Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Eye Contact

This evening has been one of those evenings in which you drink too much caffeine earlier in the day and late into the evening you have too much to think about. You think about the weight of the world around you, of the systems and metrics that over-simplify the infinite complexities of life and existence. Your thoughts drift from your own health to that of others, of those that have passed and of those yet to be born. You think about the imaginary power institutions have and utilize, how information is developed and manipulated. How endless bureaucracy endlessly loops around the roads and highways of the world.

You wonder how can we ever even begin to redress these challenges and pursue the goodness that humanity can possess. Kindness and stewardship. Fresh air and water. A lush world environment, nurtured by our ability to care for it and each other. All of our lives are under the dark impassable weights of the world's systems that we've developed. Subject to work within its endless forbidding corridors to ends unknown, wondering who or what could have created this path we blindly follow.

As the evening sky is eaten by outstretched light posts, nestlings wildly reaching into the night for a morsel of the last visible star, you feel lost and confused and alone. How can we fight the world that is forcing us into lives so unnatural, unripe; simply waiting for an unattainable self-enlightenment? What can you believe in if all is part of this tangled circular growth?

The city around you is breathing, rasping into the still-warm night air. The homeless line the streets in their sleeping bags like cocoons waiting for first light to emerge as butterflies never to be delivered. The lights stare at you indifferently and you sigh as you quietly walk your way home, lost in thought as you bear the weight of the world.

Out of the darkness emerges a passing face in close view. Your eyes lock and with a smile a man kindly, softly, asks "How are you doing?" with a tone so knowing of exactly where you are that the moment has already passed where you hastily replied "Good, how are you?" with automatic, systematic perfection to realize: you are not alone.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Just the beginning

About two years ago I heard the group Beyond Coal was coming onto Virginia Tech's campus, whose mission was and still is to shut down the Virginia Tech coal-fired power plant which distributes steam for heating in the majority of the buildings on campus. I immediately dismissed this idea and group as ridiculous and radical. The only way change will happen is if we go through the systems established.

Virginia Tech, as an institution, has a lot of bureaucracy, strict professional standards and expectations, various hoops, unspoken tests, and a lesser level of classism to deal with in order to get something that radical to actually happen. A bunch of kids without any resources or finances or training or experience will only be a public spectacle and laughingstock for the rest of the relatively conservative university community. After spending my entire collegiate career, including nearly every break in those years, investing myself in building up an amazing professional organization who was committed to working with our university in bringing resources together to "Invent the Future," I felt cut down to see this new radical mentality take over and erase what I and many others worked so hard on.

That was two years ago.

Today, though, I proudly call myself a radical and am in fact leading Beyond Coal for Colorado. Today I proudly see our campus organization was not cut down, but instead transitioned. A radical movement cannot be stagnant, which is exactly what happened and why things needed to change. We live in a world demanding radical change and it is only the few that will deliver. The Arab Spring was just the beginning, now the American Autumn will follow with so many different and evolving elements that it will adapt to the whims of producers loyal to national media owned by, indeed, corporations.

Several years ago I would have put my hand up, shook my head and walked away from myself if I had begun to go into a passionate rant about how corporate power is destroying lives and our hindering our way of life.

Today I literally found myself joining a passing anti-corporate march (#occupywallstreet) to the state capitol and spoke to the hundreds gathered about my experiences in the last year and why we must fight without a moment's hesitation.

Over four years ago there was a mass shooting at my school that left 33 dead and dozens more injured. The media frenzy that followed was overwhelming to our community and quite often abusive from reporters dressing up as clergy to Bill O'Reilly's Fox News staff rewriting and re-contextualizing an e-mail I sent that they put on air.

Now I see more than ever how the media are free to manipulate and shift stories to their leanings, or not tell them at all. Only now are the #occupywallstreet protests becoming front page news as the blockade of Brooklyn Bridge can't be easily ignored.

A year ago I was reluctant to embrace my first Green Corps campaign because it was anti-corporate (and ironically funded by a corporation), but what unfolded made me realize that the power corporations have is daunting....

[to be continued]