rn:re: memes & transformation of consciousness


Jan Slakov

Dear Renaissance Network,

I very much like the direction this latest dialog is taking. Here's one
thing Richard wrote I'd like to pick up on:

Yet Internet, like most tools, is two-edged.  Television,
for example, was originally heralded as a great force for
democracy - able to inform the citizenry better than ever
before.  In practice we find that TV serves to narrow the
band of public understanding rather than expanding it.  With
Internet, the danger is that our actions become virtual,
that the Internet itself becomes the universe of our
activism.  We must use the tool to escape from the tool, to
move on to a higher level of effectiveness.

The Internet is certainly the ideal tool for circulating
memes.  If it's a good meme, people can pick it up and move
it along.  If it's very good, this process becomes
exponential... spreads everywhere.  If it's not a good meme,
it dies - the people's selection process.  But if the memes
don't help us escape from the medium, the consequence is
just so many bits passing over our wires and across our

all the best to you,
Besides underlining the need for us to use the Internet as a tool, and not
restrict our activism to it, he underlines the need for working within our
communities to make them inclusive and ALSO to reach consensus. Not an easy
task, for the more inclusive our communities are, the more likely we are to
be struggling with different outlooks, opinions and so on.

Perhaps the main thing I want to say is that there is real hope for us to
reach these goals, for I have seen it happen in my own work. 

I've lived in a part of rural Nova Scotia for more than 20 years now. At the
beginning, I felt really isolated, with my concerns about human rights, the
environment, peace, justice, etc. But I knew that what is important is to
""Do the thing that you believe in. Do the best you can in the place where
you are and be kind." Scott Nearing, 2 months before his death, quoted by
Helen Nearing in her wonderful book, _Loving and Leaving the Good Life_.

And so I plugged along and it looked mighty ineffective at times, but I
could not give up. Eventually I got to see what great training this was,
doing this work in this rather conservative area, where people are often so
reluctant to speak out. For one thing, I could not hang out with other
people who thought the way I did and get some skewed vision of what the
world was really like. I was always rubbing my nose in views and
perspectives that differed from mine. Also, I learned to work with and
appreciate people who were very different from me in terms of religion,
politics, etc. but with whom I still had much in common. We realized that,
had we lived in a city, it would have been unlikely for us to have become
friends, but that our friendships were exceptionally rich at least partly
because of how different we were.

Now, as I prepare to move from here, back to B.C. (where I grew up) I am
seeing that the seeds of change are ready to sprout! A journalist who looked
on somewhat scornfully at our pitiful little anti-war vigils does not seem
nearly so cynical now; we are happily surprised with some of his editorials!
The little environmental group we have, that some people thought was really
just a front for me alone, is not going to wither and die when I leave. ...
Some students, when I go substitute teach, tell me they heard about someone
who hugs trees... others write me little notes to assert that they pollute
with their ATVs, etc.... and ask me if it's true that I talk to trees... and
I sense that some of them are actually quite happy to discover an adult who
is at least trying to communicate with trees....

I don't want to make it seem that I feel like all this is happening because
of 20 + years of work I did that looked pitifully futile at times. But I can
see that my work made a difference. Just an example: when the big shut-down
of the Seattle WTO happened in 1999, we were able to "capitalize" on the
shock value of that to explain what it was all about, because we had already
been working at understanding it for a long time.

I don't know how long I would need to stay on here for this community to
reach a point where we would all be working together in a direction we could
agree upon. But I have learned that the bonds of love and caring can happen
between us right now. ... Maybe that is why the last words of that Nearing
quote emphasize the need to "be kind". When there is respect and love, one
cannot help but be kind.

all the best, Jan
PS I guess I must have mentioned to Carolyn Chute (who comes out of and
belongs to a community that is, in many ways, similar to the one I have been
living in here) the bit about the local kids happy to find an adult who
confesses to talking to trees. For in her reply, she declared happily that
she talks to trees ALL the time (and stars)... I may send her a book that
Carolyn Ballard recommended, _A Language Older Than Words_ by Derrick Jensen
(which underlines the importance of this type of communication). It is kind
of delightful that I met Carolyn Ballard because she had been working with
Richard even before I had... and although Carolyn Chute and I have never
actually met (and must communicate by letter for she has "no phone, no fax,
no paved road" and no computer yet either, although with her hand probems, I
think/hope she may get one before long...) we "met" through Richard too.

And each of us, man oh man, are we ever different from each other! :)