By Crow Qu’appelle

(Originally Published in Slingshot)

I had the opportunity to participate in a Sun Dance in Mexico this summer which helped to purge the negativity that I’ve been carrying for a long time. When I am at my best, my activism is purely an expression of my spirituality, and I feel very much recharged. I am hoping to bring some positive energy.

I have the feeling that a lot of people are very drained of their libidinal energy. The meaning of the word libido is life-wish, and I think that right now the political mood is more one of a death-wish.

I remember many times where my passion for my activist work was very much akin to the passion that one carries into an exciting new romance, an energy that comes from a seemingly inexhaustible force coming from within, yet not coming from oneself, but from a source much greater than oneself. In the moments I identify with this source of energy as my true nature, rather than the person who is desirous. Essentially my desire in these moments is to be of service, and in this is the true joy that sustains me, for it is desire born of love, the desire that is fulfilled in giving of myself for the benefit of the Great Other, who is really no Other at all, for we are all ultimately one, and all illusion of separateness is born of ignorance of our true nature. And this is what I return to, and what I must return to, in order to maintain my hope in a world that seems dead-set on destroying itself.

What I was taught, and what I took to heart, is that prayer and ceremony must precede action, and that the intention that inspires action will create results corresponding to that intention. And so I believe that this movement needs spiritual guidance, needs to be guided by love, and the wisdom that comes from a practice of love, as a way of seeing and perceiving and understanding the world. I have been fortunate enough to have had this guidance in my own life, and to me it seems like it is the only way that we will break out of the divisiveness of us-and-them thinking that perpetuates oppression and the repetition of the cycles of abuse that have defined history (or at least Western history) for millennia. And I believe that this is the fundamental message (or at least one of the messages) that underpinned Standing Rock and recent indigenous uprisings.

But there is a taboo against discussing spirituality in anarchist circles, with certain exceptions granted. But I believe that unless we internalize that message, we as a movement will keep spinning our wheels. Really, I believe the many crises — ecological, economic, and political — stem from an underlying spiritual crisis, the result of generations of oppression and alienation. For so long, religion has been used as a tool of social control, and the result has been the suppression of true, authentic spirituality. The very people and institutions that were supposed to offer spiritual guidance, to help human beings orient themselves spiritually, served to turn them against themselves. And so as we became more able to think for ourselves, we turned from religion, recognizing it for what it is, tools for oppression.

There is a great spiritual hunger in our times. I believe that as economic, political, social, and cultural conditions deteriorate, this will become an increasingly defining feature of the zeitgeist, and I have no doubt that movements will arise which speak to that hunger. Some of these movements will be revolutionary, some will be reactionary. Some will seek solace in memories or romanticized notions of the past, some will speak to the urgent need to radically transform our relationship to nature, to one another, to the cities and territories we inhabit. Those of us who have long wished for a radical transformation of society may well live to have our wishes granted, though there is no guarantee whatsoever that it will be what we hoped for, or even an improvement to the current social order. But I feel certain that a great change is coming, that many more people will come to feel that we have come to the end of the road for the materialist paradigm currently defining Western civilization.

We must learn to revere the Sacred again. We must learn to highly value that which is worthy of profound respect. We must learn our place within the great web of life within which we live, which we are a part of, and value ourselves and one another as belonging to it, as being worthy recipients of the gift of life. We must learn to be humble, to be willing to listen and to learn from the perspectives of others, even those of people we are opposed to, to work towards understanding why others feel the way they do. I see too much self-righteousness in activist circles these days. Activists are often judgmental, fault-finding, and narrow-minded. We keep doing the same things that we’ve been doing without honestly asking ourselves if it is working.

I have been highly involved in the anarchist movement for a decade and I have seen countless people driven out of radical scenes, and at least in the area where I live, it doesn’t seem to me that new people are coming in at the rate they are being driven out. And all of this in a movement that purports to create more inclusive society, where people are freer to be themselves, where police and prisons would be unnecessary because everyone would have access to the support that they need. To believe that this is possible is to place tremendous faith in the power of love, kindness, and acceptance to change human behavior, and if we are to convince the people that such faith is a viable political approach, we must demonstrate its effectiveness by practicing it ourselves.

2 Replies to “Activism as Spirituality”

  1. this is so important, the ceremony and prayer to guide the work. yes, without being grounded, it feels erratic and differently dangerous. I love “prays well with others” to describe what I want to be. yes, distrust of religion can cause a mentality that spirituality isn’t welcome–that’s painful. and if the problems came about from a lack of spiritual connection, we need spirit to help us work on the justice and healing. in some fat liberation work I’ve done, I see Love invited to the action, and it makes a lot more sense to me, than feigning cold atheism. thanks for these thoughts!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! This was actually the first article that I’ve published in which I talk about my spirituality, which is really at the core of my activism… There is a taboo against talking about spirituality in anarchist circles, because historically many anarchists have been atheist. Now however, there is definitely a new tendency emerging from anarchists who have been very influenced by indigenous activists over the past ten years or so, and atheism seems less relevant now that Christianity is no longer hegemonic (at least in Western countries)… I would encourage you to check out some of our recent pieces such as ‘Rediscovering Anarcho-Perennialism”, “Envisioning a Post-Western World”, and “Reclaiming the Revolutionary Wisdom of the Past”… actually there is nothing new about anarchists being influenced by indigenous worldviews… one need look no further than Kropotkin for this, and both Bakunin + Emma Goldman wrote about “natural law”, which is something that indigenous people often talk about also… In any case, thank you… Each comment like this gives me a boost!

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