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Killing Hope, Enlivening Options

Carolyn Baker

© Copyright 2006, From The Wilderness Publications, All Rights Reserved. This story may NOT be posted on any Internet web site without express written permission. Contact May be circulated, distributed or transmitted for non-profit purposes only.

March 20, 2006 0800 PST (FTW) - ASHLAND -As Bush’s poll ratings continue plummeting, as the stench of Washington’s cesspool of corruption wafts across the nation, and as one courageous Senator, Russ Feingold, introduced censure of the President, I continue witnessing the clueless left clutching teddy bears and hoping that somehow, some way, the 2008 elections offer the promise of “taking back America,” a phrase that I have come to loathe in the last five years as the nation sinks more blatantly and precariously into the quicksand of fascism. Although I have long ago said my good-byes to “hope,” I cautiously embrace options, and in the following essay, I intend to clarify the difference between the two and enumerate a few of the options I have come to believe are available to those who clearly recognize that we are living in a fascist empire locked into the Terminal Triangle of Peak Oil, global climate change, and planetary economic meltdown.

For a number of reasons I perceive hope as detrimental to our sanity and survival. First, I have no interest in “taking back America” because the America to which most left-liberals refer when mouthing this empty slogan is not an America that I want back. I want no part of “lesser evils” and political parties that collude in the demise of the nation, the planet, and its inhabitants. As long as any of us “hopes” for the return of that America, we delude and infantilize ourselves, waiting like toddlers for the appearance of Santa Claus. Tragically, the plump, jolly St. Nicholas the left longs to have back is not a pal, but a predator who delivers economic, environmental, social, and spiritual devastation in packages with more appealing gift-wrap.

Living as I do near the U.S.-Mexican border, I was privileged for some years to teach in Mexico where I learned far more from my students who were university-educated professionals than they could have ever learned from me. They taught me much about their culture and their country’s politics. In those days I believed in “lesser-evils” and found it difficult to understand the complete absence of hope among educated Mexicans for political change in their country. While I learned much about the depth of corruption in Mexico, its abject, merciless poverty, and the barbaric lengths to which its corrupt underworld of politicians and narcotraffickers were willing to go to maintain their power, what was most valuable was finally comprehending the attitude of my students toward all this—an attitude which was virtually devoid of hope. While their perspective may be labeled by some as “passive,” I witnessed in awe their determination to create options in their personal worlds because they had come to fully understand the futility of trying to alter the big picture. Because they had no illusions, they had no hope, but they did have options.

The ruling elite of the United States and its corporate media in giddy complicity, have created an almost impenetrable illusion that this nation is a polar opposite of Mexico. When I cross the border, get stopped by a Mexican police officer making $300 a month and slip him $10 not to arrest me, confiscate my license, and impound my car, then return to the U.S. and tell my friends about it, heads shake and distressed expressions appear on faces, almost always followed by the words, “Those poor Mexican people; their nation is so corrupt.” These days, when trying to explain the depths of corruption in the United States, I’m fond of saying that America is quite simply, Mexico with makeup. When American citizens thoroughly understand that, they will stop “hoping” and have more energy available for creating options. As Catherine Austin Fitts is fond of saying, we spent two years of time and energy trying to get a lesser-evil elected in 2004 when we could have been creating sustainable solutions instead of supporting yet another rigged election.

So when we’ve “gotten it,” what options do we have? Bear with me if some of these suggestions sound too elementary. I’m laying out a process here:

  1. First and most fundamental is the willingness to look at how ugly the situation really is. This is not unlike being willing to look at the extent of dysfunction in a family. In the family system, this may begin with feelings of discomfort, followed by thoughts that someone in the family may have a dirty little secret, followed by the awareness that that someone is an addict or alcoholic, followed by the realization that that someone was a child molester, followed by the awareness that that person may have molested many children. The journey from “feelings of discomfort” to the realization that one may have been sexually abused to the realization that it happened many times to oneself and one’s siblings is a daunting, painful odyssey of hurt, rage, shame, and a plethora of other negative emotions. At any time in the process, one may choose to go “thus far and no farther,” but then one is confronted with the reality that “thus far” is not the whole truth.
  2. So it has been as I have discussed September 11, 2001 with hundreds of people. Quite often the response is, “I don’t want to know the whole truth.” That is always a prerogative to which one has every right, and it must be remembered that if one stops there, the remainder of reality always awaits revelation. Like the full disclosure of ugly secrets in dysfunctional families, owning and assimilating the abhorrent realities of our government is a process that requires a willingness to invest time and energy in developing one’s learning curve, not to mention extraordinary courage.

  3. One of the most important things that awakened progressives can do is stop fearing and dreading talking about and dealing with money. For decades, I walked around quite pleased with myself because I only had what I needed and recoiled at words like “investment,” “abundance,” and “wealth”. More recently, especially through the work of Catherine Austin Fitts, I have come to understand that money, like a hammer, is simply a tool. The tool can be used to drive a nail, or it can be used to bludgeon someone to death.
  4. One of the most important concepts activists need to understand is that money is not the enemy and that people who know a lot about money are not necessarily rich, greedy extortionists. In fact, they are natural allies for economic transformation.

    An enormously important piece of this, of course, is eliminating personal debt, particularly in the light of the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Laws.

  5. Not only must we move through our fear of the topic of money, we must come to understand how it works in our communities. Until that is changed, the election of politicians to national office is a waste of time and energy because it is nothing more than the re-arrangement of deck chairs on a sinking ship. Again, thanks to the work of Catherine Austin Fitts, this reality has changed my focus and functioning as an activist. All genuine solutions are local. All others are props in the scenario of a crumbling empire.

  6. We can continue to research and prepare for the realities of Peak Oil. We know that there is no combination of alternative energies that can be implemented on a national or planetary scale in time to avert a global energy crisis, but there is much we can do locally. Gaining much popularity across the nation is the Local First movement which focuses on purchasing from local businesses first, banking only with local banks, and networking with local farmers and food co-ops to create a sustainable food supply as Peak Oil impacts the price of food and other products. A stellar example of this trend is Willits, California whose population is overwhelmingly united in creating a sustainable future for its community. In addition, we can experiment locally with alternative energies and address other resource issues such as water and creating non-genetically modified seed banks.

  7. We can invest in precious metals. Not everyone can afford to invest in gold, but almost everyone can invest in silver, and the sooner the better! An excellent source for silver is The Money Changer and for gold, Goldline. During the Great Depression, there were over 200 local currencies in the U.S. Groups working locally on sustainability may also want to explore possible alternative currencies that would be feasible in their places.

  8. Many individuals and families are relocating to areas of the country that are more amenable to building sustainability. There are no ironclad rules about this. Arable land, available firewood and water supply are important, as well as other factors such as severity of seasons and the presence of kindred spirits with whom to build community. In his article and book The Long Emergency, James Howard Kuntsler offers some suggestions.

  9. Sustainability cannot be created in isolation. Crucial in one’s “options portfolio” is a sense of community. In my opinion, having the ideal location is less important than establishing a network of support with others who are journeying on the path of sustainable options. (See Community Is Necessary To Survival)

  10. We must also prepare spiritually for the demise of Western civilization as we have known it. Whether or not one has a spiritual path, it is important to be able to make sense of and give meaning to the unprecedented and dizzying changes that the Terminal Triangle will present in the coming years. (Please see my article,  Navigating The Collapse Of Civilization: A Spiritual Map)

Paralleling the transformation of the community is the re-making of one’s inner world. In fact, one will impact the other as Catherine Austin Fitts explains in her wonderful article Coming Clean.

Recently a friend remarked that I seem more relaxed and less stressed. I replied that one reason might be that I have stopped trying to change the world and the country and am focusing more on changing myself and my community. Without thinking, the words, “I feel more hopeful than I have felt in years,” came out of my mouth. Later as I reflected on my comment I realized that, for me, genuine hope is a byproduct of channeling my energy into sustainability on the local level—a cellular awareness that no government, politician, or political party can or will reverse the unprecedented, catastrophic challenges that human beings have created in the past five hundred years. Only we can do that, place by place, as, in community with each other, we enliven and expand our options.

**Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. is an adjunct professor and freelance writer living in New Mexico.

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