For All Our Beloved Relations

June 3, 2013 Ellen C. Friedman Uncategorized

The 2nd international commons conference, Economics and the Commons, was held a week ago in Berlin. I was watching the livestream when a presenter asked, “Why do you work on the commons?” I heard a variety of answers including “justice” and “it makes sense”.

I frequent quiet, green gardens where direct experiences of interconnectedness are easy to access. This embodied relatedness with nature opens my heart to love for my friends and family, for my cats, for the trees, the bees, the frogs and all living beings who call this beloved earth home. It is love for all my relations that inspires and motivates me.

When I contemplate this planet I cannot avoid awareness of the vast harm inflicted by big money-oil-agriculture-military and the planet-eating political and social systems. They are committing terracide.  They pulled off the grandest theft in all of history – the theft of our common wealth. These corporations and their governments take from the commons with impunity and give nothing back except trash and trauma. They are literally stealing our future. This awareness brings me to a terrifying encounter with a colossal wall of grief.

What is the wall of grief? All of the emotions and defenses that we run into when we are confronted by the catastrophe of this historic moment: shock, denial, anger, fear, sorrow, remorse. I know this wall of grief is not mine alone. It is a collective experience. Meme scientists Joe Brewer and Lazlo Karafiath are researching the memes related to climate change in order to find the memes that will motivate us to take action. As they present their initial climate meme report to various audiences, they have gained an awareness of the need for healing the trauma produced by the storms of climate change and the potential for catastrophic ecocide. They realize that we have to address the trauma and the very effective defense mechanism of denial in order to create the livable future so many of us hunger for.

The trauma related to the theft and destruction of commons also needs to be addressed as the commons movement gains momentum. Hundreds of years of enclosure has created inter-generational trauma for indigenous peoples around the globe due to the market state’s theft and pollution of lands, water and culture their communities rely on to sustain life. When people stand up to protect the commons, they may be threatened with imprisonment or murder by the market state as the people of Turkey are now experiencing. Many take their own lives when the market state threatens them or steals their shared resources. Aaron Swartz and the thousands of farmers in India are only the tip of the iceberg.

All the emotion and defenses we encounter at the wall of grief and when we experience trauma are normal. In fact, they are healthy reactions to the circumstances. Time is running short for the commons and for a livable future. We must act now, not later, to create an opening through the wall.

When I follow the threads of my own grief-related emotion, I reach one feeling that is at the core and it provides not only motivation but great healing. Love. It is love that will empower “The Great Turning” and the shift from an industrial-growth society into a life-sustaining civilization. As activist and teacher Thorne Coyle recently said, “Justice requires loving presence. Equity requires loving presence. Integrity requires loving presence.” To get right with the web of life and heal our relationships with each other, other species, and the planet, we must honor our denial, sorrow, anger and remorse. We must forgive ourselves for participating in a system that has proven to be parasitical. And we must tap our love. Our love will lead us to the principles and values that really matter and motivate us to action that heals the world.

I encourage you to find people you can talk with about your feelings and trauma associated with climate change and damage to our commons. Talk about it with all your relations: with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, counselors, and even complete strangers. They are experiencing this too. You are not alone. Talking will heal. It will help you honor and accept your emotion and motivate you to action that liberates all our beloved relations.

You may be asking yourself, “OK, I get why love motivates you, but why work with the commons?” The more I learn about the commons paradigm, the more hope I find. The commons paradigm is a new and old way to be in healthy relationship with the web of life. The commons are not just the resources we share, they are are our relationships and the practical methods we use to claim and protect all we share. There are no commons without commoning – working together to collectively claim, protect, and govern our common wealth. It is through our relationships that we will heal ourselves and the web of life and create the renaissance that is the Great Turning.


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