The Disease of Disconnection
The Problem is Not The Problem
Bear with me here, as I’m going to conflate systemic privilege with sustainable packaging, but I think if you can follow the train of thought, it goes somewhere worthwhile. The current trail that I’m on began with my own recent personal revelations about privilege. Through extensive gratitude work, I became aware of a common thought pattern I got stuck in, where my mindset was offkey because I was stuck in assumptions of what was rightfully mine, rather than being present and open to what was. I have been seeing clearly how this was so ingrained in me culturally, I hadn’t been able to see it until now – my white girl privilege. The sense that a- I am always right (duh!) and b- a certain set of privileges is mine by default and if I don’t get it, I am entitled to be upset about that. I’ve been seeing how toxic the mixture of privilege and disempowerment that I, and so many of us, grew up with is. It’s a mentality that life is shit, but there are people there to serve and entertain you, that will lessen the pain of existence. If those people don’t serve and entertain you to your liking (“My Uber driver is late!” “My cleaner didn’t do a good job!” “My iPhone is broken!”) then you have the rightness and the authority to take umbrage. But in fact, all gifts and miracles come to us when we tune into the divine essence within ourselves, the divine essence that is connected to all things. Any programming that prevents us from being in a place of love and gratitude blocks our blessings. If I believe I am entitled to something, that prevents me from being grateful for it. When I’m grateful for it, I realise how lucky I am to receive it, and what a blessed position I am in, and I stay open to receiving more of the universe’s infinite abundance.
So, I have been thinking a lot about the toxic mixture of privilege and disempowerment, which I would venture to say is the state occupied by a lot of people in the Western world right now. Privilege in that we are far safer and more comfortable than capitalism would have us believe. And disempowerment in that people are making the shift from giving their power away to a higher authority, but realising they also aren’t plugged into their own personal power, so this sense of disenfranchisement is both chronic and chaotic. Then I watched Chelsea Handler’s Netflix show on Privilege, which I thought was a brave and honest look at examining these very questions. The message I took away from the show was that privilege is structural, and too often the fingers get pointed in the wrong directions. We can do the inner work, as I have been doing, by reframing my mindset and being aware how certain attitudes I have been inculcated with since birth do not serve my, or anyone else’s, highest good. And then beyond that, change must be structural. Can we make our structures representative of the diversity of the people they hold within them. Made even more complex by the fact that this make-up is always changing and shifting, as is the priorities of the people who form them. Are our structures being upheld by a fair mix of people from different racial, cultural, and class backgrounds, with a fair mix of gender and age. (Sidenote: ageism is the last big one to come crashing down still, I feel. The amount of times diversity gets talked about accompanied by voices and photos of people who are all in their 20s. When women over 50 are given fair cultural space, that will change the world, big time).
The pointing of fingers at individuals does nothing to serve our cause. The #metoo movement or the anti-Brexit marches makes the middle man the problem, by not allowing space to examine our own personal contribution to the issues, or demanding change at the highest levels where it will really make a difference, but instead blaming all the people who get caught up in the middle. I was reading an article about packaging (yes, I am a health food industry nerd), and it struck me how many parallels there were in our current conversations about recycling and waste, as there were with my thoughts on privilege and entitlement. I have been passionately pursuing an ecological lifestyle for three decades. In 1988, I made a sculpture by sticking plastic bottles together that said THINK, because I was worried about plastic usage. Before the Internet, when I still read magazines that got sent to my house, I would save all the plastic packaging they came in and I found a company that recycled it, so I would save it up, stuff it in an envelope and post it off to them. In our last house in Brighton, there were community composting facilities ten minutes walk down the road, so I would save up all our compost and then me and the boys would have to carry the buckets down the road, empty it out with the buzzing flies and the terrible stench, and trudge back home to wash out the slimy buckets. There are plenty more examples, but I say all this to illustrate: I AM COMMITTED. And so, the amount of angry emails we have received this year over packaging hits me in a funny place. I know I am doing the best I know how. I know my personal footprint is something I am acutely conscious of, and have been working on for a long time. If compostable or biodegradable packaging had been accessible to us at Raw Living, we would have used it from the start. The industry article I was reading said that when it came to packaging, change needed to be structural. Why is the onus on the consumer or the retailer, when the power rests with the manufacturers. Why do we have to pay more for responsible packaging, the thing that would make more sense is to make non-responsible packaging more expensive. When it comes to food, why do we pay more for organic, why do we even label organic as the non-conventional? The organic produce should be the default, and the produce that has been grown in non-sustainable ways should cost more and be labelled in an othering way. If you care about the environment, it doesn’t help in any real way to point the finger at Kate Magic and Raw Living and the ways that our processes are not perfect. It helps to do the best you can yourself, and then to be most effectual, any anger and desire to press for change that you feel should be directed to the people who have the most power to change the non-sustainable structures that we inhabit.
We make the changes within ourselves, then we find ways to change the structures we inhabit to reflect our evolved perspectives. We do not rant and rail at the others who are just as caught up in these disempowering structures as ourselves. I have been listening to XR’s Rebel Radio on Soho Radio the past two weeks, and the best shows I heard came from a man called Fehinti Balogun, who was talking about intersectionality within Extinction Rebellion. XR is predominantly white middle class, and this was the first time I had heard anyone talking about how we engage a diversity of voices in order to actually make change rather than just perform a pantomime of rebellion. I spoke with my friend who is a cab driver from South London, and he was genuinely asking, is climate change real, and if so, what can I do? And I saw clearly that when all this talk is so unrelated to people’s day to day existence, there is literally very little impact it can make. To a person who eats from the chicken shop, “Eat organic!” means nothing. I’m on a local neighbourhood forum and there was a recent post from the police about a drugs raid where they arrested 5 people for cannabis, including one juvenile. Every single comment on the post was along the line of, Well done, officers! I wanted to write, Did you not watch The Wire? Have you not heard of Top Boy? These are systemic problems, and any approach which is not systemic just adds to the disfunction of the system. Those arrestees are human beings, with many many more pressing survival issues facing them before they can get to even consider whether climate change is real, let alone can they personally do something about it. It’s a privilege to have the time to go on a protest march, and the financial security to take time from work, that so many people in the UK can’t even entertain, and so the performative nature of XR that might appeal to the middle classes and their (our) voracious appetite for distractions from reality is alienating to them. My friend Amelia explained to me, it’s more than alienating, it’s positively insulting: it’s saying, we upheld this system for a long time, but now we are pointing the finger at you and asking you to help clear up the mess that we created, not because we can see it’s ruined your lives, but because it’s starting to ruin ours as well. That’s why change has to be systemic. It’s not about Climate Change, or Brexit, or racial discrimation, or gender bias, or veganism, or knife crime, or Johnson or Trump. They are all symptoms of the same cause. The cause is DISCONNECTION.
So here you go, here comes the punchline. My personal journey has been deep, and I want to write from the heart, from a place where I am fully speaking my truth, but in a way that has power and meaning so that others can relate to and take something from it. I wrote a lot when I was younger because I believed in what I had to say, but also because I believed (because of my white girl privilege) that people would listen. They didn’t, at least not in the numbers I expected them to, but the lack of broader commercial success has afforded me a lifestyle which I am infinitely more grateful for. The time has allowed me to breathe and journey into myself in a very beautiful way. I am grateful every day for the luxuries of both time and a safety net, that enable me to craft my days how I choose. I am finding new ways to serve, and elevate. I am DJing, which I love beyond anything. I have trained as a Yoga teacher, and now I am studying Functional Nutrition.
The whole foundational concept of Functional Nutrition (as is being taught to me by the utterly wonderful Andrea Nakayama) is that of bioindividuality. Each person is unique, and there is no quick fix approach, just long-term detective work, as we examine each different piece of the puzzle and work out how they uniquely come together in this individual. And that health is regained, not by addressing symptoms or even the label of the disease. Because two people will have the same type of cancer, but the set of conditions that created that cancer in the body will be different. Health is regained by restoring the terrain, by going right to the root of understanding how our bodies work: our digestion, our hormones, our immune system, our nutritional needs, and getting all that right, so the symptoms take care of themselves, and the labels dissolve.
That’s where we need to be right now, societally. We must stop looking at the symptoms in isolation. If you are just centring in on Climate Change, or Veganism, or Feminism, or Racism, out of context of the rest of the problems going on around it, you are not getting to the root cause of what created that disease, and you cannot cure that disease. The disease is Disconnection. When we think right, move right, eat right, love right, we connect into our inner guidance system, and that is divine intelligence and it has the answers for every goddamn problem under the sun. Your work is to connect! Your work is to build and strengthen your own personal connection to the limitless power source within you. That is your most important job. Then you will uniquely know what it is for you to do to reshape the existing structures. Maybe you will be a Climate Change activist. Maybe you will be a Vegan educator, like myself. There are infinite number of ways to create positive change, but most importantly, you will be doing it from a place of joy! Not anger or fear or hopelessness. You will come from a place of knowing that you are doing what you are meant to be doing, and making a difference in the world. You will know that we can solve this mess, we are solving this mess. The mess is the symptom of the disconnection, and you are connected, so you are actively creating the solution.
The problems are not the problem. The problem is not you or your actions. The problem is, that we’ve become disconnected from our natural state of joy and purpose. You cannot pour new wine into old bottles! And making new bottles needs a lot of time, a lot of patience, a lot of attention to detail, a lot of work. So we better stop complaining that the wine doesn’t taste right in these old bottles, and put all our love and intention into the crafting the new ones. When we feel connected we feel joy, we feel bliss, we feel radiance, we feel ecstatic. That is our privilege. That is our entitlement. That is what our structures need to represent. The divine blessing of existence is all that we are, so we can drop away the labels of what separates us, we can let go of our need for consumption as our primary method of validation, and we can rebuild the earth as our garden paradise.