Learning from the Disaster in the Gulf

Did you hope that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico would provide the kind of final wake-up call needed to move individual, community, and national priorities toward fundamental change, toward a more life-affirming and sustainable way of life? It’s a reasonable enough desire and yet it seems that it isn't working out that way. That disaster remains a tragic example of the kind of thing we can expect more of as our elected leaders become increasingly desperate to maintain the perpetual growth economy and the unsustainable way of life so many Americans have gotten used to and vote for everyday through their actions. In the life-denying paradigm we find ourselves enmeshed in, environmental pollution, ecosystem destruction, and death (to people and to other species) is acceptable in order to maintain the comfort and perceived security many associate with the status quo.

 
The argument has long been made that until environmental problems hit people close to home, fundamental change won’t take place, and when they do, change will happen. As more and more people do get hit close to home the flimsiness of this seemingly solid logic becomes clearer. The reason is that something deeper is in play.  
 
The root cause of the crises we face – environmental, economic, and social – is psychological. Failure to do the necessary inner work has led to widespread psychological and spiritual immaturity, and, consequently, a narrow, self-centered, and fear-based way of being in the world. This leads to the risks and atrocities we are likely to continue to tolerate in order to protect our perceived short-term interest. This includes continued reliance on fossil fuels, drilling in deep water for oil, the push for new nuclear power plants, and more warfare on other peoples in the name of personal and national security.
 
Based on this view, the only thing that will radically alter our suicidal path is on-going development of our individual psyches and the collective action that can arise from that source. Many people speak of the evolution of consciousness without including the action component and the necessary interpersonal skills. Adding these presents a fuller picture of what is really needed and the challenges involved given the immaturity, individualism and materialism so rampant in our culture.
 

Restorative Activism is designed to support the needed transformation through an integration of body, mind, spirit, earth, and action in individual human beings. The training supports a form of activism that springs from wholeness as opposed to woundedness, and the true, spiritual self, as opposed to the small, ego-based self. Thinking that there is too much work to do to pay attention to one’s self, or that attending to the psychological is unimportant, is a trap too many activists are caught in. A system's view shows the role the vast majority of us play in perpetuating things like the fossil fuel industry and the limitations of blaming and punishing individuals. It may feel good, but it won't change in meaningful ways the underlying dynamics. The fundamental change needed begins once we stop pointing the finger at others and begin to take a good hard look at ourselves. (Further reading on the importance of expanding the sense of self can be found at this link).
 
Scott Brown
January 6, 2011

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