Words in the oven

Luiza Oliveira
Mar 21 · 8 min read

To think about language is to think about social dynamics

Photo by Luiza Oliveira

Today’s reflection is about the “About R/evolution and Love” poem of Assata Shakur. It is really a lovely poem as a piece, and as anything in life, to say that I agree or disagree with it as a whole it sounds almost unfair to simplify a complex subject and poem with so many concepts and components inside of it, with just saying “Yes, I do agree with it” or “No, I don’t agree with”.

Starting with the name R/evolution.

The word revolution is a word that I have been struggling with for a while. It resonates with me when Assata gives a twist to the word and redefined it in her poem. Redefining the word revolution made me think about a recent conversation that I a had with a friend of mine. He reminded me that the word revolution in astronomy means the time that one’s planet takes to go around the sun (the planet’s year). The time a planet takes to be back at the same point where it was before.

Taking this concept into consideration, he felt that it was important to find a better word to describe the kind of “revolution” he is looking for. So, he wants things to be changed, he does not want to go back to the same spot as he was before, as the planet. So, he proposed the word Rêve-évolution. Rêve in French means to dream, and in his idea, it is important to create a vision and dream about where you want to go as an individual and as a group in order to not go back to the same point as before, reproducing the same dynamics. And I liked his idea, of changing the word, as Assata Shakur also did.

At the same time, now that I am writing about this conversation, I remembered that the Sun is also moving in the universe, in a helical movement. So the idea that the planet is going back to the same spot as before is a relative impression because everything moved together. But still, I don’t identify my personal movement with the word Revolution, R/evolution or Rêve-évolution, and I will tell you why.

For me, the word revolution reminds me relationships of power, abusive power, I mean. When people felt the need to take weapons to make their voices to be heard. And Assata played with this idea in her poem using the idea in a R/evolution being a “weapon of mass construction” and a “weapon of mass love”. I liked the way she played with that, but personally, I am tired of weapons, I don’t want to be a weapon. Are weapons used in any other context than when somebody is trying to apply power over someone else?

I am tired of abusive relationships that can not find a way to create dialogue and find a creative solution together without appealing to a threat, without appealing to a weapon.

The word that I am looking for translates conflict transformation as a creative process. The word that I am looking for applies the creation of safe spaces to practice active listening, patience, kind and respectful actions, the practice of deep connection, allowing people to speak from a vulnerable space, making regular re-evaluations of the process, re-designing it and trying it again. The word that I am looking for creates space to laughter, tears, silence, doubt, passion, fear, enthusiasm, anger and love to be expressed and welcomed in the same space with the same value, with no shame.

I didn’t find the word that resonates with all of that yet, but revolution and its variations don’t speak to my heart.

Anyway, going back to R/evolution poem, a few ideas that she joined together that I really liked: “it’s not enough just to change the system. we need to change ourselves. we have got to make this world user-friendly.”

Personally, I believe that if I try to change any system, without changing myself, I will end up reproducing the same patterns, and the same systems. So, for me, it is a key element to start from within and welcome who I am and where I am coming from in order to find a new direction to go, deconstruct myself (remember deconstruction is not the same of destruction) in order to construct myself differently, before trying to create a different option of system. Allowing oneself or a group of people to dare and try, allowing wrong choices to happen and including failure to be part of the learning curve and try it again, having fun and dealing with frustrations along the process, before finding better options.

“We have got to make this world user-friendly.” This is my favorite part of the entire poem because it reminds me to welcome the diversity of each and every user. We all come from very different paths, stories, backgrounds. We developed different defense mechanisms, traumas, points of views, belief systems. And if we manage to create a user-friendly world, maybe people from all sorts of background would be able to welcome themselves and each other in this process of designing new systems as communities. I love that!

But when she goes and write: “are you ready to sacrifice to end world hunger. to sacrifice to end colonialism. to end neo-colonialism. to end racism. to end sexism?” It breaks my heart.

Let me clarify my thinking process. I am done with hunger, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, sexism … and so many other isms and injustices around the world. But I don’t see sacrifice as a strategy that I want to use in order to change these social dynamics. Because sacrifice reminds me of victimization, guilty. I am not saying that this is what Assata meant, but it is what triggers in me.

I am here to reduce drastically my consumption, redefine my priorities, live differently, adapt my routine to live toward a zero-waste life, to support a sustainable economic degrowth process as being part of a larger community, to take time to care for the earth, the living beings, and its processes. And for me, this is not sacrificing, it is a choice. A choice that I feel empowered in taking it, a choice that shows me the kind of movement that I am supporting within my many actions during the day and my routine.

I want to live in a world where it is possible to take responsibility for each and every action, even if many mistakes are made. Making mistakes is not a problem for me, the problem is to persist on them because it becomes denial.

To use the word sacrifice as a strategy to end abusive social dynamics evokes a wave of deep anger in me because it reminds me of the abusive power of many religions have been using strategy during centuries. Where the narrative pattern us vs. them is repeated over and over again.

And I think this why I don’t like the idea of using the word evolution in this context either. Because implies the idea that maybe some people are better off in the “evolution race” than others… where I know that it took me a long way and time to be able to self-evaluate myself the way I do, but this does not mean that I am better or worse than anybody else in the “evolving process”… This reflection reminds me that any process takes time, changing habits takes time, question your own self-belief system takes time. I am sure that in some years time, I will see things in a completely different way from what I see and understand things now, and this is the beauty of this process of learning.

I like to think that we are complex systems navigating with and around other complex systems within larger complex systems that we tend to oversimplify.

Does the word that I am looking for already exists?

Photo by Luiza Oliveira

And this leads me to another part where I struggled with in the poem when she wrote: “r/evolution means treating your mate as a friend and an equal.”

I used to think that in a perfect world everybody would be friends. And with time, I learned that it is unrealistic to be friends with everybody. To be a friend for me means to share a deeper relationship, a deeper connection and to share some values. And I realized that I do not share deeper connection and share values with everybody that I know, but this does not mean that I can not respect a person the same way that I would respect a friend of mine, and this does not mean to treat as a friend either.

Do you see the distinction? So I set myself free from the concept that in an ideal world everybody would be friends and treat each other as friends. Nevertheless, it is possible to treat each other with great respect independently of the relationship status.

Going back to the part of “treating your mate as an equal”.

Again, let me clarify it. I am for equal rights and pro-equity. And it is very clear to me that no human being is equal to another human being, we don’t come from the same household or culture, or religion, we don’t share the communication same skills or skills in general, access to education, traumas, access to potable water, electricity and so many other things that could make us more or less emotional available in the present moment.

So, if I am thinking about social justice, I don’t believe that treating each other as an equal is fair. It is important to make visible our diversities in order to embrace them and take care of issues that maybe it is hard to imagine that they exist. And for me, to say that it is important to treat each other as equals sound like a reproduction of a very egocentric narcissistic narrative repeated many times in the eurocentric education, and I am tired of that.

Acknowledging my own diversity allowed me to embrace my own story, my own path. It allowed me to acknowledge my own traumas, my parent’s traumas, my communities traumas. Today, this personal work, that was and is done collectively, allows me to be present to the diversity of myself and to the others around me. Creating a space where I can listen and see the other as something completely different from me. Not better or worse, different.

Again, for me reproducing the “treating each other as equals”, reproduces the narrative of Us vs. Them. Because reproduces the dynamic “I will only recognize you as equal, and if you are not equal… well, now we have a problem” … and I am tired of this dynamic.

I want to co-create and be part of a world where it is possible to acknowledge and celebrate diversity in a respectful way, where it is possible to find creative solutions without losing respect for each other. Where diversity is seen as a rich resource to create more synergy, resilience and from there an emergent culture.

So, in order to conclude, I realized that I would like to propose a word to Assata’s poem that it would translate all the processes that I mentioned above without using the revolution word as a base since I don’t like to give criticism without proposing an option or options of solution/s … but I must acknowledge that I don’t know this word yet. And paradoxically this excites me because I see that while I change myself, I change the dynamics within me and around me. With these reflexions, I face the need to find new words to translate these new dynamics created showing that the language system is always changing and with it, other systems are changing too.

Wild Women Writers

A collage of writing by women participating in the Wild Women Writing Challenge. www.40daywritingchallenge.com

Luiza Oliveira

Written by

Curious by nature, I am a person with many passions. Permaculture became the common thread to weave them in a resilient way. More at www.linvisible.ch

Wild Women Writers

A collage of writing by women participating in the Wild Women Writing Challenge. www.40daywritingchallenge.com

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