Forget Your Perfect Offering

Capitalist problems will not be solved with capitalist thinking

Kelly Tatham
Oct 26, 2019 · 6 min read
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Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Forget your perfect offering.
Just ring the bells that still can ring.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how…
That’s how…
That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

The ways in which the capitalist belief system keeps us oppressed are many. We are taught that our worth is based on our productivity and ability to work. We are taught that love comes from a purchase or a partner. We are taught that certain feelings are “bad” and that we can buy / drink / eat / fuck / smoke or otherwise numb these feelings away. We are taught to seek validation outside of ourselves, leaving us in an endless search for fulfillment.

All of these beliefs, these mind tricks, share the same root: that we are not good enough exactly as we are. The world burns because we cannot stop attempting to fill this empty hole inside of us, this belief that we are not enough. And the more money we possess, the more opportunities we have to attempt to fill that hole. But the hole will never fill. The hole is bottomless. The hole is infinite.

As we work to save the world, to save humanity from extinction, we must not only divest from fossil fuels, palm oil, animal agriculture and other obvious, tangible catalysts of climate change, we also must divest from the ideological beliefs that form the basis of our consumption patterns and planet destroying behaviours.

It can often be difficult to identify dangerous and archaic beliefs because they run so deep. Indeed, they are a part of us. Our personalities, our entire worldviews are shaped by beliefs of the culture, of our language, of the entirety of modern history. As rebels and freedom fighters, we must be as vigilant in decolonizing our minds as we are in dismantling the systems of the tangible world.

The problem will not be solved by the same mind that created it.

We are too quick to beat ourselves up for mistakes, too quick to place blame on “evil-doers,” forgetting their humanity or acknowledging that they were shaped by the same system that created us. It is too easy for us feel shame, to self-flagellate for “not doing enough.” We are too quick to work ourselves to the bone, so driven by fear, so desperate to make change that we forget the problem will not be solved by the same mind that created it.

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Extinction Rebellion LA, Sunrise Movement LA, Aliso Moms, and Food + Water Action blockading the Aliso Canyon gas facility, the site of the worst methane leak in US history. Photo by Hannah Benet

In the Los Angeles Extinction Rebellion chapter this week, we pulled off an intense and exhaustive action. It took weeks of planning and its execution took an emotional and physical toll. The action was heartening, deepening, and impactful, and while I, personally, was brimming with ideas to bring to the next tactical meeting, I was most looking forward to a moment of repose and coming together with our community for a hike and meditation. Until I found out that the hike had been scheduled at the same time as the tactical meeting.

It’s understandable, the drive to continue working without taking a break. The state of emergency we are in seems to call for this kind of behaviour. But the notion that we might fix the climate crisis with the same patterns of behaviour that got us into the climate crisis is misguided thinking. Making people choose between health-care & community-bonding and the strategical planning of our movement is a capitalist trap.

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.

Albert Einstein

In a 1946 essay entitled “The Real Problem Is in the Hearts of Men,” Albert Einstein spoke to The New York Times about the world-ending threat of the atomic bomb. “I do not believe we can prepare for war and at the same time prepare for a world community,” he explained.

While our tactical teams aren’t preparing for war, they are preparing for battle. This is the mentality of direct action: disruption, obstruction, and stand-offs. All necessary, of course — these are the best tools we have in our arsenal.

But that’s just it: it’s an arsenal; it’s a fight. We use the language of war, the language of our oppressors. What if we invented new tools? What if we realized this game was playing out in our minds — that there is no separation between the internal and the external? I am not suggesting we stop using our current methods. Not at all. Not yet. I am simply suggesting that we take time and energy to consider alternative tools and methods of resistance. I am suggesting that saving the world can be easier than we’ve been tricked into believing.

The essay closes with this sentiment from Einstein, “When we are clear in heart and mind — only then shall we find courage to surmount the fear which haunts the natural world.”

We will not become clear in heart and mind if we do not create the space to rest, reflect, and rejuvenate. The problem will not be solved by the same mind that created it.

The belief that hard work equals success is something we need to leave behind.

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Photo by Hannah Benet

Capitalism is sneaky. It will do everything in its power to keep us stuck. Extricating ourselves from its grasp will be complex, nuanced work requiring radical thinking that goes against our very intuitions and instincts.

For the Aliso Canyon action, Extinction Rebellion came together with fellow new world builders from the Sunrise Movement. An astoundingly bright group of young people, they brought energy, innovative organizing, and inspiring culture to the table. At the end of our group tactical meeting they closed the day with a call and repeat chant from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem.”

Forget your perfect offering.
Just ring the bells that still can ring.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

It’s a beautiful song and a beautiful sentiment, but, it too, is plagued by subtle and insidious old-world thinking. We live under an ideological system that teaches us we are separate from our worth, that we are separate from love and that we are separate from our light. But this is false.

Indeed, there is a crack in everything. But that’s not how the light gets in. It is how the light gets out. Because we are not separate from the light.

We are the light.

The time has come for us to stop working for our worth. Certainly there are many tasks ahead of us and much effort to be expended in order to save the world, but at every step of the way we must be questioning our actions and beliefs and analyzing our undertakings, asking ourselves, Are we operating from the same mind that got us into this trouble or are we building new worlds?

We must put equal amounts of energy and effort in our philosophical battles, into the dismantling of the systemic problems in our minds. We must centre rest and community. We must prioritize self-care and health-care. We must reframe how we work. We must innovate.

Capitalist problems will not be solved with capitalist thinking. We can slow down to speed up. We can give up the struggle. We are not separate from the light. We are the light. And saving the world is easier than we think.

Kelly Tatham is a filmmaker, photographer, writer, and multi-dimensional collage artist. She believes that insecurity is the root of all evil, and therefore radical honesty and raw vulnerability will save the world.

Sign up for her newsletter, Climate Change in the Multiverse.

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