The act of ‘waking up’ is taken for granted in North America. It is an act we follow on a daily basis, a movement into controlled consciousness, thought and action. We are no longer caught in a dream-state; instead we find ourselves on earth and begin to live within it as human beings. But ‘waking up’ is far more than transitioning between sleep and consciousness. It is the complicated task of realizing that you exist in what is referred to as ‘here and now’. It requires the efforts of a plethora of functions in your body working in beautiful unison to come out of a slumber, yet we do it on a very regular basis. So, what does it really mean to ‘wake up’? Some say North America currently is in a deep sleep, not figuratively, but as a collective. We have let go of our inhibitions as humans and as active citizens and separated ourselves from our bodies and our spirit.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in university, it’s that philosophical approaches such as the aforementioned must be compared to real moments in human interactions. The issue is this: how do we frame activism in North America and what does that say about the constitutions of social change? If you get paid, are you still considered an activist? If it doesn’t involve marching down the middle of Main Street chanting ‘fuck the system!’ and holding signs with cliché remarks, can we qualify it was activism? Can our spirituality be included in this?
Spiritualism has many manifestations as a vehicle for social change, but it is this exact diversity that in turn strengthens the movement. By embracing self-reflexivity, activists in North America can both improve their level of impact and become more creative in their approach. Imagine recreating something like our traditional manifestations of ‘education’ in the global South as a tool for social change and spiritualism instead of enforcing status quo. Remove all notions of competition, classism, exclusivity, hierarchy or power abuse and examine what is left: an educational structure that values common voice, participation and social transformation. Yes, students can be activists, too – both inside and outside the classroom.
Do I sound hopelessly naive in this post? I hope so. I can already sense the scoffing of some of my readers as I jump off the deep end. I used to do that, too – turn my nose up at every radical idea I stumbled across, until I realized that I was taking the easy route. I stopped being idealistic. I stopped dreaming. All because I was told it was wrong; it was better to beat the pulp out of every well-intentioned do-gooder with an idea that seemed far-fetched. My mind was diseased with analysis paralysis. Now…..I am an activist. Are you?
This post was inspired by Alan Watts’ lecture on nothingness: