The opposite of inspiration.


For the record – the Rockies were amazing – and we had lots of good hiking days despite the fact the weather wasn’t always on its best behaviour. As someone who has always eschewed that part of the province because 1) it’s too close to Alberta, and 2) we’ve got mountains on the coast so why bother – I am quite readily humbled to admit that our mountains are just babies in comparison and there are some amazing and historic trails in there which just blew me away. So there. It was great – and along the way we discovered Conkle Lake Provincial Park which is a gorgeous, tucked-away spot with a fishing lake and a waterfall, and happened by the Silverton Inn as a stop-over which had it’s own serindipity which I’ll write more on later. I’ve posted photos on Flickr of the trip for those who are interested.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long after returning to work for me to start feeling really spazzy, not because of the stuff waiting for me here (which is all routine and not a difficult catch-up), but the fact I’m suddenly innundated with media after taking a bit of a break from it all. I mentioned yesterday that I’m reading Bill McKibben’s Eaarth at the moment which is a bit of a bombshell in terms of describing the environmental catastrophe we’re living in (as well as proposing possibilities for at least surviving in this new world), and I’m sure it’s not helping either… but f*$k, sometimes this civilization seems preposterous. In terms of waste, I mean, in terms of useless distractions.

But I don’t even want to go there – the BP spill, the denial of rights to Omar Khadr, the fires and floods most likely related to climate change that are destroying large swaths of the western provinces right now. It’s too demoralizing, and it doesn’t get to the heart of how we propel ourselves to work for change in a world gone off its axis.

Earlier today I read the article Calling All Fanatics with the subhead “Protecting nature should be more important than enjoying it” in Orion magazine. Written by Derrick Jensen, a tireless promoter of ecological activism (his main contributions these days are as a writer and speaker), the article exhorts that every single thing we do (read, write, paint, make theatre about etc) must be in defense of the planet and to do otherwise is unforgiveable. Unforgiveable! And that while he recognizes that even the most ardent activist needs rest, there are so few people involved in saving the planet that those of us who are shouldn’t really take much time away from it because there aren’t others ready to fill the gap when we do.

Now that’s inspiring isn’t it? First of all I should make no art that isn’t about saving the planet, and secondly, taking a break to recharge really just underscores how much I don’t care about making change. I’d like to think Jensen was just making a rhetorical point to stress the importance of planet-saving activism, but since he also advocates the type of underground activism which completely removes one from their family and peer group, I’m pretty sure he’s quite serious when he says “for anyone not to devote her/his talents and energies to defending the planet is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself”. I suppose most of us by that definition would be up against the wall should the eco-revolution come.

But besides that, it’s exactly the *opposite* of what drives me to want to save the planet (or change the government or whatever) in the first place. Moral hectoring is not an effective motivational tool!

What is it then? As in my post yesterday I am really just working through these thoughts, but what I have recognized for some time is like anything – activism requires a large degree of faith not unlike the spiritual. The belief (against all odds) that things can get better, the understanding that each of us does have a role and purpose in a world which continually tells us otherwise. And like any other spiritual practice, our faith must be bouyed by two things: 1) supportive community, and 2) the occasional evidence that change can happen (even if it’s very small evidence). Additionally, time off without guilt is much-required in order that we remain healthy enough to continue the fight without damaging each other in the process.

All that said, I’m going to leave off here for the day, and try to come back to this tomorrow. More posting about inspired activism awaits!

One thought on “The opposite of inspiration.

  1. Citing a moral imperative seems, to me, too close to religious coercion. The fundamentalist tone of a lot of radical political discourse is unreasonable and turns people off. Most activists have given up a lot personally and the idea that they are obliged to further sacrifice to compensate for public apathy seems unbalanced. No amount of sacrifice by the minority is going to counteract the apathy of the majority. They need to wake up, and they aren’t going to wake up until they start to feel the pain of the collapse of their way of life.

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