“This book aims to ignite in you the fire that the passengers of Flight 93 felt when they took the only action they could think of: storming the cockpit and attempting to take back the plane. We speak here of rebellion, my friends: driving a stake into the heart of this vampire economy and refusing any longer to let the dominant culture exploit our fear and isolation to keep us pacified and docile while it sucks the life out of each and every one of us.
Let’s storm our civilization using creative actions and bring it back to human-sized before it is too late for life on our Mother Earth. Please join our resistance: work in your neighborhood to raise awareness, funds, comrades, and energy. Share your new story with us all. And keep striking back… it works!” pp. 21-2
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Interview with Derek by Willi
What are three of the biggest challenges today as some try to accelerate human evolution?
Denial. There are still so many people who don’t see a problem, who are too distracted by toys and media to notice what’s happening, or who are too comfortable to worry that life won’t stay like this, only bigger, as time goes on.
Inertia. Even for those who are awake it is nearly impossible to act in 100% alignment with our principles and values. A system has been constructed that separates us and isolates us, making our ability to connect with other humans or with Nature difficult if not impossible. Divide and conquer: the oldest trick in the book used by those on top. Their power resides primarily in the stories told by this dominant culture; our voices that are trying to tell different stories are drowned out. Additionally, the dominant culture is founded upon violence; and as those of us who want change tend to crave nonviolent solutions, again we find it difficult to stop a system that thrives on violence. *Polite and reasoned requests* hold no sway over brutal systems.
Resources. Not only do we need to find the resources to start up new ways of living, many of us who are on the fringe of the dominant culture don’t want to participate in that culture enough to gather the resources necessary to step out and do something completely different. How do we build something radically different while using the same tools and materials of the old dysfunction? And also, many of those on the fringe, who see possibilities for change, found themselves on the fringe because they had troubles (medical, work, relationship) that have stripped them of most or all of the resources they had at one time. They become focused on their own survival, rather than building and creating something new.
Let me also point to a fourth: Spirit. Every human I’ve ever known, in their most private moments, asks *Who am I?* and *Why am I here?* If we begin to explore answers to these two questions, we learn more about our core, inner being. That core almost always points to ways of living that contradict the dominant American culture, based as it is on genocide, violence, patriarchy, and exploitation of other beings and of Nature. Few people can overcome that dissonance between their inner understanding and the world in which they live, in order to accomplish anything. This may be the greatest challenge, and thus the best skill, that we activists need to cultivate in order to be successful.
Lora Zombie’s “little red riding hood” graces your book cover. Are you reading any new folklore?
In short, no. I do feel that art is an essential part of any new consciousness; both in order to conceive of a new way of living, and as a validation of possibility, when the old system screams *there is no alternative!* I just haven’t had the time, nor has that been a big part of my path. Maybe that should be my next project! Also let me point out that the first section of my book looks at how indigenous cultures see the world. I paint with a broad brush, but still we have access to enough different tribes who remain relatively untouched by the American model that we can get some idea of the *radical* ways they structure their lives. And after all, it may not be *new folklore*, but it is a way of life and a way of telling the meaning of the world so different from our own that it can be called folklore, and it is new to me.
You speak about getting out of our “dominant culture.” What values are propping-up the status quo and what alternative ones can we implement?
Let me point to these values that hold up this paradigm:
Profit. As long as corporations are mandated, by law and by custom, to make a profit for shareholders, profit will continue to trump life and Nature in any decision-making process. And since economy is the primary way in which we interact with people and Nature, profit is a strong impediment to change. Alternatively we can strengthen our commitment to the *Commons*, to taking care of one another (as we used to, before Capitalism), and to begin to address profit not just by lowering our consumption and hence our need to trade, but also by gifting more, instead of purchasing or selling what we want.
The dominator model. Whether it is patriarchy, keeping males and so-called male characteristics the primary standard operating procedure; or endless war and global hegemony of the economy that spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined; or the racism that helped found this nation four hundred years ago that persists today; this dominant culture fears the *other* and attempts through force and psychological manipulations to keep the other at bay.
Individuality. As long as I feel separate, one in seven billion, I doubt my own power to make a difference. I surrender when I no longer have the energy or resources to struggle against the system. I deepen my fear of others and distance myself from anyone who of might be of assistance, if only because I buy the argument that I should take personal responsibility and care for myself without complaint. I can throw hurtful words at my brothers, I can pollute without consequence if I can believe that I gain from the effort, I can steal out of a sense that I am entitled because I have worked hard, it’s just that the breaks have gone against me through no fault of my own. There a myriad ways more in which the sense of isolation is problematic…
One of my models for capturing the current sceneis this: Pre-Chaos Era, Chaos Era, and Post-Chaos Era. Your thoughts?
Wow. I’d really like to spend just a bit more time on this one, but much of what you point to in the graphic is addressed throughout my book. Let me offer a few brief comments here; this question alone could engender an evening’s discussion just to get people thinking about their own responses.
Time frames. Two quick thoughts: 1) no one can predict. Will it be soon, economic collapse, social unrest, war, or political chaos? Longer term, climate chaos? Looking back in history, these things happen unpredictably, usually due to a Black Swan event. 2) I am more of the mind that collapse, or chaos, will not necessarily be a sudden and complete, stand-alone moment, that we can ever point to and say, “That’s the day we collapsed.” I think we are already in chaos, already collapsing. There are parts of the Gulf Coast and New York City that will never be rebuilt following damages from Katrina, Deepwater Horizon, and Sandy.
There are parts of the country like Detroit where it is hard to imagine the city ever being like it was in its heyday. The extended drought in the Midwest is reshaping the farming and livestock industries, and beginning to limit our access to resources. We are rapidly approaching a time where resources for rebuilding will be too expensive or even nonexistent. This is what I point to in my book: let’s work to collapse the system while we still have the resources left that we will need to rebuild something in its place.
Preparations. This is one of the areas of dichotomy were a useful skill is holding opposing ideas in mind and heart at the same time. I don’t feel we can put all of our efforts into bringing down the system; at the same time, neither can we put all of our efforts into building something new outside the system. It takes both. Remember, Dr. King was fighting the existence of alternate systems for blacks and whites, and for good reason. Also, as mentioned above, if your only tools are provided by the old system, how do you build something with new roots?
Taking sides. I’m not sure what this points to. I see the need for us each to do the inner work to raise our consciousness, the passive work of taking what the systems allows us in terms of resistance to remain in our own integrity, and the active work where we become the sand in the oil of the system to literally cause it to seize up. I guess the side I want to take is the side of Nature and human beings, standing against the corporate machine.
Nonviolence. This is one of the hard discussions we have to be able to have. Too often in progressive circles, NV is used as a litmus test: if you want all options on the table, a diversity of tactics, then you are shunned. I argue in my book that, while I do stand against killing people, I do not see property damage as violence. I do not see someone resisting being lynched as a violent response, no matter what they are doing to stay alive. Those who say that we can’t use violence against property because it *hurts* the owner are buying the lies we have been told by this culture. I also argue that the oppressed cannot be limited in their attempt to gain their freedom by the values of the oppressor. If we stick to only what the system lets us do, then we can never hurt the system.
And if you think that if we just raise our consciousness this system, based on fear and brutality, will one day *decide* that you are right and change itself, I feel you are mistaken. It is difficult to claim that Gandhi, for instance, successfully used nonviolence against the British. Their Empire was collapsing; they ran out of time and needed a way out of India. Gandhi was the most palatable option, yes partly due to his nonviolent stance, but also because compared to other more active and revolutionary groups that we don’t hear about in our western history books, he was easier to negotiate with. It is hard to imagine he would have lived long enough to make it into history books at all if he had tried nonviolence inside Germany in order to stop the genocide there or bring down the Nazi government.
Avoid chaos? Again, we are already in chaos. Evolution, or personal and societal growth, works because of chaos, not usually conscious decisions to change. I am afraid that chaos will lead to people dying. I am afraid that avoiding chaos will lead to people dying, but for different reasons. I vote for chaos.
You write: “So we are severely challenged to live in integrity when there are so many issues with the rational thought process our culture expects us to use.” Do you find it paradoxical (or worse?!) to uphold your minority view and face the hate, anger, greed systemic in America? How do you stand it?
Sorry to repeat myself once more, but I feel that one of the most important skills we must cultivate as activists is the ability to hold multiple viewpoints in mind at once. No matter how much you may ridicule or despise a *climate denier*, there are valid truths that they are acknowledging that need to be addressed as part of any *solution*. You may not like what they have to say, but they are right about some facets of the problem. I do try my best to live in my integrity, or wholeness, but I recognize that I don’t have all the data or all the answers. I can stand the hate and anger as long as I am not killed for my position.
The hate, anger, and greed are just the manifestations of the dysfunction of the underlying patriarchy, domination, and violence that this system is founded upon. As long as I see that, then those who profess these emotions can be seen as clueless, or entranced, I suppose. Also, I came across a Buddhist concept years ago: If you can change the situation, why be upset? And if you can’t change the situation, again, why be upset? Don’t misunderstand, please! I have good days and bad, cycling between feeling empowered and feeling powerless. But it helps to separate the pain from the suffering; and then deal with the pain and let go of the suffering.
Where would you send us for a non-Chaotic experience?
Find a tree that you can visit daily. Spend at least ten minutes, if not an hour, every day sitting with and touching the tree. Watch as it changes throughout the year. Feel into the connection this tree can offer you into the natural world that we are so disconnected from in the modern, American Dream.
You do not mention permaculture in your book. Not a solution?
I don’t intend to slight this movement; but it just hasn’t been much on my radar. Again, I think that building alternate structures is useful, but can’t be the only action we take. I fear that if your permaculture is taking place in a city, that you will be overwhelmed by the chaos should the dominant culture, or your city, experience a rapid collapse. It helps to see front yards turned into vegetable gardens, to disconnect from power and water grids, to share the bounty with neighbors and friends. If your plan is to use permaculture outside the city, then land selection is critical and in some cases, prohibitive.
There is definitely a place for permaculture in our world today. My book however is focused more on the motivating side, the roots side if you will, and less about bullet points that give you a to-do list of actions you can take to save the planet. I suspect that if I were more thoroughly versed in permaculture I would be able to point out the ways in which that mindset matches what I am trying to accomplish. Different path, same goal, in other words. I should look to learn more and speak to this in my next book, whatever that turns out to be.
You write: “We live in a sea of energy and consciousness. This energy is like water: its best work is when it is moving, vibrant and cleansing, alive with possibility.” Please offer us some examples.
I like the water metaphor because we have all experienced foul, stagnant pools of water, and most know how that is just a breeding ground for disease. And we have spent time around clean, flowing brooks. In human lives, think of hoarders: people who collect goods, which are really just manifestations of energy, and fill their space with them. This too is a breeding ground for disease, both physical and psychological. From a different angle, think now of generosity: how good it feels to give to another, no strings attached.
Altruism has been demonstrated in animals even. Whether it is volunteer work or giving of money or goods to one who is in need, letting our energy flow to another brings rewards that we usually value more highly than what we gave away. And clearing our space; either by giving away possessions or performing service, makes room for new energy to enter our lives. Again a perspective I learned years ago: if my life and mind and heart are filled I won’t be able to allow new energy into my life; I will stagnate. Another perspective, regarding consciousness: in contemplative prayer or meditation, the idea is to let go of my own limited and worldly thoughts and be open to what energy or awareness wants to arise from within. In other words, I try to free up some space by letting go of my thoughts so that there is movement, and so that possibilities I have yet to contemplate can enter my field of vision. As long as I clutch to what I have already thought, my energy stagnates and I limit myself, often breeding psychic disease.
You write: “Remember our history lessons: eventually, people found better things to do than obey feudal lords. Perhaps the transition from capitalism to some new economic system will occur in a similar way. Or not.” What system do you want?
Great question. I will point here, in this short response, to two aspects: first, I want us truly question what it means to *work* for our *living*. By that I mean, can we question the need for people to work in order to live? Only 15% of workers today provide all of our food, water, and housing. Could we find a way to increase the use of technology and cut even that small number in half, and then let everyone have life’s necessities for free? Then if you decide you want more than a minimal existence; if you want the latest tech toy, or a new car, then you would have to take a job. This calls into question many deep-seated prejudices about responsibility, wealth, and even technology itself. But tech seems to have the ability to diminish our need to work in order to survive, so let’s examine that aspect of our latest societal evolution.
Second, I favor a gift economy. In some of my previous books I have explained the methods and dysfunctions of this monetary system; suffice it for now to say that money needs increasing use of resources and increasing debt to survive. On a finite planet, that eventually breaks. A gift economy, on the other hand, is not prone to the same reasons for collapse. I tried an experiment last year with friends. I do taxes for a living; I asked my friends to evaluate their means, their ability to pay some amount for my expertise, and to weigh the value they felt they had received from my work and to offer me a fair compensation, such that they would feel good about returning to me next year. You may not find it hard to believe if you try to calculate this in your own situation: only one person was truly able to complete the calculation and make an offer. We are so trained in this culture that everything has a price, and we can try to get a discount but ultimately we choose to buy or not buy based on the quoted price, but what we do not have to do is determine the value of something in our own eyes.
Long way around saying that the current model is so deeply ingrained that I don’t feel competent to offer a perfect plan for a new economy; I only know I want it to not depend on money created from debt, nor do I want human beings to not be able to sleep except in particular locations (bedrooms or hotels) as prescribed by law. The idea that someone cannot sleep in their car or in a tent on public land is unfathomable to me. Sorry, I might have gotten off track on this one!
I do not see much discussion on morals in the media or family. How do propose to create better ones?
Spirituality. Not religion, systems of belief that give our power over to intermediaries who then exploit us, and not scientific materialism wherein everything can be broken into its constituent parts and graphed and thus be understood, because it can’t. We have all had moments when we have felt connected with the Universe in profound and miraculous ways; we have all heard the small inner voice inside our heart urging us to lean a little bit towards an awe-full experience that has changed us in fundamental ways. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could live there more often? If we do, morals come along as part of the package.
If we work to overcome our separation and instead build connection, then family becomes our path to service and love, again bringing our sacred values into our actions. I don’t trust media solely because it is so dominated by the very corporations that exploit us today; some new paradigm that helps spread this meme and invites us to taste deeply of new myths is welcome! Of course it would be instrumental in shaping not only the discussion but the morals that will arise from our new paradigm.
I suppose this is a good question for you, my friend: how can we better spread myth and storytelling that bypasses the existing paradigm? What is the future of myth as it leads us on our evolutionary path?
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Author Bio –
Derek Joe Tennant is a citizen-economist, a self-published author of several books, and is deeply committed to volunteer work. As an Enrolled Agent he prepares tax returns part of the year, and he has worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) eight times in the last ten years, always during or after the larger storms such as Katrina, Tuscaloosa, and Sandy. He has worked in disaster relief also as a volunteer, both in the U.S. and in Haiti. When volunteering as an English teacher in a school for Burmese refugee children in Thailand in 2008, he met a few dozen kids who had left their homeland because of Cyclone Nargis. During the last decade, he has spent several months each year in Thailand, enjoying the chance to step out of the American dominant culture and to taste what it means to live differently, and to be outside the propaganda bubble. He happily offers his work as free downloads on his website, and welcomes your comments and questions. And no, he is not aware of any FEMA camps being prepared for American civilians.
Derek Joe Tennant
derek at derekjoetennant.net