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Moving Beyond the Structural Violence of Capitalist Nightmares

I have been without a financial cushion for most of the past year now. When I say that, I mean I barely make rent and feed myself every month. The money I had in the bank, as well as the in the stock market game called an IRA, are gone. Eaten away. Given to landlords and utility companies that use fossil fuels and nuclear power to heat my apartment and power my stove and laptop.

I’ve run through all sorts of emotional states and narratives during the past few years. Delusional “get rich quick” dreams. Carefree “I don’t need money anyway” stories. Shame-ridden hopelessness over being so broke I couldn’t buy my own groceries. The hazy confusion of “what’s next?” The disillusion of looking for jobs and feeling trapped in the process. Dreams of “How can we do this differently?” Fears of being called “a lazy bum,” “slacker,” or whatever and then wondering why it is that I let such nonsense get to me, especially since the majority of people who say such things give and do so very little in their communities. The list goes on and on.

This post is about me. This post is about us. About the stories we have been given, the stories that we have been forced to swallow. How most of them are forms of structural violence. Systemic nightmares that have poisoned us. Direct and calculated thefts of our dreams and the hearts that have them.

Thus I have heard from the family, and friends, and the media, and the school teachers, and the co-workers, and whomever else, living and dead, about

Being a good student, who listens to the teachers, and believes everything they say

Being a good citizen, who follows the laws, even if they are unjust

Being a good worker, who respects authority, does the best possible job for whatever the pay is

Being a good consumer, who buys, buys, buys, to keep the economy going

Being a patriot, who stands behind the military, views them as heroic defenders of freedom, and stands behind the President whenever he (it’s also a he, isn’t it) chooses to go to war

Being a responsible adult, who always pays the bills, works harder if he can’t and knows it’s his fault if for whatever reason, his finances are in disorder

Being a grateful member of the “greatest nation on earth”

Being a grateful member of a “democracy,” more “free” than anyone else on the planet

Being a grateful participant in a globalized, capitalist economy, the “pinnacle” of economies

And having heard all of that and more, and having been unaware of the consequences, or unable to resist or allow to pass through – my ears became mouths and they swallowed. Some partial, some whole. Until the body-mind-heart was full. Full of grief. Full of anger. Full of conflict. Full of poisons too strong to be easily converted into minerals and proteins.

Violence. Of the everyday kind. So not flashy that it almost is invisible. The millions of black and brown little boys being force fed stories about their unworthiness and dangerousness. The millions and millions of little girls being swarmed and stung by stories of their ugliness, lack of intelligence, and plethora of “inborn” weaknesses. The millions of poor people believing that they are the cause of their own poverty. The millions and millions of adults who have given into the fear that the only way to be happy is to prove yourself, again and again, on the capitalist treadmill.

It’s all a bit overwhelming.

But that, too, is a story.

The only way out is to go straight through. To open your eyes and witness the onslaught of rocks, dust, and dead stars as you move from one universe to another. To recognize fellow travelers and extend your hands to them. To reawaken dreaming, spin new tales together, and resist the urge to maintain comfort and stability as we whirl across space and time.

To make a new world practical. It’s starting to happen. Happening in Boulder. Happening in Detroit. Happening in Seattle. Happening in Western Pennsylvania. Happening in Milwaukee and Chicago. It’s been happening in Ithica for a long while now.

Even as the structural violences of colonialism and capitalism seem to intensify, other visions are fiercely emerging, grappling with the paradoxes, and stepping forth into action.

None of this is just randomly happening. It’s not about a bit of good luck springing up here and not there. It’s happening because folks are doing the difficult work of detoxifying, and sharing the dreams that come forth in the process.

Here’s a bit of my dream.

We live in a world where people are supported for the gifts they already give to the world, regardless of whether those gifts are “money making” or not.

We live in a world where art making, food making, and creativity return to the center as most valuable human activities.

We live in a world where human “need” is always placed in the context of planetary well being.

We live in a world where liberation for all trumps profit or gain for the few.

We live in a world where technology is built with the earth in mind.

We live in a world where the term “poor” speaks to one’s lack of ability to love, and has nothing to do with material condition.

We live in a world where prisons, national borders, and the profit motive are rendered obsolete.

We live in a world of systems deliberately cultivate to reward bodhisattva actions, and withdraw support from greed, hatred, and ignorance driven actions.

There’s a little bit of my story. My dream. What about you?

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Comments (11)

  • Katelyn Mariah

    We live in a world where authenticity is cherished and we don’t have to pretend to be something or someone that we are not.

  • Bryan Wagner

    I would like to move beyond the nightmare of communist, socialist, and capitalist greed.
    In the end it’s all greed.
    I would like to move beyond overt and the ever so subtle racism that conditioning of any kind seems to encourage.
    I would like to continue to seek and reconsider every source of conditioning, something that I am sure will take more than my lifetime and perhaps find a truer source of being. I find it so interesting that conditioned mind will seek to find conditioned mind in order to subject it to change. I find it really interesting that there are so many conditioned minds that apparently some of them see them selves on a higher plane than others. Odd, the highly evolved conditioned mind.
    I really appreciated what you had to say Nathan. The stories are just that, stories about past, present, and future that are empty and somewhat meaningless.
    In Loving Kindness
    In Loving Kindness

  • Mushim

    We live in a world where as many babies as possible can breastfeed for at least two years.

    We live in a world where no mother who stays home to take care of her children is asked, “Do you work?”

    We live in a world where all children are treated gently, with respect, and taught how to behave gently and respectfully when it is appropriate and how to be assertive and fierce when that is appropriate.

    We live in a world where people can breathe the air without getting sick.

  • Alison

    Thank goodness you are out there…..

  • Mary

    Thank you for this beautiful article!

  • Murray Reiss

    We live in a world in which you do a follow-up piece on how you detoxified (are detoxifying — no doubt an ongoing process) from such a heavy dose of poisonous stories to be able to write the post and live the life described above.

  • Selena S. Zimmerman

    YES! I rarely meet people who understand what is so clearly and simply articulated in this essay. Thank-you! I want to share this on FB-how can I do that?

  • Selena S. Zimmerman

    Got it. I went to the BPF Facebook page and shared it from there.

  • Andrea Dickenberger

    Good article!

  • C Karen Stopford

    These words could have flowed from my fingertips, through the keyboard and onto the page. Your experience is my experience. I therefore am inclined to believe it’s a universal experience. I am grateful to you for telling my story and the story of others who are out there, who can be assured that they are not alone but part of a community that strives to cast away these false forms of being and emerge as something whole, closer to who we really are.

  • Susmita

    Being a grateful cocreative participant in an interdependent economy of socially responsible citizens. engaged with developing and mindfully designing a nested system of debt-free decentralized people’s currency and public banking as the foundation of an integrated local, regional. national and global economies free from greed, war, exploitation and oppression of indigeneous people, rural small and organic farmers, women and minorities and marginalized groups. Our debt-based currency system is yet to be decolonized and depatriarchalized. Can dharma guide us in designing such a system from grassroots?

© 2017 Buddhist Peace Fellowship

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