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Taking Action Toward Big Solutions

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the Teachers' and Leaders' Workshop in Kring van Dorth, the Netherlands, May 29 to June 1, 2015

I want to look at our current challenges. We live in a capitalist society. Capitalism is destroying itself. We’re not doing it; the system is simply unstable. More and more it shows. And more and more, society is using oppression to try to stay in existence. All of the oppressions are being used more openly. (Sexism, racism, and the other oppressions exist only to support the economic system. If they didn’t help the system make a profit, they wouldn’t exist.)

Society is unable to hide how bad things are. And things are going to get worse. That’s good. It’s necessary. For things to change, they must become entirely unworkable, because there is not yet enough intelligence operating.

This form of society needs to end because it is unjust. It needs to end because it offers no good solution for anyone’s life. This has been true of other oppressive societies too. What’s new about this society is that its collapse is destroying the environment. Other societies were hard on people but didn’t affect the rest of the world that much. This society makes bigger messes. The other ones weren’t any smarter; they just couldn’t make as big a mess as we can.

Our society is unable to think about the consequences of its functioning. The most important thing in this society is making money, and if you can make money, nothing else matters—not even your own long-term self-interest. People are making decisions that make their own lives more difficult and will make their children’s lives very difficult.

Something has to change this destructive situation. I don’t think we need to argue about whether or not it’s happening. And we don’t need to scare each other by describing all the ways it’s happening. We need to figure out what will change it and what stops us from making that happen. We may be a hundred years late, but we can still play a big role in bringing about intelligent change.

The causes of the crisis are very large. The solutions will have to be large too. We will have to do more than live careful lives. We get to figure out what the distresses are that are stopping us, keeping us feeling small and powerless and as if we have no right to object.

Capitalist society is structured on capitalist laws—laws that are about what one can and can’t do in the context of keeping capitalism going. Sustaining the world is not a capitalist enterprise and does not fit within a capitalist legal structure. We have to think bigger than the structure we live in.

A recent example: Shell Oil moved a very large drilling platform into Seattle (Washington, USA)—to use Seattle as a base for going to the Arctic to drill there. Drilling in the Arctic makes perfect sense to Shell. Enough oil has been burned, because of Shell and other companies, that the northern ice cap is shrinking due to global warming, so there are more places to drill—so of course they are going to drill. It has a logic, but it’s a capitalist logic. Everything they are doing is legal, and it will destroy the environment. So something else has to happen—and the companies are not going to do it. They may do little things if it’s profitable, but they won’t stop the big profitable polluting activities. Last year there was a meeting of large corporations to discuss how to make money off of global warming—not how to stop it, but how to make a profit off of it.

The other side of this example is that Shell was met in Seattle by about three hundred people in kayaks. It was a very good picture—this gigantic machine and these tiny little bits of colored plastic. It gave voice to the opposition. Most of the people of Seattle are against Shell being there. The mayor is also against it, as is the City Council, but they function inside the legal structure so they are fining Shell five hundred dollars per day. That’s what they can do. Something more will have to be done—about Shell and all the other companies that are destroying the environment.

We have to figure out what. And we will have to plan for it and communicate it as widely as we can. There are lots of people doing this. Unfortunately, too much of the time they are fighting with each other because they are scared and desperate and don’t know what else to do. We can figure out what else to do, but we have to do it soon. We have to counsel on our fears that stop us, on the hurts that make us act alone instead of with people. And then we get to see what we can do.

If we try to do anything, we will have wonderful sessions. Anytime we step into the real world, it is easier to counsel on our distresses. They are not real, but we don’t know that very well until we step out into reality. Lying alone at night with our distresses, they seem real. Out in the street with two thousand people saying no, they don’t look as powerful.

The challenge we face is real. It is something we need to counsel on and then decide to do more about. Millions of people are trying to do more already. There are lots of people we can join, and our helping them think, our listening to them, can make a big difference.

My picture of this work is that we have two places to counsel. One is on stopping acting alone. To meet the challenge of the environment, we have to do differently. We have needed to stop acting alone for a long time, in all parts of our lives, and now our world is going to be destroyed unless we change. A little motivation.

The other place to counsel is on where we act small. To change things quickly, we need to act big. We need to be loud with what we think, and say no to things that are destroying the environment. If we keep saying no loudly, with millions and then billions of people, things can change.

So we have these two pieces of work to do. And doing them will improve every other part of our lives at the same time, because being alone and acting small spoils every part of our lives.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00