Winter is here. It’s cold outside. Time to sit close to the fire and take a moment to reflect.
This blog is a record of my reflections on a momentous year.
It is not meant to persuade you, to win you over to my point of view.
It is a tool that I will use to work out where to place my Trust. To work out what are my Core Values. So that I might live an authentic life in line with those values.
I hope that it will also be a conversation. Please take the time to comment.
Well, it is nice to be able to start a post with some good news! Following on from yesterday’s post about the importance of the Standing Rock protest, I am very happy to report that President Obama has stopped the oil pipeline construction. Mining beneath the Missouri River has been ordered to stop. The protesters have won a great victory. We should celebrate. It demonstrates the power of non violent civil disobedience. And that is something we need to recognise and celebrate.
I love that phrase: “non violent civil disobedience.” Held within it are several principals that are absolutely central to me. Principals that I think are vital for us as a species to uphold if we are to have any chance of survival into the next century.
First of all, I want to unpack “non violent.” It doesn’t mean that you don’t get angry when confronted with the madness of the world. It doesn’t mean that you do not defend yourself from attack. It certainly doesn’t make you weak and vulnerable. Quite the opposite: to practise non-violence requires great strength. Much more than those who resort to violence. Violence is pretty easy. Particularly if you are big or have got a gun.
“Non violent” simply means that you know who you are, you know what you stand for, and you are prepared to stand up and be counted. And you stand firm. You stand by your beliefs. Whatever comes. You stand firm. Whatever the cost. When the beatings come – you stand firm. When the bullets fly – you stand firm. When the water cannons soak you – you stand firm…. And that is all you do. You do not retaliate because your opponent (The Bully) is bigger than you and will crush you if you do. No, better to take the punishment but stand firm …. and smile. Stay calm and smile. Laugh and smile. It drives The Bully insane. Non-violence is the only way to deal with bullies. It pulls the rug from beneath them. Bullies are fixated on Control. They need everybody to think how they think. Need everybody to agree with them. They will try everything to make you acquiesce to their will. All you have to do is show that your will is stronger and you are not moving. It is brutally simple. And can be brutally hard.
Now, ask yourself. What in my life do I value so highly that I would stand in front of a loaded gun. Or an attack dog. Or a water cannon. In order to defend it?
Take a moment.
Think about it carefully.
Do you have something? Something for which you would stand firm? Something that you would potentially die for?
The most common answer is “family.” Perhaps son or daughter. Perhaps husband or wife. Most people would claim that, if their family was threatened, particularly children, then they would offer their lives to save them.
Now, consider this: there is a huge mass of scientific opinion and evidence, too massive to ignore, that says that, unless we make drastic changes to our present lifestyles and drastically reduce our carbon emissions, climate change will make our planet uninhabitable for our children’s children … perhaps for our children depending upon where you live in the world. In fact, it is happening right now. Is having an impact on human lives right now.
And yet America has just elected as its next President a man who denies that climate change even exists. A man who supports the Dakota Pipeline. A man who believes in oil. The protesters at Standing Rock may have won a battle, but the war is far from over.
Now, think about how you define “family.” Is it just Mum, Dad and the Kids? Would you stand firm for your brother? Your grandchildren? Your cousins? Neice? Nephew? Great Aunt Tabitha? Where do draw the line? At what point does the connection fail?
Would you stand firm for your ancestors? For future generations as yet unborn? That is who the protesters at Standing Rock are standing for. They feel part of a continuum. Part of a tradition. Our Modern Western concept of family is impoverished in comparison.
But even if what you define as family stops at your children, it is still true that Climate change is on course to seriously disrupt their lives in the not too distant future. So why, as a culture, do we behave as if this is not the case? As a culture, we purport to value our children. As individual members of this culture, we say that we would give up our lives to save our children from harm. Yet, we are not even prepared to give up our addiction to fossil fuels. An addiction that we know is going to do them harm. Why is this so?
I think that it is to do with the way our society is constructed. Our obedience to Power. We live in a society in which we take it for granted that we should do as we are told. We have laws. A legal profession to define them. A police force to enforce them. Laws define right and wrong for us. We don’t have to decide for ourselves. We are steeped in this. But what happens when we feel that the law has got it wrong? When our sense of what is Right is deemed to be unlawful? That is where “civil disobedience” comes in. Sometimes we just have to disobey. Sometimes we have to do what our hearts tell us is Right, not what the Law says is lawful.
The police came to the protesters at Standing Rock and enforced the Law. They did what they were told to do. They were told that the protest was illegal. They fired rubber bullets on the Protesters, blew tear gas on them, fired water cannons at them, set dogs upon them. And it was wrong. So obviously wrong.
We are entering a Time when we will need to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. Those in Power will write Laws to suit themselves. For their benefits. And they may be wrong. We will all have to decide whether we are prepared to disobey.
Standing firm versus the bully. Just thinking about this gives one a sense of possibility and expansiveness. It’s so easy to feel bulldozed by events, the ‘I can’t do anything about it’ feeling, which makes one scrunch up inside. Ready packed ‘victim’ material (?). The Dakota Pipeline issue has a lot to teach us – not least about the enduring belief system of the first Americans. But I was also v. chuffed to hear that some protesters had learned which banks were financing the deal, and so closed their accounts. Now there’s a nice ‘peaceful’ weapon. Thanks for this v. thoughtful essay, Andy.