Excerpts: “Working Through Environmental Despair”

Joanna Macy describes the fears that keep us captive and the principles of empowerment in her essay, “Working Through Environmental Despair“. These are my favourite bits:

  • Our culture conditions us to view pain as dysfunctional. (pg. 5)
  • Taking action on behalf of our common world has unfortunately become confused with winning an argument. (pg. 6)
  • Resistance to painful information on the grounds that we cannot “do anything about it” springs less from actual powerlessness—as a measure of our capacity to effect change—than from the fear of experiencing powerlessness. (pg. 9)
  • Confronted with widespread suffering and threats of global disaster, responses of anguish—of fear, anger, grief, and even guilt are normal. They are a measure of our humanity. And these feelings are probably what we have most in common. We are in grief together. (pg. 12)
  • What is it that allows us to feel pain for our world? And what do we discover as we move through that pain? To both these questions there is one answer: interconnectedness with life and all other beings. It is the living web out of which our individual, separate existences have risen, and in which we are interwoven. (pg. 14)
  • This patriarchal notion of power [i.e. domination] is both inaccurate and dysfunctional. That is because life processes are intrinsically self-organizing. Power, then, which is the ability to effect change, works from the bottom up more reliably and organically than from the top down. It is not power over, but power with; this is what systems scientists call “synergy.” (pg. 17)
  • Power is like a verb; it happens through us. We experience it when we engage in interactions that produce value. (pg. 18)
  • Through our pain for the world we can open ourselves to power. This power is not just our own, but belongs to others as well. It is part of a general awakening or shift toward a new level of social consciousness. (pg. 19)
  • Given the fragility and limited resources of our planet, we have to think together in an integrated, synergistic fashion, rather than in the old fragmented and competitive ways. Responsibility toward self and other become indistinguishable, because each thought and act affects the doer as much as the one done to. (pg. 19)
  • Our feelings of social and planetary distress serve as a doorway to systemic social consciousness. Through the systemic currents of knowing that interweave our world, each of us can be the catalyst or “tipping point” by which new forms of behavior can spread. (pg. 19)
  • For some of us it can be through study or conversation, for others theater or public office, for still others civil disobedience and imprisonment. But the diversities of our gifts interweave richly when we recognize the larger web within which we act. We begin in this web and, at the same time, journey toward it. We are making it conscious. (pg. 19)

This is a reminder that we have the power to create positive change. We just need to work together, without fear of vulnerability.

Rise up!
Another world is possible. ♡

xx mvb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s