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“Life is a shipwreck, yes. But we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats” – Voltaire

 

The ship is taking on water, the last lifeboats are being lowered, and yet somehow most folks are still in their cabins.  Maybe they are playing a new level on their video game, maybe they’re gonna polish off the final season of “Queer Eye for the Desperate Housewife” before strapping on a life jacket, I don’t know.  I do know that having the crew, experts and activists scream warnings and wave banners in front of their noses has done almost nothing to motivate them to act.  Pity.

The ship is taking on water, and the Captain is pretty sure that we drilled all the holes in the hull ourselves.  But she’s too busy getting folks up, and on deck, to look into it.  The mate told her an hour ago that we only had 12 hours before the bow goes under, and since then only the folks down in steerage have even made a peep about the news.  Eleven to go… Huh.

Should any of us be surprised about this turn of events? Honestly, no.

Inaction, even in the face of certain doom, is a pretty common occurrence; sadly.  You see it’s all a matter or perspective.  What seems like an eternity to one person may be just the blink-of-an-eye to another.  Ask a small child to hold still for 20 minutes, and by about 4 minutes in they’ve probably already bolted from the room.  A retired person can sit on a park bench all day, and to them it might seem like 20 minutes.

Ask a fawn to stay clear of the road late at night, and then watch as it freezes right in the only spot that will surely get it killed.  So is it any wonder that people, generally, are frozen like a deer-in-the-headlights when faced with the pending climate disaster?  All they are hearing presently are tales of doom and gloom.  That is having the exact same effect as a pair of bright headlights at midnight on a country road.

Is there nothing to be done about the problem?  Hardly, there are many things one can do to overcome the inertia within our population.  There are several strategies that have worked before, and likely will work again.  First and foremost: look to writers such as Sparrow, Barbara Kingsolver, and Daniel Quinn for inspiration.  Or research the many, many scientific publications of Bucky Fuller.  They all speak of a common idea: win folks over by telling them a better story.  Sure, yes, we need to acknowledge and share the grim news because it’s not going away.  Yet we also need to temper it with examples and ideas of better options that can be enacted.

Put another way: yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre is not enough.  At best you’ll cause a stampede, at worst, fear will drive many to perish.  If there is a fire, it is better to tell folks where the exits are, and how to get to them.

Second, and also crucial, but harder for many to swallow: Each one, teach one.  Yes, we need to reach and motivate millions, and do it rapidly.  Maybe billions of people, I don’t know.  What I do know from decades of experience as an activist is that by far the best way to change minds is to do it one-at-a-time.  In person, slowly, in a way that is meaningful to the student.  And then each student needs to be trained to teach another.  If everyone reaches 5 people in a short time, those 5 can yield 25 rapidly.  Those 25 can become 125, and so on.  This is how movements have been created historically.  No technology is needed, though it can be somewhat helpful.  No leaders are needed, though they too sometimes are useful… Sometimes.  Each one, teach one.  Seems on the face of it like it’s too slow of a method to work – but it has the benefit of proving out time and time again.

Each one, teach one.

Third: “Study history as a mystery” – Dave Emory.  It is important to begin on solid footing, and to do that one must be careful to be accurate in what one teaches.  Part of that comes from knowing what has happened before – – and getting the issue of perspective correct.  You see, when most folks study history they go back a few decades, maybe in a few cases they go back a few centuries.  Then they call it a day, feeling like they’ve learned enough to be ‘wise’.  Well, sorry, no.

It is really important to know what has occurred in the last few centuries.  (Especially, how activists were successful when fighting the previous group of robber barons).  But that only scratches the surface.  Because after all, the history that we have handed down to us mostly stops about 15,000 years ago and tells us that what happened before the invention of writing does not matter.  Funny thing about that – – it just so happens, (and we know this from the hard work of many paleo-anthropologists), that 15,000 years ago happens to also be the date that the Matriarchy was overthrown, and simultaneously when we began to lock up all the food.  It was not the beginning of farming, as we were led to believe.  That had to have been common for roughly 250,000 prior years; or we never would have arisen as a society.  It was simply when some groups decided to deny resources to other groups, and this ‘innovation’ led to the unjust and unbalanced civilization that we experience today.

For possibly a million years prior to ‘recorded’ history, we lived in small, decentralized groups, and most of them were led by their women.  We may have largely forgotten that, but it remains the case that the Nurturers of society are the reason ‘civilization’ was able to arise in the first place.  And so, if we can go back to a methodology where once again the Nurturers are given primacy, we might have a fighting chance of surviving the mess that 15K years of misrule has bequeathed us.  So it’s pretty important that folks get an understanding of the details.  As noted in earlier essays, Daniel Quinn is probably the most accessible writer and philosopher on this topic.  Derrick Jensen and Marvin Harris have also contributed greatly to this understanding, as did Joanna Macy.

So, yes, right now we need to get to the lifeboats.  No doubt about it.  But unless you bring some oars and a map, your time in the lifeboat will be short.  Best to prepare yourself as well as you can, first.

Get you to the library, and soon.

{Originally published on Nov. 6, 2019}

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