We Can Reimagine And Reinvent Our Society In 2018

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


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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

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July 2018

Join us for a monthly gathering of like-hearted people to give and receive angelic energy healing. This session is a combination of group meditation and discussion, along with working in pairs...

Cost: Scale $5-$20 ($10 suggested)

Where:
Pathway Of Joy
884 Broadway, Suite 12
Upstairs in the Spiritual Renaissance Center building
South Portland, ME  04106
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Sponsor: Pathway Of Joy
Telephone: 207-329-7192
Contact Name: Linda Huitt
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This special 2-part evening offering. Earn your Integrated Energy Therapy® certification in two evenings, while leaving your summer days and weekends open to enjoy the season. Part 1 is...

Cost: $195

Where:
Pathway Of Joy
884 Broadway, Suite 12
South Portland, ME  04106
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Sponsor: Pathway Of Joy
Telephone: 207-329-7192
Contact Name: Linda Huitt
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What better way to end a busy day than with a little bliss. We'll support your body right where it is today and help you to open your spine to find more movement and flexibility. Begin and end...

Cost: $18

Where:
Body Love Wellness Center
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
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Sponsor: Bliss Through Yoga
Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice
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Relax and restore this summer with free outdoor yoga classes on historic Rogers Field! We’re packing the lawn with yogis of all levels for yoga led by experienced practitioners from Dragonfly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Rogers Field
Devens, MA


Sponsor: Dragonfly Wellness Center
Telephone: 978-487-7181
Contact Name: Anne Ferguson
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If you are worried about getting Parkinson’s or have beginning symptoms, check out a free intro on how to rewire your brain from the inside. First and third Wednesdays of the month,...

Where:
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Cost: $45

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Double Tree Hotel
50 Ferncroft Road
Danvers, MA  01923
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Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
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July 20 - 22 The Chinese internal martial arts derive their extraordinary power from the conscious control of one’s subjective state-of-being and the use of jin (internal power)....

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
430 East St.
Lenox, MA  01240
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Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
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The mission of the 4th Annual Compassionfest is to unite like-minded people that believe in the values of being just, kindness, equality and compassion. We’ll gather for delicious vegan food...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whitneyville Cultural Commons
1253 Whitney Ave
Hamden, CT  06517
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Sponsor: In Defense of Animals
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Saturday, July 21, 10:00am – 4:00pm & Sunday, July 22, 10am – 4:00pm With Patty Collinsworth Get the beginner certification before Linda Howe comes in person to teach a new...

Cost: $170

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
90 Main Street
Andover, MA  01810
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Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
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Saturday, July 21, 10:00am – 5:30pm & Sunday, July 22, 10am – 3:30pm Instructor:  Peyton Pugmire What brings you joy and a sense of purpose?  These are your soul...

Cost: $160

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
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Sponsor: Creative Spirit
Telephone: 617-817-4547
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July 21 - 22 NEMHoFest, is New England’s premiere metaphysical festival. This year’s line-up includes world renowned guest speakers and vendors from across the...

Where:
Augusta Civic Center
Augusta, ME


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The GFAF Expos are the greatest events on earth for those living a gluten-free or allergen-friendly lifestyle. Sample hundreds of products, meet with local and national brands, receive coupons and...

Where:
DCU Center
50 Foster Street
Worcester, MA
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