RQ#98 - Online
Individual sections posted online
Thinking About a Twenty-Year Plan, by Starhawk
Building a Daily Spiritual Practice,
Starhawk's writings appear in most back issues of RQ
Thinking About a
Photos - Garden Lockdown at BIO 2004, by Luke Hauser, ©2004 RQ - see site index
Recently, the Pagan Cluster decided to begin considering the question of our twenty-year plan. After all, if long range planning worked to get the neocons and right wing Fundamentalists into power, why shouldn't it work for us?
The idea has sparked a lot of interesting thinking and imagination, and some resistance. In one email, a friend quotes a woman as saying that she's a powerful Witch and if she thinks about the future she'll create it - climate change crisis, peak oil, whatever.
I say, hey, if she's that powerful, tell her to think fast, and think of something good! I know I'm not powerful enough to create the future merely by contemplating it - in fact that's one of the beginner's fallacies about magic, that our thoughts alone make things happen.
Actually, it takes a particular type of thought - directed, focused, intentional, and imagistic, in a particular state of consciousness, directing energies through images - to make things happen. And even then we're often working against some big opposition. But I digress.
What came up for me when I actually began thinking about a twenty-year strategy is how deeply uncertain I am about what the world may be like in twenty years. Here are some possibilities:
Things Stay More or Less The Same: That is, those who hold power continue to accrue more, but slowly and subtly enough that they don't provoke a crisis. The holders of wealth continue to concentrate wealth, but not so blatantly that the rest of us realize we're being sucked dry. The weather continues to be odd, but the worst effects of climate change are still felt mostly in out-of-the-way third-world countries that global power holders can pretty much ignore. We go on to wage the War du Jour, year after year - but not on our turf. Civil rights and social programs are continually eroded, but gradually. New products, new techno-toys, new reality TV shows keep us all fully occupied and distracted.
In which case, we might wage a long-term campaign to slowly persuade the rest of the world to adopt more just and ecological values (which, in fact, is what we have been doing for the last twenty years), strengthen our own networks, and maybe look at ways to pool our collective resources to increase them and to extend our support for one another. In addition, we might act to shake up the equilibrium of the system, wake people up, make visible the real destructiveness of the system and thus bring about change - which we have also been attempting to do.
Enlightened Capitalism Saves Itself: The architects of our current system realize that shifting to renewable, sustainable sources of energy and reducing or eliminating pollutants is good business and a great long-term investment. And that the best way to assure the continuity of the current system would be to lessen the greed of those in control so that everyone could have enough, to assure strong social safety networks and supports. And that unless we forestall global warming, no one will be doing much business. The resources of the private sector and government resources are poured into renewable energy and other ways to restore health and balance to the planet. In which case, we could all join in, invest in renewable energy stocks, and shelve our dreams of deeper change.
We're on the Titanic: And the idiotic Captains are running full steam ahead into the iceberg of climate change and global environmental collapse. Various scenarios branch out from here, depending on whether we believe:
We're About to Hit the Iceberg: In which case we should be doing all we can to turn the ship or grab controls away from the current Captains.
We've Already Hit the Iceberg: Global climate change is already massively damaging and probably irreversible. The ship is filling with water - we just don't notice because we're on the upper decks and the orchestra is playing. A variation on this might be: We're about to hit the iceberg but we cannot succeed in turning the ship. In both cases, we should be madly building lifeboats. Where those lifeboats go, however, is determined by other factors, such as whether we believe we're facing:
Death by Fire: The world gets hotter and hotter, major areas become uninhabitable, lowlands drown and real estate in the Yukon starts looking good:
Death by Ice: Global warming triggers changes that make various parts of the world much colder. The Gulf Stream (which is already slowing!) shuts down and Scotland, Ireland and England become a new Siberia. Alternatively, global warming somehow triggers a new Ice Age and that Yukon real estate is buried under a mile of ice, along with most of the North American continent.
Death by Plague: Escaped biowarfare germs or natural microbes spread some massive epidemic that takes most or all or just a whole lot of us out. A new virulent influenza, Marburg or Ebola, an AIDs-like virus spread by coughing-take your choice. In which case there's not a whole hell of lot we can do, except perhaps to start stockpiling healing herbs and growing medicinal mushrooms.
Fascist Takeover: The power holders consolidate their power in the face of the massive social disruption caused by any or all of the above scenarios, and institute even more draconian levels of control.
The Great Turning
Or, because we live in a universe where miracles do happen, we could actually achieve - The Great Turning/Global Revolution!
"The Great Turning" is Johanna Macy's phrase for the massive change in consciousness that could bring about a new order of social justice and ecological balance. Some form of massive shift in power would accompany this. Power would be reconceived, not just transferred from one group of power-mongers to another. Human beings as a whole would be empowered to make the decisions that shape their fate, to be actors, not just spectators on the stage of history.
The Fifth Sacred Thing Scenario (Some of All of the Above)
About fifteen years ago, during the first Gulf War, I wrote a novel set in 2048 that encompasses a bit of all the scenarios above. Global climate change, environmental disasters and massive epidemics have reduced human population and left areas isolated. Southern California has gone through the Fascist Takeover: Northern California has achieved The Great Turning. Then the southlands invade the north...
This was a scenario in part crafted according to the demands of fiction, but as I think about it it does make sense. Whatever the future holds it will not be unitary, but diverse. Some places might get better, others worse. Some communities might fall under tight control, others become more liberated.
So what do we do? Morally, I believe that if there's even a chance we might avoid the iceberg, we have to do everything within our power to turn the ship. Some other time I'll speculate on how. Right now I just want to think about a plan to support and nurture each other while we do that.
First, let's consider a few certainties:
We hold something of value to the world and we want to see it be sustained, grow, thrive, and be available to others. (Let's just take this as true and not argue, okay?)
If we don't die first, we'll get older. As we get older, our needs for care and material support will increase.
Eventually we will die. Something will have to be done to dispose of our corpses.
If we want our tradition and our values to carry on, they must continually be passed onto a new generation.
Reclaiming represents a broad, extended community of interest, but to really offer each other the kind of tangible, ongoing support we will need through tough times and into middle and old age, we need communities of place, people around us who can come by and cook a meal, watch a child, change a tire if not the world. Right now it seems that half the people I know are dreaming of buying land in the country together. In a recent post to the Spider list, Katrina suggested instead forming urban groups, consortiums to pool resources, co-ops to buy food together. In my own life, I've lived collectively for over twenty years, and while it's worked well for us, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. A cohousing model, where people share some resources and connections but have clear, private space, is much easier to make workable. A strong neighborhood full of friends and allies is even easier. I've bought land collectively, and disastrously, in an area where many people started out to form communes, and ended by forming a neighborhood, an extended area where we do know each other, help each other, work together on projects and socialize together, but where we don't have to argue about how messy your living room is.
Pagans aren't generally phenomenally wealthy, but we do have resources. What if we thought about pooling them in neighborhoods and networks of various kinds? Buying land, or houses, or forming land trusts to take land off the speculative market, not necessarily with each other, but near each other? Looking for ways we can begin to meet tangible needs by pooling resources How many of us don't have health insurance? How many are paying for it individually and privately? How many send kids to private school, or summer camps? How many would like to have some Pagan programs for them?
This is not a terribly radical proposal. It won't turn the ship around, or transform the structures of power. But it might give more of us a strong, healthy base from which to do the work of furthering the Great Turning.
Starhawkis an activist, organizer, and author of ten books, including her latest, The Earth Path. She teaches Earth Activist Trainings that combine permaculture design and activist skills, and works with the RANT trainer's collective, www.rantcollective.org. For teaching/travel schedule and other writings by Starhawk, visit www.starhawk.org
For a listing of Starhawk's writings on the RQ website, visit the Site Index.
Photos ©2004 by RQ. Please do not copy, reproduce, fold, spindle, mutilate, or otherwise use them without written permission. Thanks!
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