REVOLT TO LIVE
First in a three-part series
Imagine that you were given a magic wand to create the world you want. What would it look and feel like? What would you preserve, add or subtract? Who would be your heroes? The magic wand is real, made possible by all that is within you, and around you.
Origins: Revolt is an existential imperative. It’s a ‘do or die’ for the quality of our lives and the future of our species. We are wired for it, from our DNA to the locomotion to our brain. Revolt has, throughout history, taken us from the brink of extinction to extraordinary levels of human development.
Revolt is the single most important driver of our resilience and survival. Physical predators, climate change—from droughts to ice ages—diseases and famine — all challenged us. Innovations in migrations, pair bonding, tools, and symbolic practices—culture—helped us prevail.
Today, our world is increasingly connected with an artifact of our own behavior. The way we frame reality and how we behave determines our future—and the future of every species on Earth.
Revolt is a drive to go beyond the limits of everyday reality, which is often presented to us as ‘given’ and ‘finished’—as if the only possibility is a future that is a continuation of the present.
Individuals who revolt are committed to creating genuine alternatives to exploitation, corporate greed, and constant consumerism.
Without revolt, women could not vote, civil rights would have remained a dream, with the Supreme Court sanctioning slavery, and the eight-hour work would be lost. The United States would consist of a bunch of colonies, issuing banknotes decorated by images of kings and queens.
A few people in power, manufacturing consent and political freedom for themselves and their clique want to rule without question.
Incremental change won’t work. Trying to solve climate chaos by adding 5 miles to a gallon of gas, for instance, borders on absurdity.
Addressing inequality by giving individuals and families tax breaks is equivalent to fighting a forest fire with a garden hose. Most of our leaders are doltishly stuck in reiterating copycat ideas that are outdated by hundreds of years. Mainstream economists and pundits are not far behind.
The Life Gap: The life gap is the difference between our present reality—our lived daily experience—-and what’s possible in our future.
The reality is that our economic and social practices threaten us with extinction. Closing the gap with a humane future in mind, one that affirms life may be the most important project of our generations.
Why tolerate an economy that poisons our planet, polluting our air and water? Why wait for coronavirus to block industrial production to breathe freely? Why agree to a declining standard of living driven by companies and powerful elites that refuse to adopt sustainable solutions while draining the world of capital? Why sacrifice our children to an economic system gone awry?
Forty percent of the food sources in our oceans have disappeared; one million plant and animal species were at risk of extinction in 2019. Who caused this? Humans—- some more than others.
Entire cities, like Jakarta, Indonesia, are sinking below sea level due to pumping groundwater beyond the capacity of replenishment. For the first time in American history, Americans are dying at an earlier age, reversing centuries of increased longevity.
The belief that life on Earth will perpetuate long after our individual selves are gone, is in jeopardy. Our sense of a collective afterlife is being challenged, and it’s fundamental to our wellbeing. What if you were conscious that 30 days after your death, life on Earth—all life—would cease to exist, our planet defined by its emptiness?
Closing the life gap requires revolt. Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize winning poet, captures this elegantly in a two-line statement:
“What looks the strongest has outlived its term; the future lies with what is affirmed from under”.
Revolt Now: Revolt can seem daunting. It can generate excitement on the potential for change, but also anxiety and fear. Revolt is trapped in images of mass uprisings, confrontation, and violence.
If there’s 5,000 people at a protest and 75 get out of hand, the news covers the violence, not the issues, if it bleeds it leads, as the saying goes.
Revolt, more than anything, is an individual action infused with meaning and compassion connected to the goal of social innovation. Stepping into revolt is the beginning of a personal and social journey of genuine freedom, contributing lasting solutions to our most vexing problems. It has survival value, for one and all.
Revolt forms an essential part of the American psyche and national identity, no matter how hidden at times it appears to be. Those who try to hijack revolt to promote right wing or personal agendas, understand little of our history.
The role of revolt adds new qualities of compassion, equity, and sustainability to life. This is the message going forward.
Elon Musk, entrepreneur, invokes revolt against the government’s position on coronavirus and stay at home orders by shouting “give people back their goddamn freedom”. This behavior has nothing to do with genuine revolt, and more to do with staffing his Tesla factories at any cost. Self-interest is a poor substitute for promoting social wellbeing.
Those on the right, however, will continue to reframe revolt to meet their paltry agenda. These people are desperate for recognition and have no intention to roll up their sleeves for the difficult work of qualitative change.
In the next blog, we’ll shift the focus onto those who are actively closing the life gap through revolt. We’ll learn from citizen activists who are engaged in shaping the fate of our planet— the importance of their actions, what they stand for, and why. Stay tuned.