Gentrifiers for social justice – one of life’s many paradoxes

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be uncomfortable and why folks are so terrified of the idea. The illusion of certainty (even if the certainty is not of something appealing) is reassuring, while the reality of how messy we are as humans can make us very uncomfortable.

For the last couple of thousand years we’ve done a phenomenal job of denying our nature, exiling parts of ourselves that would have made it impossible to develop an extremely patriarchal, misogynistic, racist, neoliberal capitalist system that has us struggling for liberation. We’ve bolstered a system that favors some kinds of ideas over others: the idea of being male, straight, able bodied, wealthy, being somehow superior. That system only works if we embrace the idea that some humans are better than others, and that we are all too different.

But no humans are better than others, and we are all the same. This is not about gender, race, sexual orientation, class, income, wealth, or any other category we put each other in. This is about the fact that putting each other in categories to the extreme that we have is toxic for our souls, and destructive to communities and societies. Only when we box each other as an “other” can we abuse and exploit the shit out of each other (which is how all “isms” operate).

And yet, of course we are all different, and those differences make life amazing.  Those differences also have made some of our lives a living hell for generations, simply because we are in the wrong box. My point is that we are not so different that some of us “deserve” better or more than others. Both things are true: we are all unique and we are all the same, we are all different and yet we are all one. Life is a paradox. Paradox is uncomfortable.

I’m deeply fascinated by the intersection of spirituality and activism, because we have got to embrace the paradox that I’m describing to make any real change. We have got to consider that we all have different visions, wants, and needs, and yet we are the same in that we all want a way to fulfill those visions and wants and needs. As I’ve mentioned before, I believe paradox to be Life’s organizing principle, and the only way I know to come to terms with paradox is spiritual practice.

My brain can’t easily accept paradox, not in the way my heart and my spirit can. The truth is, every single category that we use to alienate and abuse one another is present in all of us. Some people might look perfectly healthy and be struggling with disease or disability. I am a woman and yet have many of the characteristics that are traditionally associated with men. Men are also suffering from not being able to express their full selves in a system that discourages them from owning every aspect of their being. And all other genders under the sun are fighting to even be acknowledged and seen. What is wrong with us?!? I am horrified by what overconsumption is doing to our bodies and souls and the planet, yet I definitely have a greedy streak in my being. You do too. We all do.

So as long as we don’t get comfortable with paradox, we’re gonna continue to put ourselves and each other in tiny little constraining boxes of good vs. bad and us vs. them, forgetting that we are all victims and we are all perpetrators, that we are all divine and also evil at the same time. All of us. These boxes are not moving us towards liberation. At all. They are keeping us imprisoned. 

And yet, our identities are critical and sacred and we can’t lose them, and we shouldn’t lose them. But we really need to stop weaponizing them. We can’t hold who we are against each other. We need to keep the boxes in the way they elevate who we are and we must dismantle them in the ways we use them to abuse each other. Both are true. This is a paradox, and it can be uncomfortable. It’s more comfortable to hang on to the illusion of certainty than it is to accept the reality of paradox. Paradox is uncomfortable. But it is in that discomfort that we walk the path of liberation. I’m not suggesting you enjoy it, I just encourage you to get comfortable enough with it so that we stop self sabotaging our liberation. In this way, we truly are all in it together.

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