[Note from 2019: I now disagree with how I wrote this post. While I still agree that we can’t get too self-congratulatory about our personal decisions, I think that personal revolution is a fundamental prerequisite to saving the world.]
Turning inward is a cop out.
I need to clarify well here. I’m not against introspection, nor am I against enjoying and living in a manner that fulfills oneself in a very individual way. Find something you love, do it, live life exuberantly and fully, revel in the absurd beauty of life and existence.
Introspection and personal revelation are a vital part of our work. Any patriarchy, greed, narrow-mindedness, and ignorance thriving within us will manifest in our work and actions. I do not discount or dismiss the importance of the personal/introspective dimension of our revolution. I am discounting the notion that personal introspection is all that we can do, or all that is required.
What I mean by saying I’m against turning inwards is that I disagree with the path that leads from burnout to “personal revolution” as some true effective means of system change.
There is no win scenario for this planet that only involves groups of people quietly making individual decisions that only impact their own lives. It sounds nice, and again, I’m not against people making good personal decisions about their lives; I’m against people doing so and thinking that that is all that is required to change the world.
People need to engage, with force, with the systems that are destroying us. This takes organization, leadership, massive movements of people. It takes epic, enormous contests of will and discipline and power and passion. It requires risk, and uncertainty, and a not insignificant amount of insanity.
Very little about it will be “fun” as our entitled 21st century generation popularly conceives the word, although I do think we have a choice between approaching our work with dread or with clear-minded exuberance.
Some of us will batter ourselves against our work and ultimately destroy ourselves. There are consequences for what we must do, but we can hopefully find solace in the knowledge that the price of inaction is far greater.
We don’t all have to be Patton but we do all have to fight.