Loud-mouthed liberal feminist. Anarchist knitter. Tequila-drinking artsy-smartsy fat chick. Bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter. Rebel with too many causes. Quirky eclectic pagan poet. Paradoxical intuitive smartass. Sarcastic brainiac insomniac. You know, for starters.


Hitting a wall.

A lot of activists seem to be hitting a wall this week for some reason. I'm feeling it, too...when I look at the enormity of the injustices in the world, how close the planet is to total oblivion, and how little many people seem to give a damn....it's overwhelming. I get frustrated with what often feels like my own inability to shed the expectations of the culture I grew up in, and engage in more authentic, more sustainable daily habits - not to mention doing stuff beyond the everyday to try make the rest of the world a more equitable place. I forget sometimes, though, just how far outside the "norm" I already am, in many ways. There are plenty of people who consider me obnoxiously radical, even though I feel like there's so much more I could be doing.

That's the context in which I read David Korten's brilliant remarks to the Seattle Green Expo. While part of me thinks the Green Expos are still too driven by commerce and consumerism, I do think they're great baby steps to help spread green ideas and information. Korten's speech, however, was a breath of fresh air - it touched on things I believe but don't always articulate very well - particularly the idea of Empire. Some excerpts:

No more throwaway stuff. No more economic growth for the rich. Our priority must be to grow our well-being rather than our consumption. Invest in peace, education, and health care rather than war. Invest in compact communities rather than suburban sprawl. Invest in local economies and environmental rejuvenation rather than in shipping toys around the world and speculating in the global financial casino. Invest in sidewalks, bicycles, bicycle paths, and public transportation rather than cars and highways. Invest in education for living rather than advertising to get us to consume more. Here is the kicker. We must eliminate exactly those forms of non-essential production and consumption that our economic and political systems are designed to promote.

We might wonder how such injustice could happen in a world governed by democratically elected governments. The answer is simple and alarming. Our world is not governed by democratically elected governments. It is ruled by global financial institutions in the service of financial speculators who exchange trillions of dollars daily in search of instance unearned profits to increase the fortunes — and the power— of the richest people on the planet. They bring down governments that displease them, and buy and sell the largest corporations like commodities. By design and law the defining priority and obligation of these governing institutions is to generate financial profits to make rich people richer, in short to increase inequality in a world in desperate need of greater equity.

Absent the discussions that encouraged the sharing of their true stories, women whose experience failed to conform to the prevailing cultural story held themselves responsible for the failure. They assumed they were simply different, and thus in some way deficient. By breaking the silence to share their stories they ended their isolation and rose above self-doubt as they came to realize that they were in the very good company of a great many other wonderful women. Many then lent their voices to a growing chorus of women engaged in changing the cultural stories by which society had long defined women and their roles.

This bit here strikes me as particularly relevant to social justice movements...it's one reason why fat activism is so important to me, why it's important to share stories that break cultural assumptions about fat bodies and what it means to live in one. Most importantly, this idea of shifting the "failure" from the individual to the cultural construct that defined that failure in privileged terms that excluded the entirely valid experiences of many people.

One of the things Korten mentions is the Earth Charter, a fairly comprehensive statement of principles related to environmental, social, and economic justice that I like a great deal (although there was a spiritual/moral bent that I would want to shift to make more open to those who follow no spiritual path). It's a little more extensive than the Reclaiming Principles of Unity, but covers a lot of the same ground (although minus the witchy framework). In looking over the people involved with creating the Charter and maintaining its propagation in the world, I see a lot of diversity, but also a lot of powerful people; I'm not entirely certain the egalitarianism I find inherent in the values is also present in the actual operation....but then again, there's a whole thing about decentralized expansion - which breaks down hierarchies....so maybe it's more like Reclaiming than not.

Ahem. Anyway.

Sometimes I worry that I am not doing enough. I have no doubt there's more I can be doing everyday to live within my values.....but I also think it's important to recognize how much I'm already doing. Sure, for every radical action (like, say, catching graywater when I'm washing dishes and using it to water the plants - or growing some of my own food in an urban environment - or daring to be fat and not hate myself), there are multiple not-so-radical, not-so-awesome actions (like dying my hair with horrible chemicals - or sometimes getting frou-frou coffee from Starbucks - or buying a new pair of shoes when I have forty pairs at home already). I work a corporate job, and don't own a car. I use laundry detergent made by Proctor & Gamble, but biodegradable dish soap.

It's a process, working towards a sustainable life. I'm not yet ready to give away everything I own, wear sack-cloth, and sleep on a straw pallet....or pull myself entirely out of the capitalist world in which I was born. I add a little bit every day. I come closer every moment. I am compassionate for the times I don't do as well as I'd like, succumbing to convenience and privilege. I try again.

In summary, from Mr. Korten:

In everything you do, share the story of our human possibility and of our right and responsibility to create for ourselves and for future generations, the world of our shared dream. Our distinctive human capacity for reflection and intentional choice carries a corresponding moral responsibility to care for our Mother Earth and for one another. We must now test the limits of the individual and collective creative potential of our species as we strive to become the change we seek.

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