This is a revolution
March 13, 2019
I have been thinking a lot about the enormous sea change in our human story that we find ourselves in the midst of. In the last few years I have heard people describe this time as chaotic, challenging and downright crazy-making. I have certainly felt all of these things myself. When we widen the aperture our disorientation makes sense. We are in the center of a technological revolution on par with the advent of agriculture, the scientific revolution and the industrial revolution. While I sense this change happening collectively worldwide, here I will speak specifically to western culture from my perspective as a white, European-American cisgender woman.
The turning of these previous ages occurred over centuries. Each of these revolutions produced new tools and, looking back, we can see that they also ushered in seismic shifts in consciousness, beliefs, knowledge and sociocultural norms. Agriculture changed the ways in which humans lived as people moved from nomadic tribes that shared resources to householders in nuclear family structures that coveted resources with a new concept of ownership. The scientific revolution birthed an entirely new worldview that brought rationality, materialism and individualism. The discoveries of the scientific revolution challenged the prevailing cosmology along with the religious dogma and tremendous power of the Catholic church that had been built upon it. The industrial revolution reinvented the way in which humans lived once again creating our modern cities and a value system and economy based on mass production and growth.
We are left with the legacy of what these periods in human history produced. However, we can learn a lot by considering what was occurring that created the conditions for the western world to transform at these particular times. We often focus on the achievements of individuals—namely white, economically privileged men. Yet, these discoveries and ways of seeing take root when the center of gravity shifts for an entire culture. While we have leaders, spokespersons, geniuses and elected idols, none of these radical shifts take place in a vacuum through one person. What about the invisible forces influencing and shaping an entire civilization?
There is a natural impulse toward evolution that runs through all life. This impulse seems to move from a shared intelligence. While there are always outliers, those ahead of the curve and those behind it, when we look back, we cannot deny the wave of change that rushes through civilizations to recreate the dominant worldview.
There are also forces of tension. Throughout history we can see that there are the trailblazers, those that initiate new perspectives and challenge the current paradigm. There are also those that act as gatekeepers and attempt to maintain the status quo. (Historically the gatekeepers have often turned toward persecution and violence as a means of oppression.) These opposing forces work on each other pushing and pulling, expanding and contracting. While polarized, these forces inform and shape one another as well as create something altogether new—something that is in the process of becoming.
Within the realm of invisible forces we have elements that move very slowly and elements that shift rapidly. Often, forces have been at work for a long time and, like a bud that mysteriously erupts from the earth, there is a sudden visible and visceral shift in the cultural landscape like women earning the right to vote or the fall of the Berlin wall.
Many of us are now seeing the illumination of deep dark structures embedded in civilization and our psyches that have contributed to dysfunction in our human system. These structures carry unchecked beliefs, biases, assumptions, ways of being and blind sociocultural agreements. Manifestations of our current sociocultural awakening are the #blacklivesmatter and #metoo movements and their intersectionality with the gender binary, ableism, heteronormativity, income inequality and climate change.
The social rules and “norms” that we have taken for granted are changing as the hidden structures rise to the surface. #Metoo marks a new era of how we think about, relate to and enact gender, sexuality and power. A wave of solidarity has moved through the psyche of female bodied people that says, we’re not staying silent any more and we are no longer putting up with this shit. We are challenging a social hierarchy and belief systems that have been in place for thousands of years, since the dawn of western civilization. In 700 BC Hesoid wrote in the Greek Theogeny, “ . . . Zeus who thunders on high made women to be an evil to mortal men, with a nature to do evil.” The beliefs that women are inferior and need to be dominated and kept under control were woven into the founding mythology of western culture.
Yes, systemic overt and violent abuse is coming out of the shadows and so are daily microaggressions and long term intergenerational trauma that people with vulvas have literally endured for millennia. The unspoken agreements are now being spoken and in the process dismantled. Our very ideas of what it means to be male, female, masculine, feminine, a man or a woman are being shaken up.
Feel confused by this? Good.
It is within the disorientation and confusion—when you find yourself in the place where there is nothing familiar to hold onto—this is when you are being shaped anew. In order to learn and grow as an individual or a civilization, we must sacrifice that which is familiar and comfortable to that which is unknown, unstable and discomfortable.
Right now we are in the middle of it. We are learning and becoming together through our friction and our mistakes. There are no certain answers in this phase. Nothing to solve here. We can stay curious, we can ask for help, we can apologize. Those of us that have been in any position of privilege are going to have to keep looking at what we want to hold onto that we think is ours and that we think we deserve.
We all might be served in not making it so personal. Racism and sexism are systemic, collective and embedded in culture. We are all participating in some way. Really truly—you, me, all of us. The sooner we can get close to that and allow ourselves to feel the pain of it, the quicker we can surrender into the wave of change that is currently rising through us. Personally, I have committed myself to the practice of checking, and re-checking, the alignment between what I say and what I do.
One of the biggest renegotiations that is occurring right now in culture is around consent and body autonomy.
Some of us are learning what choice, boundaries and body sovereignty actually feel like.
Some of us are learning that we have been moving from an unconscious presumption that we are entitled to another person’s body.
I recently listened to a fantastic explanation of different types of consent and how consent applies in our intimate relationships and with children on the Black Radical Queer podcast with Jhavia Nicole. Check out The C Word episode here.
When it feels a little crazy and that it is all coming apart, rest assured that it is. Look for the light being revealed through the cracks. Listen for the whispers of the new story that is ready to be told.