True Restitution

Despite what seem to be deliberate efforts to keep the Covid-19 epidemic foremost in the media, coverage of the many protests over unjust and violent treatment of Black people by police, called Black Lives Matter, is currently more in the forefront of people’s consciousness.  The protests continue; most are peaceful, some are violent, all are persisting.  We need the protests.  They serve to call attention to severe injustice and wrongful attitudes and perceptions that need to be corrected.  And they are the tip of a much bigger iceberg beneath the surface.

Although this particular injustice involving the police involves victimizing mainly Black people, it, and other injustices stemming from a common core involve other minority groups as well.  Native Americans and Hispanics are among those most commonly noticed, but Asians of various origins, religious groups such as Muslims, immigrants of all kinds, especially newcomers, and the poor whites who live subsistence lives in, say, the coal country of Appalachia are also among them.

The underlying wrong is economic.  It is described as capitalism carried to its destructive extreme, but it also uses racism as an effective support for funneling the wealth of the nation to the top, mostly white, international, corporate, and social elite.  Racism justifies this action by positing that some human beings are better than and more worthy of wealth and power than other human beings.    A bit of thought shows that race is actually a construct – not only because it devalues some at the expense of others, but because it is actually unreal.  Think – when one is asked to declare one’s “race” it might be color, language, ancestral birthplace, culture – there is no real definition of race.  It seems to mean only “other than myself”.  When I was in college, I took an anthropology course that defined race as being of only three types, Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongloid.  However, within those classifications determined by academics, there are black Caucasoids(e.g., on the Indian subcontinent), white Negroids (some African indigenous) and Mongloids who are both tall and short, some with curly hair and who are certainly not yellow.  I have never seen a truly yellow person, a truly red person, a truly black (piece of coal color) person or a truly white (sheet of paper) person other than an albino.  Race is a highly inefficient attempt to classify people; it contains many exceptions and has no real meaning.  In addition, people are so mixed now from intermarriage that the concept is even more illusory.  However, it serves the purpose of the elite who wish to retain wealth and power.  It helps if the general populace believes in it and are willing to set themselves apart in competitive groups, some with more advantage so that the dissonance persists, and so that attention remains on those divisions instead of on the true movers of radically unequal wealth and power.

As we are taught in school, when our nation declared itself independent, it was led by rich white men separating from the control of Great Britain, where existed more rich white men in power over a poorer populace.   Those who could vote at the time of the Constitution were rich white men who owned land or property.  No Native Americans, from whom the land had been taken, no Black people, most of whom worked the land for free, no indentured whites, no poor whites, no women – only rich white men.  Amendments were later made to the Constitution to purportedly remedy the imbalance of power, but they seem to have had limited value.   Women are still paid less for equal work and harassed in the workplace, Blacks are still mostly relegated to low-paying and riskier jobs and poorer housing and often blocked from voting, Native Americans are still discriminated against in mainstream employment and relegated to infertile lands. Their women can be raped without much consequence being placed upon the rapist.  The land is still being destroyed, and Black people and poor whites are shunted to toxic locations or unhealthy low-income housing and food deserts.  The problem has not been corrected.

I recently read an article which disturbed me in one of the magazines I receive.    It includes some very good illustrations of how money has been stolen from Black people by collecting taxes from them and then denying them the benefit of the taxes (equal education, full admission to all State colleges, redlining to exclude them from housing and – not mentioned – blocks against Blacks actually owning the banks).  This is something of which we all need to be aware, and which is never taught in economics classes.   However, the author calls for restitution in a way with which I disagree.  He calls for direct payments to Black families from whites, whom he regards as thieves.  “Yes, all white people.”  Whites, he says, have benefited from things such as good schools paid for by Black taxes, and as such, all white people need to pay restitution.  First, to be a thief requires the intent to steal.  Our children and most common white people have no such intent; there is often even no awareness, not through the fault of these people, but through the fault of an accepted system.  In addition, even though there is a certain poetic justice in stripping whites of money and benefits and giving those to Blacks, it simply reverses the racism; it does not correct it.  The concept of racism still exists, even though the beneficiaries have changed.  The concept of reparations also fails to include Native Americans and Hispanics and others who have been stolen from or repressed.  The elite on the top still enjoy the wealth and power and still continue to plunder the system.  

If we are to correct the system which has deprived many of us of opportunities and the means of healthy existence and the benefits of our labor and creativity, and which has blocked us from effective power to make the rules of the system, then it will take the efforts of all of us – Black and white, Native and Hispanic and Asian and Islamic and every other category into which the system has relegated us.  We must work together as allies, not divided and arguing about who owes what to whom.  We must put our experiences and intelligences together to create a new system that works for all who will participate, and which also supports the planet on which we live.  We need to drop both the concept of race and also the idea that many still harbor that some people are better than other people and that we cannot trust those who are different from ourselves.   We must also drop the concept that there is not enough for all and that we must compete, creating haves and have nots.   It is a time for coming together and creating the new; it is not enough to attack the top and dismantle it.  We must create a new way of being to replace what currently exists.   This requires the cooperation of all of us.

Let us all look carefully at the assumptions and emotions that keep us apart, whether those be racism, fear, anger or even greed.  Let us recognize these for what they are, lay them aside, and give ourselves fully to acting as a member of the human community.  Let us build systems that work for all and hold in respect the Earth on which we live and the denizens with whom we share our lives.  Covid-19 is not the real enemy; it is a mighty distraction attempting to protect what is by keeping us from uniting to do what we need to do.  We do not have to be distracted.

Peace, Diane

Regaining Our Connection

The news was on in the background as I worked on my computer, proceeding as news normally does, when my ears picked up some words that did not at all sound like what is regularly on the news.  It sounded more like a part of a science fiction show, or perhaps a section of a movie about healing via a strange version of the esoteric.   I focused and was astounded by what I saw (although I admit that afterwards I laughed at the absurdity).  An elderly woman, ostensibly a doctor, was passionately warning people to make sure God was watching when they had intercourse to make sure that they were not sleeping with spirits and demons (which was the cause of illness) and that vaccines were made with alien DNA.  Was this really a news program??  It was, and this was the person with whom Trump wishes to replace the current senior advisor on the pandemic, Dr. Fauci.  Replace Dr. Fauci with a witch doctor????   (Not to be confused with shamans, who are sane.) Alice in Wonderland had just expanded exponentially.  I have my reservations about vaccines, especially about the designer vaccine being hurriedly developed to ward off the Coronavirus, but I am certain the vaccine has not been made with alien DNA.

The news is also telling us that we need to come together to defeat the virus.  This is partly true.  However, the news puts out mixed messages about connecting with each other.  It says we should stay connected virtually and by acts of charity performed within the parameters of distancing, connecting at a surface level but continuing to wear masks and stay in our houses, or at least six feet away from each other.  I believe the reasoning is that if we do this, we will feel satisfied, rather than isolated from each other.  People do not like to be deprived of touch and of proximity.  Despite the surface nature of its pronouncement, the news is not incorrect in this matter.  We do need to connect, more than virtually, more than just sharing a meal outside a restaurant at tables six feet apart.

 I am not talking about being sheep in a herd, led by the latest official direction and pressure from the bandwagon.  People who connect respect the individuality of each other; they listen and discuss; they cooperate without pressuring each other to conform. For example, whatever I may think of masks, it does not hurt me to wear one either out of concern for the safety of others or simply to refrain from adding to the already overwhelming anxiety that many people feel.  Being vaccinated with a vaccine I do not think is safe and doubt is effective or being tracked to ensure that I get vaccinated is a completely different matter.  There is a difference between radical cooperation and tyranny.  We need to come together in cooperation at a deeper level, to sustain each other, to survive as a species and to influence the evolution of events towards a healed Earth,  disease-free living, and a just, compassionate and respectful social and economic order.

One concept we have for a long time been taught is that life is competitive; it is everyone for him/herself and for his/her immediate family.  Our schools, with their system of grades, are built that way.  The economic inequality we currently experience is built on a foundation of competition, winner take all.  Now that we are faced with the challenge of the pandemic (and also the ongoing challenge of an ever-warming Earth), we seem unable to come together to solve it using the standard competitive paradigm.

To achieve the deep cooperation we need is a major undertaking.  We once had that kind of cooperation, when people lived in tribes, or even in small neighborhoods, and worked together for the benefit of all.  Sure, there were disagreements then, but the disagreements were not allowed to destroy the well-being of the whole.  In various ways, the community would help the members who were at odds with each other work out their differences in ways that allowed life to go on.   We have lost that.   Now we have competition, fights, wars, winners, losers, and increasing chaos.   The mainly competitive path is not working. 

To succeed in reclaiming cooperation between ourselves, we must change the directive which instructs us that life is every man or woman for himself or herself, and that we need to defeat someone else in order to be successful or happy.  We have to give up some of our defining individualism, sacrificing some of it to the benefit of the whole.  No, our individual identities will not go away completely.  We are, after all, each unique, each an irreplaceable individual.  The value of our talents, though, must be geared towards helping the other unique individuals with whom we live.  The community supports us; we support the community.  That is the essence of cooperation.  We work together towards what we all in our wisdom perceive to be the best.  That is quite different than a government, or corporations, deciding what is best and giving us the illusion that if we just do it their way, we may manage to succeed, and life will be good for some of us at least.

Cooperative community is the way of the future.  It is in process; the substance is still evolving.  In community, each voice is heard, and time is taken to reach consensus.  Consensus is possible because people have learned to listen, and to discuss their differences and respect another’s stance without needing to feel that they have ‘won’. People work with and support each other.  The wisdom of even a few is not only heard but incorporated into consensus decisions.   Because the process takes time, the pace is slower, less frenzied.   This is new to us; if there are even distant memories of how it was, we still need to learn or relearn the patterns.  However, this ‘road less taken’ is the one that can lead us into a healed, peaceful world, prosperous equally for all.

Now is the time for change; now is the time for action.  If we shy away from this deeper working together, we are abdicating any influence we might have on what evolves.  Do we wish to live in the world some distant authority prescribes for us?  We can see the beginning of that now.   Let us pause now to think, to come together, to know each other as the wonderful, creative people we are at heart, and to use our combined talents to build a world in which we wish to live.

Peace, Diane

A Call to Community

Wisdom tells us that the present is the only reality.  The past is gone, the future not yet here.  Thus, a snapshot of the present is the clearest truth.  The rest is memory or guesswork.   Currently, my state of Virginia has just gone into stage 3 of opening its economy, which had been closed by the Coronavirus.   Other states are in various stages of re-opening.  Yes, the virus is still being transmitted, but the consensus seems to be that if the states do not open their economies, we can choose between death from Coronavirus or death from deceased economies.  Most states have added precautionary regulations to their re-opening plans.  Some states are more consistent about enforcement than others.  Many people are rejoicing, seeing a return to “normal”, or the way things used to be before the virus.  Others are reserving their joy, maintaining a ‘wait and see” attitude. There is no consensus.

In true Alice in Wonderland fashion, events keep happening and creating chaos.  Given, needed changes can emerge out of chaos.  Ending racism, economic justice, and climate change are three of them currently in the news; others, such as restorative agriculture and abolishing war seem to garner less attention now.  No one really knows what will happen.  The only development with some certainty is that the “normal” of before the coronavirus is gone and will not return.   The new normal is yet unformed but will be different than before.

There are predictions by pundits of oncoming catastrophes of one kind or another that will inform the new normal.  One such prediction is economic collapse; the dollar will lose its value, there will be massive inflation and disruption to supply lines, creating shortages of foods, medicines, supplements (and maybe more toilet paper).  Another is a physical calamity, such as an EMP, or the sabotage of the power grid, or perhaps earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.   Yet another is the advent of massive Big Brother type tyranny, and the digitization of everything, even our bodies, so that we and everything else can be tracked.  A fourth is the effects of climate change, such as droughts, storms, floods, and dwindling water tables.  Each prediction has its reasons, and they can be investigated online. Some may happen, in full or part, and some may not.  Or, the other extreme, none of these things will happen and we will somehow attain a utopian society without much effort at change-making.  Whatever happens, it will not be the same as pre-Coronavirus.

Many of those who see catastrophes happening are busy preparing silently for the difficulties they foresee.   Most of this prepping is done individually by families who prepare for themselves, in as much detail as they can.  A few groups prepare together.  An underlying theme is that there will be chaos, and everyone will have to fend for himself/his family amidst looting and violence.  Cooperation is not the largest goal.  The thrust is to have as much of everything necessary or desired for oneself and one’s family and protect that from the envisioned chaos.

There is wisdom in being prepared, and perhaps the anticipated chaos will occur, although that cannot be known for certain.   What is missing, so far as I can see, is the element of community, cooperation and sharing.  This used to be a part of the lives of our ancestors, whether those in tribes or neighborhoods or frontier homesteads.  One cooperated and shared with one’s neighbors and hosting a stranger with generosity was a virtue.  We seem to have lost this in modern times.  It is not that there was no struggle; tribes and homesteaders fought, and neighborhoods tended to be of people who had known each other for a while.  However, the concepts of the virtues of cooperation and sharing were there.

We need to recapture these virtues if we are to create a new normal that is nurturing for people.  We need to expand these virtues, extending them to others who are different.  We need to combine our skills, wisdom, and energy to create a new normal in which all of us can live with dignity, exercise our creativity, be assured that our world will not poison us and that there will be enough food, shelter, water, clothes, medicine, education and the like for all who are open to receiving it.  That cannot be legislated from above.  It must come from people changing their own hearts and attitudes and working together cooperatively to create these conditions.  We need to recapture the attitude of community.

Communities, of whatever flavor, such as tribe, neighborhood, extended family, intentional community, are self-governing groups of people, from, say, 10 or 15 to as many as say, 50 (there is no set number, other than that which is workable for the group in its entirety) who commit to helping and supporting each other, working together, and who have the intent of staying together over time.  They occupy land of various acreages (some are rural, some urban) and are often self-sustaining.  They tend to be cognizant of the needs of the earth and the non-human life which inhabits it, and work in cooperation with those needs.   Generally, they govern themselves by consensus.  This contrasts with what now exists (and is in chaos) such as nations, states, counties, and other large units using forms of governance which are top heavy and authoritarian.  Voting still exists, but direct participation of the governed is rare.  People usually tend to look out for themselves and their families, embracing an ethos of competition and a race to the top or a sinking to the bottom.  Resources are indisputably unevenly distributed; those at the bottom often do not have enough.  The needs of the earth and other creatures go unseen or are neglected, following the apparent belief that the entire Earth and its resources are there simply to serve the needs and convenience of humanity.  (Some human beings were once held in slavery on plantations under a similar assumption.)

What now exists does not seem to be working very well.

Examples of how a modern community can function exist.  These extant communities show that people are truly able to come together and create successful community not only now, but also more prevalently into the future.  Like-minded people tend to gather into communities with others who hold similar values.  They are also willing to allow other groups their own values and beliefs.   Other than not attacking and harming one another, they recognize structures which are different from their own.  They also recognize the value and the right to continue living of the Earth and the plants and other animals who inhabit the Earth along with us.   Their ability to use communal wisdom enhances their ability to live in general harmony with the Earth and with each other. This is a summary; details can be found online at www.fic.org , for one, and also from many books written on the topic, including a directory of communities worldwide, available through www.fic.org .

We need now to examine how such a lifestyle might be possible for us.  Yes, there are difficulties to overcome; they are difficulties inherent in ourselves as people of a dominant and prosperous culture.  For example, we need to be less dependent on being right, on being one up on another, of being dependent on having many things, of tending to argue rather than try to reach agreement.  We can choose to overcome these difficulties and learn to truly cooperate, or we can carry our current stances into our demise.  The Earth will not choose to die so we can continue to be “right” until the end.  Even if the Earth did so choose, the death of the world which sustains us is also our own death.   Community is our hope; it is people working together, as cooperative units, to learn to heal the Earth and to give value and sustenance to every living being on the Earth.   People, is it harder to learn these things, or to continue to struggle with the chaos around us as we refuse to change?  Neither will be easy, but I do believe that the former will be exponentially more satisfying.

Let us now, before it is too late, to ponder the changes that need to be made, and the ineffectiveness of top-heavy government to make those changes.  We cannot avoid individual responsibility.  The struggle and chaos of the virus have given us our second chance.  Let us examine the format of cooperative community as a supportive medium in which to make these changes.  Let us research websites, read books and talk to those who have already made community, and then talk with each other about how we might do the same.    It is time.   We need community if we ourselves are to survive.  The whole supports the many, and the many support the whole.

Peace, Diane