooperation to pursue that vision, then we will have a shared power that no force on this planet can contain.
As always, there are plans within plans, and I believe that the recent victory of the Democrats is on some level just part of a broader plan to reinforce the destructive two-party system. But on the flip side, just because it’s part of a plan within a plan doesn’t mean that there’s not something genuine underlying it. We revolutionaries can also have our own plans within plans… we can point out that the Democrat victory is hollow, yet use it as a foothold to push for far more revolutionary change than the Democrat leadership is calling for.
Dissidence and dissatisfaction are on the rise… and the Democrat conquest of House and Senate is a clear indication that the people of the United States are dissatisfied with the machinations of the Bush administration. Now, while the system is destabilized by a swing from one party to the other, we can seize the moment and demonstrate that what we truly need more than any hollow Democrat victory is a genuine revolution.
We can talk about revolution all day, though, and nobody will listen. Or if they listen, they won’t act. Or even if they act, they won’t step outside of their comfort zone in response to mere talk. If we really want a revolution in this country, what we need is action.
I’m not just talking about mass demonstrations here. Those still have a role to play… but ultimately, the true power lies in “micro-macro demonstrations” — actions which demonstrate our principles and our vision on both a local/individual level and on a regional/global level.
We need to take bold, decisive action that will make our beloved friends and allies in the Green Party look like a bunch of stuffy conservatives. We need to start revolutionary culture collectives that will use performance art, creative arts, media activism, and strategic direct action to actively encourage the flourishing of a growing culture that embodies our social and ecological values. We need to amass the material resources — houses, land, businesses, finances — that will be necessary to enact sweeping changes in the social, economic, political, ecological, and psychological landscape of our society.
Most of all, we need to truly believe in our hearts and minds that our shared visions for an ecological society of free cooperation can — AND MUST — become a reality in our lifetimes. Once we’ve come to feel the power of this belief in every cell of our body, we must take action to make our vision a reality.
Vision becomes passion, which becomes will, which becomes action, which creates reality. Through our vision, through our passion, through our will, we must act now to create the world of our dreams. This has always been the case… but now, that fact has become especially clear to me, and especially important to all of us as we stand on the verge of a time of tremendous change.
It’s a task far too big for any leaders or heroes to accomplish… there will be no vanguard, no central coordinating committee that forms a unified vision for the rising revolution. But that’s a good thing, because we seek to create a world in which each of us is a leader, and none of us are leaders. And finally, in this very generation, we will realize that the only way to do that is for each of us to take up the very personal and very political task of reclaiming our individual and collective power.
I could go into more detail about how I think the particulars will unfold… but that’s more than enough for today. In the meantime, if you take anything from this blog entry, let it be the knowledge that you have a powerful role to play in the changes that are happening all around us. There’s no being neutral here… letting yourself remain captivated by the “status quo” / “apathy” / “consensus reality” is an act of support for the forces that define and control that framework. And simply by breaking free of that frame — by thinking for yourself, discovering your passion, talking with your loved ones about all of this, and struggling to find your own unique place in the coming changes — you are joining in the timeless struggle for the creation of a better world.
The choice is yours… if you have any thoughts to share about it, let me know. In the meantime, I’m going to go get some sleep…