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Facing and Handling System Collapse

From an open-question evening with Tim Jackins at the East Coast North America Teachers’ and Leaders’ Workshop, December 27, 2013, to January 2, 2014

Questioner: You have been talking about discouragement and the roots of it in early experiences. How do you think about that in relation to groups targeted by oppression, to people who are facing increasingly hard conditions in everyday life? I know that it’s not correct for people to believe that they are helpless and that life just won’t ever get better, but they are going through harsh things, harsher than lots of us are in this room. I’d like to hear your perspective on that.

Tim Jackins: Things are going to get worse. We are afraid of things getting worse, and we feel on the edge even if we are not on the edge. Some of us will be. Unless a large number of people get a lot more rational quickly, things are going to go through a very bad period as the organizations put in place by capitalist systems fail to function. Maybe enough people will be able to be rational, but that doesn’t seem to be happening rapidly enough.

Capitalist organizations are all going to fall into question and be broken apart in different ways. People aren’t going to trust the system. Capitalism just won’t be working. At that point, things will get very tough. 

It is starting to happen in various places. It’s been happening for a long time in many places. The important thing is to not forget this is going on.* This is part of the information we need about the world, and we need to get over being restimulated by it. It’s part of reality. We need to have a good, accurate picture of what’s going on. We need to know that things are grinding in that direction, and counsel on anything that upsets us about it.

That we feel like we should be upset by it is always restimulation, though something is wrong. The thing that is wrong is the condition of reality around us. There is not some small flaw. For the situation to resolve will require a very large process. Given the resources we have, it is going to be a messy and destructive process. Maybe not as destructive as some historical transitions, but it is going to be destructive. We get to figure out how to lessen that as best we can. We get to figure out how to make the best of a harsh situation.

The collapse does exist; it is happening. Pressures are pushing society in that direction. And, in a real sense, it needs to go in that direction for something better to happen. So far, societies have collapsed before new things could happen. We haven’t yet built up the resource to not have it happen that way. So we need to look at it. We need to be open to things getting tougher and tougher, and to things being very hard on people.

That this collapse is happening doesn’t really change anything about distress and the fight against it. It actually makes it more clear—we have to work against distress or we are going to be less and less useful as things get tougher. Unless we discharge, we will spend more and more time being restimulated and acting reactively instead of being able to play an active role and saying, “Yes, it’s tough, and there is something for us to do.” We want to guide the collapse on the way down. There is always a role to play, an intelligent role, no matter how harsh our situation or the conditions we were born into. There is always something to figure out and do.

Tough things are not inherently restimulating, are not inherently distressful. We don’t need a high level of material goods in order to be free of distress. We can have a good, clear mind, and be thinking and doing wonderful things, with little material resource.

We may be scared about not having much material resource, because of growing up in this society. We have been made confused about what material resource actually means—what’s necessary, what’s useful, what’s misleading. We have a lot of work to do there. Partly it is work on class. It is scary for many of us to think of being in the position where we have to work hard all day without some sort of leisure, slack, or taste of luxury. I don’t think it is inherently distressful to have to work hard to make a life work. I think all of our fears and confusions about class make us feel like hard work is something to avoid or to get away from.

In general, we have not gotten information about situations in which people have had the opportunity to work hard for a solid life without so much oppression going on around them. There have been times after a revolution when things were really tough but people were pleased to be alive and fighting for a tough existence, because the conditions had changed. The ability to think, take initiative, and work together blossomed because the oppression of the old society was interrupted. That was a good life, that was a really good life, and they had nothing like the resources we have. What they had were their minds and their relationships, without the interference of oppression that we have.

We are confused in this whole area and have work to do. Until we do that work, we react irrationally to people in tough situations. We tend to look down on, to pity, to feel bad for, rather than thinking and finding a way to make the situation better. We react to it emotionally rather than being able to think about it and understand what it is like to live that life—which may be hard, but that doesn’t make it less good.

This system sells leisure and material resource as the ultimate goal. I suspect they aren’t. There needs to be slack to think, but then what do we do with that? Here we are sold all sorts of things to fill up our leisure. It is part of capitalism. (To questioner) Does that help a little?

Questioner: We can also get confused about what’s possible with everybody’s minds together. We can pity, feel bad, blame, belittle, or not see people as intelligent. We can think that we have some answer for them to make things work the way we think they’re supposed to work.

Tim: The job of the RC Community is not to provide all the solutions for people. It’s to help them get through their distresses enough that they can keep going with the solutions they have already figured out, and make them better and better. Once we start reacting to the situation in the grip of our bad feelings, we don’t play that role well.

Questioner: There are different conditions and different groups of people, and we need to see what emerges from this work and from those people’s minds.

Tim: Yes, we want to offer what we know, but if we are not paying attention to how people use it; and if we try to guide them along a path that others have taken, whether it’s one or a thousand people; and if we don’t listen to them and watch the creativity with which they use the ideas, then we aren’t serving them well.


* “Going on” means happening.


Last modified: 2020-07-01 09:06:00+00