Each of the 4Rs of Deep Adaptation, Resilience, Restoration, Relinquishing and Reconciliation is a searching journey from the world we have to the world we want. The more we explore, the more we find to explore. Just looking at all the associations we have with the word Reconciliation opens many doors. Whether we talk about intra-personal, inter-personal or our relations with the living metabolism of the earth, it means a return to friendly relations. It can mean establishing compatibility of beliefs and practices. In accounting, it refers to a balancing of accounts, rendering what comes in with what goes out, reestablishing harmony at every possible scale.
Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts. — Albert Einstein
We have only to look at our accounts with Earth itself to grasp how out of balance we are. Even the terms we use for accounting are evidence of cognitive colonization. They only reflect the mindset of separation. For humanity to meet and survive what is taking shape, even at this moment, reconciliation implies redefining those terms, an enormous commitment on every level, the expenditure of massive personal and collective resources, a profound re-ordering at the soul level, in the human energy body.
Defining a different path forward, one reflecting the true nature of our entanglements, we imagine how fraught with obstacles such an effort might be as we scan the spiritual, social, political, environmental and financial landscape in this time of increasing risk, uncertainty and unfolding collapse. Even a limited unpacking of what we mean by justice leads to considerations of decolonization as it is tied to the preservation of nation states, the preservation of capital, risk and financial systems driven by commodification, shareholder interests and debt-driven speculation.
In this consideration, we must include 1) racial justice: establishing racial equity by confronting the history of racial injustice and addressing systemic issues perpetuating racial stereotyping, racial privileges and locking racial groups out of educational, economic, housing and employment opportunities; 2)cognitive justice: the breaking of exclusionary ideologies to include recognition and establishment of the right of different knowledge systems to co-exist; the return of meaning to being. There are no outdated, irrelevant or second-class ways of knowing the world; 3) relational justice, also called restorative justice: the repairing of relations damaged by criminal violence and the reformation of responsibility based on generosity, compassion and humility, 4) intergenerational justice: the considerations of generational equity in tax and spending policy, allocating funding for the future security of generations yet unborn, the way we live now and how we address climate change, 5) ecological or environmental justice: establishing equity in consideration of environmental impacts on community infrastructure, habits, livelihoods and public health, 6) economic justice: establishing fairness in policies effecting economic stability, opportunity, mobility, security and benefits to all members of the economic system. The players in this conversation include all beings, all life, all sentience from the macro to the micro-biome.
Where do ‘we’ stand in all this and what is the prerequisite for any of this investigation? It’s one thing to find a separate peace, yet our internal state has never been separate from the larger matrix. For us to find congruence in all our relations, we have to renounce the exhausted story of ‘progress’ and find relief from the inadequate ideology of ‘reform,’ which now only serves the entrenched, never really challenging or even touching the comfortable. Reform is a euphemism for cooptation and defeat. At this very moment in America, the comfortable receive rapid, virtually unlimited and unconditional transfusions of taxpayer money created out of thin air while the proletariat will ultimately bear the burden of these expenditures while hacking away at impenetrable forests of shifting bureaucratic obstacles to receive a few crumbs.
Coming to any semblance of reconciliation of all these accounts strikes to the core of who we imagine we are, the limits of language, the pandemics of depression, addiction, hopelessness, auto-immune disorders, meaninglessness, the loss of economic mobility, the obscene concentration of wealth, the loss of personal agency, the destruction of the biosphere and biodiversity, the decline of life expectancy and the cloistering of the future in a shrinking box of falsehoods.
These conditions are signals of exiled human capacities, the disappearing knowledge systems defining the diversity of relationships we have with ourselves, our surroundings and the planetary matrix. Our institutions have become intense battlegrounds where values are shredded, where we diverge from community and settle for ever narrowing definitions of opportunity, social mobility, abundance and our sacred responsibilities.
It’s only even possible to consider reconciling the most inclusive list of stakeholders and relational issues, balancing accounts, as it were, if the primary premise is accepted: the archetypes of separation, human superiority and mastery over nature, rooted in the Enlightenment and capitalism, are spelling our doom. The entire system has come to represent only domination, extraction, exploitation and violence.
That violence is expressed as colonial expansion, the creation of empire, increasingly extreme exploitation of life, natural and personal resources, the institution of extractive economies including he corrosion of personal well-being, the surveillance state, the growth of mechanisms of control, the corruption of thought, truth and the persistent reinforcement of a paradigm of exclusion.
Every one of these features, every level and domain of operation of the Vehicle of Extinction can be represented as the management and offloading of risk. All risk is deflected by the few to the many. Living with risk infuses the majority of lives with increasing uncertainty, instability and vulnerability. The pandemic is highlighting these inequities because service workers in many fields (manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, law enforcement) and even many health care workers now deemed essential during COVID shut-downs are the very ones with no choice but to expose themselves to the increasing risk of infection. While we celebrate the genius, the heroic commitment and the compassion of these frontline workers, their most admirable virtues are also being exploited along the way.
True justice as the equitable redistribution of risk, the restoration of a tangible level of social and systemic financial support to more broadly manage uncertainty. Sharing risk equitably is a benefit to all, not only the privileged few. If risk levels were the central motivating factor in repairing our relationships, in only one of many possible ways, we would be addressing climate change on a massive scale. We would be opening economic opportunity, social mobility, repairing mental and spiritual health, increasing public safety and unleashing untold reservoirs of creativity and generous contribution to the well-being of the whole. None of this is about eliminating risk. That would be impossible. But imagine a future driven by an abiding clarity on the meaning of justice in all its forms. In that world, counting all that counts including all that cannot be counted, our accounts would be moving toward reconciliation.