The Struggle

O bliss of understanding, greater than the bliss of imagining or feeling.” ~ J.L. Borges – The God’s Script

Courtesy of: Struggle Demachy, Robert, b.1859-1936 Camera Work V, 1904 19.5 x 12.2 cm Halftone From:
Courtesy of:
Demachy, Robert, b.1859-1936
Camera Work V, 1904
19.5 x 12.2 cm


There is a reason I named this blog “mainstream Permaculture”: I wanted to report the struggles and challenges as well as the successes of someone who is not in a position to “leave all behind” and immerse herself in a fully “Permaculture path”.

The intention was to share what 99% of people out there face: a lack of real “choices”, the everyday struggle of life, for some to the level of survival (such is the case of refugees of all kinds) and for others, at a more meta-physical level, that may involve real physical traps (sometimes invisible to others) such as lack of family support, age, health, debt, carrying personal traumas and lack of skills, access to resources, support, etc

Little would I know how difficult it would be for me to go through this myself: am I losing the battle? Am I giving up?

The reality is that for many, becoming an “activist”, a “radical” or even a “permaculturist” or “transitioner” feels more of a heavy burden we want to avoid than a liberation process: nobody wants to hear (and few talk) about the struggles real people face day after day to fulfil even what their values and heart tell them they must: again, from aging to having dependants and bills to pay, all conspires to keep you out of that what you know you need to do and be involved with.

In the last past month, I have written less and less and I have played with the thought to closing this and my other blog for good…lately, I have also played with the idea of creating a new one with a different name, one where I can openly talk about things I am discovering but I’m auto-censoring because not doing so would risk relationships, work and causes I’m engaged in.


There is no 50%-50%: you either are or you are not. You either jump or are left behind.

What I’ve seen so far is a lot of BS said by many with great hearts: I will never experience reality as you do, and you’d never experience mine…

“Choices” is the preferred word coming from those who are privileged. They may not even be aware of their own privilege and I don’t want to put a burden on their shoulders as it is not “their fault”: but the reality is that you only have a “choice” when you are somewhat free to choose the path that others see for you as a “choice”.

Privilege may be something as obvious as having enough money, health, time, skills, strength, land, family support, friends and the law on your side to “leave all behind” and start doing what you love/want, even if that is in borrowed land, with shared tools and implies leaving many things out of the picture (things that society says we “need”). The fact that you “have a choice” makes you privileged.

For those who have privilege, those who don’t do what they are doing are just “making excuses”. It reminds me of the same mentality that says that poor people in poor countries are just corrupt, or lazy or lack creativity; or the mentality that thinks women are raped because they provoked the attacker; or the mentality that says that “everything happens for a reason” ignoring the horrifying trauma that thought causes on those who have been physically, emotionally or sexually abused as children, have lived through coup d’états or wars or famines or climate-driven displacement…

Understanding carries a burden: we can no longer be naive and accept ignorance or plain disrespectful ideas and attitudes…

Such as delusions that we could save the world by planting crops without water…(really?!)

I feel the burden every single day and I feel trapped. That is my reality and that is the reality for most out there.

The enemies are faceless because the root cause is not a single perpetrator: it is the complexity of a system that has gone too far, a system where all of us belong, even those who think they are safe or better because they have “escaped the grid”…

Idolizing rural, traditional and non industrial cultures is not the way out either: I come from one. I know of the pain of having nothing, of not being accepted, of hidden (but openly accepted) practices of oppression and abuse within those “wonderful traditional cultures”: every single human culture has rules and a way for individuals to either “fit in” or be left out. Outcasts are not a making of industrial and Western civilization. Understanding hurts: there is no easy way out!

Life is tough: ask the hare that has to hide its children from the fox or the lynx; life is not fair: ask the hungry lion who has to run weak for days until he finds someone to pray on; life is complex: I can feel closer to my perpetrator than to those who offer me support for the pain he inflicted to me; life is surprising: you can wake up of your endless dream at 46 and feel like 20 again, or find true love at 50; life is wonderful: there is an endless parade of beauty, love and inspiration if you pay close attention…

Fall and winter have always been a source of reflection for me. The life circumstances I’m currently experiencing have cut my time allowance for doing many of the things I love, but have also given me plenty of time to read, reflect and think (not so to write and share)

There is no such a thing as “mainstream Permaculture”. The changes will either come to us and we will all have to respond from whatever levels of privilege we have at the time or some of us will create/force them (and believe me, those who can actually “create change” are already privileged)

For some, this is still a matter of “choices”, for most, it is fate and the endless struggle to be…

The will to survive
The will to survive

5 Comments on “The Struggle

  1. I can resonate with the fine line between hope and despair that comes with understanding social injustice and it’s impacts. That said, when I worked as a trauma counsellor for three years, I witnessed admirable choices from people in the poorest of communities. There were women who escorted others through terrible areas in order to protect them from attack (after their own traumas motivated them).

    I too think a decontextualized sustainability movement isn’t helpful. But we can choose to respond to a disempowering and shame provoking social structure, by writing, sharing, caring, exploring the life of meaning and working towards a different world, even if the only thing we have to share our our insights.

    I’m blinded by privilege a lot of the time. I try to listen. It’s meant being able to share the struggles immigrants share in trying to access education. In 2010, I felt totally overwhelmed. But one of my professors once shared that every effort towards a different world is an act of political love, no matter if we fail again and again and again. It keeps me inspired during those times I lose hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Nicci,
      Sometimes pain and challenges make us stronger, but most of the time, they break us. It all depends on the context, the timing, the support mechanisms and the amount of pain and challenges…
      I know each small step and effort counts, even if we can’t see the outcome: lately I’ve felt I have been asking too much from myself, and what I see out there is a huge monster. I may be soon working with even more vulnerable people and I’m scared: I no longer know if I can continue working from within the system, accepting its limitations, and I don’t feel strong enough to leave and try to start working “outside”. I just don’t have the strength, the skills, the age and the support network to do it…and I wonder if I should just give up and focus on doing what I know, even when that feels super square and small.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can so relate to the feelings you’re having. I think the feeling of helplessness comes with community work, and particularly because the system is so unjust. In 2010, I felt so overwhelmed and upset that I ended up with a complete writers block (right at a time when I was supposed to be completing my thesis). I ended up writing my (new) thesis on the topic of your latest post – that radical humanism isn’t enough – and the need to take social structure into account. And I was still overwhelmed.

        I felt unqualified too. I felt as though I didn’t know enough to make any difference, and that I was way out of my depth. What started to happen was a major crisis because all those ways I’d seen the world, and all the things I thought I knew started to fall away.

        From a social justice perspective, people struggle because the system causes pain and self doubt. It’s a humiliating social structure (as you’ve shared) which aims to disempower ‘other’ people, and very often people are not aware of how much they have within them already, qualities the system hasn’t been able to take away. Fanon (who wrote the wretched of the earth) said that when people came to him declaring their own inadequacies, he tried to get them to focus on structural injustices rather than personal problems.

        I remember the person who helped me through explaining to me that when you feel you don’t know anything, you’re in the right place. Liberationist perspectives say that the true knowledge is in the hands of the communities you would be working with. The so – called ‘expert’ often imposes values from the outside. Where the person who is willing to talk and engage with communities, listening to them so that they can share how they would best like to approach a project is able to help the community work with the agency that is within them, and that the system has tried to take away.

        I’ve learned about permaculture and disaster management from you, so I don’t know a lot about that. But I have been exploring how to work with conversations on sustainability, capitalism and the need to give people space to speak or share, exploring what earth and community means to them, hopefully as a way of seeding change. I’ve found that very often, school children know as much as I do (based on intuitive insights).

        I don’t know if this helps at all? I’m trying to think about who has written about this crisis in helpful ways, so that I can share it with you. But your very ability to be so honest and open is really inspiring to me too.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Your testimony is gut wrenchingly honest Silvia. I recall in 1993 as I was about to leave Chiapas and Oaxaxa after volunteering for six months with a group of Christian Cooperatives and the Itinerant Ecclesial Missionaries, as Alejadro Solalinde who led the the inspired students, lawyers, health workers, an one lone carpenter (me). A poor companero friend, Belo, said to me … “it so easy for you, when you will go back to Canada to a job and security and wealth.” I have never forgotten that, and so many times since then I feel like I have failed….

    …Check this link about Padre Alandjro – … You remind me him, Silvia.

    I was so shocked in 2008 when I read in the Amnesty International newsletter that my wife and I subscribe to, how Alejandro had left Mexico after be threatened by the “powers that be.” He didn’t leave for long though.

    As I have followed you on your journey Silvia, (via your blog ) I feel so profoundly connected to the struggle you outline here. I am one of the “arrogant ones”, feeling somehow “better” that I utilize renewable energy forms and live off-grid. In my own “black dog” moments (as Winston Churchill described being down or depressed) I feel like a sell-out, a hypocrite, and a scoundrel of the worst kind. A have failed at so many levels, in so many ways… and yet, I go on….

    Recently on my birthday, my wife got me a new book The Optimistic Environmentalist, by David Boyd of Pender Island… he has worked as an environmental lawyer and also speaks of going through “the black dog…” I’ve only just read the first chapter, and it’s been interesting so far. Maybe it’s available in the Vancouver Library, and you said you been reading alot lately.

    I appreciate your reflections Silvia, and please think of all the little lone wildflowers right next to your wildflowers, including me – all with the will to survive… with peace, love, solidarity, and friendship … Bruce

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bruce,
      Thank you for sharing father Alejandro’s work. The privilege I’m talking about is reflected on the early warning of the article itself: “Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of violence, which may be disturbing to some readers.”
      For me, reading that article was not traumatic: it was the reassurance that we humans have created an incredibly corrupt system. One of my students in Venezuela (a girl) was kidnapped; I escaped rape and robbery a few times. I know how extreme fear feels like…for none of them (and even many here in beautiful BC ) Permaculture or Transition represents a “choice”…sometimes burdens are just too heavy and sometimes things break in ways that there is no realistic way to fix them.
      It would be unfair to say I’m at a crossroads, but I do feel I am: if I choose the path I see as the only ethical way to live in this planet, I would have to leave a lot of good people behind and break a lot of promises. If I stay I have the chance to make a tiny difference on people’s lives through my work, but I would have to renounce to many of my Permaculture experiments and projects. I physically can’t do both and that’s hard for me to swallow…life sometimes put us in strange roads. I am privilege enough to make a “choice” even if that choice leaves me beyond sad. Those who I can support have few or no choices at all.
      People doing what you are doing are necessary: we need to know that another world is possible, that at some point there might be choices after all. Otherwise life would be unbearable…

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: