Weezie Yancey-Siegel

The Possibility of Personal and Societal Transformation
A few nights ago, I was sitting in a friend’s room working on a final project that involved making a collage with pictures representing the current problems in our world such as oppression, poverty, environmental destruction, etc. My friend began talking about how she preferred to remain uninvolved with movements for large, revolutionary change, because she did not believe it could ever be effective. When I asked her to elaborate, she went on to explain that she preferred to help out in small ways that would provide immediate relief to people and things in need, and that she felt too discouraged by the problems of the world to believe that there was anything she could possibly do to put an end to injustice or destitution, and making an effort was not worth it. Her mindset jolted me, yet it was a moment in which I realized the impact that Healing Ourselves and Healing Our Communities has had on my way of thinking. Starting with my reading of The Better World Handbook at the beginning of the course, I have been on a mental journey of contemplating the cycle of hope and cycle of apathy, and how it affects our society in thinking about the problems apparent within it. Many times I myself, like my friend, have felt powerless in effecting change when I take into account factors such the culture of cynicism and

lack of values in our culture. it is the only thing that ever has." What I keep returning to in my own mental reflections is how the title of our course rings so true. change will never come about. “When I look around and see many others plagued by the cycle of apathy.” Yet. and act strategically. What we need in society is a paradigm shift in many realms of thinking. committed people can change the world. One of my past reflections reads. the cycle of violence and hate. and encompasses many of the smaller lessons of the class. Indeed. Without the ability or drive to question one’s situation and place in the world. and one lesson I have gained from this course is that change starts small. as many readings iterated. domination (in this case the dominating force being apathy or cynicism) is a two-part process. The first part. There is a need for a peace and healthiness of mind and body in . If we keep hope alive. remain persistent in finding solutions. instilled by the dominators or oppressors and accepted by the dominated. and the uneven distribution of power. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful.apathy. or if I should just give up and take the easy route of cynicism. As Margaret Mead said in one of my favorite quotes. I wonder if there is any point to the effort I am making in creating a positive change. we can affect great change in society. “healing ourselves” is the first step to creating a paradigm shift for change in our communities and the larger world.” and then permeates throughout the rest of society. with actions by “ordinary citizens.

the individual before one can create sustainable peace and positive difference in the community. Through our experiential meditation exercises I have become more attuned to my . “those motivated by an oppressive sense of obligation are more likely to burn out.” I now believe that it is a fundamental component to being selfless. widespread change.” and “effectiveness will suffer if self-interest is main motivation. The section of our course spent on mindfulness and expanded consciousness provided a lesson in how to ensure that our mind and body are prepared for creating greater. As Consciousness in Action explains. If one puts too much energy and time into their work for the community to the point that care for one’s self and care for others is thrown off balance. values. technological society we have numbed ourselves to the ability to feel emotion and to listen to what our body and minds are trying to communicate to us. In our modern. we are able to reach the root of our intentions. we must assess our own mindsets and reasons for why we are engaged in our work. and beliefs are in the right place before helping others. Although time spent on our self tends to be seen as “selfish.” Through meditation and other methods for cultivating awareness. If we are to engage in work that requires a shift in mindset. and even shift our consciousness so that it aligns with certain values that will make ourselves more content and our work more effective. as we need to ensure that our mindset. and the efficacy of their work is negatively affected.

in which I discovered a world that had always been right in front of my eyes. and this value in itself makes us human. many of which I keep suppressed and therefore leads to unhealthy states of being and increased anxiety in relations with other people. we can unlock many abilities and ideas that are merely lying under our current levels of consciousness. beliefs. viewing nature as a “distraction” to the learning process. Our own education system is conducted indoors. I have realized that if meditation becomes more of an accepted. Relating to this heightened state of consciousness. Yet indigenous societies. a view shared by many members of western society. I have grown up viewing the concepts of conservation and environmental justice as passions. everyday aspect of our society. generated an “aha!” moment. our reconnection with nature as humans is fundamental to creating a more balanced. interests. As Jill Taylor describes in her experience with a stroke in her left hemisphere. This eventually gears us to see it as something to dominate and conquer. we must train ourselves to have the ability to unlock the power of our right brain in order to increase our introspection and mindfulness of the big picture and interconnectedness of life. or hobbies. another key aspect to our educational journey in this course. healed community.own feelings. and emotions. in which we used our senses to create a deeper awareness of natural occurrences. recognize that protecting the land and biodiversity is a critical part of existence. Our experiential exercise in the outback. We as humans .

we can begin to reverse the destruction that we are inflicting on it and in turn heal our larger global community. Our “gene of compassion” which I believe is inherent in all of us as humans can be nurtured through this bond with something that goes beyond our lives in the present. we are losing touch with value systems and aspects of identity that have been with us for centuries. and if we begin to realize and reconnect with this aspect of our identity. One of the reasons that indigenous communities. As “monocultures of the mind” (a term coined by environmental and social activist Vandana Shiva) grows as a force tied to increasing globalization. discovering this missing piece of identity which was lost in the shuffle of modernity and immigration is crucial to generating a new set of values emphasizing the maintenance of culture. Speaking of a focus on the present. and land. As a process of healing for those in the Western world. and community. land. survived the onslaught of colonization and modernity was their strong bonds to their culture.are members of this world. The term “re-connecting with our roots” can extend beyond a renewed sense of community with the natural world to a re-discovery of our own heritage and cultural background. such as those in the Andes. traditions. I myself have taken an interest in finding out more about my heritage so that I can have a stronger sense of identity and values in this everchanging world. another lesson and idea I have found interesting in the cycle of hope versus apathy is the focus on the .

This is why it is important to use the imagination and look ahead. if someone had not thought that black and whites could eventually attend school together. and change did eventually come about.future and the unleashing of the imagination. we would still be living that reality. Gandhi. energy. revolutionary ideas of what could be. Changemakers of the past. “You may never know what results come of your action. Sixty years ago. Ideas for Action introduced me to the idea of Prefigurative Politics. My friend who I mentioned earlier (and my former mindset) looks around and sees everything that is wrong with society. have not been limited by the problems that they see around them. but if you do nothing there will be no result. we will realize that it was worth the struggle. yet if we look at our assets and use our time. skills. in which “we should act now as if we were living in the better world we are fighting for. and resources towards making change for future generations. written about by Robin Kelley in Freedom Dreams. Great changemakers in the past such as Martin Luther King.” I just began to learn about Howard Zinn. and Thoreau. but if we look around and realize that many values apparent in our society today didn’t exist in their time. such as women and civil rights leaders may never have seen the result of their actions. However. it is worth a shot. an American intellectual who recently died earlier this year. One of . they instead keep a steady eye on the future and generate new. this focus on the future in not to say that we the present is not important as well.” as Gandhi said.

For example. If we continue to live under the belief that we have no power. Before we can begin to heal ourselves and our communities. in defiance of all that is bad around us. discussed in depth by Leela Fernandes in Spiritualizing Feminist Practice are apparent both within the organization itself and in the work it is doing . school administrators. The mainstream idea of “philanthropy” or “social justice” has many systems of dominance and unfairness built into it and perpetuated by it. family members. reconnecting with our roots. “…if we do act. etc). or breaking out of the cycle of cynicism. is itself a marvelous victory. whether it be in cultivating awareness. ego is manifested by individuals working in organizations and may not be addressed because it is considered to be doing good work and is therefore inherently “good. The traditional forms of healing and social change need to be questioned and re-created. The future is an infinite succession of presents.” By healing our own individual mindsets. we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. and to live now as we think human beings should live. in however small a way. which is in simple terms just a larger entity made up of individuals who have the ability to change themselves. it is important to know what to heal and how to heal. we are taking one step in the transformation of the society.his quotes relates to this theory. we are simply accepting the position of dominance that being placed on us by a small group of decision-makers (whether thy be politicians.” These inequalities.

yet it leads to dependence on the entity that is giving the resources out. asset-based method for community development that targets the root of the problem (or the whole system of injustice for that matter) is a better alternative because what we may see as beneficial for another community is tainted with our own conceptions of the truth and what should be. reciprocal. and other knowledge systems such as Indigenous Knowledge are seen as backward. Yet many aspects of Indigenous Knowledge. and is also a “band-aid” solution to the larger problem. even when it may seem more difficult than just doing things in the way you think is best. For example. we think that simply giving handouts to people in need is the right thing to do. we must work with the community. My experience in my internship this semester has taught me a lot about working with a community rather than for a community.” It has been eye-opening for me to read and talk with guest speakers about the entirely different way of seeing and learning about the world that comes along with Indigenous Knowledge. leave our ego behind and “decolonize” our minds. such as indigenous plants for healing. Our society and education system uses a pedagogy based on Cartesian-Newtonian methods for finding truth. to ensure that we are not perpetuating the systems we are fighting against. are valuable and in many respects use a more sustainable way of healing as well as “progress. . Instead.with the greater community. Many times. A sustainable.

A member of the indigenous community who happens to also be a mechanic in the modern world will apply his ways of knowing and . In order to help himself and the community thrive. Indigenous communities use their ways of knowing to generate harmony within their communities. discussed in Cultural Affirmation and Affirmation of Cultural Diversity in the Andes. as well as a reciprocal relationship between the learner and what is being learned. maintaining balance in many areas of their society. whereas we in modern society tend to separate and compartmentalize things. The potato raises the farmer as much as the farmer raises the potato. If we are to shift the paradigm of values in Western society towards a more just world. emphasizes the cultivation of wisdom and values. This “attunement between beings” is much more the goal in indigenous knowledge. It awes me that the indigenous community is able to apply these modes of understanding the world (which I am still struggling to grasp) in order to live and survive in the modern world as well. I believe that it is important to incorporate aspects of IK in the transformation. One of the first steps in transforming our society is to focus on transforming our system of education The indigenous concept of education.the indigenous mindset has a more interconnected and holistic way of seeing the world. rather than trying to “know” or dominate something. a farmer “listens” to signs transmitted from the natural world in order to know how to best sow his crop.

although filled with many religious followers. The challenge is cultivating this sense of spirituality within our own society. Western society could have the potential to transform into a more mindful. we have to change the public’s views. In learning about the Chagga people in What is Indigenous Knowledge? Voices from the Academy. tends to separate belief and value from everyday actions and ways of life. not just political or economic systems. as I have been programmed to go about things in an entirely different way. it was fascinating to know that among land. In passing on knowledge connected to morality instead of merely knowledge connected to economic utility. in which we used traditional western methods of learning and gaining knowledge typical within the academic world to examine knowledge systems that are quite the opposite of our methods. cattle and water. This is the difference needed for an everlasting and . Another principle of education in IK is that the method emphasizes the passing on of values from the older generation to the younger generation. It is still difficult for me to fully wrap my head around these concepts and understand this way of thinking. If we are to turn over a new leaf and begin on a new track of societal reform. Both Gandhi and Martin Luther King discuss the power of tying belief and faith to the movement for positive change in society. healed community. Our class itself is somewhat of a paradox. which. proverbs were seen just as important in society.learning to how he relates to machinery.

guidelines. discussion. From my readings of Gandhi. and seeing life holistically. including meditation. and reflection. reading. and justice work. Our current society is filled with “spiritual orphans. Values and morals are not demonstrated to us by those who have power or people we see in the media. Needed for this change in mindset is the spiritualization of society. Leela Fernandes says. and then nurture the growth of these values. the idea of making large changes in the roots of society through nonviolence has always seemed very abstract. The power of truth and justice is strong enough to overcome some of the toughest . we must build society with a moral compass to guide evolution and progress.sustainable change. In Spiritualizing Feminist Politics. My family has a long history of non-violence. could lead to a more just and equal world. Therefore. and outcomes of nonviolent resistance and social change. Although I grew up being taught to “turn the other cheek” and treat others the way I would like to be treated. and nonviolent movements I am beginning to understand the process. “there is an essence of self that transcends differences and divisions” and accessing this self so that it permeates throughout the rest of the community or society is a revolutionary idea. This connects to many other topics discussed. But from my own selftransformation through meditation.” in the words of Willa Mankiller. I really do believe that there are universal values of compassion and understanding that if nurtured correctly. nature. MLK. peace.

Nonviolence can be very effective in creating lasting change. In order to strengthen my adherence to this belief. California. “Nonviolent action is born out of nonviolent living.” In order to help my community in its path towards nonviolence.oppressors in society. Yet. rather than change that has been won through methods that will only create more hate and violence. rotating relationship. mind. as I myself have experienced a new outlook on the possibility of change. I hope to follow Martin Luther King’s words. feeling. and know that it starts small and from the bottom up. I look forward to my continued . Yet it is a reciprocal. I am still conscious of the fact that it is easy to believe in and follow the ideology of nonviolence when living in a safe. I myself as an individual need to restrain from violence to myself or to others around me. Through healing ourselves with changes in thought. I hope to continue with my study of the methods and concept of nonviolence so that I can be an effective contributor to my local and global community. I may act in a way that does not adhere to my very own beliefs in nonviolence. and action. If confronted with violence and hate. easy environment such as Claremont. Ensuring that I stick with these beliefs when faced with a difficult situation will be the greatest test. in that with healthier communities. we will be equipped with the tools to heal our wider communities. I hope that the power of hope reveal itself to those who have surrendered to an apathetic state. individuals will continue to be healed. I know of it’s effectiveness.

spiritual. and personal journey that was catalyzed by many things I have learned this semester. . academic.