Politics and practice for a new human era become more clear through experiencing them together and our attempts to explain them to each other. They take shape through contemporary thought, daily struggles we experience and witness, and social movement.
From these phenomena we can learn much about where we will need to go - who we will need to learn how to collectively become - if we are to survive the morass of social and environmental challenges facing humankind.
Along the way, guideposts are clues; they are markers we see and can return to that guide us as we move forward. Likewise, mapping is an action word, as in the act of mapping. I engage in the act of mapping not because I know what the map looks like, but because I don't know what the terrain looks like.
We can follow in the steps of those who came before us. We can look to and learn from those who are actively engaged in this work today. And we will piece it together as we go. As the most prominent educators for social change in the 20th Century so aptly have said, this type of learning requires making the road while walking.
Historical mapping: politics of struggle to the politics of becoming
The modern Enlightenment project, of which our political economy is a product, had as its task to understand the limitations in knowing from which it emerged. We are at such a moment again, and the task now is to understand the limitations of modern thought; the limitations in knowing which shape our own contemporary, collective experience.
One of the fundamental differences this time, however, is that even the ability to fully know, to feel control over our environment, has been dis-proven. There are no formulas or easy answers; people are trying to figure out, by doing, what change must look like now if we, or our descendants, are to live in a world able to support our individual and collective well-being. This is about how we manage ourselves. The endeavor is ideological, emotional, related to values and faith, contingent upon what we can glean as individuals and collectively. It is as much about how and what we don't know as it is about knowledge and rationalism. It is about discovery, and who we will collectively become.
Mapping of forces: finding each other in unknown territory
The meaning of democracy is changing and deepening. Participation in democratic processes happens through legislative politics and in the multiple and diverse communities of which we are a part. The protection and deepening of democratic practice requires nothing less than creating a culture capable of building a society of individual and collective well-being.
Cultural work and cultural workers have great potential influence in this political landscape. And in this age of culture creation, there are many different kinds of cultural workers. They include those who are committed to transforming and surpassing theories and practices built on colonization, racism and environmental destruction. They are committed to participate as intentionally and responsibly as possible in the collective rite of passage that leads to possibilities for a shared future of well-being. Finding each other and understanding our relationships to each other across the divides and divisions of our current system is an crucial part of the work.
Principles, practices and institutions
Politics are the principles, practices and institutions that shape and are shaped by the relationships between Self and Other that guide our actions.
Winona LaDuke, an internationally acclaimed Native American activist, environmentalist, economist, author and orator is famously quoted as saying: “We don’t want a bigger piece of the pie, we want a different pie.”
Baking a different pie requires a different recipe. Whether we do so consciously or not, we are engaged in a pivotal moment for determining the basic ingredients of this new pie, of this new ways of seeing and being in the world.
Awareness of the transformative collective process we're in is what allows us to participate in it as consciously and effectively as possible: In this human, social pie, our relationships between the Self and Other are the building blocks of our sciences, spiritualities, social systems, and human systems.