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J. Elliott Cisneros

I've been thinking lately that we can't become enlightened by ourselves.  It has to be together. For me, this underlies why community is so important. It seems like we hear that word "community" a lot.  But I haven't actually experienced community according to my (evolving) definition: a place where all aspects of all of us, are recognized, honored, and celebrated.


I've lived much of my life in systems which are the opposite of community. I've exchanged participation in a violent and oppressive economic and social system for money and, ultimately, for food  (Daniel Quinn's book, My Ishmael, articulated this well for me). A big part of me didn't want to admit it - I felt scared and ashamed... especially the part of me that knew I was sitting at the top of a pyramid - I had so much unconscious privilege: born in the US, male, straight, I pass for white, I'm temporarily, able-bodied, raised Christian, etc.  If I became aware of all this - if I gave up the power that came from obscuring these realities - would I and my children have to starve or be homeless?  


In recognizing how powerful and giant this system is – I’ve had to be patient with myself as I have sought to untangle from it.  I've come to see, through globalization, this system has taken over our planet – bringing with it an exponential expansion of social inequity, institutional oppression, systematic annihilation of indigenous cultures, competition over collaboration, materialism, environmental degradation, and militarism: effectively imprisoning everyone – even those at the top of this pyramid. So I don't believe in "Bad Guys."  We are all doing our best.


I've grown committed, most days, to withdrawing participation in the aspects of this system which serve one individual or group at the expense of others and the environment. Moreover, I acknowledge that the non-violent withdrawal from participation in these aspects of society must always begin and end with my awareness of, and responsibility to, my individual oppression of myself and others. I enjoy the experience that, as I do this, I naturally contribute to the creation of ethical, effective, and emergent alternatives.  


This community is a key part of an alternative for me and for the kind of world I want for my daughters. It is not about "dropping out" but about engaging, authentically, in my life and in the world.  It's not about being a survivalist, not about preparing for when this "Titanic" might go down, but realizing I wouldn't want to be on the Titanic, with its’ class, gender, and racial inequity, even if it missed that iceberg!