I recently read a very moving and persuasive article on Truth-Out.org, one of my progessive blog reading indulgences. It was so powerfully written that I can’t help sharing some of my favorite quotes and some of the questions it flooded into my mind. The Future Must Be Green, Red, Black and Female just had one of those titles that grabbed my attention and demanded to be read.
Robert Jensen is an outspoken activist and constantly inspires on how to make things happen in the future.
Our task today is not to scurry around trying to hold onto the world as we know it, but to focus on how we can hold onto our humanity as we enter a distinctly different era of the human presence on the planet, an era that will challenge our resolve and reserves.
This point of view seems to be an essential part of the thought process of all of my friends and peers, we assume that we are creating the world we will live in. But the challenging portion is that we don’t necessarily imagine that the world we will live in is nothing like the world of our parents, even less then how their world was like that of their parents. There has been a fundamental shift in the power balance of the world; our population and consumerism have done nothing but grow for centuries, but can they continue to do that?
Jensen’s answer is clear. No. The promises of technology to solve any problem, the promises of the faithful to be delivered through the apocalypse are all to similar and neither apply to what is going to happen to us.
Technology and religion matter. But their fundamentalist versions are impediments to honest assessment and healthy practice.
We must challenge ourselves to think criticially about the reality of what we can make and what will happen beyond our control. Will climate change make living on this planet impossible? maybe. Will war over oil and then water allow our population to continue to grow? unlikely. Will we let wealth continue to accumulate? probably not.
“When we come to terms with these challenges – when we face up to the fact that the human species now faces problems that likely have no solutions, at least no solutions that allow us to continue living as we have – then we will not be deterred by the resistance of the culture. We will work at accomplishing whatever we can, where we live, in the time available to us. Which brings me to the future: green, red, black and female.”
Then Jensen proceeds to summarize the entire crisis of human kind as the fault of the corruption of capitalist white men. The premise is the belief that the future will require radically different forms of thought to establish it, so therefore to imagine it we call upon the radical ideas of the past. Anti-patriarchal movements rebelling against the thousand years old systems of male dominance, anti-white movements rebelling against the hundred years old system of supposed supremacy, anti-capitalist movements rebelling against the hundred years old economic model, and most recently anti-consumer movements rebelling against the disregard of the natural environment all come together here to shape a call for a new future. Jensen claims that
we must deal with all these systems in a holistic, integrated fashion, that we will not successfully reject one hierarchal system without rejecting all hierarchical systems.
The author makes no qualms that this future built on rejection of all past systems will not be easier, it will not be better. It is all too clear that we who have gotten here deserve the punishment of the future to come. The new future is one where we must accept that less is what we deserve becuase that’s all this planet can handle. And here is where he loses me. Accepting a radical future run on the humble thought of humanity as part of a system and each individual (regardless of color or gender) is a humble part of that humanity is all to obvious. But I cannot make the leap from that new empowered humanity to the cynical desperate giving up and letting go of everything good we ever invented for ourselves as the only option.
If being green, red, black and female will make us that much stronger, won’t we realistically be able to do more, not less? does optimism about the future really have to be lost?
I want a diverse and humble humanity with whom to spend my future. But I realize that capitalism, optimism and innovation are the tools that make human beings (all humans, not just white men) stronger. By denying these things as possibilities, you make them evil, and you limit the chances of the new future being productive by making it inherently regressive. The societal model we have now is not perfect, but looking back over thousands of years ago to the small sustainable societies many are now encouraging us to imitate, netither were those societies perfect. If they were those people wouldn’t have fallen prey to the temptations of progress.
We must agree as occupants of the same world to do as Jensen suggests and critically and honestly look at the systems we’ve created and be unafraid to be radical. But, at the same time we must be unafraid to recognize the good, the possible and the progessive value brought forth by those that came before us.