I’ve just finished Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. I admire her greatly and have also read No Logo and The Shock Doctrine. Klein is one of my Canadian heroines, along with Maude Barlow, and my heroes Stephen Lewis and his son (Klein’s husband), Avi Lewis. I think Naomi Klein is an exemplary journalist, superb writer and a soaring intellect.
Reading before bedtime, as I do, the book gave me unsettled dreams. I am deeply troubled at the state of the world, and I don’t mean the stupidity of the current race for Republican candidate for presidency, though that alarms me, too. During insomniac nights, of which there are many, I grieve for this planet and all beings and growing things upon it. Never a doomsdayer, I, nonetheless, find it difficult to fight off a creeping doom. Despite Klein’s cautious optimism, I remain doubtful we have the collective chutzpah–even with the growing Blockadia movement–to pull off the kind of revolution necessary to save our planet. I am afraid of the big extraction players, and my experience of the very rich is that they will do everything to stay very rich.
Maybe it’s that I run a non-profit charitable arts organization for kids, always teetering on the edge of extinction (and a sometimes thankless job so that I would not recommend this as a career change) that informs my melancholy, or that I’ve been a teacher for my entire adult life. I do not have my own children, but I mentor many other children, whether as their teacher or as coordinator of YouthWrite. On dark days, I grieve for them and for all the beauty they will watch expire over the coming decades, not to mention the suffering that will surely follow as the planet temperature rises.
Often in my English classes, I’ve taught Ursula K. Le Guin‘s famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” a haunting parable for our times. The safe and affluent lives of the citizens of Omelas are incumbent upon the misery and suffering of one child, who sits in her own filth, a chained animal imprisoned in a dungeon everyone knows about but does not discuss. There exists a collective collusion between all the people of the city: to set the child free or show her any kindness will bring about a complete reversal of their happy, perfect lives, and so they choose to do nothing. Except, of course, the few who walk away from Omelas.
And I shudder to think how very few of us–perhaps myself included–will walk away from our comfortably numb, but contented, lives: our version of Omelas.
I suppose in being a teacher, a cheerleader for young people, a writer, a part-time activist, through offering a conduit for young voices (and arguably for change), I am “walking” away. But, of course, I could always do more, while paradoxically, I can never do enough. This existential crisis sometimes stops my heart mid-beat. Like so many, I feel so helpless.
Still I continue my work, my writing. I am currently piecing together a dystopic YA novel, set in an overheated world, that may or may not see publication. One can only hope. I keep trying.
As I try to reduce my carbon footprint. Try to regenerate and reinvest in green solutions. Try to have meaningful conversations with young people and, really, anyone who’ll listen to me drone on about the dire warnings from science about global warming. I keep trying.
And that is why, I suppose, I write this blog today. In the face of pessimism and cloudy (not sunny) ways, I try, even as I struggle with the notion that I can change nothing.
For more info and great links, please visit http://thischangeseverything.org/
* William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, III.i.269-270