Apart, but Together for Change

Human security goes beyond shielding your family and community from bullets, from bombs, from hijacked planes. Human security goes beyond safeguarding a socio-economic system that gives and perpetuates the fullness of freedom, rights, value, and respect to those whose income, leisure, dignity, and security need little to no enhancing, leaving the pittance to the rest of us.
To return to the past normal before the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on lock-down, crashed economies, and which continues to infect and take the lives of the most vulnerable systematically … to allow the dominant culture, structures, and institutions that do not protect most of the world’s population, the planet’s health, and the creatures that call the earth home, would be a slap in the face … a disgrace to the undervalued, overlooked, silenced, forgotten, exploited, and sacrificed for the sake of the livelihoods of those who would like us to adopt, on faith, that our human value and the value of our planet should only be calculated by how much someone is willing to pay … by the dollar amount a capitalist economic market has deemed of worth, even if that metric does not reflect or consider the essential and sacred human concerns that truly need to be valued and appraised to their full degree because without such evaluations we will — as individuals and communities — stand in our own way not only from achieving greatness but our own survival.
The pandemic has exposed the cracks of our systems and dominant culture … those underscored by an imperialist white-supremacy capitalist patriarchy … which most of the world knew existed long before COVID-19 took its first victim. The pandemic has dismantled the lie that is the invisible hand of the free market and the so-called liberty and security and wealth it would bestow upon us. Instead, what we have seen is the accumulation of wealth for a few through dispossession from the many, and the restoration of class “power” for a sliver of our human population. The pandemic has proven to us that the truly valuable people for the real security of humanity are the very individuals traditionally regarded as the least valuable and expendable … mere collateral damage …  by our current market, which our dominant culture has deemed the servants of the wealthy and the privileged … those who in previous times would have been the indentured servants or enslaved by the very same people. 
How is it that the rest of us have so easily acquiesced to this state of affairs during the post-colonial age?!
We are more valuable than we are made to believe. Without us collaborating with this myth, it will lose the power it and they have over us. We outnumber them. We have more power than we realize.
Power does not come from coercion, force, or any form of violence. As Hannah Arendt put it, “Power corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert. Power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to a group and remains in existence so long as the group keeps together.” When a government or regime loses power — like the Soviet Union and colonial Britain — it becomes tempting to fill that vacuum with violence to coerce people into obedience. 
Exploitative systems are a form of violence.
Similarly, the use of violence against the people will directly yield a loss of power since “violence can destroy power” and “is utterly incapable of creating it.” Though the people may obey because a gun is pointed to their collective heads through force or via a system that creates situations of desperation, the hostility used by a few against the many may create resentment — and quite possibly a desire for revenge and retribution — among people and an eagerness to reclaim their autonomy and self-determination.
We are standing on a fault line. We are at what can become a historic crossroad and turning point, or simply a return to the status quo … a status quo that will only continue to degrade our planet and the vast majority of its inhabitants.
We are not disposable, neither is our world. Nor do we have to allow such degradation and desecration to continue on the path we are inevitably headed. We can change course by stopping to collaborate with the very people, systems, and companies that continue to sacrifice our home and us, that consider so many of us as not fully human … not worth treatment as fully dignified beings … because we are regarded as fodder for the rich and the privileged … because we are deemed fungible — a means to an arbitrarily defined end by those in so-called “power.”
A leader is not a leader without followers. We can move out of our own way. We have the numbers to choose new leaders … new roads to traverse that will round out and reshape the human concerns that are truly essential for not only our survival but also our flourishing. We have in our hands the collective capacity to generate effective action in our world. The soil is ready for a new harvest.
Our seeds need to be watered.
It makes no sense why we should subordinate our concerns and purposes to the logic of an impersonal, profit-driven, singularly focused mechanism when we humans can create our own meaning and purpose and can use the instruments of, for example, democratic governance or mass non-collaboration against exploitative practices to control and to direct our economy to meet our individual and collective needs, not just the wants of a few. To actualize our human essence we must place the human back into the economic equation, thereby having humans guide the economy and not the farce that is the free-market economy guide humans. There is nothing laissez-faire about how the market has handled our most essential needs and how it has managed the real concerns of humanity during our most dire crises.
Further, equating humans who come together to choose to guide the economy with authoritarianism, anti-democracy, and anti-freedom has contaminated and stunted the potential to more effectively take care of human concerns, which includes our planet’s well-being.
There’s an assumption that any policy for which the people vote or for which the government wants to initiate that does not allow the so-called “free” market and the private sector to decide the present and the future situations of the world will automatically turn countries into dictatorships, thereby ruining our world. Any call for social and economic equity is labeled as Marxist, or socialist, or communist, which is akin to suicide, a death sentence, or a stoning, much in the same way if an atheist claims she lacks the belief in a god during a religious gathering of extreme fundamentalists who are ready to kill to sustain their vision of the world so it benefits only those they deem valuable.
The Cold War’s propaganda machine’s roots have grown so deep that they have created institutions and birthed a public consciousness that lets people die rather than help them … that would rather educate and save and liberate only those who can afford it … that throws the baby out with the bathwater, as we are seeing play out during the climate change crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
For starters, capitalism and democracy are not synonyms, and neither are communism and authoritarianism. Democracy does not inevitably lead to capitalism, nor does capitalism magically spawn democracy. Capitalism and communism are economic systems, and there also exist systems that reside between the two extremes of the spectrum. Mixed economies inhabit this liminal space. In fact, all economies live there. Cuba under the Castros did not adopt a 100% communist economic system, and neither has the United States ever exercised a 100% capitalist one. All you have to look at are the subsidies the U.S. doles out to certain industries, or the bailouts it provides to specific companies that should — under the logic of laissez-faire capitalism — be left out to rot so the so-called invisible hand of the market can decide which companies survive and which cease to exist.
It is also worth noting that capitalism can exist under a highly authoritarian political regime (such as Chile during the reign of dictator General Augusto Pinochet), and citizens in a democracy can also vote to oversee the market to ensure people, things, and situations they consider essential are not desecrated — such as education, health care, infrastructure, food, shelter, the environment, the fight against infectious diseases and forces of nature, preparation for worst-case-scenarios, and a security net to safeguard people and communities from harm, which goes beyond (but also includes protection from) terrorist attacks.
The misuse and misunderstanding of the above terms have been a disservice to humanity and our planet, and we will continue to stand in our own way, making it difficult to reach our full potentials, if we do not tackle these issues head-on.
How is it that we began to value oil over water and food? How is it that we started to value the ability to go to the beach over the lives of our elders?
Are we causally responsible for harm we could have prevented?
What sort of society would be most conducive to human thriving?
Is there a difference between killing and letting die?
If we have a duty to not kill others, isn’t it strange that if the duty to not kill by positive actions was somehow stronger than the duty to not kill by negative actions?

How can we be morally responsible for one and not the other?

We cannot return to normal. We must create a new normal guided by real and essential human concerns. The Nasiona acts to contribute to this discourse … to this movement for change. If we can nudge people out of their own way, even an inch, we will consider our project and mission successes. In the meantime, we will continue to listen to Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” to remind ourselves there is always work to be done, even if such work is carried out in the silences of our shadows.
Why should humans be treated as ends and afforded dignity? Simple. First, humans deserve to be treated as ends because we are ends in ourselves. Human beings are living things and all living things have ordained purposes and ends. Like an acorn, the human has a natural end. Though we need to meet certain biological, material conditions to fulfill our ends, other rational, creative, and meaningful conditions also need to be fulfilled. Second, humans should be afforded dignity because we get to decide what other ends (i.e., existential, spiritual, and ethical) should be. As humans, it makes sense to prioritize human concerns, not simply the concerns of wealthy and privileged humans.
In short: humans deserve to be treated as ends and afforded dignity because, like every other living thing, we are ends in ourselves, and we can create our own meaning, purpose, and structures to take care of our own concerns. These concerns, of course, if effectively considered, means recognizing that the human condition is both a self-interested one and a social one. We all don’t live on an island in isolation. A human born on day one dies very quickly without a community acting in concert.  We are social beings who are biological, historical, and linguistic, and we have creative, rational faculties. Humans cannot be separated from nature (our environment) since without it humans cannot exist. We are ourselves essentially part of nature, not separate from it. We are also existential in that we also need to provide ourselves with a purpose to deal with the trauma of what it means to be human and to guard ourselves against falling into an existential emptiness and to threats to our physical well-being.
We at The Nasiona yearn for the self-realization and the liberation of each individual. We are concerned with providing society with the circumstantial conditions that can create a worldwide situation in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle. In short, human beings are seeds, and to flourish to our full potential like our essential nature dictates we need fitting nourishment. It is not just, good, or enough to have this full development of the human simply remain a mere possibility for individuals and society if we can make it an actuality for everybody. Only then, when we actualize this possible possibility, will the direct language of our human essence not be an affront to our human dignity. 
We can live rich, rewarding lives without undermining the very elements that ensure them, like our environment. And for that to occur, we have to take our home planet seriously! We have to take ourselves seriously! If the market won’t secure us …  won’t protect us … then we have to secure ourselves from the destruction and insecurity of the market.
The earth will take care of itself with or without our help, but the earth won’t be a viable resource for us to take care of ourselves if we don’t take care of it.

On this Earth Day, let us not forget these important facts of our human existence. Let us cultivate the seeds of our future … apart, but together for change.

In solidarity,

Julián Esteban Torres López

Julián Esteban Torres López (he/him) is a bilingual, Colombia-born journalist, publisher, podcaster, author, researcher, educator, editor, and culture worker with Afro-Euro-Indigenous roots. Before founding the social justice storytelling organization The Nasionahe ran several cultural and arts organizations, edited journals and books, was a social justice and public history researcher, wrote a column for Colombia Reports, taught university courses, and managed a history museum. He’s a Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions nominee and has written two books on social justice. Torres López holds a bachelor’s in philosophy and in communication and a master’s in justice studies from University of New Hampshire and was a Ph.D. candidate at University of British Columbia Okanagan, where he focused on political science and Latin American studies.

Twitter and Instagram: @je_torres_lopez


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