Lisa Bland, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief –
We live in a vastly different political reality since TheGreenGazette last went to press on November 8. For many Canadians, the Liberal victory during the last federal election brought relief from fears of our own national identity being dismantled, and hope that a new day was dawning. While that new day isn’t as rosy at it seemed in terms of bringing in a system of change addressing climate change and averting ecological crisis, many feel it is still better than moving forward under a Conservative government. The status quo has generally not been disrupted, and, at least, we still get to be nice. But that might be a problem, too. If world history is any indicator, relative comfort does not precede change.
For many of our neighbours to the south, the politically unthinkable has happened and continues to happen. No longer perched on the precipice between status quo and radical change, the US has taken the plunge. America and the global community are spinning with the impacts and implications of the Trump presidency. The unspeakable is being spoken, loudly, and without reservation or regard for intrinsic kindness, tolerance, and justice. It’s as though the shadow has finally been allowed out of the closet, and fear has taken over. The chain of effects brought on by such extreme measures is anyone’s guess. But when fear comes calling, love rises, too.
Given the past weeks since Trump’s inauguration, it’s hard not to wonder whether things truly need to get much worse before they can start getting better, and before they can truly evolve. History tells us that most change is hard earned and takes time. In other cases, change happens quickly, as a collective threshold or breaking point is reached and a shift occurs. Although it may seem far away in a distant past from our modern vantage point of comfort, our collective history of the last three centuries of modern capitalism is defined by wars and revolutions.
In The Meaning of Marxism, by Paul D’Amato, “revolution” is defined as a period when the gradual accumulation of mass bitterness and anger of the exploited and oppressed coalesces and bursts forth into a mass movement to overturn existing social relations and replaces them with new ones. A few days of revolutionary upheaval may bring more change than decades of “normal” development and rulers and systems that seemed invincible are suddenly toppled. According to Karl Marx, revolution is the “midwife of history” and creates a new basis for development. Revolution is not a deviant path in an otherwise smoothly running society, but the necessary means by which society moves forward.
Marx said people enter into a set of social relations that correspond with a given level of production. At a certain point, those relations block the development of the productive forces of society. A revolution is necessary to burst through and create a new basis for development.
Under capitalism, if an economic crisis occurs where people are unable to work or put food on the table, and the system produces wealth for some and misery for others, workers will eventually revolt and overturn capitalism, rebuilding society on the basis of collective, socialized production and distribution.
With rising disillusionment in the US since the economic crash of 2008, the stage has been set for a revolution. In November’s US election, enough people rejected the status quo democratic option and, for better or worse, voted for radical change—not into left field, but into the right. Many revolted against perceived oppression by the liberal status quo, and were desperate for change. One now wonders if Trump voters feel they got what they bargained for.
An equal wave of revolt arising from love and indignation also catalyzed world-wide in mirror reflection of the discrimination, sexism, and hate presented by the incoming president. A global petition by Avaaz against the actions promoted by President Trump was circulated following his executive order to instate a Muslim ban from seven countries, and within days reached five million signatures. Expressions of kindness and tolerance unified people across the world at the same time hate and violence emerged from hiding.
The Women’s March on January 21, immediately after the presidential inauguration, was the largest single-day demonstration in US history, with an estimated five million people participating worldwide. The mobilization was a testament to global values surrounding human rights, women’s rights, immigration, healthcare, the environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and justice.
In his book, Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself & the World, Matthieu Ricard is convinced that love and compassion – the two faces of altruism – are key qualities of human existence and at the heart of the spiritual path. Ricard discusses The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, which says scientific studies show societal violence has diminished over time. Ricard suggests that regardless of the violence and conflict emphasized by the media, human nature is not motivated entirely by selfishness. Everyday existence is usually filled with co-operation, friendship, affection, and care. Loving-kindness is the wish that all beings experience happiness, while compassion focuses on eradicating their suffering.
In these times, it’s difficult to determine what changes are within or out of our hands and what personal and collective actions actually make a difference in creating the world we envision for the future. Within the polarization of left and right there are many shades of gray, and the truth of a situation is often deeper than the rhetoric. At the heart of things is our choice about how we go about promoting our values. Whenever we shame, belittle, shun, or devalue something, we run the risk of feeding the shadow of hate.
In his recent article, “The Problem with Hating Our Enemies,” Charles Eisenstein suggests that how we treat our enemy ends up reflected back at us. The refusal to hate humanizes our opponent and by doing so, he says, we betray hate itself and the “story of the world” that pits good against evil.
It can also be argued that we don’t truly live in a time of peaceful development as the wars we participate in are hidden from view and played out in countries with resources we desire, or via corporations upon the living planet that bears the rising cost of our peace and comfort. So discomfort is actually a sign of the costs we’ve avoided being deferred back to us, and a truer representation of reality.
Beyond a revolution arising from love and equality or fear and division in human terms, there is also the question of our collective survival on the planet, and our evolution that’s at stake. Our collective future is potentially the greatest unifying principle, and survival is an issue to us all. Whether it’s possible to engage in a revolution incorporating the living planet as a basis for future change and progressive ideologies or whether the entire capitalist reality must come to a crashing halt where chaos and destruction reign, remains to be seen.