Keeping On Keeping On

I’m not supposed to be here. Well, I’m supposed to be here, at my desk. But I’m supposed to be over there, in my word processor, working on my proposal for a radio documentary on E.F. Schumacher and appropriate technologies. But man. Demoralized. Here I am, reading a book that was published the year I turned 1. The first chapter is about the economics of the industrial system, which treats all natural capital as income, externalizes its costs and claims them as profit, and perpetuates systems of poverty and oppression. 37 years on, what have we learned? I’m tired just thinking about this work, even though it’s what I’ve been working towards for the last 8 years of my life. I just want to lie down and take a nap. Possibly with a romance novel and a large scotch.

Most of the time, I try to steer clear of the structures in my writing. It is not that I don’t know that they are there; it is that I find them monolithic and overwhelming. “What can I do?” is a much easier question than, “What can we do to get all these other people to do something?” It feels like trying to gnaw down an oak tree. No. It is more like trying to gnaw down a whomping willow. Yet where would we be if George Monbiot, Paul Hawken, Vandana Shiva, Maude Barlow, and their colleagues had all taken to bed with hard spirits these last 20 years? (Well, probably in the same place, but we wouldn’t have to cover our ears and scream, “La la la la! I can’t hear you!” Wait… Maybe that would be better?)

When I catch myself wanting to keep hiding out, I have to remind myself: I don’t want David Suzuki standing out there on the front lines with his butt hanging out and nobody at his back (sorry for that image. Especially if you happen to be David Suzuki.) He’s been telling us for years that he can’t save us, only we can.

So. Here I go. Once more into the breach. Guess four years in the corner is long enough. Somebody give me some water and ring the bell…


3 responses to “Keeping On Keeping On”

  1. You say that “What can I do?” is an easier question. Do you think that there is something we can do to change the minds of other people? Do you think it’s worthwhile to try to do so?

    Right now I’m focusing on what I can do, because there are areas where my life and my values are out of line, and the pain of that is powerful. Take the plank out of my own eye first …

    • I’m not sure that we can change the minds of other people, but we can try to touch their hearts. One of my friends asked me to redefine the problem. It’s not a failure of fact-gathering: it’s a failure of storytelling. The fear that drives us to consume, gather, and distract is overpowering, and we have built an entire culture that screams at us, all day long, every day: “You are inadequate! You are a failure! You will never have enough! You will die alone and in ruins if you don’t BUY OUR STUFF!”

      The other side (if we accept such dichotomies, which I don’t) is starting from, “Everything you were raised to believe about the world is wrong.” This is a difficult starting point. But yes, I think it is a worthwhile endeavour. I think of it as a bodhisattva practice, because it is a matter of reducing the suffering in the world by providing a counternarrative. “No, actually. You’re not inadequate. You’re human.” “Yes, you can find love even if you don’t conform to rigid expectations of beauty.” “Yes, you deserve love.” “Yes, we know of ways of living that create more joy AND a better world. And you don’t have to buy anything to get there.”

      The other thing is, I can be in the process of taking the plank out of my eye while simultaneously saying, “I think you might have something in your eye, right there. Yes, yes. I’ve got one too. Let’s see whether we can work through this together, shall we?”

      Phew. Thanks for those questions. Good for sharpening the focus. 🙂