The Key to Our Collective Liberation

The Key to Our Collective Liberation

The key to our collective liberation: we're all together in this and we're all interconnected.
It sounds very generic and cliche, I mean it quite literally.

I’ve been talking about this for decades, and I will continue to talk about this for decades, because it holds the key to our collective liberation: we’re all together in this and we’re all interconnected.

It sounds very generic and cliche, I mean it quite literally.

When you have a problem that is not yours, but it’s ours, you alone are not going to be able to solve it.

I was coaching this leader of a team today, and they’re having some issues with the team. And as I’m learning about the issues, I had to tell them: “Listen, I can coach you until you’re blue in the face… And you might develop some incredible managerial skills, incredible leadership skills, you might really improve your interpersonal communication game, you might become a lot more present, a lot more aware of how you relate with others, you might become a lot more careful about your relationships with your team members, and none of that is going to move the needle enough, if the problem is systemic”.

If you are the only one that’s doing the work on a systemic problem, it’s gonna be r-e-a-l-l-y hard to make a change. Because you can only do so much. I’m not saying it’s not going to help. It’s definitely going to help. It’s just not gonna help as much as you would like it to help.

The same is true for larger systems. For example, if you’re struggling with depression, and you realize that your depression is because the system that we live in doesn’t support you. It’s designed to keep you down. It’s designed to alienate you. It’s designed to marginalize you. You can take the best pharmaceutical medicine on the planet, you can take the best plant medicine on the planet. You can have the bestest shrink or coach or psychiatrist and you’re not really gonna get long term relief because the moment you’re back out in the world, everything that’s designed to, quite frankly, fuck you over, is still gonna be there…fucking you over. I’m not saying this to make you lose hope at all. I’m one of the most optimistic people I know if I may say so myself. I am saying this to emphasize that you need to take care of yourself. You need to get all of the external resources you can, you need to follow people on social media that are talking about how to look after your own mental health, you need to find help for yourself. AND. Big huge “and”. And you might want to get involved in efforts to shift the system also, because you may not make the change for you at a systemic level right away, but you’re starting to make that change.

When YOU start to make that change, the next generation of people like you have a little bit lighter struggle or even no struggle. Imagine that, liberation is accessible. I believe it’s happening and it can happen. This is what our ancestors have done since the beginning of humanity. They have not left the world in an amazing shape…but they have tried (some of us have). This is why we’re still here. Otherwise, we could have probably obliterated one another a long time ago, we’ve had plenty of opportunity.

So I just want you to think about: is my struggle individual? To what extent is my struggle collective? To what extent? There is a spectrum that moves between the exclusively individual, and the totally collective. Where in that spectrum does my challenge sit? At what level do I need to approach this first? What’s gonna be the most effective action for me to take? I’m a firm believer putting on your oxygen mask on yourself first, and then on your favorite child and then on your second favorite child, because if you’re not breathing, both kids are going to pass out from hypoxia, right?

When you’re thinking about at what level am I approaching a challenge or an issue, the question becomes, what’s killing me the fastest right now? And spend some time on that. Sometimes that looks like reading a self-help book. Sometimes that looks like organizing a book club to read the self-help book. Sometimes it looks like lobbying city officials for better access to mental health resources for the community.

Don’t take systemic shit personally. If you’re poor, for example, it may be because you’re “fucking around”, sure. But it’s probably for a gazillion other reasons that have nothing to do with you. And your job is to keep your soul intact and to not believe the story that it’s on you individually because the entire neoliberal capitalist system is designed to exploit you So if you’re actually being exploited, and you’re having a hard time making ends meet, I’m so sorry. It’s fucked. It should not be that way. But it’s definitely not your fault. That doesn’t mean that there’s not something that you can do about it. Even in this system, we have cracks that we find that’s how the light gets in.

What can you do for yourself? Where can you find allies, comrades, that can behave with solidarity to support you as you try to get access to a better situation for yourself, while not blaming yourself? For stuff that is not your fault? Find them, and then look for other people that need the help and help them. It’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility. It is all of our responsibility.


God is not Santa Claus

God is not Santa Claus

Woman in red dress facing the sunset with her arms raised high
There is no seeking God without finding myself.

What if every single day of your life you woke up in the morning with the absolute power to make your life easier, more tolerable? Maybe even better and more enjoyable? Wouldn’t you take it? To me, that is what God is: the daily choice to live as if. To live as if love was the deepest influence in my life, to live as if meaning was embedded in everything that happens, to live as if I have power over myself and choose to do wonderful things with it. 

Many people who know me, know my commitment to human rights, know of my love for all beings, are surprised to find out about my strong relationship with Life, the Goddess, and all things Spirit. This is because they are used to a God that has taken too much airtime over the past few centuries – the bearded dude in the sky that is tracking your every move like a perv and that is not a whole lot of fun. So they can’t imagine me being close buddies with that one. And they are right, I’m not. But I’m besties with a Life Force that is constantly hooking me up in life – which does NOT mean she’s like Santa Claus. 

Folks disappointed with religion and spiritual life tell me that they can’t believe in God given the state of the world. “If God was all powerful then why is the world so messed up?” Part of the problem with accessing spiritual power is that many folks have been taught about a God that has been colonized, stratified, and removed from daily life. In my practice, there is no God “out there” without Her being in here. There is no seeking God without finding myself. There is no sin other than the ways in which I still need to surrender to Life herself and what she’s teaching me. But many people would like their God to be like Santa Claus: does no wrong, knows all of our wishes, and makes them come true. What if instead of Santa Claus, you understood God as the Mystery, the Life Force, the Source? 

If you expect a Santa Claus of a God, you will most certainly be disappointed. I would be too. Looking around the world it is so obvious that there is no omnipotent being making sure justice prevails. In fact, it seems quite the opposite. Bullies at the global level get away with despicable acts, the natural world continues to be destroyed with seemingly very little each of us as individuals can do, and, in just plain English, shit is fucked.

The fuckedupness of the world is real, and it is something that I work on transforming and alleviating every day of my life. But I don’t believe that humans do horrible things because there is no God. I believe we do horrible things because that is part of human nature. I believe in free will AND in destiny. I believe in the inherent goodness of people AND in our boundless ability to do harm to each other. I believe that paradox is Life’s organizing principle, and the fact that we have messy, painful, unfair lives doesn’t mean that they are devoid of Spirit. It means that they are human lives on Earth. For me, when I make a choice in the morning to act as if there is Love all around me, life gets better. God can be as simple as that. But if you expect a Santa Claus of a God, yeah, then there is definitely no such thing, and be ready for disappointment.

Welcome to Another World

Welcome to Another World

Elisa Loncón, a 58 year old Mapuche woman, was elected on July 4 to be the president of the Constitutional Convention – the group of people who will be writing a new Constitution for Chile over the next 9 months. Ms Loncón is an academic specializing in linguistics, she speaks Mapudungún, Spanish, and English, and is in the faculty of the University of Santiago. Damn. She’s amazing.

Her acceptance speech was short and the most transformative thing I’ve heard this year – she talked about refounding Chile. Three times. actually, the third time she just said “found”, straight up. I counted them because it was so powerful to hear. She didn’t have to explain it, as a linguist, she is excellent with her word choice. What we have isn’t working, how about we start over? But she did explain it, just in case, for the people in the back who never tend to get the message, and what she had to say was profoundly inspiring. There is no way I can do it justice, and because I couldn’t find a version of it in English on the interwebs, I decided that sharing with you my translation was the best I could do. Just have a read and tell me she’s wrong. Tell me it can’t be done. Tell me there’s no other way. I dare you. 

(Greetings brothers and sisters)

(Greetings to all the people)

(Greetings to the country of Chile)

(Greetings to the people who live in the northern lands)

(Greetings to the people who live in Patagonia)

(Greetings to the people who live on the islands)

(Greetings to the people who live on the coast)

(Greetings to all, brothers and sisters)

A big greeting to the people of Chile from the north to Patagonia, from the lafken, the sea, to the mountain range; on the islands, to all the people of Chile who are watching and listening to us. Here we are pu lamngen, to thank the support of the different coalitions that gave us their trust, that placed their dreams in the call made by the Mapuche Nation to vote for a Mapuche person, a woman, to change the history of this country. 

We are very happy for this strength that they give us, but this strength is for all the people of Chile, for all sectors, for all regions, for all peoples and original nations that accompany us, for their organizations, for everyone. This greeting and gratitude is also for sexual diversity, this greeting is also for the women who walked against any system of domination, to thank that this time we are installing here a plural way of being plural, a democratic way of being, a participatory way of being. 

This Convention that today I have to preside over will transform Chile into a plurinational Chile, into an intercultural Chile, into a Chile that does not violate the rights of women, the rights of caregivers, into a Chile that cares for Mother Earth, into a Chile that cleans the waters, into a Chile free from all domination. A special greeting to the Mapuche lamngen of Wallmapu, this is a dream of our ancestors, this dream comes true today. 

It is possible, sisters and brothers, companions, to refound this Chile, to establish a new relationship between the Mapuche people and all the nations that make up this country. In this context, pu lamngen, this is the first sign that this Convention is going to be participatory. We, as indigenous peoples, established that it is going to be a rotating leadership, a collective leadership, which would give space to all sectors of society represented here. All together, pu lamngen, we are going to refound this Chile. 

We have to expand democracy, we have to expand participation, we have to summon every corner of Chile to be part of this process. The Convention must be a participatory and transparent process, so that they can see us from the last corner of our territory and hear us in our native languages ​​that have been postponed for all that the Chilean Nation-State has been. For the rights of our original nations, for the rights of the regions, for the rights of Mother Earth, for the right to water, for the rights of women and for the rights of our children.

I also want to express my solidarity with the other peoples who suffer. We have heard on television what has happened to the indigenous children of Canada, it is shameful how colonialism has assaulted and attacked the future of the original nations. We, brothers and sisters, are a people of solidarity. 

I want to thank here the original authority of the Mapuche people, Machi Francisca Linconao, for her support. I also have a mother who is watching me from my Lefweluan community, a mother who made it possible for this woman to be here. Thanks to all the women who fight for the future of their sons and daughters. Finally, send a greeting to the boys and girls who are listening to us, who are watching us. 

Today a new plural, multilingual Chile is founded, with all cultures, with all peoples, with women and with territories, that is our dream to write a New Constitution. 

Manum pu lamngen
(Thank you brothers and sisters)

Marichiweu! Marichiweu! Marichiweu!
(Ten times we will win, ten times we will win, ten times we will win)

President of the Constitutional Convention

The Magic is Back

The Magic is Back

Neoliberalism was born and dies in Chile

It was never really gone, but it is now front and center, proud, visible. Not hiding. Taking it’s righteous place.

I’m talking about what happened last weekend in Chile. After 30 years of a democracy that didn’t feel inclusive, equitable, diverse, or fair – a direct result of Chile being the first lab in the terrifying neoliberal experiment that prioritizes things over people, people are changing things. And they are not changing them a little bit, on the edges, in the periphery, with apologies. No, no, no, no siree, this time we are changing things deeply, transformatively, from the ground up.

I am talking about the first ever modern nation state that has agreed to write a brand spanking new Constitution, crafted by the first ever democratically chosen group of 155 people that embodies gender equity, diversity, and thank Goddess, left leaning tendencies. And by left leaning I mean an understanding that we are all in this together, and that government can and should serve the people. I mean left leaning as opposed to “If you don’t have money, tough shit” which is the more common right leaning approach. That’s all I mean for these purposes.

Even a short few years ago, the idea of creating a Constitution sounded absurd. “You can’t just rewrite the most basic document of governance in a country!” Oh yeah, hold my drink, why the hell not? If it’s not serving the people, if it’s corrupt, if it’s hurting us, TEAR THE MOFO DOWN!!!! When I was young, the most infuriating thing I would hear about why progress couldn’t happen in Chile was that some ideas were “unconstitutional”, and I’m like, “Yeah but a dictator wrote the Constitution (not quite, but basically), so can’t we just get rid of those bits?” And I would be met with eyerolls and sighs of “poor baby – no entiende nada.”

Anyway, time went by, and “all of a sudden”, after 30 years of trying to tweak things and try social and political change by any and all means possible, Chileans realized that there’s no way to eat a turd that will make it taste good. We need to get an actual meal. In October of 2019, a “social outburst” aka estallido social, began (you can read my writing about it here and here) and ended with a democratic referendum for the country to go through a process to write a new Constitution. But not just any ol’ Constitution, a Constitution to be written by a Constitutional Assembly of real everyday people that actually represent their peers, not a bunch of corrupt career politicians. 

Once the referendum took place (which had to be delayed due to the pandemic), EIGHTY percent of Chileans who voted expressed their desire for a new constitution written for and by their fellow countryfolk. Those 155 people were elected last weekend and they now have 9 months – the same time it takes to create a new life) to deliver the document. They may be able to get a one time only extension of 3 months, which means that in a year we should have a new Constitution that then will be taken to the polls for a Yes or No referendum. 

And who’s in charge of this massive job of writing a new Constitution? By the numbers:

  • 77 women and 78 men
  • 60 lawyers
  • 45 years old on average
  • 41% under 39 years of age
  • ⅔ quorum needed, meaning that consensus building will be necessary and no one will be able to impose their views without negotiation, collaboration, or compromise.
  • 17 are representatives of Indigenous people. 

How this will all turn out, we will not know for another year. This is what we do know: what we’ve been doing until now has been failing miserably. The fact that the first place that was subjected to the neoliberal model is the first place to take radical action to reject it, and embrace an open, democratic, and fair process to try something new, is poetry. I also don’t think it’s an accident. Chile has had it with this because we’ve been putting up with it for the longest. May the transformation that we are engaged in lead us to a better tomorrow, may it inspire other nations, may it center Life and Love and Human Rights. I have no doubt it will.

So mote it be.

Rites of passage as limits and boundaries

Rites of passage as limits and boundaries

Left: Billie Eilish age 17, right: Billie Eilish for Vogue interview age 19

I like to think that back in the day, before the industrial revolution, when an infected tooth could kill us cause we didn’t have antibiotics yet, ritual was a more explicit and clear part of our lives. If you’re into anthropology, ethnography or even sociology, you might have read about all the different rites that announce a life, demark childhood from adulthood, how care of elders differs from other types of care, how death can be accepted and processed in many different ways – and us witches maintain that how we do any and all of these things has a big impact on the quality of our earthly lives.

Take Billie Eilish, for example. She is a 19 year old ridiculously talented musician who became absurdly famous as a teenager – read, as a child. Being a public persona, all her fans and the media follow her every move, and she chose a baggy clothing style as her trademark so people wouldn’t comment on her body or give her shit of any type. This is both brilliant on her part, and demoralizing and depressing that she had to hide her body as defense from nameless assholes who feel entitled to having opinions about women’s bodies. 

Anyway, she grew up in the public eye and just this month she is on the cover of Vogue magazine in what are considered traditionally super sexy and provocative clothes: lingerie, corsets, high heels, stockings, the works. Most of her fans love the look, a few feel she “sold out”, most people aware of such celebrity comings and going have an opinion. 

My opinion is this: I love that this 19 year old young woman chose to scream to the world, with her look and style, “I’m a sexy grown-ass woman”, and that she didn’t do it at 17. I think she probably would have done it at 18 but the pandemic and all, so who knows. Her Vogue cover leaves no doubt about the fact that she is choosing a very specific look, with very specific connotations, that are appropriate for an adult and not a child. 

And while the difference between 17 and 18 may not be that much, and it may be that at those ages humans are already mostly grown, and probably super sexually charged, it is important that we draw the line somewhere. Why? Because we can’t be protecting young ones from older predators on an individual basis. While sexual consent is a whole nother topic, it is important that as a society we agree that it is not available until children are grown ups, and that the limit of childhood, the boundary of adulthood, occurs at 18 years of age. 

This doesn’t mean that you are fully grown and won’t continue to mature after 18, it just means that before then, you are a kid, and you deserve our love and care and protection as a child. And that after 18, you are free to run wild and trash your life or thrive, as you see fit.

My gut reaction to Billie Eilish’s new look was that of “OK, she gets to do whatever the hell she wants now that she is a woman. Glad that she shared with the world such an explicit memo”.  When younger media personalities are sexualized, it’s confusing and dangerous for all involved. I super apprecite the clarity of the boundary this photo shoot as rite of passage communicates. It is now clear to all that Billie Eilish is no longer a child, and this has been communicated at an appropriate time. How refreshing! May we all find the rites of passage we need for all stages of our lives.

The day the sun didn’t rise

The day the sun didn’t rise

It’s Wednesday September 9, 2020, and the sun didn’t come out in San Francisco. Actually, it didn’t come out in the Bay Area at all. Cars are driving around with their headlights on and I have all the same lights on that I have on at night. My neighbors lights are also on. I went outside and it’s cold, a weird, eerie, creepy cold that I don’t think I’ve felt before. It’s chilly not because it’s actually cold like a normal cold day, it’s cold like it should be a hot day except the sun is being blocked by a massive cloud of smoke so thick that the light can’t get through and the day is not warming up.

It’s my mom’s birthday. She’s in Santiago de Chile and I waited to get a hold of myself before calling her cause I didn’t wanna freak her out about the end times feeling particularly dramatic in SF today. Chile is barely dragging itself out of a Covid induced hole that has been battering the country for months. There is a critical referendum in October. Also – strikes, economic downturn, the whole thing.

My bestie lives in Herzliya, 8 miles outside of Tel Aviv. I video call her so I can show her the shitshow outside my window, but I also know that Israel is going through a deep moment of intensification of their own shitshow. Israel has never been an easy place, but for those of you who follow world news, you know that right now Netanyahu is acting out. My bestie, her partner and their teenage daughters have been going to protest in Jerusalem every Friday for weeks. So I don’t keep my friend on the phone for long cause I at least try to condense my whining/ freak out sessions to the bare minimum. 

And the bare minimum is this: it is important to acknowledge the pain, to feel the fear, to worry about worrisome things, like the loss of NATURAL LIGHT to ecological collapse. But we can’t afford to dwell in those places. So what do we do instead? Well, I got up a bit before 8 am and have been working this morning. I have been reading the news, and sending messages to loved ones all over the globe telling them about what’s up here. Because there is something transformative in the act of sharing, and it makes it easier to have support from others. I sat at the altar, as always. Pulled a tarot card, so beautiful and filled with joy that it felt “wrong”. But in my experience the tarot is never wrong.

It’s true that my life right now is beautiful and filled with joy. I get to celebrate my mother’s birthday, at a distance, but celebrate nonetheless. I have so many friends in the Bay that I could literally spend the rest of the day calling them all. Actually, I may just do that. My phone has been filled with texts and calls from folks that are feeling confused, sad, terrified, angry… The best thing we can do right now is be together. We don’t know exactly how we’re gonna get through this, but we know we won’t do it alone. We will need each other, and not having all the answers right away has ALWAYS been the state of things for humans. It’s just that right now it’s slapping us on the face harder than it has since we can remember. Taking the next step together will then reveal the following one. And the following one. We will most definitely make it through. Se hace camino al andar. Don’t forget that.