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Outside the fence
The nearest I’ve come to having a Tweet go viral came when I recently responded to a video showing deadly aggression among wolves as seen through a chain-link fence. My first volley was to state, “This isn’t nature.” This was answered by a claim that the fence was there to surround — and presumably protect — the people watching the big, bad wolves. To that I responded, “Are any of us outside the fence?”
I intended it as a bit of a parody of the kind of statement of the obvious that gets turned into a #meme. It’s also true.
Where all of my other forays onto social media have fallen flat after at most one or two “Likes” or re-Tweets; this one took off and after more than a week continues to harvest Tweet Hearts and re-Tweets. And, not from people I know, people who have already followed me in the vernacular of everyone’s-a-leader-for-fifteen-minutes that ranks us all as followed and followers. These responses are from total strangers even by the extremely low standards of our on-line pseudo-relationships.
It’s more than a truism. This statement is true. It touches on the heart of our precarity. As individuals and even as we attempt to establish and nourish communities — or defend and vitalize existing ones — there are no places outside the fence.
And, this is true within us as well as outside. The hardest part of setting off on a path to freedom from coercion is rooting out the ways we have all internalized our oppression. At rock-bottom, unless we can establish an inner relationship without all these internalized boundaries we have absolutely no hope of ever doing anything about the external fences that imprison us.
And, what’s so chilling and true in what’s happening to those wolves — that their sense of themselves, of their group, and what happens at its edges; are all distorted. They are brought to murderous violence by the existence of that fence. The same is true for all of us trapped behind wire.
The one saving grace is that, at least insofar as our internalized barriers are concerned, we can dissolve them. All it takes is for us to suspend our reactions and simply, truly, attend to our barriers, witness them, and watch how they work.
No compulsion can survive our attending to its machinations. This is the only true rock we can build anything upon. Much more solid than any illusion of certainty.
Each time we recognize the fence we begin to dissolve its power over us. We stop reacting and open up the possibility of a creative response.
Until we’ve traveled some way on this internal path our attempts to carve spaces for ourselves within physical reality are weighted and twisted by the ways we’ve internalized what we’re trying to change.
Harriet Tubman’s declaration rings true,
“I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”
What’s most profound about her statement is how it applies to all of us. No matter where we think we are in some pecking order. We are all slaves to a system that demands that we enclose ourselves behind walls. The truth of enslavement is the way it affects everyone. Twisting and thwarting our natures and making us believe that “Nature red in tooth and claw” is the only reality.
Build your fences. Build your walls, but know that you imprison yourselves as much as those you fear and hate.
This is as true, and as unrecognized by those it infects, on the so-called “Left” as on the dreaded Right. What holds them all in a death grip of opposition is a shared hate and contempt for those they refuse to recognize as human. They differ only in who they place in that category and who they choose to embrace — even if only symbolically.
The fence, the barrier, the wall, destroys everyone around it. There is no “safe side.”
The only hope we have is not embracing our anger and sense of self justification. The only chance we have is taking in the lessons of Enormity. As the Nightmares of Reason roam free it can become easier to see how they affect us all. Reductio ad absurdum does bring the benefit of deflating justifications and making their falsehood transparent.
See the fence for what it is: a cut, a break, a tear in the fabric of wholeness. And by seeing it for what it is we begin to dissolve its power over us in the only way that we can affect change: from within.
Being against the wall… against the wall…. Note how that phrase has a double meaning. Both hold true so long as we are trapped in opposition. Fighting against some particular wall does nothing to get us out of our predicament. We remain held tight, against the wall.
Dissolve your internal walls and the situation changes totally. You’re no longer the one holding yourself against it. Your actions stop perpetuating the divisions that build and maintain it.
Only at this point is a creative response possible and that creative response is not predictable. The wall-makers cannot defend against what is beyond their understanding. You have introduced into the world something people can move towards so they can stop running away.
We‘re all starved for something to move towards. We’re so tired of running away. So tired of running that many today are running towards everything we all know full-well — if but we let ourselves listen to the quiet voice within — can only lead to greater destruction. More violence and meg-death. Setting one’s self up in yet another round of opposition – making a wall around the wall-builders? — how can that help?
Dissolve the wall.
At this point we begin to navigate the tangible….