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By Eric Grace
Narratives are powerful. Change the narrative of a country and you change the course of its future. Donald Trump has changed the narrative of America; however, a new wave of activism is emerging that has the potential to do the same. Although activism is not new, there are new forms taking shape in the 21st Century.
Groups such as Indivisible, Black Lives Matter, Occupy, LGBTQ Rights, ACLU and the Sierra Club, and events like The Women’s March that happened in January have been coming forward with a devotion to change. Through efforts of non-violence and grassroots organizing using social media in collaboration with education, coordinated legal action, and large protests ground is being made along with other groups such as ACT-UP, Anonymous, and Greenpeace which have sought change through hacking, more overt acts of civil disobedience, blockades, and direct action, and while they have cited criticism and concern, they have also yielded great effect.
Another essential component of this emergence of activism is technology. The app icitizen encourages more direct voting and polling; Greenhouse, the browser plugin, highlights political funding of candidates; and an app called Flux from Australia brought about a new party that now has seats in government. Governments that are more citizen-centric are being called out and erected such as the emergence of Iceland’s crowd-sourced constitution and Taiwan’s opensource democracy, which was inspired by the Sunflower movement that brought about this change via occupying the capitol and the use of tech platforms to invite direct democracy as it’s primary mode of operation. Other more local crowdsourced legislation acts are visible in California and New York City using similar technology platforms. These are just a few of the ways tech is helping with activism and direct political participation. However, these tech platforms are not enough. We need a clear narrative with public sway, and effective means to create real and lasting change.
It’s not a pretty or easy time for anyone, change often isn’t. However, the humbling of America in the recent election (and of the EU with Brexit) also evoked a renewed engagement from citizens as well as a need for listening more closely to one another beyond monolithic cultural assessments. Coalitions are forming like Van Jones’s Lovearmy which calls for a new kind of conversation outside of polarizing effects, using kindness, truth, love, ‘messy truth’ dialogues, and citizen empowerment.
In his book The Hope, Andrew Harvey offered up the idea of sacred activism as your biggest heartbreak being a guide to creating change for the better while being grounded in spiritual practice, incorporating gratitude, forgiveness, meditation, reading sacred texts, prayer, etc. amidst ‘networks of grace’ – or in other words a community of like-hearted individuals sharing similar values and devotion to the issue being addressed. Harvey suggested that the split between spiritual practitioners and activists needs to be bridged to bring about essential change.
Thich Nhat Hanh said that “The next Buddha may be the sangha.” What that sangha (or community) would look like is still up for debate. However, emergent communities such as Evolutionary Collective, The Trillium Awakening community, Circling Institute, Integral Center, as well as Thomas Huebl’s community of practitioners are bringing greater attention to the awakening of individuals and awakening of the ‘we-space.’ This ‘we-space’ is the intersubjective field of relationship between people. Just as one person can awaken to deeper and more embodied states of consciousness and love, so too can a group of people and the actual ‘field’ that they are engaging in. As groups give attention to the thoughts and the space in between thoughts in groups, there is a developmental shift and awakening with results that are inclusive and transcending of the individual. This group awakening can yield a new resource to collaborate in order to create change.
Activism is not new to the human species, however the challenges that we face as a global society is. As Wilber and Watkins state in their book Wicked and Wise: How to Solve the World’s Toughest Problems, “The wicked problems we face encompass multiple dimensions, multiple stakeholders, multiple causes, multiple symptoms, multiple solutions, and it’s all constantly evolving.” They suggest that “using an integral coherence model which provides a platform to engage with issues in a highly developed, enlightened, and selfless way” can bring about real, effective change.
At this time we have access to one another, to ourselves, and to the world of wisdom in a way that we never have. It’s no easy task to ‘be the change’, but with efficient opensource and crowdsourcing technology, nourishing spiritual practice, community coherence and collaboration, deeper listening and compassion to those that seem so different than us, effective legal action, a restructuring of representation, a criterion call for healthier leadership, and an integral orientation – it is possible to engage in creative stewardship solutions leading us all into a thriving world.