A Guide for the Disillusioned and Perplexed

Maddy Harland
Tuesday, 19th July 2016

Are you an activist or someone who yearns for positive change? Do you feel overwhelmed by bad news? Here are 5 suggestions that will help build personal resilience and enhance your life today.

This is a time of great disillusionment and fear. The  agenda for a more peaceful, ecologically balanced world is at its lowest ebb in decades.

In the UK, for example, the government has cancelled its specialist department for climate change and merged it with business and industrial strategy. We may joke about the fox being in charge of the hen house but the fact is that business does not have a track record for curbing CO2 emissions. It simply will not happen whilst we head towards runaway climate change and CO2 at 450ppm. Climate change is scientifically complex, its effects long term and requires more than business skills for adaptation. Britain needs a focussed department with cross disciplinary expertise that operates beyond a single party’s parliamentary term in office.

Britain’s prospective exit from the Europe Union means we have weakened the collective voice of Europe that made progress at last year’s Climate Talks, COP21. Europe together was a formidable voice and, with the USA, helped bring India and China into agreement about reducing emissions. That voice is now no longer one. Who will influence and drive policy for Britain now? Dangerously, the party in power are climate skeptics as well as Euro-skeptics.

Added to this, yesterday the British parliament voted for Trident and commissioned a new generation of nuclear weapons – weapons that can be fired from submarines - at a lifetime cost of £200bn. There is no evidence these with prevent terrorist attacks... no evidence that they are will provide a deterrent from any nation or group mad enough to fire one at us. In an age of austerity when the disabled, the poor, and the dispossessed are experiencing such great suffering, this vote (by half the Labour Party as well as the Conservatives) is an abomination.

These are just three examples of significant steps backwards in the last month alone from one country. There will be more. So how do people who yearn for positive change and a more peaceful and equitable world and those whose lives are dedicated to making a difference reconcile with the fact that we are not apparently making any difference at all?

In reviewing our work at Permaculture magazine and Permanent Publications, my partner, Tim, and I had to admit that we felt fearful for our children’s future and a little perplexed about what we should do next. I felt it may be useful to share some of our conclusions. 

Detachment from outcomes

The first action that we all need to take is simple. We have to remind ourselves that activism is like a spiritual practice. We do not focus on the results of our actions but on the actions themselves. We act because it is the right thing to do. A famous example of this is Rosa Parks, ‘the first lady of civil rights’, who in 1955 refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat in the coloured section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. She could not have known just how much this act would become an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement. It was to encourage and inspire many others to resist racial segregation internationally.

Our actions may be small and apparently insignificant but they matter if only for the authenticity and unfurling path of our life’s journey. For our inner well-being, we need to stick to what we believe in, even if everyone else around us thinks we are idealistic and naïve. We also mustn’t let our inner critic disempower us. Don’t look at the goal, look at the process. Keep going!

Time travelling 

As activists we have to be time travellers. We are working for positive change and we have our eyes on the future. We do not do what we do to see results today or tomorrow. The outcomes that will result as a result of our actions may not occur for a generation or more. We are working for future generations. You may want to imagine yourself in your last years sitting with a grandchild and being asked, “What did you do to help the world transition to a better future? What did you do to help the world draw back from the brink?” You owe it to yourself, that beloved child and all children to have played your part.

Build a support network 

That leads me to my next point: make sure you have a support network. Spend some of your time in the company of like minds or you may end up feeling like an alien! This year I had the opportunity to bring together a group of women who meet every month and share a practice. In this instance it is to explore the teachings of Jamie Sams’ 13 Original Clan Mothers with a practitioner who has been studying and meditating on this teaching for over two decades. It has created a beautiful, supportive circle of women, given us a focus, and provided an opportunity for sharing and self-development.

This is just one example – whether you are a man or a woman, interested in a specific practice or not – find your tribe and create an opportunity to share. It can be as simple as a monthly potluck supper with friends or a spoon carving club. The important message here is that we all need to find and build community in an appropriate form.

Media Cleansing

Give yourself a regular media cleanse. Switch off all those electronic devices and go outside and play for at least a day a month, longer if you can. Go for a wild swim, picnic in a park with friends, camp out under the stars, climb a hill and look down over your home… change your perspective in whatever way appeals to you, but get into nature and don’t take the mainstream media world with you. Nature has its own pace, its own values and if you go deep enough, its own conversation. Through regular practice you can start to share that conversation and, I promise you, it is far more meaningful than the digital world that we are increasingly saturated by.

Support positive media and organisations

Put your money and your attention where your mouth is. Alternative, positive trusted media is suffering badly at the moment. Stores are closing, large chains charge for magazine placements, everyone wants everything for free online. If you don’t put your hand in your pocket and buy one of the few lovingly handcrafted publications from a trusted source they will not survive. Permaculture magazine is one of them so please support us by either buying from your local shop or subscribing.

There is always light and shade - we cannot give up!

Maddy Harland is facilitating 'Empowering Women with Permaculture' with Looby Macnamara on 4-7th August 2016. Come and live on the land at this beautiful permaculture centre and build resilience and wisdom with a wonderful group of women. For more information: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/events/empowering-women-permaculture


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