Originally published at http://ecoanthropologist.blogspot.com/ on January 25, 2017.
The DAPL and the Keystone XL are back on by executive order! We saw this coming. The protest has never stopped and the people at Standing Rock are still encamped in the bitter cold; risking so much and truly sacrificing for all of us. I am safe at home in a comfortable bed going about my life while they are out there fighting, putting their bodies on the line, for my future and the future of our water, land, air, and the rights of people over profit. This protest is so much larger than one pipeline and one river. This protest is so much larger than the indigenous or one large multinational corporation. This is a fight for how we relate to the earth and each other. The Water Protectors have my deepest respect, my deepest gratitude, and my support. I am so grateful for their stand.
We need these large, public actions of protest. We need the local demonstrations of solidarity and support for the water protectors here in Las Vegas, in Seattle, and elsewhere. We need peaceful protest, we need to stand up and loudly say no, and we need to peacefully and respectfully get in the faces of the powers that be so we won’t be ignored. These actions are so important and they do help drive change. This movement has been building for quite some time.
But… then we go to the gas station and fill up our gas tanks…
I am in no way saying that because we use gas we shouldn’t protest. We should. But we also need to confront these facts because the oil and coal industries love to throw this in our faces. This is not an easy place to be and it is my situation too; so there is no judgement here. Just the sad, difficult, and glaring reality that I raise my fist in protest with one hand and pump gas into my car with the other. I am so aware that every time I fill up my gas tank I am voting for the destruction of the amazon and the construction of the DAPL.
All of our big actions won’t mean very much without all of our small everyday actions behind it.
The Achuar told the founders of the Pachamama Alliance, an organization dedicated to fighting oil interests and protecting the Amazon, the threat to their land and water won’t go away until the modern world no longer has a thirst for oil. This was the beginning of the Pachamama Alliance and their Awakening the Dreamer Symposium which I was able to attend twice during my time at Naropa University. We can go and stop the hemorrhaging of open wounds in the Amazon, Africa, and North Dakota, which is very important; but, then we must remember to fight the infection at its source too. If we don’t, then there will only be more and more wounds as the infection grows and we will end up only treating the symptoms while ignoring the disease. We win battles, but we undermine our efforts to win the war.
If this is clear to you then I’m sure you are feeling angry and frustrated, perhaps at me. What do I expect you to do then? Give everything up and live on the street?
No. I don’t. Not you and not me either.
What I am talking about, this protesting the pipeline while needing to fuel our cars, in Living Systems Theory is known as system dependence. We are dependent upon the system for our survival. This is why it is easier to spend a few hours (easier-not easy) on a bold, large action than it is to back these large actions with smaller, everyday actions. We exist in a system/world which makes it as difficult as possible to live without oil or plastic or in some way supporting current systems of power and control because this system depends on our compliance and dependence for its existence.
This is where things get really interesting! We aren’t as dependent on the system as we think… Remember, I said the current system makes it difficult to change; but not impossible. The secret is small steady changes. Sudden drastic changes, like giving everything up, can result in catastrophe and being expunged from the system, which helps no one but “the powers that be.” You see, while we are still a part of the system we have power. A power to change which usually goes unnoticed. Our dependence on the system isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What if there was a way to use our need for oil against the system and drive the creation of a new world/system? The Water Protectors are about to be met with more force and violence than before. Our large protests are easy to organize against and stomp out; but it is much harder to keep people from using less gas and making other small changes every day. Once we are able to change our lives and be examples for others to follow the entire system will change too. The hard part is figuring out what to do and how to get started.
A friend of mine whom I deeply respect shared a piece with me on his thoughts for being spiritual in the ordinary everyday of life. His suggestions for being more spiritual right now were small things rooted in an embodiment of spirituality and service in our whole lives and not just on the meditation cushion or yoga mat. His suggestions reminded me of a realization I had during class at Naropa. “You know this enlightened and sustainable society we are trying to create? Well, it starts with cleaning out the community microwave when you’re finished!” I said this because the community microwaves on campus were so dirty they were unusable and it surprised me that such a supposedly mindful and compassionate student body would leave such ugly messes behind. Our spirituality and idealism must be grounded in the mundane. It is all well and good to pray for all beings to be happy, but it must be backed up by action. Clean up your mess so the rest of the community can not only use the microwave, but enjoy using it too.
This kind of activism is not easy and it is not glamorous, and most people won’t notice the great things you are doing. It is quiet and mundane and it requires devotion, commitment, and dedication every day to being the change we wish to see. It means we need to be creative and sometimes uncomfortable. This ability to choose and change and create the lives we wish to live is where our greatest power is individually and as a community.
So here are my commitments to the Resistance. This list is only a beginning and will grow. What does your resistance look like?
Meditation: meditation allows us to break through the noise and habitual reactions so we may see the deeper reality of a situation. Instead of being hooked into a reaction we are able to step back and see other alternatives and ways to respond that wouldn’t have been noticed before.
Yoga practice: like meditation, yoga practice can change our relationship with ourselves and the world. Lessons from the mat reverberate out into our lives. Yoga is also an essential part of self-care. We cannot change the world if we cannot manage our health or our stress.
Financial stability: I commit to living within my means to the best of my ability (this is not easy by design… instead of increasing wages, we were just given credit).
Leadership: I commit to sharing my knowledge, experience, and expertise with the community. I will embody and demonstrate leadership and encourage this in others.
Writing/ Speaking Out: As I’ve been saying, now it is so important to offer resistance and walk our walk. It is so important to share our perspectives and ideas to create a more just and sustainable world. I will continue to write and share my voice, even if it’s scary.
Commitment to being inconvenienced: Our economy is based upon convenience of pre-packaged, processed, and disposability. We are so used to instant gratification and being comfortable. I will commit to continuing to create a lifestyle in harmony with the sustainable world I’m envisioning. This means sometimes I will have to be uncomfortable (at first) and think outside the box (paradigm). I commit to larger actions as well! I will call and write my representatives. I marched in the Women’s March and I will continue to march. I will not hide behind my privilege either.
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