What is the Connection Between Consciousness and Activism?

I am an activist. I speak out. I take to the streets. I am content in my personal life, am not oppressed, and have no gripe against society, but I believe humanity is a danger to itself and to others. In community with others I demonstrate to create awareness of the situation we are all in. The objective is less to change what we are looking at than where we are looking from – to change consciousness of ourselves in relation to the world.

Population, war, climate, pollution, disease – each is enough.  Two or more in combination is more than enough to bring us to an end, and to bring other forms of life with us.  Each is global in scope.  Each involves humanity as a whole, yet there is no body to speak or act for humanity as a whole.  There is no doer of what must be done. 

Humanity is not going in the wrong direction; it is going in all directions at once.  It has no sense of wholeness, no self-identity.  Flags and idols divide it into pieces larger than the whole.  People do not understand themselves as a form of life in relation to the atmosphere, the oceans, the forests, or the Earth.  There is no concept of what to do because there is no concept of who we are.  If there were a clear path before us, we would take it.  We would summon our courage and meet the challenge.  But there is no path, and we are all walking in cross directions.  We are distressed not for having too much to do, but for seeing nowhere to go.  We are helpless. 

But helplessness cannot be accepted, no matter how real it may be.  The future is never a simple extrapolation of the present, and consciousness does not confine itself to physical reality.  The human future, because it is human, will proceed from imagination beyond the limits of current conditions.  We will create consciousness that does not now exist and become what we cannot now foresee.

That is what public demonstrations should do.  They should not tell people what to think – they should make people look at what is there.  “You!  You, walking by on your way somewhere else – you, who have something else on your mind – you have to look!  Look at this war!  Look at this injustice!  Look at what we are doing to the Earth!  You are part of this!”   Peacefulness, non-violence, composure, and dignity draw witnesses towards identification with demonstrators.  “Hey!  That’s me sitting at the lunch counter.  That’s me arrested for what I believe in.”  Good demonstrations do not change people’s opinions – they change who people are. 

Civil rights demonstrations of the fifties and sixties changed what it meant to be American.  White people came to see the world the way black people saw it.  America became a larger consciousness that included more kinds of people.  Demonstrations in the twenty-first century will change what it means to be human.  People will come to see themselves as a united presence on the Earth.  Each person will come to see the life of all things living as the life within.  Heartbeat will be that of all animals, breath, that of all plants.  Rock will be in our bones, and the oceans will flow through our veins.  We will resolve our quarrels peaceably.  We will modify our numbers.  We will care for the Earth in ways it did not need until now.  We will become what we imagine ourselves to be.

Or, we will become something entirely different.  Humanity united in relation to the natural world is a not the vision of all people.  We may instead become what other imaginers imagine us to be: a stronger, resurgent America, or Russia, or China, or Germany: a nation above other nations – a religion above all others.  The heavens may open and bring about the end of time.  We may grow the economy to untold levels of personal wealth, devoting life force to consumption over all other things.  How, then, can those of us who imagine a united humanity know that our vision is true?  How is it any truer than other visions?

Truth unfolds in time.  Generations of the future will see in their time what is true in ours.  They will know if global warming, nuclear weapons, and overpopulation are true crises, or transitory distractions.  They will know if some of us are overreacting.  They will know that our vision was wrong or right, that we did or did not need to become a unitary form of life capable of taking a common direction.  They will see a truth not yet revealed to us.  But it will be too late for them to act.  If it is true that humanity is changing the climate, we should act before the climate is changed.  If it is true that nuclear weapons will destroy a divided humanity, we should unite humanity beforehand.  We cannot wait for the truth to take effect in the physical world.  Consciousness is seeing where we are headed before we get there. 

If the success of humanity depends on seeing truth before it becomes physical reality, public demonstrations should concentrate on bringing truth to the surface before it fully reveals itself.  The public should be forced to see what is coming before it comes.  The use of force is essential– not violence, not coercion, but force – truth force, or satyagraha.  Truth force is not opinion; it is not interpretation; it is not what demonstrators think or say; it is what those who witness the demonstration see for themselves.  It is an opening in the sky through the fog of prejudice and indifference.  Demonstrators create a force that parts the clouds, but they do not own the sky they reveal.  The truth may be other than their intention.  Demonstrators must, therefore, risk the difference between opinion and truth.

Activists must not only risk this difference; they must embrace it.  Those of us who sense that civilization cannot continue as it is now constituted, who envision a united humanity in relation to nature, must welcome the difference between projections of belief and that which actually comes to pass.  In this difference lies the full breadth of global vision.  In accepting all people, we acknowledge their belief along side our own.  We need not judge it – truth will do that for us.  Let us be neighbors then, if not friends.  Let us risk the imperfections of our own vision, acting for what we believe in, leaving space for what we do not.  Let us greet others over the fence, sharing the ground we do not hold in common.  Let us be polite, as we force each other to look at what the truth may be, creating ourselves as we go. 

There are no enemies.  There is no one who is not us.

The creation of consciousness is the highest form of activism.

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