And it can be so easy to let this stop us from offering them – because one day we’ll be more enlightened and a better healer. Or perhaps we’ll make our products 100% non-toxic. Or our non-profit will be totally radical in its politics and 100% anti-oppressive in its policies.
And sometimes, we let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Here are some thoughts about that.
(an excerpt – and a piece that I wrote – from a new book I’ve helped edit and will be featured in – “No Way Out, Many Ways Forward”)
The Liberty Bell of the USA was ordered in 1751 by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly for use in the Pennsylvania State House. And, in March of 1752, the bell was hung from temporary scaffolding in the square outside the State House. To the dismay of onlookers, the bell cracked during testing. And so, metaphorically, the Liberty Bell told us what so many of us have come to know.
There is a crack. And it runs right down the center of our modern world.
The work before us is impossible. We are being asked to do monstrously huge things. First, to unlearn what the system has taught us, heal and decolonize from it. Secondly, to dismantle old systems of oppression and third, to build new and beautiful ones. No perfect solutions. So much work needed. Stopping the violence, creating alternatives and healing. Simultaneously.
And as we go about this work a new realization dawns on us: this same crack that runs through our modern world, also runs through the heart of every solution we try to offer to mend it.
And through our own hearts.
What do we do when there are no perfect solutions?
What do we do when even the strongest and clearest among us look at our efforts and feel insecure about our own approaches to these things – often not convinced it’s the best we could do. Is it radical enough? Are we working hard enough? Have we sold out to ‘the man’? What happens when people realize we’re not as clear as we wish we were? Should we work inside the system or from the outside? How open minded do we stay?
This is the reality we face: Cracks everywhere. Nothing is perfect. The reflection of ourselves in the mirror of our culture is fractured by the tremendous crack down its center.
Nothing is left untouched by this culture. We find chemicals in penguins in Antarctica. It’s in the food we eat, the TV shows we watch (the existence of TV). This crack.
For many of us featured in this book, we have had the moment of realizing that, “We’re fucked. There’s no way out.” One of the main elements of colonization is the removal of escape routes. Land is taken. Language is taken. Traditions are taken. Where can one really go to escape from this culture? Some far off piece of land in the woods? And even if you could find land (assuming that those in power wouldn’t want to take it from you one day) – we know that the crack of this culture also runs through our hearts.
How do we escape the inescapable? We can’t run from it. It comes with us everywhere we go. No way out.
And yet – we know we must still find a way forward.
Several things become clear . . .
First, we come to see that there is no ‘massive answer’. No unified movement. No single campaign we can all join together on. No single philosophy. No massive answer, just a messy, mass of answers. No way out. Many ways forward.
Secondly, that we must change the way that we are doing change. Too much activism tears communities apart and burns people out. How do we challenge each other in a way the enobles and lifts each other up vs. denigrating and destroying? How can we make our activism an expression of the world we want to see instead of recreating the very dynamics we’re fighting against in our activism.
Third, we see that there are no easy escape routes. But we keep working anyway – why? Because what else is there to do? We’re screwed. But life is still beautiful. Our efforts are flawed – but they’re worth while.
“The big dividing line is not and has never been between those who advocate more or less militant forms of resistance, or between mainstream and grassroots activists. The dividing line is between those who do something and those who do nothing. Do something.” – Derrick Jensen
Fourth, as we increasingly let go of hope for massive, voluntary systemic change in the existing system, our hope grows in the new possibilities. There is an old Scottish Gaelic proverb, “Cha chaillear na thèid an cunnart.” It says, “All is not lost that is in peril.”
This book is imperfect. Put together by people busy with other projects. Far too little time and resources for even editing. But we have done what we can.
What do we do when there is no way out? We find a way forward.
What do we do when there are no perfect solutions?
“Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering.
There’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
– Leonard Cohen
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