We Are an Ecosystem
A ceasefire on fear
Before I begin this essay, I want to express my gratitude to our little sauna, for the womb-like silence I can access there. In these times where we have to assess, with deep wisdom, when it is time to speak, I am also grateful to the wisdom traditions, to Creator, and to all beings and ancestors tending to us. They still hold us all in rich, dynamic, love, in spite of these chaotic, confusing, times.
Most of you know that I am Canadian. I grew up in a rural setting, eating wild meat, and the food we grew in our garden, for survival. I am the daughter of a carpenter. I come from homestead lineage. Just three generations ago, my ancestors were farming and fishing in Cashubian territory in Poland, in the highlands of Scotland, and in Somerset, England.
Although I have traveled the world, and lived in urban spaces, I am very grateful that I can still access the viewpoints that come from a more rural, or minimum wage, or trades people, position.
You may remember that I am a daughter of the Christian household, and my heritage in that regard, is a generation ago, Scottish Presbyterian, and Polish Catholic, with a shift through the 1970’s toward evangelicalism.
Through my journey, I have swung very far left, gone through deconstruction, and leaned quite heavily toward cancel culture, to console the trauma of church fundamentalism and puritanism and homophobia. Very understandable.
But lately I have been remembering why I initially moved left, (and voted left for the past 20 years):
it was because I was trying to get closer to the beloved community.
This past year has been one of confession on my part. I have been humbled, and brought to my knees. Like many, many, people, I find myself in no man’s land… that I pray is adjacent to “the kingdom is at hand”. You may have noticed me changing trajectory.
Part of what has influenced this change is spending a lot of time with indigenous teachers who live in so far as they are able, beyond the construct of colonization, and certainly beyond the binary of right and left. This influence has taught me about how powerful forgiveness as a force actually is.
To put it simply… I have been healed beyond what I could have hoped for in my lifetime.
The cynicism that I have carried inside, (yes, even as I have recorded works that point to inexpressible incarnation) has composted into a prism that trusts in an ecosystem I can’t understand or measure.
My need to be the one who micromanages the mystery of the virtues of Jesus has been stripped, and I have knelt in wonder, perhaps for the first time, at the sacred words in my own songs… “in whom all things hold together”.
Through this process, I have had to do a fearless inventory of the role I have played in the culture wars. Of the belittling, often deeply unresearched, partisan rhetoric I have participated in, and tolerated, on the left.
In this recent interview, Catherine Liu, author of Virtue Hoarders: The Case Against the Professional Managerial Class, says that the Professional Managerial Class, “feels like it is the vanguard of anti-racism, anti-sexism, and anti-anti immigration sentiments, so it dictates those values from above, and it polices language, in its sort of ‘culture industry’ mode.”
Last year, I began a journey… that I am still on… of asking myself for the first time… “what role have I played in the mutational forces we are seeing?” How have I not listened? How have I separated myself? What is behind my need to do this?
What prompted me to do this work, was this growing trend I was beginning to see in my social media newsfeed, mostly made up of left wing, deconstructing, educated, progressive Christians, or progressive people. Calcified, often mean, know-it-all, or even cruel expressions of patronizing language was becoming totally normal. And through the pandemic, the name-calling has become so normalized, it is practically sacrosanct.
As I suffered to expand into a wider angle, or even into a prism, a sense of shame arrived. That I had acted wrongly, or caused someone else to feel less than me, even though I had good intentions.
Once I confessed this behaviour, I began to feel the legitimate hurt people experience, when they are told they shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they can’t spell. Memes I might have chuckled at only a few months before, began to sting, and hurt my heart.
It was hard to articulate… and it still is… but there was this sense that what I was witnessing was a coopted, or perhaps even appropriated language, that originally and very rightfully, and organically, came out of persecuted spaces.
I began to address what I might call the violence of my own “ally perfectionism”. And to see how political power, and more culturally elite spaces can weaponize words like “privilege” or “racist”, toward their own ends… as we are seeing in my country right now.
You may have noticed the trucker convoy story here in Canada. And you may be noticing an end-the-mandates movement in your own country. From what I can tell, (if I’m still allowed to do my own research), going below the surface of mainstream media, it is a vast movement, containing multitudes of people, and is a very mixed, quite bipartisan expression.
If I know my listeners at all, you will be mostly deeply concerned about this movement, and some or many of you will not be on the inside of it.
About three weeks ago, when the United States and Canada made the decision to mandate the last 10% of the truckers to be vaccinated, a large convoy of truckers, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, drove to Ottawa to protest the mandates, asking to be heard.
Our government responded by not once listening to what they had to say, and jumped quickly to very extreme conclusions about the group as a whole - that they were flying swastikas and were essentially the scum of our society, which simply isn’t true. In actuality, from what I could see, multitudes across the country of especially minimum wage, trades people, and a large number of people in health care and education sectors, who don’t believe in the mandates, felt like finally someone was listening.
Zambian immigrants drove all the way from British Columbia. Black nurses shared their story from the main stage about being fired for not complying, and suffered backlash about being “tokens”, as though they don’t have minds of their own. Sikh truckers drove out from B.C. with their trucks. And what I found interesting about this movement , is that many people who have fallen through the cracks in our country during this pandemic, are feeling heard. The people who didn’t get to stay home, who didn’t get to collect emergency money, in their masks, on the front lines, many feeling coerced into complying, and told not to ask questions. After all, anyone working for minimum wage shouldn’t be allowed to ask questions, right?
I saw indigenous friends sharing posts about the privilege of the truckers, and deeply respect how they are feeling. And I also have indigenous friends who are part of the movement, on the ground in Ottawa. But once the articles written by comfortable white liberals crying “privilege” began rolling out, I could see again… last year I might have shared these articles as some attempt to “get through” to these people who obviously aren’t thinking straight. But the problem is, that these articles crying privilege are really coming from a milieu of privilege. Or another way to put it, it is capital P privilege, crying privilege.
My country is in distress… so I decided to get out of my own silo, and realize that this movement has struck a chord in so many different people across this precious planet. And I’ll be honest: it struck a chord in me. Although vaccinated, my own personal feelings have been that, however difficult this is, the mandates were not the best approach. One quick check in with continental Africa on the matter of this pass and permit language, might give you pause about simply assuming that every person in the entire so-called global south is pining for our charity.
Nigerian philosopher Bayo Akamolafe has said of vaccine hesitancy, that “it is a crack in the deck of the slave ship we are still on”, and that it could be an invitation for us to put our ear and attention to the crack and listen. In another talk, he also said something that changed my life… he said, “I don’t want allies, I want sensuous becomings”. That one line has awakened so much creativity, and so much more possibility for real healing from the legacy of white supremacy in myself, and thus, in the world.
But sensuous becoming is messy, and alive, and does not allow for this covert, supreme perfectionism, a trait all too common in our academic or corporate spaces, that appropriate the technicality of a good movement, often removing the spirit as they do so… but then get to determine who, or who is not, out of touch.
As I write this, our government is performing economic sanctions against nonviolent protestors and anyone who supports them, and has invoked an extreme emergency measures act against its own people.
Not once has our leader listened to the grievances that multitudes of Canadians share, but many times, and right from the outset, he has painted them with a very broad brush stroke, as though they are scum. Subhuman.
My own personal thoughts about this are: this is what it looks like when out of touch, elite leaders, appropriate deeply important terms that grew out of the trenches of unspeakable persecution, strip them of their spiritual power, and use them as a propaganda weapon.
In my own newsfeed, I have seen people I know, call truckers in general now, “rapists”, “misogynists”, “racists”, and other appalling names.
How could this kind of mean generalization, and plowing over the feelings of others, be the way to beloved community?
Short answer: it can’t, and it never will be.
Everyone is becoming. No one is frozen in time. There is no place that our great self-emptying Lover cannot, or will not, self empty.
We are an ecosystem. What we do to each other, we do to ourselves.
Every good story is replete with complicated characters, and is by nature, rhizomatic, and quite often, the characters who we least expect to, end up playing a significant role in the unfoldment.
The future of media will be an ecosystem, and when that happens, the pain of conspiracy and misdirection (on both sides) will be able to heal. The future of religion and spirituality will be ecumenical from the grass roots up, and not programmed from the top down. The future of person to person communication will experience a spiritual revival, and trust and love will grow between unlikely people.
Let people surprise you again.
It is hard to see… but it starts with each one of us extending our trust to each other. And I know that is hard to do.
I normally prefer to speak in metaphor, and in song, or in parable, but here in my country, for this moment, I am coming up to the declarative surface to publicly state:
That I am listening to all the people across this country who have apprehension that these emergency mandates and this emergency measure, are not temporary. And who feel scared or coerced. I share your concern. I am also going to offer my trust to many good people to do what is wise, and right, in the coming days and weeks.
I am listening to the people who are afraid of the mandates lifting. And to the people in churches who long to be decent and good people. I want to suggest something: the love your neighbour ethos has its heart in the right place, but at this time, when the dust is shaking out, and the trauma of the last two years is expressing itself, we must also make sure that we love our unvaccinated neighbours as they are. At the risk of my career, I urge you not to stand for their dehumanization. You have done so much, no doubt, in service to so many in these last 2 years, and I can only imagine how hard and devastating it has been for clergy. I see you, and thank-you.
I am listening to both the front line medical servants at work, and the front line medical servants who have been fired. I thank all of you for your enormous service. It leaves me in awe.
I am listening to the truckers, whether or not I agree with their protest tactics, or with their politics, and lend and extend my trust to their humanity - as I will expect from them in the future. I have been in demonstrations about matters that I care about, and probably will be again. Maybe they will listen to me, or even join me.
I publicly and unequivocally stand with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association who have announced they are taking our federal government to court, for invoking the extreme measure of the Emergency Act. The little my family have been able to donate to the Fairy Creek Blockade, and to legal fees for unceded territory cases could under this measure, freeze our own personal bank accounts. It is after all the same paternalistic government crying “racism”, spending millions of dollars to fund police to oppress these indigenous efforts. And… I will be totally transparent … I also sent a small offering to an indigenous friend who travelled to Ottawa a few weeks ago, to voice her rights about her own bodily choice. She is a wise presence of love and healing, rooted so much deeper than polarization, and in ways that binary eyes could never understand. I still have faith in her presence there. Judge me if you wish.
Lastly, to my listeners who will have various opinions, and feelings about these end-the-mandate movements growing around the world, and (no doubt), about this essay:
I invite you to find the courage with me to hold fast to real love, in spite of our difference of opinion. Just glance at history, and see what kind of energy it took to overcome impossible division. Love can be accessed anywhere, anytime, and does not need to be led by inauthentic top down identity politics, or by constantly throwing metrics at each other like bombs. It must lead from inside each of us, with an unwavering, unswerving determination, and an arational trust in our hearts, for how precious all people really are.
I still have many blind spots, and ask you to forgive me if your view of this situation differs from mine, or if it feels like a blow to your perception. I love you. But sometimes, it becomes clear, when we must speak.
I call a ceasefire on fear. Across the board.
And invoke a dynamic wake up call, and even mirth and laughter, and wonder, in each one of us, no matter how complicated this is.
Καὶ μὴ κρίνετε !
Wow Alana - Thank you for such a meaningful, heartfelt and deeply considered essay. One of the great resaons I support you is because you give voice and meaning to complex matters- yet there is within a golden thread of truth and meaning, that I do not have the gifts to voice or even to begin to know.
I am humbled by your courage and honesty, and this is so valualbe, and healing, particulalry in today's climate. And finally, I really sense and believe, that you are not the only author of your lines. There are voices that speak to us from the wilderness, and I believe that you are one of these. This is not a statement for the ego, but one of apprecaition and encouragement.
Thank you, Alana, for baring your soul in such an eloquent way. The past two years have been hard on everyone, and I think it is fair to say that all of us need some kind of a cathartic experience to give vent to all the pent-up emotion we have accumulated. In some sense, my perspective is that the freedom convoy became a vehicle for a wide variety of people with a variety of grievances to latch on to to "finally" get their voice heard. What saddens me though, is to note that so many people found in the process that they became attached to a far right, white supremacy movement - sometimes, I am sure unawares. It is no secret that the leaders of Unity Canada who organized the original truck convoy seized the discontent around mandates to advance their cause. As we saw in the Memorandum of Understanding they posted, they were intent on putting a gun to the government's head: Do as we say or we will replace the entire democratic system. If they had been successful in forming government with their citizen's committee, I suspect that freedom in the future would only have extended to people who thought precisely like they do. I don't want to live in a country that is ruled by a disgruntled minority that takes power into their own hands. I have lived abroad in places where that happens regularly and, believe me, that is not a good way to go. I have tried to find a coherent message among the protesters, but it seems to me that each person has their own take on what they are upset about. A lot of their language and actions were vulgar, abusive and there was little concern for how that affected those around them. I also don't understand why so much vitriol is directed at the federal liberals. Most of the mandates they are opposed to came from provincial governments, many of them run by conservatives. I have family that supports the movement, and listening to them, I hear them calling for a form of libertarianism that would remind one of the wild west where everyone does what is right in their own eyes and the persons with most clout or firepower get their own way. All of this is cloaked in religious freedom rhetoric and makes a mockery of Jesus mandate to love our neighbours as ourselves. On a personal level, I am in need of surgery but have been told it may be months, perhaps even years before it is my turn because of the backlog caused by covid patients in hospitals, the majority of whom are unvaccinated. Their freedom not to be vaccinated results in the loss of my freedom to receive the medical care that I need. I am a senior and have lived through the polio pandemic in the 1950s. The way we got through that as a society was by getting vaccinated - all of us, in schools! There was little push back on supposed violation of freedoms and polio was conquered as we worked together. Why is it too much to ask of all of us in 2022 to work together to beat covid? Freedoms are never unlimited in any civil society. Freedoms, even according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be curtailed when exercising freedoms hurts other people. Having said all that, I still appreciate your voice. I know that as we proceed, we will all have to get to the point of getting along with our neighbors, even the unvaccinated. But that is a two way street, as I see it. I will do what I can to open lines of communication, but does the aggrieved minority get off the hook entirely? Do they not also have a responsibility to live responsibly in our communities? Honestly, I don't have all the answers. But if the minority feels put down by the minority it works the other way as well. Why should they be able to "spit police in the face." yank off masks, hurl profanities, grind our capital to a halt, put children in harm's way, deny me medical care, all in the name of a gentle, more inclusive spirituality? I too have listened to many of these people. Many are so ill informed or misinformed. They take everything on Fox News as gospel truth, they worship Donald Trump, all while claiming to be sincere followers of Jesus. They consider me having fallen away from the faith for not believing in lies and conspiracy theories like they do. We all will need to do a lot of soul searching to move forward and that includes that vocal minority that have done so much to disrupt and threaten the majority who are will to cooperate with the powers that be to help defeat the virus. You are right. Elite progressives don't have all the answers, but neither do all the angry protesters. May God help us to meet somewhere on common ground. Our future depends on it.