joanne sales



A Revolution Without Enemies
Joanne Sales – May 2009

One sunny, windy day in the summer of 1970, the waves were particularly high off the coast of Southern California. A few of us were playing in those waves. We raised our fists up high to the sky, and shouted “Up the revolution!” The huge waves would then crash down on us, toss us around under water for a while, and drop us off on the beach. As soon as we could get up, we would run towards the next towering wave, take our stand and shout again, “Up the revolution!” Down again. And up again.

It was a good day. Well, kind of a good day. Not a day I would have chosen. My 21-year-old brother Kurt was not shouting “Up the revolution” at the waves with us, but he was the reason we were doing so. Kurt had been killed in Viet Nam, along with 58,000 other young men of our generation in the US. 58,000! Although we looked like silly kids, we were fighting a real revolution. We didn’t have guns. We only had our commitment to a change. A revolution.

Fast forward 30+ years, with many of the same players. At the summit meeting about the Englishman River Watershed in Parksville last May, the tension was high. An island resident stood up to ask a question of the representatives of the timber company. She said, “What we are seeking is a revolution... I mean resolution.”

There were chuckles in the room. “Revolution / resolution.” That is what is called a Freudian slip. She said what she meant the first time – by accident.

I don’t like violence, but I like the word revolution. Today’s global and earth crisis is worthy of “a sudden, complete or marked change” – as the dictionary defines revolution. “Revolution” is evolution with a r-roar. Evolution = gradual change. Revolution = sudden change.

Revolution is a big word, and often implies a breakdown, a battlefield, and violence. But when this woman made her Freudian slip, she was referring to a good revolution. What is a good revolution, now that we know that vulnerable and interconnected everything is?

Malcolm Gladwell In his best seller, The Tipping Point, tells how in New York City in the 1980’s, the relentless violence in the subways was turned around by small changes. They got rid of the graffiti on the trains, and enforced paying fares at the turnstiles. These small changes changed everything. A revolution took place – without enemies.

Of course, it’s easier to get all riled up when we have designated enemies, but that’s the old paradigm that caused our crises in the first place. Maybe our challenge is to learn to fight battles without enemies. I guess we duel it out with the Seven Deadly Sins as they play inside each of our minds but we no longer have the luxury of saying, “It’s your fault.” We know whose fault it is. Walt Kelly’s cartoon character, Pogo, said it so well: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The revolution in the surf and now playing out in summit meetings was not and is not a gang war. It is not based on good guys and bad guys. It is based on a need for a new way of thinking, doing things and solving problems. A revolution in how we feed, cloth and protect ourselves; how we produce and use things; how we gather together and resolve conflict; how we think, what we value, and what we think we are.

Revolution implies a circle. Returning again - revolving upward hopefully. Picking up something old from a place that is new. Going back 3000 years, the violent warriors invading the north of India realized that their old lifestyle of attack, rape and plunder no longer worked. They started their revolution with the simple act of taking animal sacrifice out of their ceremonies. But that change in trajectory began a complete turn around; the people of India became one of the most peaceful in human history.

The woman at the watershed meeting was not saying we want to go to war; she was saying, we want to go somewhere – and quickly! She was asking for the small changes in trajectory that would change everything for everyone so our grandchildren and all earth creatures can live in peace. Just as it did in India and in the subways of New York.

We could probably find those small changes that make big changes. But a revolution of thought is required - we have to be willing.

* The Aryan warriors created an all inclusive Peace Prayer in Sanskrit 3000 years ago that is still chanted today. “Peace in the heavens, peace on earth…. Peace permeating the atmosphere… Peace to all causes and effects. Peace to all vegetation.”