Our Bodies, our Earth in FERTILE GROUND - Irene Diamond
Beacon Press, Boston. ISBN 0-8070-6772-5
NOTE: This extract is included as an essential reading for transforming the world. You are requested to purchase the book yourself as it is pertinent reading material.
Extract from: Our Bodies, our Earth in FERTILE GROUND
Irene Diamond teaches political science and women's studies at the University of Oregon. Her previous books include Sex Roles in the State House, and the co-edited volumes Feminism and Foucault: Reflections on Resistance, and Reveaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she works with the Southern Willamette Greens.
The politics of renewal and re-evolution ask us to consider seriously the possibilities of who we might become in an unfolding universe. This politics pushes us beyond our exclusive identities (whether they be of sexuality, ethnicity, or nationality) and reminds us of our species being and our relation to cosmic forces. Traditionally, awareness of cosmic forces has been either ignored or disdained by advocates of revolutionary change whose attention to class struggle has deafened them to notions of spirit or cosmology. Likewise, those who see possibilities in the language of evolution have neatly excised politics in a manner very similar to that of the technicians who preach restructuring. But such efforts to displace politics are fraught with peril. For one thing, problematic language of evolution can reinforce the arrogance of the canonical Darwinian view that posits human beings as the highest expression of creation. Our evolution into more loving, reflective, and ecologically conscious beings, which New Agers long for, is a worthy vision, but its realization is by no means inevitable. We cannot rely on the playing out of some higher natural law. Humans, most especially white ones of the North, must consciously decide to reimagine ourselves. The scope of personal and institutional change that is necessary cannot be contained either within traditional notions of revolutionary change that emphasize the seizure of state power, or the technical plans of contemporary advocates of restructuring who prefer the reform of state power to facilitate global markets. Given our patterns of overconsumption, living lightly on the planet will necessarily mean doing with less materially. At the level of our personal and community lives, such a transformation could well be experienced as joyful and spiritually liberating. Less does not have to be understood as deprivation. As Jane Bennett puts it in her argument for a "fractious holism," which tolerates otherness in nature and the social order, "What justification can an ethic that seeks to express a fractious world give for its desire to tread lightly? . . . We should tread lightly because it is the wisest orientation to a world upon which we depend but which we cannot fully comprehend or control. . . . Human existence upon the planet is precarious, not guaranteed.1112 The challenge is to repair and create democratic, self-reliant, frugal, and egalitarian institutions that primarily trade through more barterized and face to face modes of exchange, rather than the exclusively monetized and abstract modes of exchange we have come to understand as trade. Such institutions would be capable of surviving without the known securities of the current nation-state system. Of course this is not a simple task, but such shifts are already occurring in local places across the globe. Across the globe, we can find the re-invention of community-based networks for the cooperative care of children, public safety, gardens, spiritual needs, and burial preparation, to the different efforts to transform travel and adventure through practices of responsible tourism, the invention of bioregional economic networks that utilize their own currencies, and the maintenance or creation of local craft markets where information, services and self-produced goods are exchanged. And to those who would raise the spectre or anarchy (a false understanding of what anarchists working in the collectivist tradition intended), I would take note of Thomas Kuehl's provocative suggestion that "neither nature nor humanity is predisposed to the workings of the state.... Where the majority of sovereignty theorists present humans and nature as objects readily available for the imposition of sovereignty, a Foucauldian analysis draws out the work that must be done to both in the name of sovereignty. The process of re-evolution is synergistic, more like the ripples of unfolding spirals or seashells, than the additive or linear processes we typically associate with evolutionary notions of change. We must forge new metaphors like Starhawk's spiral dance to generate visions of horizontal linkages and unpredictability. In dance, integral to the rituals of almost all indigenous cultures, the rhythmic changes and energies of our bodies are linked to the Earth's cycles of renewal. In expanding and enriching our sensory capacities, the politics of re-evolution may well strengthen our bonds to the Earth and each other, allowing us to experience in positive ways what the West names as the otherness of nature. Within this emergent politics, the traditional polarities of modern politics are reframed. I have suggested in this chapter, ecofeminists, Greens, and bioregionalists are often sympathetic to traditional practices and ways of living. Vernacular knowledge is highly respected and valued. Unlike Enlightenment modernizers who focus on the hope of the future by denigrating the past, the politics of renewal and re-evolution create new visions by drawing on the wisdom of tradition.
Here again there is an important kinship with Gandhi. As the contemporary activist and editor of Manushi women's magazine, Madhu Kishwar, notes, according to Gandhi, "It is good to swim in the waters of tradition, but to sink in them is suicide."Il Tradition must be drawn upon as a guide, but we must not let it limit our thinking as we respond to new conditions. For grass-roots activists in India confronting contemporary energy needs, the tradition of making use of the Earth's riches may mean the invention of compost-to-energy-converter technologies that use the animal dung and discarded vegetation which development has defined as waste. Indeed for many activists in the appropriate-technology movement, locally produced biomass is central to the vision of village-centered societies. Within the politics of renewal, an awareness of the people and practices that preceded us is necessary to determine the repercussions of our present activities and technologies. By resisting our modern language of control, and by invoking respect for the fertility of the soil, our bodies, and the communities that nourish our hearts and minds, ecofeminists and Greens seek to sustain both the living Earth and all her unique creatures. Nor is this commitment to diversity an abstract ideal or some easy substitute for eternal truth. Diversity is basic to ecosystemic well-being. By opposing the homogenizing, elitist vision of technological control with a more complex understanding of diversity and the practices of indigenous peoples who honor the continuity and sacredness of life, ecofeminists and Greens struggle to preserve yet transform community and democracy in the modern world. Rather than bemoan the end of nature, we humans, women and men, need to re-evolve into beings who prefer our local gardens. We must resist the call of Western tradition to bring enlightenment to all the planet. Paradoxical though it may seem, a respect for fertility-in all its diverse vegetative, social, and imaginative forms-may be the most prudent, moral, and politically effective means for surviving into the twenty-first century. The sorry history of the language of control tells us that the difficult, yet essential, task of creating communities that honor the manifold wonders of fertility is the primary task before us. The living Earth beckons.