How do we undo this world?
How do we unravel ourselves from the coils of systems that traumatize us, control us, oppress us or turn us oppressor, degrade us, punish us, imprison us mind and body? How do we survive, and how do we change the world around us?
The current of this world runs within us. We are caught in a river, and our swimming in it only makes the current faster. How do we climb out?
Perhaps in looking to change the world, we must look to change ourselves. Yes, the problems I speak of are systemic, and solutions must likewise be systemic. But perhaps the problem is not the nature of the system, but the power of the system. One way to combat it is to give it less power.
There is a way we relate to ourselves that is indicative of a larger culture of dominance and submission. We punish ourselves, we control ourselves, we judge ourselves daily, hold ourselves up to standards of productivity, beauty, righteousness, and financial success. We attach ourselves to status, to power, to positions over others. We bolster the structures that imitate our own way of speaking to ourselves, and in living in these structures, we speak their language internally.
The line of guilt cannot be drawn to self or system alone. It’s a circle. It goes around and around. What if we take ourselves out, one by one? What if we change the things we stand for, and learn to stand for our ideals with our own two feet planted in something new? Perhaps then, we will be the rocks that slow the current to a halt.
Look at the world around you. Look at the square buildings and the streets like lines. Look at the way things grow within and between them. Look at the way you grow: it has never been a straight line, and the harder you cling to a feeling of control, the further you seem to find yourself slipping from anything that feels true.
So I ask you: What is your truth?
How does the world look to you?
Who do you want to be?
Take the question of the world you want this to be and the person you want to be and dissolve the line between them. Find your utopia. What does it feel like? What does it value? How can you do it now?
You will find yourself bumping up against the world around you constantly. Change it where you can. Have the conversations that matter; don’t settle for the ones that recycle old content until it’s dry. Read. Listen. Make the changes in your way of being that embody the world you want to see exist.
You are not in this alone. There are others out there, wishing for the world to look the way it could in their dreams. You will find them, the more you peel away the layers on the surface and look for what is underneath. You will find the ones who tell you that you are not insane. You will find the people who help you grow in the direction that feels natural.
Systemic change is an absolute necessity, but if we do not change ourselves with it, we will continue recycling the same kinds of systems with the same kinds of power structures. Yes, the right system makes it so much easier for us to grow in the directions that feel innate and organic: systems that foster trust and inter-connection, affirmation of self and equality of opportunity. But systems are only as strong as those who live within them.
The day we say No, that enough of us say No, we will find our systems crumbling.
There is more room within this world to change than you might think. You can change the way you speak, to yourself and to others. You can change the way you support yourself. You can change the things you do, refuse to give up, and find every opportunity to build this world as a new utopia and take it. Do the things you would love to see someone do. Stop doing the things you hate doing. Find the spaces where the world lets you breathe and scream into them as loud as you can.
It is our task to live our utopia now, to the best of our ability. If we don’t, we can still maintain the hope that things will change. If we do, we don’t even need to hope: we can trust that things will continue in the direction we are pushing them, that the momentum will grow, and someday overcome everything we struggle against.
If you want to stop the current from recycling you as a piece a world that tears you apart, stop swimming. Turn around. Swim the opposite direction. And find those swimming with you.