How do we change the world?
In Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, adrienne marie brown makes a wonderful point about the ways we can use science fiction writing as a way to imagine what the future world could be like. What we could change to create the world we want. She sees science fiction writing as an act of resistance.
I love this idea! And I love spending time daydreaming about what the future could be. My future, the world’s future. Being focused on what’s next is part of my nature as a 7 on the Enneagram.
Because my world has slowed down during this pandemic is giving me lots of time to think and dream. My thoughts have been very focused on what the world will look like after this pandemic passes, whenever that may be. Many people are asking how to get back to normal, but what even is normal and why do we want that?
What I see as normal, thanks to watching many videos and reading articles (listed below) to educate my opinion, was completely broken to begin with. This system of capitalism, competition, and corporations aren’t helping people. Many people work tirelessly to make ends meet and when they don’t meet because of so many things working against lower and middle class people, it is the people that have failed, not the systems.
But the systems are failing. They have been failing many people for a long time, but the Coronavirus has amplified these failures.
Systemic failure is why a disproportionate number of black and brown people are dying from the virus. It is why there isn’t enough PPE in hospitals. This broken, capitalistic system is why there is even talk “restarting the economy” when it isn’t safe to leave your house without a mask on your face. Because capitalism tells us that profits matter more than people. It has always been this way, but that is at the forefront of conversations recently.
So, I have no desire to return to that version of normal. Because none of that should be normal.
Instead I am going to do daydreaming about changes that can happen. I hope these changes include Universal Healthcare and paid sick leave. Better transportation systems that help the earth live. Business practices that are focused on people instead of how to make the most money.
This world also needs to include liberation from the power of white supremacy and colonialism. A world without borders of empire. That’s one of my favorite thoughts. It was inspired by this video. A great quote I heard today “Equality says we should all get a piece of the pie. Liberation says we need a new pie.”
I think it is evident that big change is necessary. But what does a better world look like? A more liberated one? This is a great time to imagine what we want to return to and what is best left out.
How do we change the world? We can start by imagining what is possible. So let’s imagine together!
Some resources for further education that helped form my ideas:
* Disclaimer: Please disregard any grammatical errors, words are hard right now, do not even get me started with my constant struggle with grammar!**
Last week, my roommates committed to working on a shark puzzle for the second time this year. I really hope that YAVA’s from Tucson will read this blog so that I can hopefully identify the origin story of this horrendous puzzle. This weapon of madness is a JIGSAW puzzle filled with many different shapes and sizes of pieces; ranging from large like a poker chip and smaller than a pencil eraser (note: these may be broken chunks of other pieces). The box says that the puzzle is 800+ pieces (not an exact number) and the border is curved into the outline of sea and Sharks. As previously stated, we attempted this puzzle once before but gave up due to how complicated it was. Now though, as we are “sheltering in place” and rarely leave the house, we were committed. What better time to be frustrated with a puzzle?
As I think about the frustrations I have with this puzzle however, I am wondering how much of it can be a metaphor and outlet for the anxiety I have around the Corona Virus. This virus has many unknown and everchanging variables: who is the targeted population it is affecting, is it small immune-compromised children, or elderly adults? Will it last a month, a year; are the precautions we are taking necessary? How is the virus spreading, what boundaries are necessary and which ones are fear-induced? Do we trust fear or does it lead to chaos?
The puzzle was a slow start, we grumbled at how none of the pieces seemed to fit, it did not make sense, but we remained hopeful that maybe the more pieces we got to work together, the better it would get. We just needed some time. This is similar to how the U.S. was reacting three LONG weeks ago about the pandemic. It’s fine, the affected people are mostly overseas, wash your hands, no problem.
Then the panic set in. The more pieces that fit together the more we noticed how unprepared we were. Of the 800+ pieces that were supposed to be there, only maybe 400 seemed to be. Slowly but surely, panic grew as more and more pieces seemed to be missing. Missing just like the toilet paper in the stores. My boss joked to me on a Costco run that she would just have to use paper towels and discard the paper “Mexico style”- all because some idiot thought they could make an easy buck by buying up the stocks.
After the panic, came dread and lack of hope. Why are we working on a puzzle that will never get done? What better do we have to do? Sure, we are too far back to quit now but also- what is the point? This is the phase I am currently struggling through with the virus and it affected most of my week last week. Why dedicate so many hours on something that will inevitably be canceled, postponed, or extended. Sure, it is scary right now because we DON’T KNOW. But eventually, things will fall into place and everything will close down and hopefully, then people will start to understand and help one another. … This is the goal- but where is the follow-through? Right now, my community partner organization is representing 53 clients who are in immigration detention centers. Courts across the country are closing down and inmates that prove unharmful to society are being released so that the disease does not spread through mass confinement. Our clients that are not in detention, all have their hearings postponed for the next month. Judges, mostly old white men, have taken time off from work and refuse to come to court for the risk of germs spreading. Yet, my boss who should for many reasons be sheltering at home is still having to go to Eloy and Florence to cover hearings. Our clients are not being released from detention centers and our volunteers are working overtime to file applications to make it happen.
Meanwhile, I wonder what’s the point? Won’t we slowly but surely realize (like we have been) the impacts this virus is causing? It is a TERRIBLE thing to admit and I see my privilege in the statement. I can afford to look for a better day and hope for change. I work for a program that looks out for my safety and although my job is essential, asks that I work from home. I do not have to worry about catching a virus because I do not have to go anywhere or see anybody. I do not have to wait in a cell until someone realizes I am a person of worth. I, I do not have to face the fear that most likely, that moment will never come. I do not know, nor will I ever realize, what it is like to have society hate me because of the color of my skin and the way I sought refuge from unexplainable horror. I will never have to put into words and have to justify why my life has value. Instead, I can choose to sleep in an extra hour or spend my weekends binging Netflix. I do not have to worry if, by the time people do understand, it is too late.
We stuck with the puzzle. We knew it was lacking pieces but it was not as many as we thought and although it is no longer on our dining room table, we left it mostly put together and are hoping that in doing other puzzles in our house, we can find more of the missing pieces. There is no throwing in the towel with this virus, it is not a puzzle we can put back in its box. So, we have to remain hopeful, I remain hopeful. That this experience is more than a puzzle metaphor and that this time brings us all deep reflection.
Today marks the beginning of week two of self-isolation for the Tucson YAV house. Last week, because of COVID-19, none of us went to work. We all worked from home as best we can, but for me, it is difficult to do home repairs for others while I staying in my own home.
Because I have so much free time these days, my plan for not working was to do some reading, writing, learning new skills, and completing personal tasks that had been put on the back burner for a while. I was ready to have a “productive” week.
But what does that even mean?
I made a daily schedule. That overwhelmed me. Even though I had at least a week of time to accomplish my list, it felt like too much to get done. Also, what if one or two of the days I was tired and didn’t want to do what I had laid out on my schedule… What if this time didn’t accomplish everything I expected it to?
This year has challenged my idea of productivity. I have always thought of a productive day as one where I turn a to-do list into a to-done list. A productive conversation is one where there is a set outcome and action steps decided, right?
But that is a version of productivity that doesn’t work for me any more. Honestly, I think the modern American version of “productivity” is fake.
As a YAV house, we have weekly community check ins. Sometimes these meetings address specific issues: budgeting, community chores, schedules etc. But other times we take time to have conversations that are really needed, but don’t have a defined out come. We talk about how each of us is doing, how we are feeling about our community, work, and families. Some times there are lots of laughs during this and other times it is more serious. All of this is good. All of this is necessary. All of this is productive.
A few weeks ago, while building a ramp one day for a CHRPA client, we sat down for a lunch break. Usually this takes about 30 minutes, but that day, the client’s caregiver struck up a conversation and we sat and talked for close to an hour. He also talked to us as we were working.
Sure, this slowed us down, if we were more focused and worked faster, we could have gotten farther along on that days project. But every moment of that day was fruitful. We engaged shared stories and engaged in community building, which is always good.
But what about times where there is nothing that gets done. No conversations. No tasks accomplished. Just stillness.
My recent experience with that was a desert sojourn retreat. I spent 3 days and 2 nights camping alone in the desert with only a journal and a bible with me to keep my occupied. While I could have read the Bible the whole time or journaled for hours on end, I didn’t. Most of the 54 hours I spent alone, I simply sat and stared. I looked at the world around me. I took moments to just breath. Moments to appreciate how small I am in comparison to the world and to reflect on what my role is in the world. And I read the book of John. But that is all that I did in more than two days time! And it was wonderful!
So I am holding on to that now as I launch into week two of not going to work at CHRPA and not being able to leave the house much. I am going to check in with myself to know what I need. To try to get some things done as they can happen, but to also give myself a lot of grace in what is accomplished. And to have time to enjoy stillness and peace around me, even if it is just for a few moments.
I’m sure many of you are trying to be “productive” in this strange time too, but I hope that you will also consider what that means and allow yourself grace as well. And try to find some stillness in these crazy times. Stay well friends!
At the beginning of March, which in this time of COVID-19 now feels so long ago, my fellow Tucson Borderland YAV’s and I went to Cascabel, where we stayed in the canyon that hosts sojourn experience. These are experiences to be in solitude for an amount of time. We spent our first night together but once we woke up in the morning we headed out to our solo campsites for two nights and three days of solo time before returning to our group for one last night together to celebrate and reflect.
There was something unique about our experience, even different from the sojourners who typically come to this canyon for time of solitude. Though we still practiced solitude, this was something we were getting to practice while also in community. This was something I reflected on while in my alone time. As I saw each sunset, I wondered if Laura was enjoying it just as much as I was. As I shivered at night, I wondered if others were also having trouble sleeping through the night. As I drank my coffee, I wondered if Hannah was also enjoying a cup of coffee. As I journaled I wondered if others were processing what they wanted to in this time and space. I wondered if my community was sharing in the same joys of being surrounded by nature, I wondered if they share similar fears of being alone, if something were to happen. I wondered if they felt comforted knowing Alison was bring us water and checking on us by coming to the tree at the base of each of our camps where we’ve tied rags to signal we are ok. I wondered if they also felt empowered by being in nature and being able to have less pressure from the rest of the world, and the ability to only listen to the needs of their body. I ate when I needed to, I used the restroom when I needed to, I rested when I was tired, I returned to my tent when I needed to relief from the sun.
There were other powerful experiences during my solo time I could reflect on or share, but in three weeks time a lot has changed, as the world faces this global health crisis. But this experience of solitude in community, continues to resonate with me, as my YAV house, the YAV program, the city of Tucson, Pima County, the state of Arizona, the United States, and countries across the globe are experiencing this crisis, and members of all these communities are also being asked to isolate themselves from one another to keep each other safe. We are isolating as a community and for the community.
Though at this time it’s been easy to feel isolated and alone, I’ve found comfort in the ability to creatively feel connected and in community. As I talk to my parents and friends, I hear the different fears and anxieties we share. As I watch musicians perform instagram live stream concerts, I see many other fans tuning in, showing me there’s many other people like me wanting to connect with music during this time. I feel a lot of comfort being part of a program, with a site coordinator and board checking in with us and offering support as we navigate and process this, in the middle of our YAV year.
As a house, we have made jokes that our sojourn retreat has prepared us to sit around and do nothing. But really, at least for me our time at our sojourn retreat has given me ways to reflect and see the beauty of community that is not always visible or means being in physical presence or constant communication, rather the beauty in community is even in complete solitude or mandated orders to shelter in place, it’s presence continues to be powerful and felt. Also always wash your hands.