post nationalism in the age of cooptation and other dumpster fires

during election seasons, it can get a bit murky trying to navigate other people’s political identities. i have recently been called someone who believes in the electoral process a few times, and i initially laughed, but then i thought it could be a great moment of clarification.

the first thing i ever wrote that was published in a book was “i hate politics.” that was in 2003, for an out-of-print book i coedited called How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office. i wrote about the compromise it was, to have radical politics but feel the need to navigate survival in the current political landscape. the book gathered examples of people who held their noses and harnessed election work as a tactic in larger fights.

my politics have changed a lot as new data and context has entered, but that fundamental piece has not really shifted that much – i don’t think nation is the way, particularly this one: a political system designed for exclusion while using the language of ‘the people’.

complexity guides my organizing priorities, still. i don’t believe our electoral system works, and i don’t believe we can completely abandon it while we practice governance elsewhere – i believe we need to move in ways that protect and center the most vulnerable as we reach for a dream of cooperative governance.

i find most of the work of u.s. politics to be cyclical in the worst ways, illogical, presumptive, illusory, performative and not actually useful in the work of improving lives. i left electoral politics for direct action, and then emergent strategy. but i continue to engage a multitude of tactics simultaneously, which i see many in our movements able to do well.

i just want to speak for a moment on the peace it gives me to be a post nationalist.

because most modern nation-states form within the context of the age of supremacy, nationalism often requires it’s practitioners to claim some supremacy. especially the younger and more immature said nation is. that’s how a warmongering, politically divided, arms bearing, death penalty practicing, pandemic petri dish of a nation, which has never fully (economically) accounted for its genocidal, enslaving foundation, can claim it is the best at anything.

is there magic here? of course. but traveling far and wide will show you that there is the potential for magic any time humans come together. across celebrated differences, yes, and in deeply monocultural spaces where we get to celebrate something widely shared. the magic comes not from an unfulfilled dream, or string-swelling theme song of a narrative, but from the miracle of life in proximity to itself.

i think the best thing that could happen to the u.s. is what has happened to other blustering empires – rome is delightful as a place of history, relic, food, art, commerce…it’s not the center of anything except perhaps a certain romantic narrative, and that’s fine. england is rainy, quirky, has lovely gardens, fantastic museums, and an excellent selection of mushrooms in camden yards. the sun sets on whatever is still british, and then it rises through a fog and life goes on. nation as superpower is definitely over.

but this nation, the u.s., can’t imagine the end of its empire phase and doesn’t currently have a coherent national identity. unless it’s rash compulsive rebellion and trolling? or ostrich tactics in the face of our impacts?

post nationalism gives me room to see the u.s. through a lens of compassion…it’s doing the best it can as a flawed structure. it’s a sum of disparate parts that actually don’t have an organic cohesion, and never did.

post nationalism helps me remember that i was never a part of the dream of this place, and that those i have dreamt alongside of have mostly been killed here.

i write this on the birthday of martin luther king, jr, who dreamed of something profoundly simple – a land where humans could be human together. for this he was killed, and then rebranded as a hero of and for this place, as if the dream slipped out on his last breath into the soil. i still share his dream, the seeds he cast took root in me. i water them with my work, which is not for this nation which has still not reckoned with its racism, materialism or militarism. i don’t expect humane and planetary dreams to manifest in spaces where they are continuously shortchanged, fed words without acts. i dream for the species, i dream for Black people.

post nationalism gives me room to focus on conditions. what are the conditions in which we learn to make our dreams politically possible? what conditions allow us to catch our breath and move beyond the desperate acts of survival? what are the conditions in which we create muscle memory around our humanity, around our relationship to the planet, around justice that transforms harm, around cooperation and collectivism, around liberation?

to create those conditions i use every tool in the box – the sharp clean tools of revolution and the rusted tools, like elections with a busted electoral college mess, which are still most accessible to the masses. i know that the hardest step is not getting people to choose the best tools, but inspiring people to want to build something at all. and then, growing the belief that there is a structure they could cocreate in which they could belong without battle. i believe people can and will demand better tools as they fall in love with their own possible futures.

being a post nationalist is feeling constantly aware that our species precedes our nation, and if our nation is not worthy of the miraculous, then it will be succeeded by those of us who choose to align with life oriented structures instead of institutions stagnant in their power struggles.

so, do i celebrate when the conditions allow us more breath, more room to practice; when the conditions allow more of the most vulnerable amongst us a chance to be a part of something beyond this? yes i do.

do i believe that this electoral system is a path to liberation? no i don’t.

do i judge you justice fighters for your patriotism or your anarchy? only if it is purely theoretical. if you are trying, truly trying to figure out ways this species of ours, and particularly my people, Black and Brown and queer and trans and weird and visionary and disabled people, get to perpetuate in ever improving and liberating conditions, then i can respect our differences. i promise not to flatten you if you are practicing a vision of the future that you truly and deeply believe in. and i promise to stay three dimensional at minimum in my own complex beliefs and practices.

dreamer, out.

consider it…

consider for a moment that you are not destined for something great – not in the way that we have imagined greatness. your name will not be remembered. no quotes, no recordings, no transcripts, no iconic images, no published journals.

consider that instead of a life legacy of fame, celebrity and followers, your entire purpose is to be part of something greater than any individual. that you are a temporary conduit of the miraculous mysterious unfolding of the entire universe.

would you be a cog in a wheel? a hater? would you commute? gossip? chatter? do things you don’t love? suffer?

visual: a bubble is simply space, air caught, floating through air, space in space. it is beautiful, awesome. it holds within it the same complex miraculous air that is all around it. and then it pops. it lands against some hard surface. it ceases to exist. but the space within it doesn’t cease, it just becomes part of the greater space, pushed by a fan to cool someone’s face, breathed into damaged lungs, transforming, transforming, but always there.

consider: we are like that. fragile and complex and temporary. made of the same stuff as planets, as soil, as oceans. we are heat, like suns, stars, fire. everything that exists, caught in the shell of us, and then the shell is gone, our singularity, our temporary container: poof.

bubbles don’t reason, surely they don’t come into existence and then fling themselves against the world in ways that can only end them…but we do. we reason, and with all of our capacity for dreaming and thinking and wondering and learning, we fling ourselves against each other and the world in ways that weaken our fragile containers.

the little stuff in me that feels familiar is like – pure mediation. there is something within me that feels like the air and space and stuff of mediation. not famous mediation, or celebrity mediation, or even highly paid mediation.

i have been thinking lately of why i don’t have more hustle. i get told often about things i could do to raise my profile, get more people to hear me and follow me. and i consistently have so little interest in that. the ideas that interest me most are not mine, they are collections and collisions of other people’s ideas and observations. i hold the ideas for a while, but the brain with which i process these ideas is far more temporary than the ideas themselves – they existed before me, they will exist and grow after my body and brain are gone.

consider: the world is full of information and experiences, truth and reflections. i see the species coming up with all kinds of ways to process that information – categorize it, label it, own it, store it, share it, be horrified by it, use it to shock and awe, ultimately forget it (how do you interact with…data?).

i can see the temptation of all of that – to feel like it is important to just process all the information coming at us. but sometimes i see that all the information creates patterns and pathways, a way forward, a fusion. sometimes i can see that middle ground of existence, or of organizing methodology, or of humanity, or of life – like a bright purple shell in clear water, or a point in space that is actually a dark hole of transformation. it’s not the opposition, or resistance, or liberalism, or progressive thought, or conservatism, the anarchy, the marches, the elections, the spirit of entrepreneurs, the globalization of every little thing…it’s nothing obedient or reactive at all. it’s where all of those things break out of our definition of them and merge, history happens when all of those forces merge, and it is the fusion that advances through time.

this isn’t to say i am anti-extreme, sometimes all of the energy of the world is tilted towards an extreme and the learnings from our pursuit and survival of that extreme become part of our collective knowledge and values. extremes are more important than mainstreams, because extremes are often compelled into action.

we haven’t yet figured out the way to act/live our values, collectively. we know, for instance, that it is right to at least speak of civil rights, equality, things like that. in practice, this is a generation of inhumane behavior and great inequality. we might as well name prisons after martin luther king, jr considering where black men reside these days. king’s name, his image, his words – they are applied to all sorts of things that have nothing to do with deep and pure nonviolence, with beloved communities, with his life’s work. the ideas he espoused are now carried by his name, not by a deep transformations in the way we are with each other as a mass level. his is one of the many names that we know now, and consider important, people who were only advancing a moment. their truth may or may not hold.

how can we use our reason to learn and live our values? stop floating, and start advancing our existence? if we were really listening, containing the truth of our ancestors and elders, and evolving…consider: what would you do?

how would you interact with your family?
who would you forgive?
who would you love?
what behaviors would you give up?
what practices would you begin?
who would you be?
what would you give?
how would you live?

i know i have considered these questions…
i would practice dependence and independence with my family.
i would compost, recycle, use less water, eat more greens and localize my diet. i would forgive myself for neglecting my body for so long.
i would give up reaction and practice being present.
i would choose love and do love.
i would be physical every day, i would give my time and my ability to mediate.

there is nothing stopping me…i am not angry anymore. i am giving up the hustle and getting into the flow.

consider – what are you being called to? why aren’t you listening?

“human evolution has ended”

i just read a blogworthy sentence in the december 2008 Harper’s findings, which is my favorite part of the magazine. it used to be harper’s index near the front, which – some months – would be the only page in the magazine i read. then i found the Findings on the back page, and my heart leapt. the conclusions, the minor benchmarks of science and math, the accumulation of research of the sort i would never do, as it takes years and degrees (and i have no intention of spending the former to get the latter).

at some point i realized that i couldn’t find any sources for the findings, no name of who collected the information, they could be made up and i would still believe. i like to imagine that collector in a trench coat, sidling up to secret laboratories with a notebook, flipping through files with a camera hidden in his/her watch, submitting each month’s findings as a bullet-pointed handwritten list.

often the findings give me hope, or at least an explanation for some illogical behavior i observed myself or other humans engaged in. but this one…:

“a prominent geneticist concluded that human evolution has ended.”

i didn’t think this was possible. evolution is the only exit strategy i believe in! the idea of being stuck with this many arms and this pattern of behavior is mindnumbing. if we cannot change at the gene level, then my whole language for learning and changing has to morph. is the gene level where we advance our capacity to emote? does compassionate behavior evolve over time? that is, do living creatures learn to be more compassionate, more accommodating?

our story since our nights in the caves has been one of establishing territory, and then spending our lives protecting or expanding that territory. but i thought that was a temporary calling. i thought at some point we would start to see earth as a only a starting point, a galactic womb, that we were Octavia Butler’s ‘earthseed’. and that we would have to evolve in certain ways in order to make it possible to go into the rest of the universe. alongside my dream for us to begin to see each other as fundamentally valuable (which would literally be like an On switch at the molecular level, jolting us out of the darkness of competitive mindless accrual), i’ve envisioned the addition of capabilities in our anatomy that make us opt in and out of gravity, or have an expanded ability to experience very high or very low temperatures, or a knowledge in our hearts of how to process the vast matter of space as if it’s breathable air.

the popular or experiential education models i engage in have always been grounded in the idea that reflecting and learning wasn’t just tied to things we already knew, but to learning in ways that expanded the knowledge of the collective, building off the wisdom of ancestors, towards the great discoveries of the future. if human evolution has ended, if this is it…

well it would account for that funny feeling i get sometimes, when it becomes apparent that a person or group of people is reverting to the lowest common denominator as a mode of bonding, i.e. racism that allows patriotism and the sense of belonging to a set of ideals (even if those ideals never manifest, i do write this as an american after all). or that other feeling that there is nothing new under the sun.

i have scraped myself out of that hole of meta-familiarity with the cycles of life by remembering that the internet came into existence in my parents’ lifetimes, and so i can at least be patient and creative because something i cannot possibly yet imagine will most likely change my world completely before i die. but assuming something is evolutionary because it is fast or easy or awesome might be my error…maybe the internet has only made us lazier, and less likely to evolve! what i have experienced as a different way to defy time and physical constraints in terms of communication has perhaps begun our process of devolving, our bones forgetting how to survive, our hands and spines shriveling into new shapes, running without purpose or distance, our memories and eyesight deteriorating, even our language reduced 2 tha shrtest pssble thng u cn txt.

this one line makes me rack my brain for evolution stories – we crawled out of the muck, went through an awkward monkey phase, and developed a capacity for reason instead of flying. birds share the bone structure of some small dinosaurs, and when certain frogs are left in a monosexual environment they develop a skill for immaculate conception (makin’ babies minus all the fun part). maybe our species just isn’t up against the wall of extinction yet.

perhaps its because we treat every sort of different human like a mistake, and it’s stunted our cellular creativity. perhaps our concepts of normal and beauty have convinced our genes we are not interested in evolving anymore.

the only way i can read this sentence as uplifting is if the “human” aspect is seen as a flaw, or the distinct characteristic of repeating mistakes – with mistakes being grand things like war, domination, nation building, jealousy. if we’re “only human, born to make mistakes,” then i can let it go. so human, as a distinct species, has reached its endpoint, and now the next evolution will be to shed the useless tendencies which only lead to our ultimate self-extinction. and a new species is set to emerge from us – enlightened in some way, bound by new rules. yes maybe we are the matter for something utterly different to come forth, butterfly style, a new word for a new DNA, cocooned in this moment after crawling around for years on 100 tired legs.

human could then be a term like limbic, a phase of development we move through, post reptilian, post-mammalian, carried in us but not nearly all of the brain, and we move to accessing 50, 60, 80% of our brains, the next species focused on completely different experiences.

like flying.

and pollination.

i can get with that.

on a much less geeky level, i took some friends to Butta tonight, the oakland convergence of lgbtqwoc. the level of grinding and popping and push-up bras and stud posturing and winding hips and role play and role reversal and spilled drinks is truly intoxicating, and for a few hours there is a completely merged space where class walls fade away, everyone in an undulating mass, massive butch, femme and everything-in-between-and-beyond smiles in all directions, beautiful gay men deferring in corners. whenever i am in this space, or another space categorized by a gender challenging, sexuality-embracing post-normality, i think that we are not done evolving, because we still think the world is a this-or-that world, black-or-white, male-or-female, us-or-them. its such an untruth, its such a vibrant gray world, all things can coexist in constant transformation. the biggest threat to our survival is not external, its the internal surrender of the knowledge that humans are complex, that all things physically and emotionally possible in all of humanity are possible in each human, given the proper accepting space.

if we were an accepting species, then we would not war with each other over difference. knowing the pain it is to Be all that you are, the lifelong journey of developing belief systems and survival skills and a tendency towards joy, we couldn’t begrudge another life, couldn’t take life, couldn’t judge so much. in an accepting world – even a temporary one – it becomes easy to see how beautiful everyone is, which unilaterally improves the experience of life.

i am not a geneticist, but i have experience of genes, and i have something in me still yearning for the next internal, psychological, spiritual evolution.

or maybe that’s just the feeling i get when i dance.

i cooked a lot of carrot soup today, as i hold a dated belief that it will help me regain my 8 year old 20/20 vision. its delicious.

tomorrow is MLK, Jr day, and i’ve so far seen over 20 different groups claim their work is the continuation of king’s ideas. was he a genius, or are we taking him out of context…after all, radical agape is hard to find anywhere right now. perhaps tomorrow i will write on that.

no promises, i promise.