“There isn’t a problem with the system- The system is the problem-”

Anarchy, Fairy Tales & Freedom

<March 16/10>

I actually wanted to call this essay “Communism, Fairy Tales, Anarchy & Freedom,” but I know how afraid of communism most people are, so I left out that word.

I became interested in communism in my late teens, after a privileged & pretty mixed-up childhood. Money held no fascination for me whatsoever – but the idea of communities & sharing needs & abilities definitely did.

But then I got caught up in what I now look back on as the fairy tale phase of my life, & my interest in communism (politics of any kind, really) just kind of fell away.

At first during that “happily ever after” phase, I had a job in which I told myself I was “helping” people (& who knows, maybe I did even somehow sort of help one or two individuals), but the prince & princess living “happily ever after,” for me, consisted mostly of marriage & family life – which, admittedly, was pretty darn wonderful for quite a few years there. My prince & I “made one another happy” for quite a while – just not “ever after,” alas…

15 or so years into the fairy tale, a passion for environmental work overtook me (to my own great surprise) & this has led to a great many unintended consequences (a phrase I now just love; it covers such a lot of territory, doesn’t it?).

So here I sit, today, writing this on a sun-warmed rock in a lovely outcropping on a pretty hillside in southern Ontario, where I’m living for a while in this current nomadic phase of my life. No set “home” – a “foot in three camps” as I like to joke (‘though I still have only two legs!) – not knowing what may come next, nor where I am likely to land.

The marriage ultimately didn’t work out (though 20 years & two great kids are certainly nothing to sneeze at), & relationships since don’t seem to have, either. Given my own personal life/childhood history, the 5000-year run of patriarchy & its far-reaching & not necessarily well-understood impacts, women & men’s current confusions over relationships & who we are & what we want – & the state of the world in general – this is not so surprising, really.

The solitary streak in me has grown very wide. Years of living alone have made me…ever more solitary. A bit anxious when around other people’s company & routines for long stretches of time. (For some reason too, I have a positive horror of being “in the way” – some weird holdover from that … difficult childhood, I reckon. I’ll do almost anything to avoid feeling I am in the way…)

I live on a teeny-tiny income no one else I know could begin to survive on (or even want to get by on), and since money & things don’t interest me much, I don’t “have” to “work” right now. This seems to really rattle some people. (I wonder, do they resent/envy my freedom? My choices?)

I adore my current freedom – but it has & does come at some cost. Everything always does, doesn’t it? Biologist Barry Commoner(1) articulated “4 Laws of Ecology: Everything is connected to everything else. Everything must go somewhere. Nature knows best. There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Note that last one, hmm? No free lunch. We do always pay for what we get. I pay for my freedom in several ways, trust me. (We all pay for our choices, hmmm?)

Well, for the past few years I’ve begun thinking of myself as a bit of an anarchist. Like communist, the word “anarchist” seems to frighten people. (Imagine grown-ups being afraid of mere words & concepts; a bit silly, isn’t it?)

The Collins dictionary available to me here defines an anarchist as 1. A person who advocates the abolition of government and a social system based on voluntary cooperation. 2. A person who causes disorder or upheaval. Kurt Vonnegut has a character in his novel Jailbird say “Anarchists are people who believe with all their hearts that governments are enemies of their own people.”(2)

Works for me!

Anarchism-Abbey

All I know is, things on Planet Earth don’t seem to be working too very well. Ya think? Our air is foul, our waters polluted, & much of our Earth now toxic. As the planet sickens, so do we. (Know anyone with cancer? I rest my case.)

A clever quotation I’ve run across goes “There isn’t a problem with the system. The system is the problem.”

Capitalism & “democracy” don’t quite seem to be doing the trick, do they? (Like Christianity, real democracy remains mostly un-tried. (3))

I keep meaning to write an essay called “What is Missing?” & maybe I will finally get to it.

What is missing, in my view, are 2 things:

  1. Deep, deep gratitude for this unbelievably awesome, generous wondrous Earth we’ve been given;
  2. Community. Tribe. Belonging

If we all begin working on these two big pieces of the puzzle that you might call Earth Falling Apart in 2010, I think a lot of pretty cool stuff would start happening. (Of course, lots of cool stuff is already happening!! There are tons of people working away on this stuff as we speak.(4))

Of course, I do not possess a crystal ball. Seems to me this whole shebang could “blow” at any time. Of course, that’s an excellent argument for practicing gratitude, living fully in the present moment, & building community. We might as well keep our focus on what really matters in life, since there are no guarantees about what will happen around the next bend. I have a suspicion that the less we focus now on what really matters, the nastier it’s liable to be.

So sayeth I, your friendly local anarchist. One who is trying hard to bring us all back to the really, really simple things: gratitude, community and circles.

Janet

p.s. There are many essays about gratitude on this blog. Only because it’s the primo, most important & perhaps most left-out thing going on Planet Earth. And because it’s free & wonderfully rewarding & liable to lead, when practiced faithfully, to much happier lives & communities & families – & even a healthier planet… No kidding!!

‘Quote of the day’  with this post: “…as the Buddha told his cousin Ananda, the whole of the holy life is good friends. Our relationships – and our love – are ultimately what give depth and meaning to our lives.” – Joan Halifax in Being with Dying – Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death.

My first idea for ‘Quote of the Day: “The aesthetic indictment of industrialism is perhaps the least serious. A much more serious feature is the way in which it forces men, women and children to live a life against instinct, unnatural, unspontaneous, artificial. Where industry is thoroughly developed, men are deprived of the sight of green fields and the smell of earth after rain; they are cooped together in irksome proximity, surrounded by noise and dirt, compelled to spend many hours a day performing some utterly uninteresting and monotonous mechanical task. Women are, for the most part obliged to work in factories, and to leave to others the care of their children. The children themselves, if they are preserved from work in the factories, are kept at work in school, with an intensity that is especially damaging to the best brains. The result of this life against instinct is that industrial populations tend to be listless and trivial, in constant search of excitement, delighted by a murder, and still more delighted by a war.” [Ouch!] Bertrand Russell – June 1921 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.


(1) From the Center for Biological Systems & author of Making Peace with the Planet

(2) Jailbird, by Kurt Vonnegut, Dell, 1979. Page 216.

(3) If you think Canada is a democracy, then I think you are not really paying attention! And if you think dumping Harper – the best prime minister oil money can buy – for Ignatieff would make a whole lot of difference, you are REALLY not paying attention… ***** Lots of great quotes about politics & democracy here.

(4) Paul Hawken’s wonderful book Blessed Unrest is very eloquent & inspiring on this score.

Wizard(s) of Oz

<June 25/09>

Has everyone reading this seen the movie “The Wizard of Oz?” Virtually everyone in North America has, I’m sure; it’s a very familiar tale.

Young Dorothy is whisked off to the land of Oz, where she encounters the Tin Man (who needs a heart), the Scarecrow (who longs for a brain) and the Lion (who wants so much to be brave).

They journey down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, where they expect the “Wizard of Oz” to give them what they each so desperately need. (Dorothy herself wants to go home, back to Kansas.)

But the Wizard of Oz turns out to be a fraud. He’s just an old man behind a curtain, using a loudspeaker to make his voice sound loud & mysterious & (falsely) authoritative. Although he doesn’t turn out to be at all the way they’d expected, he does impart some words of wisdom.

There are a few things in this classic movie we can apply to the world as we know it in 2009.

One of them is that all these “experts” we count on and look up to; all these celebrities whose lives we want so desperately to emulate; all these “captains of industry” & corporate hotshots & high fliers – are all very much like the Wizard of Oz. It’s all a great big smoke & mirrors game.

They don’t have any magic – they mostly put on a great big show – & they cannot give us what we really most want & actually need.

They’re frauds – & btw, we are up to our eyeballs in their fraudulent carryings-on.

Think for a moment of all the systems we have in this world: the political system, the legal system, the educational system, the health care system, the food/agricultural system, the corporate system. Capitalism itself.

They’re all broken. They are not working. (slight understatement, hmm?)

All are being propped up by people both “bad” and “good.” They’re being propped up by all of us, in fact!

As a clever saying I’ve come across goes: “There isn’t a problem with the system. The system is the problem.”

So here we all stand, now.

The “wizard” has been/is being exposed. What does the Wizard of Oz tell Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion & the Scarecrow?

He tells them they don’t need a wizard; they each have the answers & strength & all they need within themselves – & collectively, as friends to one another.

This is exactly where we are too!

The wizard(s) are frauds.

It’s all up to us.

And we do have what we need. We have our hearts & our brains & our friends & loved ones & communities – and we also have guts & energy & the passion for change & growth.

Is it not so??

Janet

p.s. & if we don’t all have the sorts of communities we need, yet, then what better to do than begin building them?

p.p.s. 'Quote of the day' I’m using with this essay: “It is not a sign of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society.” J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

p.p.s. on Dec. 8/10 - a year & a half after writing this post: our nuclear agencies - our Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) & the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)? They too are falsely authoritative 'wizards.' I've been dealing with some nuclear issues since I drafted this post in June '09. Yessirree. Our nuclear agencies are so corrupt it would make the average person quake in her/his boots to know the kind of shenanigans that these "experts" visit upon us routinely. Egad....