Love From the Land

From an earlier MichFest.

 

Melissa Ferrick, “I Don’t Want You To Change.”

 

Michfest – going home, leaving home

Listening to Lesbians

I close my eyes and I am back in the Michigan woods, lying in fern and leaf litter, listening to the woods and the voices of women. I open my eyes and the shadow of leaves and voices remain while the sounds of Australian birds and the smell of Australian plants intrude. They’re not ferns, but they’re what I have and they are glorious.

Banksia Not remotely fernlike…

This year, for my first and only time, I went to Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, started by Lisa Vogel 40 years ago. I had gone with as few expectations as possible, helped by the flurry of activity in the weeks before I left and the daze I walked through the gate in.

The experience was a revelation, in expected and unexpected ways.

While listening to CC Carter sing about her hips, I realised with a rush that this is what representation might feel…

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Moar MichFest

IronFoxe reports on an Intention vs. Inclusion workshop.

“As someone with a history of being open to having this discussion, and more importantly as someone who has suffered negative consequences for having done so, I had low expectations for this workshop but I have to say I stand happily corrected. The organizers were dedicated to safety and respect, they laid out firm groundwork for having this conversation in an open manner, and they were sure everyone got to speak genuinely. They had thought-provoking exercises to engage us with, in groups and pairs and on our own, to challenge our thoughts and help us navigate where our sisters with differing views were coming from. They clearly had put a lot of effort and heart into creating that space, and they did an outstanding job of it.”

A slideshow from the final Fest, by Heart.

When Women Were Warriors weighs in.

“The fireworks. And fairy forest. I feel to type it all out somehow flattens what really happens on that land. The reason I bother to say any of this at all is because I hope to see women recreate space like that all over the world until there is no Man’s Land left.”

Lori King writes about a bit of herstory of Fest.

AspensPlease was ambivalent.

“Over the years, “I’m not down with that” became “I’m not up for that,” but my basic answer to Michfest remained the same. I vaguely appreciated its existence, I vaguely disagreed with the intention against trans inclusion. Because Michfest had nothing to do with me, I never tried to nail down my thoughts beyond that.”

Elle Kacee blogs of singing at breakfast, with videos.

Loving Lily was pleasantly surprised.

“Michigan was immaculate the whole time I was there. Women cleaned up after ourselves. There was no violence, yelling or public drunkenness. If you had camping gear or duffle bags or other possessions, you could put them on the ground with NO FEAR of anything being stolen or destroyed.”

image

Photo credit: Elle Kacee.

Rebirth For MichFest

By StaceyAnn Chin

When the first Michigan Women’s Music festival
happened/in August/in 1976
the local paper called it
an international gathering of weirdos

imagine that first flood of women
pouring into the deep dark Michigan woods
imagine them finding the courage
to stay on the land despite the angry men
circling the perimeter/the only plan
honk your horn/if there is trouble
call your sister/and she will come

that sisterhood has since grown
into a global jungle/from which we all come
sprouting eagle from Kingston and California
slithering snake-like from Scotland and South Africa
howling wolves from Brooklyn and Bangladesh

no matter where we spring from
we have never had any doubt/this place would be here
next August/to recharge us/for the year ahead
in our heart we could not conceive
of the final closing of these gates
and now/as we attempt to say farewell
the center of me is sobbing oceans
my heart broken open/my chest/cracking raw
my ribcage/collapsing
because I will never be here again/like this
on this holy ground
these eyes of mine will never see my daughter
in this place at thirteen/or thirty-three/like me
she will never see it/as I have seen it
open/sky/naked spirits/Amazon women
dancing/round red fires of sticks/and stones
taking back the imprisoned bones of ourselves
and finding new freedoms here

in communion/we mourn this bitter end
each of us/trying to remember/that life is a series of cycles
as old as the moon/as expected as the first coming of blood

we who believe in rebirth/see this period of rest
as only a practice test designed
to help us r/evolve in these complicated times

I ask you to remember that we are trained
in the tradition of doing things/they say cannot be done
I beg you to look again
to the determination of the generation
who built this pussy-centered city
with no fucking internet
no kick-starter campaign/no social media
no legal recognition of the right
to love whomever we fucking choose

those Amazons from that era gave birth to abortion rights
and the equal rights amendment
and rape-crisis centers
and women’s shelters
that movement laid the groundwork
for decriminalizing the entire LGBTQIA-BCDEFG identity

forty years after that first gathering of weirdos/we are still here
because Michfest has always been about more than just music
it has remained a light/at the end of a yearlong tunnel
it has been a promise that has kept so many of us going
in return/so many of us/have tried so hard to keep it going
over the years/we have persisted in coming
insisted on defying the odds
year after economically challenged year
every August/for one week/we orchestrate
this neurotic amalgamation of tarp
and bug spray
and tofu
and Tupperware
this single-minded, slick-wet celebration of flashlights
and foam
these flooded sleeping quarters
these fucking RVs and second-hand Subarus
these butch parades and sweat lodges
is about knowing/with everything in us
that being called a girl/is not a fucking insult

under these Sapphic stars
it’s the highest form of compliment

this place has been a celebration of our girlhood
a recognition of the magic of surviving womanhood
it has always been an open invitation to those of us
existing outside the confines of gender-binary limitations
this place is an homage
to the bra-burning/radical feminists of the nineteen-seventies
they believed they could/not only pick a fight against
racists/sexist/homophobic motherfuckers
but/they believed they could also fucking win

we are still fighting those same battles today
which is why we still need to stand together
against the patriarchy
to stand/to gather
this miraculous gathering of women
is only going down
for an expected cycle of much-needed rest

after all/it has only been four fucking decades
since the young Blood Moon
only 19 years old/with ovaries the size of fucking Saturn
started this shit—radical/feminist/midwife that she has been
she has kept the course for 480 months
Lisa Vogel and the long crew and the short crew
and the cooks from Gals
and artisans from Crafts and the workers at the Night Stage
and the artist on the Acoustic Stage
and the witches from the Womb
and all women stirring the multiple cauldrons
that make up this crazy cavalry
they have been holding down the logistics
of this place of safety for 2,080 weeks
it fitting to acknowledge also
that it has only been 14, 560 days
since you magnificent Michigan festies
have been pushing this impossible rock
up the motherfucking mountain of misogyny

forty years is a very long time/my sisters

as the dust settles on our beloved dirt road
indulge your inconsolable ache
lament/weep/wail/cry all need or want
but know too/the seeds of joy we each planted on this land
will never be dead/instead/the legend of its roots
will grow large inside the heads and hearts
of all of us/who have loved here/and fought here
fucked out loud and without apology here
the memory of it/the spirit of it
will tingle inside the scarred chests
of warriors who survived
breast cancer
and rape
and female castration
and rape
and childhood molestation
and rape
and familial rejection
and rape
and ovarian cancer/and HIV and Aids
and drunken husbands/and human trafficking
and homophobia/and gender-policing
and poverty/and wire hangers
and rape
and rape
and rape again

this year/after we say our final farewell
we will again go home
to stand alongside incarcerated Black men
and undocumented children/and transgender boys/girls
and underpaid women/and all those bodies who remain targets
for the wealthy white bigots who would want everyone
who is not them
enslaved/or deported/or killed

with or without a yearly gathering on this land
we will never stand inside the gender-norms expected of us
we will continue to meet/in tents
in kitchens
in basements
inside convents
and churches
we will keep resisting/and out of this resistance
will come another core assembly of need and opportunity
a door that will push this community to birth itself anew

when it does/it is our duty to be ready
to receive it/every one of us
Lisa/and Judith
and Toshi
and Penny
and Holly
and Elvira
and Thokozani
and Sandy
and Hanifah
after the burning of our holy city
we must do something with this astoundingly beautiful ash
we have to cash in the credit of this place
to race toward a future in which our daughters
and our daughters’ daughters keep demanding
safety for every/body living this planet
this is call for Zuri and Cree
and Maddie
and Ruby
and Zora and Naiobi
this is a call for Zander and Josie and Emerson and Kai
this is a call for you/and you/and you/and me
this call is for all the girls/who grew up here
or came here
or heard about the magic that once existed here
to come together/to continue to fight
to grow up and out/to fucking bloom/and rise
and rise/and rise again
to find our Amazon phoenix spirit/to ascend
in flesh/in truth
let us use this moment to rewind/to reincarnate
to hatch and spawn/new blood
to amplify the ageless power we have all felt here at Michfest
the magic of this place must remain/in each of us
fueling us
protecting us
giving us direction
long after the pain of our present sorrow
is gone

From Lisa Vogel’s Facebook page.

StaceyAnn’s website is here.

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What MichFest Means To Me

Terrific post from Redress Alert on the 2014 MichFest.

“It was not that they all knew, from direct experience, what I was on about. It was that they were listening and empathizing so hard, with so much love, that their care was palpable. They were not an audience but witnesses.”

“At Michigan, for the first time, I was not indigestible. I was not a contaminant.”

Ariadne...

“These women are the soul of the Place…Simply, they are making magic and inviting you in.”

“It turns out that when you stop demonizing your elder women or patronizing them as ignorant dinosaurs, and you go hang out with them in the woods instead–they show up and mentor you in ways you thought only happened for boys in novels and movies.”

tree of life

“Now that I finally know this, not only in my mind but from within all the borders of my own body, I want to scream, ‘You cannot stand in the exact spot I am standing in without standing on me.'”

“What I am left with is this bitter question: “Who would I be if I had not been lied to and kept from this Place for all these years?”

I believe I would be speaking and singing in a voice nobody will ever hear again, a voice I altered with testosterone instead. I believe my body would be more typical for my chronological age, and not frequently disabled by chronic pain. I believe I would have had the chance to manage and learn the logic of the odd hormonal balance I carried before I disrupted and obscured it by adding T. I believe I would speak from the position of having recovered my sense of bodily integrity, instead of living with the knowledge that I colluded in my own erasure by medical “normalizing.” I believe I would be a hell of a lot less alone.”

Women and their Dogs at Sunset

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A Meditation On The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

By the always delightful Phonaesthetica.

“The nutloaf was nutty. The drumming was drummy. I bought a dykey leather bracelet, got my period, howled like a wolf, showered in the open air and woke up in a tent underneath several inches of water during a thunderstorm. I washed dishes in a communal trough and let a silky wolf spider shimmy up my arm. I felt Lisa Vogel’s true love for each one of us in the fireworks show on Saturday at Night Stage.

It was Fest. It was the last Fest.”

Read the rest here.

Ruth Barrett, 40th National Women’s Festival

Ruth Barrett gave the Keynote Speech at the 40th National Women’s Music Festival in Madison, Wisconsin on July 4, 2015.

OUR HOLY BOOK HAS ALWAYS BEEN OUR FEMALE FLESH AND BLOOD

Embodied Feminist Spirituality, Gender-ism, and Women’s Mysteries

(Below are some excerpts from this wise and eloquent speech.)

“We recognize that our daily human experience is filtered through and informed by our female bodies, our specific female physiology, and how our attitudes about the female body are affected by gender socialization.”

“In ancient times, women’s exclusive gatherings were recognized as being vital for the good of the greater community. We continue today to gather to hear our shared stories of survival, of courage, and to celebrate our lives.”

“Had I been raised by Scythian Amazons in a matrifocal culture, I would have been raised thinking that becoming a woman meant to know how to be a capable warrior, hunter, and horsewoman, a weaver of cloth, a gatherer of herbs, a strong, brave nurturer and protector of the young.”

“Speaking as a Witch, the ability to name something or someone is the power to define its very nature. To know, name, and speak the true name of something is to possess the spiritual ‘handle’ with which the speaker can control or influence that thing.”

“….must we also continue to oppress ourselves by perpetuating unexamined misogyny and deny our differences that may actually be sacred gifts? Different but equal is not possible in the dominant patriarchal culture we live in.”

“If you are not living inside your body, where are you living? And who has taken up residence inside you in your absence? Whose stories do you believe? And whose agenda does that serve?”

“…we must learn how to discern the boundaries between ourselves and the toxic environments we live in, how to wisely filter extraneous debris from essence, pan for gold in the swift currents of a river.”

“Remember that, ‘magick requires a great amount of practice and very little effort.'”

“Listen to what is sounding here and now, feel and see all that is actually happening in this moment, in addition to what you’ve planned.”

The transcript of this speech may be read in its entirety at Gender Identity Watch.

Isis, Astarte – Kate West

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My Disservice to My Transgender Patients

By Kathy Mandigo

image  I am packing up my stuff to move, and I came across a folder of work-related papers. One item was a card I had forgotten I had, but as soon as I opened it, I remembered it and the sender. It was a card of thanks from a transgendered patient, a lesbian who transitioned to a man, expressing appreciation for my help in her* journey to become the man she felt she was.

*(While I used to accede to my patients’ chosen pronouns, I now use the biologically appropriate one.)

I saw this patient at a youth clinic (patients under 26), and she was usually accompanied by her girlfriend. She had been seen and assessed and started on treatment at the Gender Dysphoria Clinic that ran at the time in a local hospital. I initiated nothing, merely administered the testosterone injections they prescribed.

I watched my patient change: she gained weight and muscle, developed a lower voice, sprouted facial hair, and described increasing sex drive and aggressiveness. I remember feeling comfortable that this patient seemed very grounded and confident, and I did not feel manipulated in our interactions, which helped me feel comfortable to administer the injections.

I saw this patient in the mid or late 1990’s, I don’t exactly remember, and as I recall, she was the first transgendered patient I had seen. I was less than ten years into medical practice and hadn’t been taught anything about transgenderism in medical school. I was young and naive and trusted science. There was no science about transgenderism. What was I to do?

With the growing criticism of medicine and physicians as paternalistic, we were encouraged to listen better to our patients, to their expressed realities. Although we did not take the Hippocratic oath in our medical school, we did still attend to the tenet of first do no harm, but I had no idea how to weigh the risks and benefits of attempts at gender transition. I didn’t have a personal opinion then about transgenderism, and professionally I felt an obligation to try to meet my patients where they were, rather than where I was. I wasn’t willing to diagnose transgenderism, but if the team of proclaimed professionals at the Gender Dysphoria Clinic had made such an assessment, I was willing to be the family doctor who provided follow-up.

A few years later, a pilot project clinic was opened within one of the community health centres in our city, a clinic specifically for queer patients. We staffed our clinic with as many queer providers as we could find. We expected a flood of queer patients alienated from the traditional medical system; those whom we actually saw were mostly alienated transgender patients, who either had not been accepted for gender transition by the Gender Dysphoria Clinic (often for psychological reasons) or were unable to tolerate the long assessment process of the Gender Dysphoria Clinic (again, often for psychological reasons).

As I recall, all of these patients were men wanting to transition to being women, and, as I recall, all of them struck me as psychologically unwell, as manifested in their behaviours. I remember thinking that there was an atmosphere of coercion among the staff in which it was uncool to question the validity of the patients’ desires and expressed gender identity. Any psychological disturbance was often attributed to the patient’s suffering of living their life in the “wrong” gender.

I remember often feeling that these patients tried to intimidate me into giving them what they wanted, that they often assumed outraged insult if I asked questions (how dare I enquire, presumably doubting them), that if I did not give them what they wanted they exploded into enraged diatribes and stormed off. I felt very uncomfortable with them and it was challenging to try to do my job and not react to their anger.

The pilot project did not last long, as there were few patients, other than this handful of disaffected transgendered patients. It may have been that, because the clinic operated on Monday afternoons, more well-adjusted patients were likely working and unable to access the clinic. It may have been that most queer patients by that time felt comfortable accessing the health care they wanted. Those questions were never asked to sort out whether it was lack of accessibility or lack of need.

Over the next years, I did not see many transgendered patients, until recently, and with most of them disproportionately appearing among the demographic of mentally ill and addicted in our city.

One patient came to my private office, a lesbian who was transitioning to a male, under the care of a gender specialist of some sort. (The Gender Dysphoria Clinic had ended, I wasn’t clear why. I believe this was effected under the guise of rhetoric that all doctors ought to provide this care rather than it being relegated to a specialty clinic, but I expect there were other politics at play. Disturbingly, what has been opened is a transgender clinic within the provincial children’s hospital.)

She came to my office telling me that she had heard I was a great doctor and that I specialized in transgender issues.

I immediately felt I was being manipulated with a big buttering-up job, and I said this was not true, I was neither a great doctor nor a transgender specialist. My guard was up. I expected this patient read me as a dyke, though I never disclosed, and over subsequent visits, this patient continued to try to be my pal, with an overly-friendly us-two-dykes demeanour, like we were butchly comrades, as though she was forgetting that she believed she was a he.

Over time, I discovered the patient had been withholding unflattering information from me that would have sped up diagnoses of her other issues. I increasingly felt she was attempting to manipulate me with her excessively friendly behaviour, and then pressure me with her sense of what my obligations were (e.g. that I should provide a letter of support for her to have the gender on her birth certificate changed, when in fact this was her specialist’s responsibility, as the diagnosing physician, a responsibility that he had fulfilled, despite the patient’s claims and demands to me).

I tried to be professional, to mind the boundaries (e.g. not provide personal information, not collude in the play of friendship), and I administered the testosterone injections her specialist had prescribed, until the patient’s girlfriend felt comfortable to take over. I held this ground, and eventually the patient tired of me, undoubtedly disappointed and disparaging, and left my practice.

Another patient I saw in my other, public health work, was a man transitioning to a female. What I was told by a nurse of the patient’s story, of what clinics he had attended and who his doctors were, was all over the map, which made me suspicious about what the “facts” were and that I had to verify anything he said.

When I saw him, he began by being all girl-friend-y with me, like we were two girls together in this crazy world, behaviour I assumed he had seen and adopted as how women get what they want (had he ever read me wrong! he was mimicking behaviour without having the years of lived experience by which a women learns, if so inclined, when to use that tactic).

As I asked questions about his health background, he became uncomfortable that my questions were revealing inconsistencies in his story (suggesting to me psychological problems), and he got angry and leaned forward into my personal space and flashed me that “you fucking cunt” look.

All women know that look. This was the same look I remembered getting from the patients I saw at the pilot project clinic, but I didn’t know then what to call it, what it was. Now, after so many more years of life experience, I knew exactly what it was: it is a look that men give women to dismiss and devalue and intimidate; it is not a look that women give women (they dismiss and devalue and intimidate in other ways, often by being passive-aggressively haughty).

I was better able, after the years in practice, to hold my ground, and I calmly told him that his angry tone and demeanour were making me uncomfortable and he had to calm down or the visit would be over. He denied being angry, but continued to have the angry tone of voice and body language that goes with that look, part of the package of male power tactics.

I stood my ground and repeated that he was making me uncomfortable. Eventually he settled, I gave him the (non-gender-related) prescription he had come for, and we terminated the visit. I saw him a second time some weeks later, and he did not flare into anger. Whether he was having a better day or had learned to camouflage and control himself better, I do not know.

These experiences, of seeing more men wanting to transition than women, of seeing almost all of the transitioning patients behave in stereotypical gendered ways (their biological gender behaviours flashing through their assumed gendered behaviours) and out of these behaviours try to manipulate me (rather than being able to discuss the situation openly and honestly), seeing more of these transitioning men settling among the mentally unwell in the most disenfranchised neighbourhood, and especially seeing the transgender men continue to exhibit male aggressive behaviours, has convinced me that most, if not all, transgender patients are not in the wrong body but have mental health problems, problems they believe can be fixed if they get in the right body.

At the beginning of my years of practice, with my youth and inexperience, I thought I had an obligation to follow the patient. Now I believe that I failed these patients, and that I have a superseding obligation to tell the truth to my patients. I regret every testosterone injection I gave, every estrogen prescription I refilled, and every time I colluded with my patients in their gender delusion. I regret not speaking up to my colleagues and to my patients, instead giving in to the coercion I felt to go along rather than dare to question. I regret not having had the courage to ask questions to get to the story beneath the gender dysphoria story, to find out why my patients had ever been made to feel there was anything wrong with them in the first place. I want to tell the women that we need them as women, and especially as lesbians; I want to tell the men that no amount of medicalization will make them women. Women may have an easier time of masquerading as men, but as long as every man has within him the “you fucking cunt” look, no man can ever masquerade as a women.

That first patient’s composure stands out from my subsequent experiences with transgender patients. Surely it helped her navigate the Gender Dysphoria Clinic. Was she truly of a different nature, or had she, with her relative youth, not accumulated distorting grievances? After finding that card, I tried to look her up. I wanted to ask if she was still grateful for transitioning, if she was still as happy to be living her life as the man she believed she was, if she still believed she was a man. I could not find her, at least not under his name.

~~~~~

Kathy Mandigo is a general physician in Vancouver who has been in medicine for over thirty years. She has a Masters degree in Epidemiology, and has worked in public health and private practice, at the Canadian HIV Network and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and Health Canada.

Gender Hurts, Thistle Petterson

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Thanks For Reading!

The Radfem Repost sister project to MichFest is now over, as is MichFest, but this blog is no more finished than women are. It’s been an exciting and sometimes hair-raising experience, putting together a new blog with so much great writing and support from other women. In little more than a week, we have received over 2500 visitors from 67 countries and over 5000 views.

image

Women are leaving the Land now. Women are on the road, in planes, and getting smacked in the face with the Patriarchy. Women are going back to their homes and bursting into tears at how wonderful MichFest was, and how sorry a substitute Patriarchy is.

We’d like to hear from you – your stories of being at Michfest, your photos, your videos. We’d also like to hear from those of you who are working on planning what will come now, what will be next August, what will grow in MichFest’s place. If you’re interested in contributing, please email radfemrepost2015@gmail.com.

Malvina Reynolds, “It Isn’t Nice.”

Beloved Women, Beloved Earth

When I look around now, in 2015, I do not see the changes I had hoped to see for women in this world or Mother Earth. Our Mother Earth, and all living beings who rely on her, are at risk of extinction.  Men search for other planets – as if  moving there would solve the destruction men are inflicting. Men and their sadomasochism never end.

In Patriarchy,  women are only seen as a resource, a material to exploit. Brave New World and 1984 are upon us. Women scurry about uncertain, but women know: we feel it, we see it, we smell it, we touch it, in our children’s behavior. Women know intuitively that our children’s increasing rates of ADHD, gender dysphoria, autism, porn culture and prostitution; mental illness, violence, and unemployment are all connected. Corporations engineer our food, growing it with pesticides, growing it in nice engineered rows so the chemicals that make it grow can be easily applied.

In Canada and elsewhere colonized Indigenous communities are under siege for their homelands, again. Indigenous ways of life have sustained their cultures for thousands of years. Their cultures are  threatened when their lands are corrupted, maimed, damaged, and forever altered by civilization’s “henchmen-corporations.” This destroys the rights of a land-based culture to survive. The greed of civilization, capitalism and unchecked growth is unceasing and pathological at this point.

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Chipko Movement

Recorded human history is traditionally seen as a record of humans exceeding Nature’s limitations. Growing numbers of us ask: What about learning to live within our human and ecological limits? I know it sounds simple, but this is actually quite controversial.

In 1969 Rachel Carson [1] stood up to the pesticide industries and started the modern day environmental movement. A courageous women, a scientist, and a lesbian; Carson suggested this culture is insane for using chemicals that would inevitably end up in our food supply, water, wildlife, and our bodies. For unveiling this simple truth Carson was vilified, threatened, and harassed. But time would prove that her research, determination, and courage were right – she woke a whole generation to the hazards of using   technology to control nature. Man-made technological and chemical solutions to man-made problems, such as population and distribution of wealth, make matters worse.

Carson’s research, books, and voice were considered “radical.” Her perspective and call to awareness was fueled by the same energy, passion and resignation that drove Mary Daly to distill, ruminate, write, and reveal her understanding of radical feminism. [2] They were both lesbians in a patriarchical world and women in a decidedly patriarchical institution; academia.

Early radical feminist [3] and radical ecological feminist theory critiqued the human arrogance visible in attempts to master and control nature [4] and advanced various strains of environmental schools of thought: conservation, preservation, animals rights, vegan, vegetarian movements and critiques of capitalism and civilization all emerged out of Carson’s work.

Canadian naturalist John Livingston was my introduction to the vocabulary of anti-capitalism and anti-civilization. Livingston’s [5] critique of the anthropocentric and humanistic mindset driving human relationships with nature was grounded in his observations as a naturalist. Livingston was also a broadcaster, testified at The MacKenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, lectured, supervised, graduate students and wrote a number of books that contributed a valuable Canadian critique of capitalism and civilization.

Livingston argued: “Civilization cripples the mind and cripples the heart by offering a humanistic ideology in place of our evolved naturalness or wildness.” [6]

Or as I came to understand, using “ideas” or “ideology” to connect with our true human nature is not an effective strategy for protecting and preserving life. Those ideologies or ideas were after all simply a form of “prosthetic,” filling in for a lost sensibility that resulted from our alienation from nature.

Livingston believed a natural cooperative instinct was at the root of animal and human behaviour. Humans needed to spend more time being in and with nature, rather than dominating her. He argued that our Judeo-Christian belief systems had humans brainwashed into believing we could somehow rise above our nature.

A key theme was the idea that humans are “domesticated.” Our domestication leads us to a reliance on culture and ideology. Ideology is a straitjacket when changes in human behavior are required. For Livingston, cultural ideologies do far more harm to the Earth than human nature and unless we learn to take the “lens” or glasses off, and de-program ourselves, humans are destined to never understand or accept our dependence on Mother Earth.

Without an understanding of and a connection to nature, humans can expect profound distress and malaise to spread steadily and rapidly – a form of psychosis. Kinda like what is happening today. A cloud of psychosis has seemingly taken over human brains, eyes, and ears, and has us submerged in a sea of shock, irrationality, disbelief, and inaction.

Livingston was convinced that when the lens of ideology was removed we could start to understand, shape an ideology that would stop making our species sick – separate from our true human nature.

“All domesticated animals have this piece missing; all of us are prosthetic beings. The animals depend utterly on us. We depend utterly on ideology. My dogs depend on me and whatever I offer them. I depend on what ideological crutch my culture offers me? Ideology is my master.” [7]

Livingston explains further:

“No one in his right mind denies natural selection. But the fuel of it does not need to be competition. He could have used some other principle. However, he didn’t. And here we are with competition and territoriality and said dominance and all the rest of the rubbish we’re fed by mechanistic biology and the Sunday supplements.  Social dominance in gorillas and whales and wolves and elephants? Come on. I have often wondered how Darwin’s argument would have looked had he invoked cooperation, or compliance.   Even more persuasive I would think.” [8]

What if, Livingston asked, we choose the principle of cooperation instead of competition to view humanity’s relationship to nature?

When I left school I left with the question: Would a “paradigm shift” [9] stop the environmental degradation that humans, patriarchal culture, civilization, and unquestioned growth were inflicting on the Earth? Would replacing the principle of competition with cooperation prevent Earth’s and all living beings’ death? Should civilization be dismantled before every living thing is eradicated?

I have recently come to terms with the idea that a new story will not do the trick. We have had fifty years to act, and there has been only more of the same. The only option left now is: Resistance.

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Deep Ecology was coined in 1973 by Arne Naess, a Norwegian who came up  with the concept to address the state of environmental thought and action he was seeing. When naturalists and philosophers looked out at the reality of the 70s and the actions that were taken to address environmental contamination of ecological systems, these remedies usually involved a mechanistic fix. And yet nature, Earth, is not a machine. Human arrogance and shallow thinking around environmental quick and dirty fixes resulted in the emergent blueprint offered by Deep Ecology.

As Naess was struck at how shallow the approaches to the environmental crisis were, he recommended that what humans needed were deep inquiries around humanity’s relationship to nature. Naess saw no hope in the dominant environmentalism’s ability to prevent the collapse of civilization and the death of all living beings. Humanity’s hope lay in implementing Deep Ecology.

The Deep Ecology Platform  [10]

1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: inherent worth, intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.

2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.

3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.

4. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

5. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.

6. Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.

7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent worth) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.

8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

Explicit in Deep Ecology is an understanding of the need for a radical paradigm shift in human ideology. Rather than humans seeing themselves as overlord dominators, men would have to put their sadomasochist tendencies aside and adopt a relationship with nature based on intrinsic value, not utilitarianism. There would need to be multi-level interventions to effect change. This shift in attitude would have to be legislated at local, national, and global levels to be successful – to stop the destruction of our Mother Earth.

Deep Ecology put cooperation as the central principle. Ecology is a the science of healthy ecosystems: how all the members of a biotic community work together. Once humans accepted the intimate inter-connectedness and intrinsic value of every living being, we would be part of that biotic community once more.

Climate change, in 2015, is our biggest universal indicator that our Earth is exceeding her limits to growth.   For conscious humans, the signs of our inability to change our path, to shift our operating principle from competition to cooperation has never been so fully obvious – men and their greed.  Profit and power are a seductive addiction and destructive of living communities.

After 25 years of looking for a new story, a new narrative that could address some of the hopes I had for future generations, I found it! But it is not a story – we are long past a story change being of any value. Resistance is our only option.

Deep Green Resistance [11]

1.    Deep Green Resistance recognizes that this culture is insane.
2.    Deep Green Resistance embraces the necessity of political struggle.
3.    Deep Green Resistance must be multilevel.
4.    Deep Green Resistance requires repair of the planet.
5.    Deep Green Resistance means repair of human culture.
6.    Deep Green Resistance recognizes the necessity of militant action.

All significant changes in human organization have entailed direct confrontations with power: the American Revolution, French Revolution, Irish Independence Movement, Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, Front Liberation du Quebec, the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, Cruise Missile protests, Claquot Sound, Meares Island……

Humans make change to ideological straitjackets because we possess an inbuilt character trait called a “moral imperative.” [12] A moral imperative is like a chemical reaction. Humans are hard-wired to defend ourselves or our Beloved, just like a mother will defend at any cost her child.

This compulsion to act, this moral imperative, is an instinct and a powerful one.  This impulse to defend our Beloved is hard-wired into being human.

Question:   What do you get when you blend the theory and actions of American marine biologist, conservationist and lesbian Dr. Rachel Carson with the ideas of American radical feminist philosopher, theologian, and lesbian Dr. Mary Daly; and the cultural and historical perspectives of nature found in the work of Canadian naturalist, broadcaster, writer and teacher John Livingston?

Answer:   A 21st century Radical Feminist Resistance movement with a clarion call to Rise, Act, and Defend our Beloved Earth:  because to defend our Beloved is human and it is in our nature to do so.

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Trish Oliver is a lesbian radical feminist, deep ecologist and Sculptor. Trish is a founding member of Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), a Teacher, has practiced the martial art of Aikido for twenty years, and is a member of Deep Green Resistance. Trish graduated from York University in Toronto in 1989. John Livingston was her Masters supervisor and “thinking” mentor, and his “radical” ideas changed her life path.

ENDNOTES

  1. Carson, Rachel. (1962) Silent Spring
  2. Daly, Mary. (2015) https://philosophynow.org/issues/3 “There are several definitions but I’ll give you the core of it. First of all the word ‘radical’ means ‘going to the roots’. It is derived from the Latin radix, meaning root. Radical Feminism goes to the root of oppression and the way out. And I define it as ‘way of being characterised by (a) an Awesome and Ecstatic sense of Otherness from patriarchal norms and values (b) conscious awareness of the sadosociety’s sanctions against Radical Feminists (c) moral outrage on behalf of women as women (d) commitment to the cause of women that persists, even against the current, when feminism is no longer ‘popular;’ in other words, constancy.”
  3. Daly, Mary. (2015)  https://philosophynow.org/issues/3 “The definition as I wrote it is still the one I would maintain, but in the current crisis of life on earth and the danger to all animals, plants, rocks, minerals, as well as women from the phallocrats who are destroying the planet, I now say ‘radical ecological feminism.’ There is a desperate commitment in my writing to ecology and feminism.” https://philosophynow.org/issues/3
  4. Evernden, Neil., (1992), The Social Construction of Nature.
  5. Livingston, John. (1973), One Cosmic Instant (1981), The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation (1988), 8 Lectures on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8Y7PZ_DVes (1992), Rogue Primate: An Exploration of Human Domestication
  6. Jensen, Derrick., (1995), Listening to the Land, Interview with John Livingston
  7. Jensen, Derrick., (1995), Listening to the Land, Interview with John Livingston
  8. Jensen, Derrick), (1995), Listening to the Land, Interview with John Livingston.
  9. Kuhn, Thomas., (1962), The Structure of Scientific Revolution.
  10. Naess, Arne and George Sessions.,(1984) The Deep Ecology Platform http://www.deepecology.org/platform.htm
  11. Keith, Lierre, McBay, Aric and Derrick Jensen., (2011). Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_imperative

REFERENCES

Carson, Rachel. (1962) Silent Spring

Daly, Mary (1990)

Gyn/Ecology Aug/Sept  (2015) https://philosophynow.org/issues/33/Mary_Daly

Evernden, Neil. (1983) The Natural Alien (1992) The Social Construction of Nature

Fertile Ground Institute (2014) Earth at Risk 2014 Social Justice and Sustainability

Firestone, Shulamith. (1970) The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

Hedges, Chris. (2010) Death of the Liberal Class

Jensen, Derrick. (1995) Listening to the Land, (2000) Language Older than Words, (2002) Culture of Make Believe, (2006) Endgame 1 & 2, (2008) What We Leave Behind

Jensen, Derrick & L. Keith. (2013) Earth at Risk : Building a Resistance Movement to Save the Planet

Keith, Lierre. (2009)  The Vegetarian Myth

Keith, L., McBay, A. &   Derrick Jensen. (2011) Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet

Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolution

Livingston, John. (1973) One Cosmic Instant: A Natural History of human Arrogance, (1981) The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation (1995) Rogue Primate:  An Exploration of Human Domestication, (1988)  YouTube. John Livingston Lectures on Cultural and Historical Perspectives of Nature.

The Wyrd Sisters: Farewell to Clayoquot Sound

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