Van Jones has hit the nail on the head - here's more of the speech than I've quoted below: http://www.hopedance.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=337&Itemid=98
"So we live together in these bubbles that touch, and we call that diversity, but we don’t know each other. And when that bubble breaks for just a second and we’re face to face with each other, it’s very, very hard to hear that reality.
But white supremacy, to use the provocative term, will reinterpret that experience for you; and make it not be about your inability to hear, but be about other people’s inability to speak. This is one of the most remarkable things: if you can get this, all doors open. There is the assumption—this is deep, this is deep—there is the assumption that when there’s a breakdown in communication between people of color and white people, that there is an deficiency but that the deficiency is not in white listening, that the deficiency is in black speech. “Why are they so angry?” People start critiquing, and then you find somebody who keeps themselves together just for a little bit and it’s, “Oh that one’s very eloquent, that one’s very articulate.” Right? Always the assumption is that the deficiency lies with the people of color. “Why don’t they care about the environment? What wrong with them, don’t they see the big picture? We’ve been talking at them about this for years? Don’t they see that we have this big beautiful conference, this big beautiful training? Why aren’t they coming? What’s wrong with them? We’ve been outreaching at them for years, I could show you the e-mails I’ve sent outreaching at them. I even make phone calls out reaching at them. What’s wrong with them? Maybe they are just too poor or busy, because certainly there is nothing wrong with our speech!”"
"People are always talking about their comfort zones, you ever heard that expression? “This is outside of my comfort zone.” Grow your goddamn comfort zone then, okay? ‘Cause we are running out of time. My suggestion is, grow the comfort zone.
People say that I am hard core about some of this stuff but I know because I have been to Davos, and I’ve sat with Bill Clinton and I’ve sat with Bill Gates and I’ve sat with Tony Blair and I’ve sat with Nancy Pelosi. I’ve sat with all these people who we think are in charge, and they don’t know what to do. Take that in: they don’t know what to do! You think you’re scared? You think you’re terrified? They have the Pentagon’s intelligence, they have every major corporation’s input; Shell Oil that has done this survey and study around the peak oil problem. You think we’ve got to get on the Internet and say, “Peak oil!” because the system doesn’t know about it? They know, and they don’t know what to do. And they are terrified that if they do anything they’ll loose their positions. So they keep juggling chickens and chainsaws and hope it works out just like most of us everyday at work. That’s real, that’s real.
And so I’m hard on people, I try to tell a few jokes, you know, to make it go down easier, but I’m hard on people. But I will tell you why I am hard on people. This is real ball, this is the last chance, this is it. I’m not telling you that; Tracy’s not telling you that. You go to places like I go, and the Pentagon will tell you that. This is real ball and people, for whatever reason, need sometimes a little encouragement. You walk up to that limit of yourself and you want that limit, ‘cause that wasn’t your limit yesterday and you go Whooo! I made it, now let me start telling everybody else what to do. But the goal is over there and every step hurts and every step is challenging and every step is humbling but every step has to be taken or we’re not going to be here."
A while back I wrote a piece on racism and peak oil, based on some material sent to me by a gentleman who had a lot to say about this. You can read the piece here: http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com/2007/06/depletion-racism-and-paving-road-to.html
And the response was mixed, as such things always are, but a lot of the response focused on me, on who I was, and on what was often called "guilty white liberal Jewish pcism." And I can understand why people saw it that way - after all, middle class overeducated white chicks from upstate NY talking about racism look like apologetics, and to a degree, I guess they are.
But Harvey Winston wrote to me because he didn't want to take the much nastier shit he'd get for writing it himself. He'd been around the internet enough to know what he would have to eat in order to express himself. He wrote to me because I'd asked what to do. And I sat on my ass for about 2 months with his letter, thinking "someday I'll write about it" and hoping to G-d I wouldn't have to, because what if I said something stupid and what if I wrote for someone else and ended up misrepresenting them and because I was a coward. Eventually, I sort of got over it, and figured out that maybe it was better that I write something, even if it was wrong. And, because I have a big mouth, I wrote it anyway, and probably said a lot of stupid, wrong things.
But a lot of people were much more comfortable reading my piece as about me, rather than the black anger that I got from Harvey Winston's letter - and I guess that's ok, because we're a lot less scared of liberal white women than black men. But I think a lot about how sad it is that the peak oil community is such a hard place that Harvey had to come to me first, because he couldn't say it out loud here, and then his anger got lost because it was filtered through me.]
I'm accused of being too angry a lot. And maybe that's fair - maybe I am. Or maybe I'm too angry because I don't really have a lot of good reasons for anger. But it seems to me that when we fear anger, when we feel like anger of any kind is personalized and scary, we find ourselves talking in the passive voice a lot. That is, we get angriest when we name perpetrators, when we assign responsibility. We like to talk about environmental issues in the passive voice, in ways that mean that no one in particular did this, or is responsible for this. But that's wrong. As Jones says, the things we're trying to undo are in us, and in our heritage - we're fixing the sins of our fathers and our own sins. We don't like to use the active voice, to name names and take responsibility. That's too angry, and more importantly, the anger takes everything out of the passive voice, in which it just happened, and thus, it is no one in particular's fault.
Some people who read my prior essay were particularly angry that I'd named names and accused people like Kunstler and Lundgren of bigotry. And maybe that's fair - peak oil is still a small community, and it is hard to go around smacking each other in the face. I was told there is a solidarity issue here.
And there is, but it isn't with me and Kunstler. We've already got common ground and all the solidarity in the world. We're both white, we're both roughly middle class, we're both writers, both passionate anti-modernists, we live about an hour from one another, we both think the Northeast is the best place to survive peak oil, we're both jerks who say stupid things sometimes, we both think that the word "fuck" can be grammatically used as a comma. He's only 10 billion times more famous than I am, vastly cooler and smarter - if I were really lucky, I'd be related to him. But he'd still be wrong about some of the stuff he says.
The thing I like best about Jones's essay is that he tells the real truth - there's a solidarity issue, and it is mostly between people who don't know how to talk to each other, who are a little afraid of each other, who both want to yell "kwitcher bitchin', it ain't my fault." The thing is, solidarity isn't about really understanding each other, or really liking each other, and I'd I don't think it is about spiritual development either. It is about sucking it up and going to stand next to the least comfortable person in the room, and asking them to sit down with you. It is about, in every sense, growing our comfort zones.
There's a lot of talk about like-mindedness on the subject of peak oil and climate change. But the people we need to talk to, and listen to most of all are the people with wholly different experiences than ourselves. I'm not particularly good at that - knowing this doesn't make it easy. The people who have the most to say about living a low impact life are mostly poor. The people who have the most to say about the effect of climate change on the world so far are mostly people from the Global South. The people who most need to hear about peak oil are devout conservative Christians in churches. The people who most need to confront anger are the people most afraid of anger. The people who need most to sit down together and, not stop being angry or afraid, but at least accept that they are going to look stupid and be angry and afraid are the people least likely to do so. But we have to.