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They are us
(To listen to me read this post, please visit the podcast link on my Substack)
I was listening to an audiobook on my walk today, by one of my favorite authors, Arundhati Roy. In My Seditious Heart, she details the brutal tactics used by the Indian government to quash dissent, bulldoze human rights, and catapult the very rich far into the stratosphere, beyond the reach of everyday humans like you and I.
At one point, she separates power into “the State” and “the People”. She frames the State as the machinery that comprises the prevailing systems of our time: capitalism, patriarchy, imperialism, white supremacy, misogyny, etc. And, of course, the People then are those who must navigate those systems for survival, happiness, safety, stability, freedom, belonging, etc.
As she was saying that the State “never tires”, but the People do, I was thinking about friends and acquaintances who have, over the years, admitted (voices heavy with embarrassment and shame) that their father fought on the side of fascism, or their brother is a card-carrying member of the MAGA club, or their mother secretly donates to conversion therapy organizations.
I thought of my own family members who uphold, whether intentionally or inadvertently, systems of oppression and subjugation. In India, caste oppression is the ugly underbelly of the “progress” machine, but there are other deeply rooted systems that prop that up, such as patriarchy, misogyny, and religious supremacy, just to name a few.
And then I thought of how I, myself, am part of the very machinery I often rage against. Although I make changes where I can and do my best to stay aware and vigilant, I also take flights, consume goods made in countries with human rights abuses, eat food cultivated on lands that are being eroded because of unsustainable farming practices. When these human rights abuses come into my awareness, I boycott and apply pressure for change however I can, but how many abuses and violations occur without my awareness?
This is what happens when entire systems are founded in the subjugation and diminished humanity of others, and the reducing of nature, animals, and the environment to profit-making ventures. We can fight individual abuses here and there, but the machine continues to generate them…that’s what it was designed for.
I know that transformation has to be on a larger scale, and that people who have the power to enact fundamental, root-level change have to initiate actions that impact entire swathes of the globe. They are the State, and on an individual level we are the People. But the State is still made up of our fathers, brothers, grandparents, mothers, partners, spouses, and friends. People we love. People who’ve raised us, people we trust…people who are brilliant, talented, brave, and creative in many areas of their lives.
Change can also happen there. The State is peopled by our loved ones. It is peopled by us. Change happens by challenging, having the hard conversations, sitting in the discomfort of conflict, braving disapproval, grappling with not being liked, standing firmly rooted in storms of triggers and emotions. Change happens through relationship and trust, through healing ourselves and, by extension, those around us.
The emotions of conflict and tension transform and then pass. Emotions can sometimes shake us to our core, but they move through. They are e-motions; they come around to tell us something and then they go. I think of them as units of information. When we allow our higher Self to stand rooted in what we know is true: that all life, in whatever form it takes, is precious, is sacred, and that those of us who have the power to protect the more vulnerable among us have a responsibility to do so…that is when things that haven’t budged in decades or centuries can suddenly leap forward beyond our wildest hopes.
Most of you reading this are already on board. I am not telling you something you don’t already know. What I am pointing out is that even within us there are interwoven, inextricable strands of the State. We inherited them, we swim in the waters that create them, and most of the time we don’t realize they are there, as part of us.
Our work is to learn to identify those leaden strands, and—carefully, patiently, lovingly—transform them…spin them into gold. Those strands are carriers, allowing poisoned beliefs to seep into our words, our actions, the ways we open to and shut out love. They stop us from expanding and connecting with ourselves and others.
I know that this is definitely part of my work. To keep seeking, within myself, the ways I perpetuate what doesn’t work, and to transform it into something more life and love-affirming.
May the light of this full moon illuminate what needs healing and transformation in the shadows of your awareness. Once you see it, you can work with it, and once you’ve worked with it you are no longer afraid of it. And when you are no longer afraid of it, it holds no power over you.
That is when you are deeply rooted in your own truth. That is when storms or poisons cannot uproot you.
And then the hard conversations are not that hard, and transformation begins.
Much love to you all as you map the unique terrain of your hearts and do the intricate internal embroidery required to open, heal, and connect.