When you wake up to injustice, all that sleeping energy suddenly wants to move into action. OMG I finally get the urgency of the climate crisis, and NOW I want to do something. Srsly, they were starving and murdering children? Let’s fix this systemic racism BS. If we have grown up all our lives with certain blinkers on, absorbing the dominant culture, we are oriented towards fixing things. (I mean, how many conversations have you had with a loved one, where you want a sympathetic ear and instead get six solutions that somehow make you feel that you were the probable cause of all that ailed you and if you only did something, did something else, or something different, your troubles would go away.)
I feel this in me, all the time. I want to contribute in a good way. I want to solve problems. I want to fix flawed systems. And mostly, that results in a feeling of frustration, confusion and growing inertia (it’s pretty hard to find an easy solve for intractable problems. And as Carmen Spagnola, the collapse teacher, says, we are living in a time of predicaments, not problems. Anything with easy fixes has probably been fixed. What we’re left with now are predicaments that require weighing up a bunch of not-so-ideal paths and muddling through.)
So, I come back to a few things that feel a bit passive and wet, to my Marvel-movie-hero-orientation-soaked brain… but I think are probably more helpful orientations.
We start with naming and acknowledgement. Name the things we see. As non-judgmentally and generously as possible, so there is space for people to move around those new ways of seeing things. Name in a way that doesn’t feel like a leg trap. And acknowledge.
Then ask, what do I want to strengthen? What do I want to move towards? I think this idea of orienting towards what we want to be, or finding the positive goal, in the negative situation, is really powerful.
My teacher of ancestral medicine Daniel Foor talks about this – instead of being against racism, be for diversity. He says, “So if you’re going to talk about colonialism, for example, what’s the thing that isn’t colonialism? You could say decolonizing, but that’s like saying anti-racist. That’s like saying don’t be sexist. Those are important things to say, but what are we affirming in the place of those things? For example, and this is not definitive, a way of affirming the positive with respect to racism might be a proactive celebration of ancestral diversity, rather than an illusion of different races and a value judgment based on those imagined differences.
Or for colonialism, it could be [affirming] a really excellent ethic of consent and mindfulness of others’ space and preexisting relationships and resources. And just a real sensitivity to healthy boundaries and not taking what isn’t yours. And with that, an affirmation of the beauty of a cultural difference.”
Here, the people at Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures, offer another piece to the puzzle, in response to the “what can I do” inquiry, about how to be a good ally. How to approach repairing cultural harm, in a good way. Here’s what they have to say, as shared by advaya.co.
It’s a delicious and challenging invitation – do you want to be an ally? Here’s what it might mean… and a big part of that is shifting roles from hero and fixer to someone in the sidelines, being a back-up buddy and being in uncomfortable and strange new stretchy roles.