I said yes to the invitation to speak at the recent EARTH AT RISK event in San Francisco because I deeply respect Vandana Shiva, Derrick Jensen, Chris Hedges, and the members of Veterans for Peace and The Winter Soldier who also participated. I did not read these notes because of time constraints, I share them here for those who might find them useful.
Notes for EARTH AT RISK
I believe it was during my first year at the Radcliffe Institute in Cambridge that I read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. It was a revelation. How was a writer to write, asked Woolf, a woman writer, that is, in a time when she could not directly inherit money from her male line, and jobs that might sustain her were so scarce as to be essentially non-existent. Plus, a solid education, even for the wealthy, or any serviceable education at all, was, generally speaking, not to be had. She needed, said Woolf, and I was nearly knocked off my seat by the insight, which i recognized as invaluable, AT LEAST 500 POUNDS A YEAR AND A ROOM OF HER OWN.
I still have no idea what 500 pounds meant in Woolf’s day, but I surmised it meant enough money to live on, that is to say to lodge decently, eat well, go out to concerts and plays when the spirit moved, and to love where one chose. A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN was easier to envision. I had that, even though I lived in the wilds of Mississippi and was only at the Radcliffe Institute for a few fortunate months. In short, Woolf was saying, a woman who wished to speak and write her own mind needed independence to do so, complete and unfettered. The reason Leonard Woolf is my favorite man in perhaps all of Literary History is that he concurred with Virginia.
This has been, and is, a huge area of concern for women artists of all kinds, and for men too in many societies, still, where to be poor effectively cuts one off from one’s own creativity. Exhaustion from ill paid drudge work often killing the genius one’s chosen endeavor might ignite.
So I have been thinking of something as simple as 500 pounds a year and a room of one’s own to get us through this bleak period when every indication one can think of says our planet is at risk.
It is at risk. Only those too numbed by bad food and television haven’t noticed. But even they, I believe, are beginning to feel the panic. Earth is the only home we have, though those who think they hail from Mars may attempt to flee there.
In our country, what I feel is the absolute and simplest answer to our dilemma has only been claimed and self-named by one National group: the Quakers, who call themselves The Friends.
For it is friendship, not only in one’s community but especially with the people of other places in the world, that I believe must be the bedrock of our resistance to tyranny, brutalization, militarization, incarceration, as well as any other madness dreamed up by the sociopaths who would humiliate, eliminate or control us.
When I was eighteen years old I went off to the Soviet Union by way of Finland, where there was a great gathering of young people at The World Youth Festival. The US at that time was thinking of bombing the Soviet Union and possibly Cuba, both of which had representatives at the Festival. The Cubans taught us how to dance off the stage and into the street, into the world; and the Soviets gave us our very beautiful slogan: Mir y Drusba. Peace and Friendship.
Today we are expected to be enemies with the rest of the world, to believe they wish us harm, perhaps the same harm the US has done to them. But there is no future in endless enmity. We must refuse it among our friends and among those we believe might become friends. This is to say to love the world, our planet, as self. To protect it as the same place we are standing. To feel the people of the world as real. To be friends.
Is it too late to have this intention? As the Buddha taught: Everything starts with a thought. We have all of Time to make the beauty of this planet reflect the beauty of its humans.
Recommended: Putin to Western Elites: Playtime is Over.