written in response to a friend who was asking about the point of integrity if the human race is on a downward spiral:
this is a lot. i’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot too, and i think when you come to town and we have our date i would love to focus on this, for real. but my short, quick answer is kind of what i wrote in the stop the next war book, which is that two things need to happen. first is that we can’t really survive more of the wishy washy stuff, people need to really develop a revolutionary analysis and those of us who have started on one need to pass it along WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. and the second thing is that we have to WAKE UP with the analysis and find the BEST working strategies, not the same old shit, not the left version of right shit, but the best of all of our times, the best innovations.
we have to really work in strategy, not in ideology…and we have to work with real people, not just agree in our academic/activist/artist circles. i think that people who become too deeply mired in only observing and theorizing on humanity in hopes that UNDERSTANDING will change it…they become less real, have a less real human experience. but then again i have been working hard on developing my faith in a power – or i think consciousness is the better word for it – higher and more developed and comprehensive than my own. it allows me to feel i can ask questions that i am not responsible for answering. to have hope when there is no reason. to look for a way when i can see none – and so far the way gets uncovered, the hope fills me up, the constant answer comes back (all is known, all is unknown – these are the constant conclusions of my heart when its open).
all that said, in response to your question as i hear it (‘what good is my good doing?’), one of my most encouraging quotes to return to, and i am paraphrasing, is from octavio paz’s speech when he won the nobel prize, which is this: given what we know of time and human development (that there is a past, present, future – that we look back to some set of people as being in the middle ages) then aren’t we some future generation’s middle/dark age.
i think at first that isn’t a heartening quote, but i’ll tell you how it works out in my head – while we are fumbling and feeling earnestly modern, we also grasp at least on a subconscious level the temporary-ness of our times by looking at the arc of our own short histories and how different we are, how differently we see things from when we were ‘young’, teen-agers, and so on. movementwise, in our century alone we can see massive peaks and flaws in how we mobilized, educated and organized populations for change.
as far as i can understand it looking back, at almost every point in history it has APPEARED that the whole human experiment was a massive moral failure. and yet the flow and impact of integrity builds – we celebrate integrity, we fashion our created heros out of visions of a moral high ground that holds a reverence for humanity and the planet highest. without necessarily understand why, people still strive for what they feel is good. the issue is perhaps that the standards for good are so varied, come from so many sources – parents, god, teachers, your children, shame…i find that the more media i hear the more hopeless i feel, but the more people i interact with the more i am sure that we are not only preserving but honing the human spirit, even in this period of apparent low.
last of all, and this may sound zen or silly or i don’t know but it does help me…whenever i start to feel as if the work i am doing is pointless or in the wrong direction, i reflect on my necessary insignificance, and i laugh. every ‘hero’ i’ve ever had fell apart upon close inspection. up close its so messy, no matter what your human aim is. wisdom is flighty, few people are remembered, your work is really only important insomuch as you are freeing masses of people from bondage – of mind, body, spirit. and once i swallow my smallness, i examine what i am doing – make sure its the absolute best and most i can do and that it is towards the end of freeing people to seize their own meaning in life – and i get back to work.
Original article in the Luscious Satyagraha, posted & written May 12, 2005 by adrienne maree brown.