Creating a Cohesive Culture of Resistance and Transformation

Didn’t write this, but wish I did.  It was written by my friend Virginia Paris.  Let me know what ya think!

The United States is a crumbling empire, and more and more people are waking up to this.

I personally have had this awareness for many years, although its just recently I was able to put these words to it. Sometimes I can feel time like waves, and I can tell where life is going for not only me, but everyone. I felt from a very early age that there were major cultural shifts coming, and that I would want to be a part of them when they started hitting shore. That time is here. We are living these changes. Other friends of mine, also intuitive, have felt these Earth changes coming for a long time as well, and often there is a tendency (for me as well) to idealize collapse, imagine that only a Utopian future is possible. In our tendency to idealize collapse, I think sometimes we fail to plan completely how to transition our culture. Look at the USSR. That collapse was not pretty at all. Things can go badly.

Part of the difficulty in planning a transition like this is that there is not enough cohesion between those who want to see change, who want to create a new culture. Many people, when first realizing how the dominant culture has failed us, and how collapse could be on its way, want to *do* something. They find issues dear to their hearts, become activists or join movements. I think this is a great start, but the situation right now is that there are many disjointed movements and not a big sense of cohesion. For those of us living in the US (and indeed in many cultures), we might be able to expect the government and dominant culture to continue closing down more and more on any resistance, so the more we are connected with each other, the better.

One essential consideration is that different people wake up in different ways. Some wake up through studying ecological principles or learning about peak oil. Some people wake up through meditation, spiritual practice or a really good trip. Either the left or right brain can lead a person to awareness of systems. Systems awareness, in my opinion, is the key to understanding the current problems and working to create alternatives. If a person can think in systems (either with intuition or logic), it becomes easy to see why certain problems exist and how to create systems that actually work for everyone involved.

Even though many more people are becoming systems thinkers, there is still a tendency to specialize and reduce. I think this partly comes from wanting to share our gifts in the way that we can contribute best. So, for example, a person with sound awareness of economic principles may want to work on creating alternate money systems, to play to strengths. This is great, but as I see it, so many people specialize the way they want to help transform the world, that they isolate themselves from people in other fields. Because of this, any overall consciousness shifts that happen are still disjointed, and we have only weak senses of solidarity with other parts of the movement to transform culture.

When it comes down to it, culture is glue. Just try to change one element of how a culture operates, but without changing the overall patterns within that culture, and its difficult to make real progress. The culture will adapt (either by its leaders adapting it or by the people itself sticking with what they know) to incorporate the change, but somehow weaken it, rendering it more or less ineffective. That’s what we saw with the civil rights movement, to an extent. Because of all the work done during that time, the oppression changed forms, but it did not go away. What we have right now, in the place of separate water fountains, is a prison-industrial complex that some have labeled “the New Jim Crow.” When we see how power, or culture, adapts to maintain its basic function, its easy to get discouraged. By the way, “adapting to meet its basic function” is a definition of resilience. Resilience is a word that’s bandied about often, but sometimes we need to ask, what is resilient? If the dominant culture is resilient, is that desirable?

I think what we are missing is a common culture that unites the different movements. Or perhaps, this culture IS already in place, but we are not expressing it as vibrantly as we could, not realizing how essential it might be. Because Evolver is a place where so many different ideas come together, and is the most inclusive movement happening (because it reflects all aspects of this shift), Evolver is a great place to start talking about bringing cultural (and not just intellectual) elements into play.

Although I don’t think we should stay forever lodged in ideology, ideology is a good place to start. What are the things we can all agree on? The things all of our movements have in common? I don’t claim to represent what everybody believes in, but here are a few examples of things we might all agree on (not meant to be an all-inclusive list):

Respect for the Earth
Respect for people
Shared power
Creating Systems that do these things (so like, economic systems that DON’T steal from the poor to pay the rich… like our current interest-based, debt-based system)

The second part might be creating actual cultural elements around that:

Myth and story. This can include “true” stories (like in documentaries), but also includes ideas formulated into “fiction” stories that represent truths essential to us. Myths that help us identify with the ideological underpinnings of the culture we are creating. Myths that help us feel connected to each other, and to the changes we are creating. Stories that we can tell to give us hope, to give us ideas for how to move forward in difficult or confusing situations.

Music and art: ANY medium, any work that is in the same spirit as the changes we are trying to create. I’m including performance art, either formal or informal (I’m a huge fan of flash mobs for example, and any kind of street performance)

Style: Even clothes can help be cohesive to a movement. I personally am not a stylish person, I don’t have interesting clothes. Strangely, I’ve always wanted to have a cool “look” but never prioritized it. I just occurred to me, however, that clothing can be a way of connecting, especially when there is no judgement involved. So, I am definitely not advocating judging anyone who dresses boring, or within bounds of mainstream culture, but having clothing be a part of representing the movement could be cool. I think any counter-culture style works, or blend of styles, works and if you look around on, you see plenty of people with unique styles. It is possible to identify unusual/interesting/freakish people by their look, although many of us still are more “incognito.” A couple movies I’ve seen again recently, are “Swing Kids” (where kids in Nazi-occupied Germany resisted through emulating the music, dress and culture of the American Swing movement) and Hackers (where a bunch of hackers (with awesome clothes and parties)) end up foiling an evil plot. Clothing can be a way to identify with each other, with a certain type of thinking, besides being fun.

So, in review, what are the functions of having cohesive culture to a movement to create a new way of life?

Connect with each other
Help us remember why we are doing what we are doing, what our goals are
Help us feel like we are part of something, and to keep the energy up for doing the work
Offer alternative stories to what the dominant culture is portraying
Communicate our visions to anyone who might stray from the dominant culture in the future
Create symbols for our ideas, that can be conveyed easily, to garner support


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