I begin with a premise: Lewis Hyde’s explantation of gift economies;
“Objects . . . will remain plentiful because they are treated as gifts.” A gift relationship with nature is a “formal give-and-take that acknowledges our participation in, and dependence upon, natural increase. We tend to respond to nature as a part of ourselves, not a stranger or alien available for exploitation. Gift exchange is the commerce of choice, for it is commerce that harmonizes with, or participates in, the process of [nature’s] increase.”
How then, in a market economy, can we behave “as if” the living world were a gift, asks R. Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass. “We could start by refusing to participate, a moral choice. Water is a gift for all, not meant to be bought and sold. Don’t buy it. When food has been wrenched from the earth, depleting the soil and poisoning our relatives in the name of higher yields, don’t buy it.”
This would seem obvious, yet its not. Many of us feel helplessly hooked onto a cycle of productivity and consumption, unable to not only rest but simply see where we are and how far/deep the consequences of our daily choices run. And this is certainly troubling (to say the least) as the “modern idea of progress, [performance, wellbeing and success] is so often a frame what is actually the destruction of the natural productivity of an ecosystem.”
Why do we continue to normalize consumerism when at the brink of environmental collapse? When did we begin to separate the act of owning from the fact of taking from laborers and the land. I resonate with the ancient Vedic framework of living - one that has income and pleasure grounded within a sensitivity and responsibility to the ecological histories and futures of this world. It isn’t news that systemic oppression, brutality, disease, colonialist thinking, capitalism and an abusive stance towards the environment all coproduce one another. Escaping the city, pausing to contemplate, boycotting (social) media’s industries or setting up self-sustaining communes is not feasible for the most of us. I recognize the privilege that cushions this conversation. That being said, I have a strong feeling that most of you reading this can in fact commit to certain refusals - sustained refusals - within the scope of your current situations. And it is more important than ever that we create the will and discipline to do so.
So I urge: let us not mindlessly give power to the very establishments we hope to challenge. Let us acknowledge how deeply interdependent and intertwined our individual experiences are with the far-reaching webs of loosely defined communities (human and non-human, seen and unseen) that we live amongst. Let us shift attention away from adding and towards caring, maintaining and honoring.
108 Days of Resistance-in-Place is a call to more diligently deepen our connection to place: Country nestled within the city. (No, rather, Country giving life to, making place for.) To move beyond algorithms and efficiency, and into learning about our immediate neighbors, the local weeds, migration patterns, indigenous histories, tide cycles and more. To glorify the land that gives, instead of the things that we buy. To start our day in thanks, and end our day in thanks. In J. Odell’s words “when the logic of capitalist productivity threatens both endangered life and endangered ideas, I see little difference between habitat restoration in the traditional sense and restoring habits for human thought.”
For the duration of 108 days, I will document; resisting digital and urban temptations (while still living/working deep in those spaces and engaging with), attending to what needs tending to (breath, land, personal encounters), and unlearning internalized capitalist tendencies. If anything, I hope for this to serve as a gentle reminder, my hand in your hand; that we can be better.
We must be better.
108 Days of Resistance-in-Place