I’ve been having a debate with with a friend about politics and voting. (See Cthuludruid’s blog post here.) I’ve been doing my usual reaction to people who yell “Revolution!”, nearly as gleefully as American apocalypse-wishers who hoard food and guns and wait for humanity to return to its true wild ways (only this time with better weapons). Cthuldruid points out to me, elsewhere, that he’s not talking about violent revolution – although that’s primarily what we see, in revolutions throughout history. But even where that’s not what happens, theorising about change feels so useless sometimes.
This is about the current, real struggles of people who are dealing with some horrendous shit, to a degree that we haven’t seen since Thatcher’s reign of terror – maybe since Victorian times. (As my partner said the other day – at least there were workhouses to go to, under the Victorian regime.) Think of Marx, telling the proletariat to rise up against their oppressors, while never needing to throw off the chains of the factory himself. We theorise endlessly about the revolution, or about change. I’ve lost count of the people who’ve told me that I just have to wait for an end to capitalism and everything will be OK (in relation to everything from the need for more accessible toilets, to the environment). Meanwhile, in our current social ‘order’, black people in the US are randomly killed by the police – the UK government sells off our forests and builds roads that disturb excavations of ancestral evidence at Stonehenge – the NHS is sold off piece by piece – old people die when they can’t afford to heat their houses – disabled people die every day through lack of support and benefit sanctions – the bedroom tax forces families into unsafe housing – people die on the streets from sleeping rough in the cold – people walk five miles across the city to find food banks and then are turned away – mosques and synagogues are torched by people looking for scapegoats… It’s the least powerful who feel the effects of these things most.
I’m lucky. I’m comfortably-off financially, at least compared to a lot of people in the current economic climate. I have a good network of informal social support (i.e. friends and family). But I know so many people who don’t. I have friends who are losing their disability home care and may be forced into sub-standard nursing homes where they have no more independence and their health and life could be at risk. I know, through my partner (who works at Citizen’s Advice), about people whose financial and housing situations are absolutely dire. I have friends who are living in squalor and about to end up on the streets. I know many, many people who probably wouldn’t survive before radical change came. (And that’s before we talk about the way that extremists have the most opportunities in a power vacuum, and how we’re much more likely to end up with a fascist government first, rather than an anarcho-socialist or liberarian-socialist society, in the short term and in our lifetimes.)
The Requisite Religious Bit
‘Rta’ is a Vedic concept. It means ‘right order’. It relates to concepts like ‘dharma’, duty – which is about taking action and doing what is right, that which upholds justice in the universe. Action is really important to me, religiously/spiritually speaking.
If we look at Proto-Indo-European language and (reconstructed) myth, we find the concept of the Xartus, which I’ve talked about before. This can be conceived of as the cosmic order envisioned as a world tree. It is fed by both rta from the celestial powers above, and chaos from the dark oceans below. Order without an influx of chaos becomes inflexible – change is also necessary.
I don’t personally believe that the cosmic order is all good. I don’t believe that the ‘universe’ wants me to ‘manifest’ or achieve my highest destiny or any of that, um, stuff. I believe that we live in a largely unfriendly cosmos, through which we creatures of consciousness and spirit somehow emerged from the evolutionary battle. We continue to fight that battle daily. And, in my opinion, we need to be aware of that battle for survival going on underneath our barely-‘civilized’ exterior shells. Don’t believe that Muslims or Jews are persecuted in our society? Read the reports that the media isn’t sharing with you, and think about what we do to outsiders. Don’t believe that people can hate disabled people? Think of who, and what, is needed for the evolutionary survival of the tribe. Not worried about the way immigrants are currently being treated, in our world where the privileged, rich nations close their doors to the poorest people on the planet? UKIP are exploiting that tendency right now. And we need to act, to do something about it. To maintain rta. To uphold the Xartus.
I’m currently learning how to serve a goddess of chaos and creation. I’m trying to learn how to handle the chaos, what to do with it, how to channel it to help people. It’s a massive paradox, and I’m struggling with it. For me, the answer lies somewhere in the balance between chaos and right order. It’s about playing my tiny part in upholding the Xartus, the cosmos, and allowing all the things that make it up to flow through me. I don’t know exactly how this relates to campaigning and interfaith work and looking after animals and gardening and research and all the other little drops that I add to the vast ocean. I don’t know if any of it helps.
Except that I think it mattes to “that one starfish.”
As Cthuludruid says, voting is a paradox. Are we protesting or supporting a regime when we vote? I ask myself the same questions about campaigning. And yet, I need to make a different to that one starfish, one way or another.
The Necessary Final Message Bit
Civilization is a fiction, a myth we tell ourselves so we can survive in the wild and in the dark. We are still primitive tribes. I don’t have a great deal of hope that we can overcome these qualities in ourselves. When it comes to social change, I’m a cynic. Others will disagree, and say that these qualities, our wild animal natures, are exactly what we need to harness for change to happen. I don’t know what the answer is. But I worry about the people who will inveitably be caught in the crossfire.
So I’ll be over here, campaigning in ways that probably won’t change anything, to politicians who definitely don’t care and don’t listen. Because, if not me, who? If not now, when?
For me, that also means voting. It means fighting fascists like UKIP, and the other fascist parties sweeping Europe, looking for the scapegoat, creating the Other to be our Wicker Man – immigrants or benefit claimants or Muslims or Jews or the European Court of Human Rights. I won’t say that everyone should vote. I do think that everyone should think about what they’re doing to change things – whether to bring on the revolution or just to help the old lady next door. What they’re doing to help hold up their corner of the Xartus. The rest is up to each of us.
Hail Beara of Chaos and Cosmos, of the Xartus.