It’s a summer afternoon in the early sixties. My sister and I, in our late teens, are cruising down a wide boulevard in a North Dallas neighborhood. We see a car coming toward us and another car coming up fast hits that car from behind, hard – whomp! – crunching it’s rear end, then backs up and squeals away with a crushed grill dangling in front. There are no other cars on the road at the moment. We stop and jump out. The impact has ruptured the gas tank (this was before they fixed that little design flaw – duh) and gas was spewing out on the road. The driver, a young woman, was slumped down behind the steering wheel and looked unconscious. As my sister and I reached the edge of the pavement, preparing to rush across the street and pull her out before the gas caught fire, there seemed to be an invisible force field stopping us. It was a physical force that I couldn’t move against and I looked over at my sister and she was looking at me – what the heck is this? Then we both snapped and it was gone and we pulled the woman from the car.
I have experienced all kinds of fear in my life. Some of it justified by the immediate situation (some fear is useful, like of a hot stove or an icy road) and some of it just the deep grinding rut of fear in the mind. It seems to me that that kind of fear shrinks our lives and keeps us from shining out with compassion and sharing and love.
It’s obvious that if we are going to save our planet, save ourselves, that we are going to have to work together. The capitalist model of competing for resources, winners and losers, doesn’t make sense any more when 95% of the beings on the planet are losers (98%? 99?). Fear holds us back. What we can’t see when we are afraid is the joy of collective action, the buoyant lift of solidarity in action that carries us over all the barricades of fear and hesitation.
I began writing when I was 11. I was published by the time I was 14. But I didn’t find my life’s work until my first experience with a radical newspaper with a purpose (saving an aquifer and stopping a nuclear power plant and publicizing and celebrating the writers and artists and musicians among us). The joy of the collective action kept us going 12-18 hour days, 7 days a week, because that’s what it took and I felt so lucky to be there.
And I still feel lucky about my work. In a way, it’s easier now to reach a lot of people. I just sit here at my keyboard and type and post! There is goes. No trees killed, no printers ink (or bills), no gasoline used to distribute (well, computers aren’t exactly purely green). But I am alone in this room. I don’t see the people I collaborate with and I never get to walk into a cafe and see people sitting around reading my newspaper, hot off the presses.
I love it that the EarthFirst! newspaper is still on newsprint. I’m thinking about printing up the book I’m writing right now on a copy machine, binding it by hand and distributing it by just passing copies around, hand to hand. Kind of like a bucket brigade . . . pass it on.