Guest Column: Where are we today?

(Here are some timely thoughts written by my life’s partner, Peggy Rivage-Seul. She is professor emerita of Women and Gender Studies at Berea College, where she taught for more than 30 years.)

The Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico warned us long ago that “another world is necessary.” To make this happen we must exit from the development paradigm of the neoliberal new world order and return to a future of non-violent relationships between ourselves and the planet we call home.  Another world has indeed arrived, and perhaps it will soon lead to the vision the Zapatistas have articulated over the past twenty-five years.  

Where are we exactly? We are in a globalized moment of social isolation. Unless we are living with our closest relatives, we have lost physical contact with those we love—our children, our grandchildren, our friends, our church, our colleagues, our neighbors. We can no longer break bread with our communities.  

How do we make sense of this new social isolation in the world? There are many explanations, undergirded by ideologies that shape the way we perceive our global circumstances. Perhaps most popular is the notion that a virus has either escaped a laboratory created for bio-weaponry against humanity or it has evolved on its own in response to our poor stewardship of our natural resources. Mother Earth has to do some house cleaning because the “developed countries” have not heeded the call to slow down its demands on the earth. The planet warned us through climate changes and catastrophes, but the wealthy among us have prevailed in their global denial of the need to change the way we live. 

 We are all vulnerable—some of us more than others.   Those of us who believe in Adam Smith’s idea that the environment and laborers are expendable  can accept that the earth is purging the global population of its poor and  elderly who no longer serve the capitalist enterprise.  And  the earth has been given a respite to re-gather her energies for even more domination and exploitation in the new world to come.  There are many sub-scenarios about the “deep state” trying to wrest control of the entire world population, and the “fake news” that there really is a virus at work in our bodies.  These are the tales that fill our days. 

But there is another story. Eight years ago began a  movement in the cosmos: our solar system  passed through a portal that leads to another dimension of living much closer to the Zapatista vision for world happiness. This passage is from the third dimension of the  material world of capitalist growth to the fourth and fifth dimensions where humans behave at much higher frequencies with strong spiritual values of love and cooperation.

Like the change from pony express mail to cell phone texting, our collective crossing over to these higher  dimensions  creates an exponential change in our thinking and actions. In the fifth dimension, we can  process information with much more efficiency. Working a higher vibrations,   both problems and solutions occur at much greater speed. In this new world, the  cultural values of the 20th century no longer serve us.  

Wars are passe and violence toward one another is not tolerated. Co-creation for the good of everyone replaces capitalism for the privileged few, oppression gives way to liberation, etc. Most importantly, the mindset of globalized industrialism no longer functions and those unable to make the leap in consciousness will wither on the vine in the third dimension, unable to meet the requirements for living on the new earth.  

Underlying this vision of a fifth dimension is a belief in the capacity of humans to claim their direct connection to a divine reality and to live the values of love and justice, cooperation and sharing, joy and sorrow. These values have  been alive (and ignored by the developed world) in the ancient traditions of indigenous communities the world over.

The transition from the astrological Piscean Age to the new Aquarian era is made easier as we go back to the future by reclaiming the lessons of Zapatismo.  There, we understand that as our consciousness changes and our frequencies rise,   we see each other as one family moving into a world where there is room for everyone. 

We are no longer individuals   competing for scarce resources to survive. We are in this together. “I” becomes “We” as we make instantaneous connection to the source of life that is Spirit. We belong to the earth as much as earth belongs to us. My community becomes the entire world population. We all have a place at the table of life.  

Which story will you choose? 

Our 1984 Experience with Paulo Freire (Personal Reflection XIV)

freire-neutral

This 14th “Personal Reflections” blog continues my modest project of explaining myself to my three adult children who are often puzzled by my criticisms of the United States in these blogs and elsewhere. Half- jokingly (I think) they often ask, “Why do you hate America, Dad?”

Of course, I don’t hate the country of my birth. Quite the opposite. But my patriotism and loyalty take quite different directions from those fostered by the mainstream media and the otherwise fine educations our children received at Wellesley (Maggie), Lafayette (Brendan), and Davidson (Patrick). In contrast to those sources, and for reasons connected with faith, my own thinking aspires to view the world from the perspective of the world’s impoverished majority (both nationally and in the Global South) rather than from that of privileged classes within the United States.

Along with liberation theologians, Paulo Freire has played a major role in shaping me that way. Freire’s the great Brazilian educator who (among other books) wrote The Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Education for Critical Consciousness. His influence on liberation theology is immeasurable.

Peggy and I got to know Paulo quite well beginning in 1982 when we participated in his two-week seminar at Boston College. Then during my first sabbatical from Berea College (1983-’84) Peggy worked with him for six months at his center in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Every week, she joined a team of young Brazilians conducting one of Paulo’s literacy programs in Sao Paulo’s impoverished favelas. It was all part of her research on Freire for her Ed.D (Philosophy of Education doctorate) at the University of Kentucky. In 1986 the American Education Research Association gave Peggy’s work the year’s “Outstanding Dissertation Award for Conceptual Research.” She later published an article based on her work in the Harvard Educational Review.

I remember spending our sixth wedding anniversary in Freire’s apartment in Sao Paulo where we had a memorable supper with him and his wife, Elsa. Afterwards Paulo read aloud from the latest chapter in Peggy’s evolving dissertation. I recall his pausing after reading a lengthy quotation from one of his works and remarking, “Right now I am loving these words.”

I’m convinced that the Rivage-Seul’s were given the gift of tongues for our Brazil experience. During the first semester of my sabbatical (at the end of 1983) and in preparation for our trip to Brazil, I had studied Portuguese at the University of Colorado in Boulder. [I had been given a fellowship there (at the Center for the Study of Values and Social Policy) to research the relationship between freedom and justice. It was to prepare me to head Berea’s newly established Freshman Seminar whose readings were organized around that theme.] In any case, my Latin, French, and Italian helped me learn Portuguese. Peggy’s college French major (at Central Michigan University) helped her as well. Then in Anapolis, Brazil with the help of a tutor, we spent our first two months studying intensively. And it somehow worked. We ended up quite able to carry on in the language.

Brazil at this time was still run by its generals. That was the result of a 1964 coup sponsored by the CIA. The father of my Portuguese teacher at CU was one of those generals. So she arranged for our first few nights in the country to be spent at the Clube Militar as guests of the oppressors and fierce enemies of liberation theology in Brazil which was a hotbed of the discipline. (More about that later.) Staying at the Clube was very creepy for us.

But back to Paulo Freire . . . . After our return to the United States we had a warm reunion with him at the Highlander Center where he was working on a text with the Center’s founder, the great activist, Myles Horton. Horton’s work had directly influenced Martin Luther King. In fact, in the ‘60s, the F.B.I. had published photos of MLK at what they called the “Communist” Center (Highlander). It was part of J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign to portray King as a Red. Paulo’s and Myles’ text was eventually published as We Make the Road by Walking.

As I said, Freire’s method of teaching and learning was central to the methodology of liberation theology, which had increasingly seized my attention since I first encountered it in 1969.

One of Freire’s key concepts (shared with liberation theology) is “the hermeneutical privilege of the poor.”  Basically it says that the poor and oppressed know more about the world (and about the Bible) than the rich and comfortable. That idea constitutes a key basis for my own analysis of the world.

(I’ll explain that more fully next week.)

Asian Journal: First Stop, Tuscany

Panzano

Well, we’re finally off on our five-month-long adventure to India. Peggy and I left last Wednesday (August 28th). Right now we’re in Italy staying in a Tuscan villa in Panzano in Chianti. It’s hard to believe that people actually live in such bucolic beauty surrounded by vineyards, rolling hills and castle-like structures like the one we’re luxuriating in at the moment.

I won’t bore you with the details of our journey here – cancelled flights, lost luggage, racing through airports, schlepping excessive baggage through the streets of Rome, lugging it onto a train between Rome and Florence, mistaking someone else’s bag for my own and carrying it off the train, getting tongue-tied in Italian and having it all come out Spanish. You can imagine the drill.

The reason for our trip? Peggy has won her second Fulbright Award – this time to Mysore, India. (Her last Fulbright in 1997-98 brought all of us to Zimbabwe, where Peggy taught at the University of Harare.) We’re all so proud of her. She’s enriched all of our lives immeasurably by the brilliance and hard work that have brought us to such exotic places.

This time Peggy’s grant will have her teaching at the university in Mysore. But that’s not the good part. Whereas in Zimbabwe, it was Peggy, I and our two boys Brendan and Patrick staying in Harare, this time we’ll be with our daughter, Maggie, her husband, Kerry, and their three children, Eva (4), Oscar (2), and Orlando (1). That’s the group that’s so enjoying our stay in Tuscany right now.

And, yes, our son, Brendan and his girlfriend, Erin, were with us as well. They stayed here for a week and left last evening. Brendan’s on leave from his work at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. He’ll be back at his desk there on Wednesday. His tour in Afghanistan will end on December 29th. We’re all holding our breath and counting the days.

Maggie and her family are here because Kerry has taken a sabbatical from his job with a hedge fund. What an opportunity for them and their children! While in India, the kids will be in Montessori School just as they were back home in Westport, CT. Who knows what adventures await all of us in India?

My own adventure, I hope, will involve deepening my practice of meditation. With everyone’s blessing my plan was to do a ten-day retreat centralizing the Vipassana method of meditation. That would have begun on September 11th, and involved ten hours of meditation each day. Just this morning however, I received word that my application has been refused because of oversubscription. I’m now searching for an alternative.

In any case, if all goes well with the shorter experience, I’ll do a thirty-day retreat later on. We’ll see how things develop.

I’ll be writing regularly about our experiences as the adventure unfolds.