Unfreezing the Status Quo & Moving Toward Real Change
This is a mural from one of the walls on the Pitzer College campus where our conference 'track' has been meeting the last three days. There are several colleges linked together here but I saw more political murals on the Pitzer campus than on the others.
This mural I particularly love because it expresses the reality of America as I see it. People of color know the score but have little voice. They don't have the money, the power, nor the institutional connections to effectively speak. They are often repressed when they try to speak by police, courts, educational systems and the media. When people of color resort to protest or riots out of rage or frustration they are often belittled, mocked, and attacked by the dominant forces that control society.
Most white folks don't appear to know what is going on - or at least many don't want to see or do much about fundamentally changing things. It might mean they have to give something up and in America the story goes that the 'one with the most toys when they die wins'. Many whites don't want to acknowledge their historic privilege and they don't want to recognize institutional racism. Many are 'invested' in the system and have learned to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. We are trained by the system to keep our mouths shut and stay in line.
I learned alot during the days here in Clermont, California. The predominately white middle class highly educated people at this conference truly want to save the planet for the future generations and for the many other life forms that we share our Mother Earth with. Very admirable. My perception of the bulk of the people here though is that for them transforming things so we can preserve life on the planet is to a considerable degree an intellectual exercise. They want to change the curriculum at their educational institutions, have their churches pray and reflect on the moral and spiritual questions surrounding our carbon foot print, and help people in the business community still make profits while doing 'sustainable capitalism'. These well intentioned, good-hearted people hope for change to come by mostly traditional methods of operation. It ain't gonna work that way.
I believe that transforming our growth oriented corporate driven extractive system, backed up by the power of the muscle-ripping Pentagon (that controls the biggest slice of the national economy), is going to take more than most of the conferences attendees are bargaining for. Sadly I think this important piece of the organizing equation appears to have been significantly left out of this otherwise extraordinary event.
Anytime an organization brings together more than 1,500 people from around the country, and parts of the world, conference organizers have an obligation to attempt to stretch the people - to challenge them to push beyond their normal operating boxes - especially when we face mass extinction. There must be inspiration and strategic planning so that when the people go back home they would actively help fortify the important but relatively isolated movements that are currently working to oppose the cancerous institutions that keep us on our present suicidal path. Sometimes that means moving into non-violent civil resistance - even if you are white-haired, white-skinned and middle class. Age and class are not a ticket out of the struggle. The conference should have had a direct action component so that this kind of process was modeled for the attendees. Stars brought in to inspire the people should be helping to lead the non-violent direct action during the event.
If we want the public to move toward real change we have to begin to model a passionate direct action process in our conferences and in the streets across the nation. Doing so will help ensure that our good words and alternative visions can actually be seen and heard by the rest of those who were not fortunate enough or able to be here to listen to the urgent warnings of so many great thinkers and doers.