I used to travel back and forth between southern Africa and Salt Spring Island every year. Part of the bittersweet delight of such journeys was the culture shock — on both ends.
In Lesotho, a tiny country high in the mountains known as “the roof of Africa”, I would arrive with fresh eyes and see opportunities everywhere. Villagers who’d never gone more than 50 kilometers from their mud walled huts would open my mind to possibilities in their communities that got my imagination singing.
Back home in Canada, what struck me most was the disconnect between people’s power and privilege, and the absence of a political agency commensurate with our position in the world. It was screamingly absurd to listen to the most educated, wealthy, peace-dwelling, and democracy-enjoying folks on the planet talk about big, scary, structural problems in the world who could then sigh and say, ‘but there’s nothing I can do”. I came to realize that the people who most desperately needed ’empowerment’ were my own.
That’s partly why nowadays I stick closer to home. There’s more work for me to do here: on myself, and with my tribe. I learned a great deal about community organizing from indigenous Africans. (Such as: “Start now. Include everyone. Listen up: then speak up.“) Now those lessons, and the experience of understanding my privilege and outsiderness not as obstacles to be overcome but as tools to sculpt a place of service within a greater movement, are proving very useful in the call to action that is Black Lives Matter, the work of redress/reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, and allyship with LBGTI2S.
The outrageous power that anyone— like me —who benefits from the slanted playing field of neoliberalism and racist power structures has, is an affront to justice. But. That power is a real thing, and it can be used for real change. If you are touched by the calamities of the world and would, in spirit, do anything to heal them, then — there’s everything you can do.
Tragedy and terror play out on our screens every day. We may be shocked stupid, or we may be shocked awake. If there was a kid drowning in front of any one of us, we wouldn’t stand there and explain that first we needed to learn to love ourselves more, or that we were working to heal old wounds, or that we were busy getting equipped with all the tools we needed before we could wade in. We’d act. Love is a verb. So is solidarity.
Above, Me at the Paddle for the Peace afterparty. The fursonal is political.
Nothing doing? Here are some rad activism and community art-ventures you can jump into. The Beehive Collective are in Cascadia. Kinder Morgan’s hearings are coming up in August. #GrabaPaddle to stand with First Nations to protect the Peace River. Or you could just run away and join the circus.
and on a more random note….
There is always time for important conversations. Have them with each other, have them with me. If you seek to comfort the distressed, and distress the comfortable, there will be blowback. You can’t achieve revolutionary change by reproducing the same old systems. Love is the best revenge. It never runs out, and it never runs away.
Thank you for being lovers and fighters. xoxoox