We Can Reimagine And Reinvent Our Society In 2018

Let’s say goodbye to top-down revolutions and embrace grassroots action.


Published:

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

I’ve been writing a year-end column for YES! for years. Previously, my aim was to find the strands of hope from the past year that can be woven into new possibilities in the next year.

But as I sat down to write this column, on one of the darkest days of the year, I realized that this year will be different. This column will not be a list of hopeful trends. It’s too late to think we can make incremental tweaks to our current systems and be OK. Corporations and the ultra-wealthy will not share their wealth, and if we continue current practices of extraction and pollution, all life will be threatened.

The 2016 election showcased two destructive political directions: white supremacist nostalgia on the Trump side and coziness with corporate capitalism on the Clinton side. The Trump presidency combines both, and it’s a disaster that we can’t recover from—at least not with a few fixes around the edges.

Instead, it’s time to build something new.

Today, 41 million Americans live in poverty in the wealthiest country in the world. “The persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power,” United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said in a report of his December tour through the United States. “With political will, it could readily be eliminated.” Instead, the Republicans push through a tax bill that will make it far worse.

Climate research published in the journal Nature shows that the worst case global-warming scenarios are likely the most accurate. And we’re already seeing the effect. Most recently, fires—whipped up by fierce Santa Ana winds—drove thousands from their homes in Southern California, and many found only ashes when they returned. Earlier in the season, it was Northern California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and British Columbia feeling the impacts of fires. In Houston, historic flooding after Hurricane Harvey mixed with the toxic products of our petrochemical economy to turn neighborhoods into poisonous stews. In Puerto Rico, the one-two punch of dual hurricanes, coupled with years of federal neglect, left much of the island devastated—now, the vulture investors are circling, while people on the ground are trying to just get the lights back on.

There are so many more signs of moral and political bankruptcy—among the more recent, the FCC dismantled net neutrality, creating yet one more instance of a common good being degraded by profit-motivated manipulation.

Yes, this is a dark place I find myself in as the garish orange street light outside my window and the flashing Christmas lights shine through the icy fog of a Northwest morning.

There is an awakening, though. Elections held in 2017 showed a widespread repudiation of the ultra-right agenda. It showed that people can organize and win, as they did in Alabama, Virginia, and Philadelphia, Pennsyvania.

The rejection of Trump-style politics does not mean an embrace of Clinton-style corporate-friendly policies, though. 

Even under President Obama’s more rational, but still pro-corporate, leadership, inequality was rising; our world was spinning toward climate disaster; Black men and women were being killed by police; immigrants were rounded up and deported; civilians were sacrificed in drone strikes; and our education, health care system, prisons, and public services were subjected to brutal private profit extraction.

So even under an intelligent and benign president, we were rushing toward disaster.

Authentic hope comes when we reject this system built on white supremacy, extractive corporate capitalism, and big money control of government. Leaving behind the illusion that we can fix a broken system frees us to work for genuine change.

There is no guarantee that we can pull off the deep transformation that’s needed. But our chances improve when we are clear-eyed about what we’re up against and what can actually work.

I believe that means we begin where we live—building more equitable economies that are rooted locally, and new relationships of reciprocity with the Earth and of equity and respect with each other.

My travels around the United States that resulted in the book The Revolution Where You Live, and then the book tour that followed, convinced me of the power of place-based communities.

It’s in our local communities that we can challenge the culture and institutions of racism and exclusion, and make sure everyone—of all races, generations, political beliefs, and religions—has a place at the table.

It’s by getting to know our bioregion that we can learn to protect the water, food systems, forests, and grasslands that we all depend upon so that all of us can survive climate change and other ecological traumas.

Only together can we reimagine and reinvent our society. None of us alone has a blueprint. Top-down revolutions become corrupt and authoritarian. But together, from the grassroots, we can create diverse and democratic economies and widely distributed power. We can build new norms that can sustain our communities as the old ways fail.

When outside forces threaten our natural and human community, we can be prepared and organized for nonviolent resistance, whether the source of the threat is a new Trump administration policy or a private fracking venture.

Getting grounded in local community also supports emotional and spiritual resilience, which is especially important during times of transition and for those struggling with isolation, stress, and poverty. Where we live, we can offer each other support and, over time, build local solutions.

We need to be in touch. Isolated and afraid, we’re easy to defeat. In each other’s company, we rediscover the joy and strength that can energize us as we create new systems and ways of life.

The place where we live is where we can find our power. Archimedes once said, give me a place to stand and a long lever, and I can move the Earth. We create that place to stand when we begin with the communities where we live.

Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! MagazineSarah is a co-founder and columnist at YES!, founder of PeoplesHub, and author of “The Revolution Where You Live: Stories from a 12,000-Mile Journey Through a New America.” Read more about her work here, and follow her on Twitter @sarahvangelder.

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
Utilizing Indigenous Thought To Cope In The Age Of Trump
Van Jones’ “Messy Truth”: We’re All A Little Right, And We’re All A Little Wrong

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

January 19, 2018

Pace yourself and drive carefully if you’re up and out the door before dawn. After a tough early morning square to Mars, the Aquarius Moon sails void of course, without making another aspect until mid-afternoon. Wishing to be somewhere, anywhere else is…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

January 2018

Two Sundays, January 14th and February 11th Learn advanced techniques for self-care, to offer Reiki to others from a distance and for manifesting what you want in your life! Facilitated...

Cost: $250

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Join us the Second Sunday of the month at the Northeast Reiki Center classroom in Framingham for a Reiki Circle in the Usui Reiki System of Natural Healing. We are a gathering of Reiki...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 15 - February 23, 2018 A cross-cultural midwifery and global health experience ***Application Deadline November 3*** Come spend six weeks at the ACAM birth center, located in a...

Where:
ACAM Birth Center
Western Highlands of Guatemala, MA


Sponsor: Maya Midwifery International
Contact Name: Dena Moes
Website »

More information

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is...

Cost: $11-$15 per class

Where:
Chelmsford Wellness Center
3 Littleton Road, 2nd Floor
Westford, MA  01886
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

January 8 - February 12, 2018 Intuition + Energy Medicine + Energy Psychology = The REAP Healing Method This 6 week certification training course provides you with the understanding and the...

Cost: $695

Where:
Live Online
Comfort of Your Home
, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The REAP Healing Method
Telephone: 978-877-8651
Contact Name: Pamela Dussault
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Experience the power of singing gospel music with more than 250 others as part of the Mystic Chorale, led by award-winning director and composer, Jonathan Singleton. Join Mystic as we prepare...

Cost: $105

Where:
First Parish Unitarian
630 Mass Ave.
Arlington , MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Mystic Chorale
Telephone: 781-738-1920
Contact Name: Jai Kaur Annamaria
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Change is what happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.” – Rav Berg, Spiritual Director, Kabbalah Centre Last year, you most likely set New...

Cost: Free

Where:
MGH at Charlestown Navy Yard
Building 114, Room D1
114 16th Street
Charlestown, MA  02129
View map »


Sponsor: Kabbalah Center
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is integrating into treatment plans. By...

Cost: $12-$17 per class

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Ceneter
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

6 Week Series with Sherri Snyder-Roche Start your year with greater awareness. In Kundalini Yoga, we harness the mental, physical, and nervous energies of the body and put them under the...

Cost: $90

Where:
State of Grace Yoga and Wellness Center
104 East Hartford Ave.
Uxbridge, MA  01569
View map »


Telephone: 508-278-2818
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Removing limiting beliefs and shaping your future with Julie Rost and Tracey Miller The new year brings forth a natural and truly beautiful human desire to seek more from life. But resolutions...

Cost: $150 (includes lunch)

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-969-8968
Contact Name: Brian Serven
Website »

More information

Reiki is a gentle energy healing method from Japan that anyone can learn. Reiki 1 is the basic Reiki attunement that allows people to work on family members, pets, plants and more. During class...

Cost: $150

Where:
Perfect Fit Pilates and Stretch
85 Main Street
Hopkinton, MA  01748
View map »


Sponsor: Elder Grove Shamanic Healing
Telephone: 774-232-2343
Contact Name: Deb Fate-Mental
Website »

More information

Join Diane Lewis for a very special author event! Diane will be introducing her new book From Psychic to Soul. From Psychic to Soul is a reveal of how every person is psychic. How we already,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
1 Worcester Road
Framingham, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Barnes & Noble
Telephone: 617-645-6415
Contact Name: Diane Lewis
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags