Writing, Activism, Art and Ethics

From time to time, friends who know me from another walk of life — perhaps the arts, music or Earth-based religion world — query or object to my participation with topical events in the realm they deem ‘political,’ exclusively American, or somehow not within what they see as being my natural purview. For these friends, I feel it necessary to, in some way, further identify myself.

I’m an artist, writer, educator, arts and culture critic, professional Earth reverencer and journalist, and have actively been all of those things for over three decades. When I lived in NY, in the early 80s, the issues of arts activism centred around protests of U.S. militaristic intervention in Central and South America, with the Contra Crisis and the unlawful overthrow of peaceful socialist/democratic governments in Central and South America in favour of obedient U.S. dictatorial plants, like Noriega. A humanitarian emergency was unfolding before the horrified eyes of conscientious objectors, on a daily basis. Refugees — including priests, nuns, and social workers, farmers, doctors, and supremely concerned and ethical journalists — were pouring into NYC, giving talks, testimony, and slide presentations, documenting the atrocities perpetrated against families and individuals by mercenary militias paid by the U.S. government in its immoral campaign to destabilize local governments.

Artist/photographer and activist, Dona Ann McAdams, introduced me to activists’ and journalistic organizations on the Lower East Side and in the Bowery, got me a press pass, and took me on protests, actions, and marches, climaxing with the huge November 16th March on Washington D.C. in protest against unlawful U.S. policies in the Americas. The press pass enabled me to see events unfolding from an entirely different, artistically and creatively empowered angle, no longer subject to, but an active observer of and commentator on, events as they unfolded on the ground, and gave me the opportunity to begin to write about them.

I worked with an organization called ‘Artist’s Call,’ and co-taught non-hierarchical leadership ethics, aesthetics, skills and philosophy for groups, in league with feminist artist and activist, Mary Beth Edelson. This brilliant opportunity was a privilege, and came at the suggestion of my sister activist in Artist’s Call, the renowned feminist art critic, Lucy Lippard. The workshop was designed for protest groups not wanting to echo and replicate the toxic power structures of the very institutions and abuses of power they were protesting.

I travelled to San Francisco prior to the workshop and conferred with Starhawk in her office at San Francisco University, where she was teaching and working closely with the radical priest and philosopher, Matthew Fox. (Rev. Fox was forced to undergo a year-long ‘Vow of Silence’ as a penance for his pains, sentenced to not speak, write or publish on the radical philosophy of equality, ecology and peace he was learning from Starhawk.) She provided me with the ritualistic process that has been the cornerstone for my consciousness transforming, non-hierarchical work ‘in circle’ for that workshop, and ever since.

These techniques derived from the resurgence of Earth-based spirituality and reverence patterns inherent in Second Wave Feminism of the early 70s, Eco-Feminism, Gaia Science, and the history and archeology of Marija Gimbutas. Her scholarship had proven the existence of peaceful, stable, prosperous, and millennia-lasting civilizations as models for sustainable ideologies and social structure. The work of many other Eco-Feminists was inspired by Gimbutas’ scholarship, including that of: religious scholar, Carol P. Christ; cultural historian, Charlene Spretnak; Reclaiming founder, Miriam Simos (Starhawk); the radicalized former nun, feminist philosopher, religious historian and thorn in the side of the conventional Church, Mary Daly; and the creator of the Partnership Model for ethical and sustainable social organization, Rianne Eisler.

The Green Movement was also birthed from this confluence of progressive thought, which rests on firm foundations in our history, among the earliest civilizations. The Original Values Statement and Ten Guiding Principles of the Green Movement enshrine this radically different set of ethics and aesthetics (both amounting to the same thing, at a certain level, and comprising the highest branch of Philosophy as a discipline and pursuit). The Statement was collectively composed in the early 70s by consensus process, with the input of feminist lawyers, writers, artists, religious leaders, scientists, scholars and educators, and was given to me by Mary Beth Edelson, who was present at its birth in the Bay Area, San Francisco.

The Original Values Statement of principles is not a closed set of precepts, ‘laws,’ rules or beliefs, but open — a dynamic sequence of ideas that lead with questions, evoking curiosity, interest, vital participation, creative input, and the opportunity to make key contributions. In illustrating the degree to which which these principles have become the accepted guideline for lawful functioning in ethical government, commerce, education and other institutions, I append them here, as a Note.

The U.S. government is too powerful an institution, with influence that affects the globe, to ignore, let slide, or simply accept the machinations of, without comment and ethical journalistic oversight. So, of course, I will continue to comment, write, publish, and sponsor the work of social critics, journalists and cultural observers whose work I admire, just as I have done for over thirty years. I hope that confused friends can accept my true identity.

The Original Values Statement

Introduction

This list of values and questions for discussion was composed by a diverse group of people who are working to build a new politics, which has kinship with Green movements around the world. We feel the issues we have raised below are not being addressed adequately by the political left or right. We invite you to join with us in refining our values, sharpening our questions — and translating our perspective into practical and effective political actions.

Ecological Wisdom

How can we operate human societies with the understanding that we are PART of nature, not on top of it?

How can we live within the ecological and resource limits of the planet, applying our technological knowledge to the challenge of an energy-efficient economy?

How can we build a better relationship between cities and countryside?

How can we guarantee the rights of non-human species?

How can we promote sustainable agriculture and respect for self-regulating natural systems?

How can we further biocentric wisdom in all spheres of life?

Grassroots Democracy

How can we develop systems that allow and encourage us to control the decisions that affect our lives?

How can we ensure that representatives will be fully accountable to the people who elected them?

How can we develop planning mechanisms that would allow citizens to develop and implement their own preferences for policies and spending priorities?

How can we encourage and assist the “mediating institutions” — family, neighborhood organization, church group, voluntary association, ethnic club — to recover some of the functions now performed by government?

How can we relearn the best insights from American traditions of civic vitality, voluntary action and community responsibility?

Personal and Social Responsibility

How can we respond to human suffering in ways that promote dignity?

How can we encourage people to commit themselves to lifestyles that promote their own health?

How can we have a community-controlled education system that effectively teaches our children academic skills, ecological wisdom, social responsibility and personal growth?

How can we resolve personal and intergroup conflicts without just turning them over to lawyers and judges?

How can we take responsibility for reducing the crime rate in our neighborhoods?

How can we encourage such values as simplicity and moderation?

Nonviolence

How can we, as a society, develop effective alternatives to our current patterns of violence at all levels, from the family and the street to nations and the world?

How can we eliminate nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth without being naive about the intentions of other governments?

How can we most constructively use nonviolent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and in the process reduce the atmosphere of polarization and selfishness that is itself a source of violence?

Decentralization

How can we restore power and responsibility to individuals, institutions, communities and regions?

How can we encourage the flourishing of regionally-based cultures, as distinct from a dominant monoculture?

How can we locate the power of our political, economic and social institutions closer to home in ways that are efficient and practical?

How can we reconcile the need for community and regional self-determination with the need for appropriate centralized regulation in certain matters?

Community-Based Economics

How can we redesign our work structures to encourage employee ownership and workplace democracy?

How can we develop new economic activities and institutions that will allow us to use our new technologies in ways that are humane, freeing, ecological, and responsive to communities?

How can we establish some form of basic economic security, open to all?

How can we move beyond the narrow “job ethic” to new definitions of work, jobs and income that reflect the changing economy?

How can we change our income distribution pattern to reflect the wealth created by those outside the formal, monetary economy — those who take responsibility for parenting, housekeeping, home gardening, doing community volunteer work, etc.?

How can we restrict the size and concentrated power of corporations without discouraging superior efficiency or technological innovation?

Post-patriarchal Values

How can we replace the cultural ethos of dominance and control with more cooperative ways of interacting?

How can we encourage people to care about persons outside their own group?

How can we promote the building of respectful, positive and responsive relationships across the lines of gender and other divisions?

How can we encourage a rich, diverse political culture that respects feelings as well as rationalist approaches?

How can we proceed with as much respect for the means as the end, the process as well as the product?

How can we learn to respect the contemplative, inner part of life as much as the outer activities?

Respect for Diversity

How can we honor cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity within the context of individual responsibility toward all beings?

While honoring diversity, how can we reclaim our country’s finest shared ideals — the dignity of the individual, democratic participation, and liberty and justice for all?

Global Responsibility

How can we be of genuine assistance to the grassroots groups in the Third World — and what can WE learn from such groups?

How can we help other countries make a transition to self-sufficiency in food and other basic necessities?

How can we cut our defense budget while maintaining an adequate defense?

How can we promote these ten Green values in reshaping our global order?

How can we reshape the global order without creating [the equivalent of] just another enormous nation-state?

Future Focus

How can we induce people and institutions to think in terms of the long-range future, and not just in terms of their short-range selfish interest?

How can we encourage people to develop their own visions of the future and move more effectively toward them?

How can we judge whether new technologies are socially useful — and use those judgments to shape our society?

How can we induce our government and other institutions to practice fiscal responsibility?

How can we make the quality of life, rather than open-ended economic growth, the focus of future thinking?