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.
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?