Living in Truth ~ Part Two

Horseshoe Bay, BC
Horseshoe Bay, BC

I spent these “vacations” with family visiting close-by towns and places. I also had plenty of time to read, think and reflect on many things.

Horseshoe Bay Dec 31, 2015
Horseshoe Bay Dec 31, 2015

In 1984 my mother decided to come back to Argentina. We were living in Venezuela as refugees but now things were changing (politically) and mom wanted to come back. I was only 17 and new only a few people, but decided to stay: for me, Argentina was too painful a place to come back. Too many memories and losses, too much a burden to start a life; so I stayed with a good friend, started a garden with seeds mom left and we survived for an entire year on the vegetables I grew and the lentils I had stockpiled: I didn’t have a stable job, we were renting too rooms at an old woman’s house and the year before had been “Black Friday” ( a historic devaluation of the Venezuelan currency) which caused food scarcity, mostly of staples such as beans and rice.

Fast-forward 1994: I had a promising “career” as the assistant manager of a well known and successful travel agency; I was the leading instructor and curriculum development at the local airport and at the Tourism department of the local college. I would travel to different Caribbean islands and to New York almost every month (for free) and visited many countries, invited by big hotel chains and airlines. I got the highest IATA certification and my manager loved me because I was leading sales and was good with clients (at that time, I could speak five languages). Venezuela had started to fall apart but things still looked good…not for me: I had a crisis of values, I asked myself what I was doing and why…I ended up in that “career” by a combination of circumstances (not by choice) and I was a “poor” living like a millionaire: I earned basic salary with no benefits as tourism was an underpaid industry. Thanks to the perks I could travel all over the world for free, but in the early days, I had to choose between paying rent or buying food, or between having tickets for the bus or eating that night.

I abandoned my “career” without ever looking back: I decided to study psycho-pedagogy and dedicate my life to teaching children and people with special needs.

Fast forward 2002: Venezuela was in the middle of a social, political and economic turmoil that have not stopped since. Kidnappings, assaults, murders, robbery and scarcity of food, energy and water were the new normal and increasing. The already endemic corruption of institutions and public were unbearable. In early 2002 there was an attempt of coup d’état against Chavez. Then in December businesses (and the biggest oil company in Venezuela, PDVSA) called for a general strike that was known as the “oil strike” that almost paralyzed the entire country for three months…we had had enough and applied to immigrate to Canada.

I visited Argentina and my family three times after the Argentinean coup d’état that changed my life: each time, I was looking at a less and less empowered country where chronic dirty sidewalks, street holes, derelict buildings, impoverished people and failing institutions were the new “normal”…from a rich, beautiful and prosperous country once called “the barn of the world” with the first underground system in Latin America…

Today, I know Argentina is deeply indebted and bankrupt; its political and social systems are a weak house of cards; crime and drug addiction are rampant everywhere; human trafficking is common and people experience floods and bad storms all the time. A country with probably one of the best soils in the world and breathtaking landscapes and towns has water, energy and food issues and even tourists aren’t safe there anymore. I still remember how it was going out at 2 am in Buenos Aires and how safe I used to feel there…

Venezuela, my second home-country and where my two sons were born is also deeply indebted and fully dependent on oil. Its already weak institutions and the incipient agro industry are smashed and gone: food and water scarcity are the usual day-to-day way of life and power outages (which were always common) have increased even more.

I call this my year of truth. I have changed many times and lived many lives in one. Increasingly, I think more and more how Permaculture and my new understanding of climate change and all the other predicaments may serve either Argentineans or Venezuelans much more than what I may do here in Canada: let’s face it, most people in North American countries have the luxury of playing with community gardens and thinking whether or not growing tomatoes is cheaper or more effective that way than buying them from the grocery store…this is not the same situation in Argentina, Venezuela or many other countries in the world where the words “collapse”, “resource depletion”, “environmental destruction” and “climate change” are a hard reality.

In the last days, I’ve been reviewing my books and notes on survival, emergency and disaster management…I recalled the days as a scout where my friend and I went with our “troop” to impoverished populations, teaching them how to break fires and avoid floods and mudslides. I recalled the shelters we built and the storms we went through and how we laughed at the Hurricane season when I went to Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC in 1998.

Sometimes you can boil a frog and the frog may not realize it until it is too late…sometimes it only takes a small turn on of the heat for the frog to jump out.

The last straw came from a discussion forum where another member mentioned the belief (held by many in wealthy Western societies) that “you create your own reality”…

For about five billion human beings and almost all animals and plants in this planet, that is a bad joke: none of them have had the opportunity to “create” the frustrating, depleting, eroding and sometimes torturing realities they live day after day. Most don’t even have the option of choosing how to respond. That is the luxury choice of those who have emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical resources to come up with a suitable response to the reality the rest of the world is imposing to them.

If I had the strength to stay alone in a country without family at 17, abandon a career for an uncertain future at 28 and move to a new country to re-start all over again at 38, I may be able to do this again…

In an earlier visit to OUR Ecovillage a resident there told us: “you can’t think things too much…if you think them out, you will not do them: you need to follow your heart and jump.”

I don’t know what 2015 will bring to each one of us, but whatever is what the world has for me, I want this to be the year of truth.

In an earlier post, I talked about patterns (or spirals) or abundance and patterns or spirals of erosion: when the erosion is bothering you too much, sometimes the only way to “fix” the pattern is to stop digging the hole…and jump out! But if you do not have the “choice”, then those of us who still have it, may have the responsibility of providing it to those who don’t.

It’s 3:23 in the morning, and I’m awake because my great, great, grandchildren won’t let me sleep.
My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams
What did you do, while the planet was plundered?
What did you do, when the earth was unraveling?
Surely you did something when the seasons started failing
as the mammals, reptiles and birds were all dying?
Did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
What did you do once you knew?”

~Drew Dillinger

10 thoughts on “Living in Truth ~ Part Two

  1. The connection between social and environmental justice strikes me too. And I also believe that sometimes, we get called to our work. Your statement that we create our own reality struck me, because I have been thinking about this too this year gone by. The statement used to drive me insane, particularly because it seemed insensitive to the social realities people faced.

    Rollo May brought up the paradox of freedom and destiny, or the ability to respond or use agency. And Joseph Beuys used this belief too, that if we really see what is happening around us, then we are able to use our imagination to respond, or to create new organs of perception (awareness/consciousness). I think we need both, the awareness and the sensing of opportunity, and the ability to use our own agency.

    I really do believe that there is a need for the world to heal itself, regardless of the despair and limits around us. Because when I started working, every single door started to open, and there have been the most generous contributions and opportunities to create awareness. It fills me with (active) hope, although there is the feeling that we may not change enough, it feels better to do the work anyway, and to try.

    There are so many people who are trying though, and it helps to know that. In SA, we have a woman called Pat, who runs a Soil for Life program. It both helps poor people grow food to eat, and it helps to use plastic and tyres as containers and recycle products. I think she is doing so much. People are not starving because of her, and she is working against the forced helplessness of poverty.

    The idea that community members and civil society take back power in any way they can, forget about appealling to government and fill the gaps in, or do something where there are parts missing…that fills me with hope. I remember Joseph Edozien from SANE (SA New Economics) saying that people outside of the system won’t fight change. And working together creates something new, where another world may just be possible. I hope so.

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  2. Sylvia, the honesty, depth and beauty of your posts always touches my heart and makes me reflect more deeply about love, life, and connections. Thank you for having the passion and courage to share what you’ve experienced, questioned, and discovered ❤

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    1. Thanks Carola, I was inspired in your own stories from your life. I think everybody has a story if we just make time and room to listen…as somebody said in another post: tell your stories before somebody tells them for you, because not telling your story opens up the door to misunderstandings and fake/dysfunctional interpretations of your reality. And if something we can learn from ancient and native peoples is that stories shape our world and those who tell the stories are the ones who regain their power…

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      1. Sometimes the depth of grief over what we have lost makes active hope so difficult to maintain, especially when those in power refuse to make wise decisions that will have profound consequences for the earth. I just learned that Minnesota has approved the expansion of the Enbridge pipeline that borders Lake Superior. Your continued efforts, despite what you have described in Argentine and Venezuela, are inspiring and help me realize there is more I need to do to raise awareness about the threat and potential consequences of this decision.

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      2. Carol, with age comes maturity (sometimes :)) and I think what’s important is to know that they have a really big chance to win: they will continue to push for more exploitation, wars, pipelines and so on…and they may even “win”…but maturity says that that is not a excuse for us to give up. Sometimes these news fill me with anger, other times (most of them) with a deep sadness for the world and a sense of despair. I allow myself a moment of “depression” and then I tell myself that tomorrow will be another day, that while we have life, we still have hope and the more of “we” who are aware, the more chances to overcome this mess…even if that doesn’t come until after the grandchildren of our grandchildren are born…be strong.

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  3. Thank you for telling your story, Silvia. It helps me to understand where the world is at in this moment of crises, to know where you are at , and where you have come from. I deeply appreciate your blog posts. Knowing you through this media changes me. The discussion with Carol is empowering. Also, I need especially to ponder these words …. “tell your stories before somebody tells them for you, because not telling your story opens up the door to misunderstandings and fake/dysfunctional interpretations of your reality.”

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    1. Thank you Bruce, I’m also changed for meeting all of you and the community of bloggers I was introduced to by Jeff and Carol. People talk a lot about the devils of the electronic age and social media, but I have had many profound readings and “conversations” that led me to think and feel things that rarely are shared “in real life”. In a perfect world, we would meet round a fire to sing and share stories till falling asleep under the stars. Maybe that’s what’s in store for us in the future; maybe we will all meet someday and celebrate the times we had been given to live through. Or maybe not. In any case, knowing there are others out there who care and are doing a lot makes my heart warm.

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