This is different. This is an essay on becoming.
I am saddened by this country. I have been for some time.
I don’t understand our priorities. I don’t understand our obsession with competition, with creating hierarchy. Hierarchy: valuing one person or institution–or, hell, product–over another. Hierarchy is so deeply entrenched in our culture–yes, our white supremacist capitalist patriarchal culture–that calling it out as deeply entrenched is fairly ridiculous. Merit and ranking and competition are apparently self-evident truths in our culture.
Why? Why does it have to be this way? And doesn’t it make you sad that it is this way? It makes me sad.
But beyond me being sad, the hierarchy of white supremacist patriarchy kills. Me being sad is fairly trivial compared to the piles upon piles of historical and contemporary injustices–kidnapping and enslavement, near extirpation and complete marginalization of indigenous societies, indentured servitude, Jim Crow, COINTELPRO, the weaponization of media to promote fascism… the longer I look at it, the more polemics I feel are necessary. I’m not going to persuade anyone to see obvious atrocities in this way; those who see, see; those who don’t want to see… probably aren’t going to read this.
How is this piece different? How is this an essay on becoming? I started this blog as a reaction, as a way for me to process and fight against the ignorance that spoils the very freedoms that Uber-Patriotism beats his chest and proclaims to protect.
I want America to become America. Land of the free, all that. I don’t see how aggressive policing of under-served and under-privileged populations makes us any freer. I don’t see how exporting violence and exploiting resources makes us any freer. I don’t see how a two party political system makes us any freer. I don’t see how the clunky mass machinery of representative democracy makes us truly free.
To really participate in freedom, we need to have control of our bodies, our minds, our lives. We need to have functioning communities, not suburbs and neglected inner cities slated to be gentrified. We need local economies and interdependence, not a globalized economy ruled by the military of the country that preaches independence and enforces dependence.
I don’t see how an economics of exploitation helps any of us. Not to get all Buddhist on your ass, but if my coffee comes from impoverished folks working coffee plantations in South America or Africa, I’m drinking exploitation and suffering to wake me up in the morning.
One of the most beautiful teachings I’ve found in my spiritual wanderings–and I’ve been here, there, and nowhere in those wanderings–is the Buddhist teaching of interdependence. The notion of nothing as no-thing. The reality that nothing and no one is ranked in a hierarchy. Instead, we’re a stew. We are all interdependent. We are not separate beings. We feel separate. We are not.
I’m an onion in the stew. The beef’s flavor depends on me. If I stop being an onion, the beef stops being the beef that it is. But my onion-ness is changed by the stew, by all of the other ingredients. You can see how this pretty quickly gets complicated and calls for diagrams that fall apart.
I’m the stew. You’re the stew.
The rational mind cannot grasp reality.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it? In America. In Western culture and philosophy in general. We’re all rational and legalistic, we have lots of concepts and frameworks, but we’re pretty dense when it comes to seeing the real.
Look outside. When I look outside, I see a spring day. Sun and intense UV rays that require protection. Wait, back up. Simplify. Put on the sunscreen, but appreciate the warmth.
This is an essay on becoming stew, but the stew does not last.
This chain of becoming continues forever.
Western culture grasps. It manipulates. Western culture names and codifies. It attempts to make fluid concrete.
But Western culture is part of a cosmic stew. It’s a social construction concretized in millions, billions of bodies growing older and changing on a rotating planet circling around a ginormous ball of fire. And those bodies act and change as they grow, and they have children, and despite the inertia of misinformed traditions, the bodies evolve and realign over time. I am hopeful that they will realign into a stable formation, one that is not static, but dynamic, one that understands and embodies the fluidity of being in its traditions.