Home > Blog: Currents & Futures > Feeling Despair; Taking Action

I was recently talking to a Commonway supporter whose city had just taken the step of becoming a “sanctuary city”, a shelter for those who have become endangered by the reckless (and possibly illegal) actions of the infant (and infantile) Trump Actions (yet to become an “administration”).

When I commended him on helping his city take these actions, he sounded depressed.  “It’s not enough.  In the face of all that needs to be done, I sometimes question whether our actions are comprehensive enough to really make a change in how things are going.  Sometimes I feel helpless and hopeless.”

“Hopeless and depressed” or “grateful and optimistic” are two emotional states that depend on your perspective.  I am pretty much the opposite of “hopeless and depressed”.  In these crazy times, I am feeling a new sense of solidity and optimism.  My reason has several parts to it:

Take Action?  Take WHAT Action?

The Women’s March that occurred the day after the Inauguration was impressive.  In city after city, the march organizers reported numbers more than double their expectations.  (In Portland, I heard people say, “There was no march!  There were so many people, we were packed in solid!  We couldn’t move!”  I heard one guy say, “If I had known we would be packed in like sardines, I would have brought olive oil!”)

Like the Occupy Phenomenon before them, the marchers proved that people want profound change.  They also proved that it’s relatively easy to get people to come out to voice their anger and their opposition at a system that has gone wrong.  However, it’s a bit harder to transform anger into a positive force for social change.

The people who came out to the Women’s March in epic numbers knew pretty clearly what they did NOT want.  It was unclear to see what they DID want.  Most of the “calls to action” were just fancy ways of saying “I want the opposite of what Trump wants”.  And that is not a mechanism that will build positive action.

The Toxic Status Quo

Many of you have heard me say over the years: our problem is “Status Quo-ism”.  We live in an unsustainable society.  The fact that we are the beneficiaries of that society does not make it moral or ethical or just.  We must TRANSFORM our society — even the parts we presently benefit from.

Just because you like (or loath) the President does not make the society any less (or more) toxic.

From Caterpillars to Butterflies

The problem is not Trump.** He’s just a manifestation of a political economy that left the rails years ago.  The Trump “solution” to return to a mythical past greatness is just as absurd as the Clinton “solution” of staying the course… when the course is a route to societal destruction.  

The problem is that Donald Trump represents the caterpillar.  (And Hillary Clinton represented just a different caterpillar.)  The solution is that we need the BUTTERFLY.

“Metamorphosis” means the total transformation of the organism.  NOT ONE PART OF THE CATERPILLAR REMAINS.  

Donald Trump is the perfect person to oversee the dissolution of this global caterpillar.  It cannot keep eating — it’s time has come.

We can spend all of our time protesting the dying caterpillar.  (Protest won’t make it die faster.)  Or, we can become the seeds, the “imaginal cells”, of the new, emerging butterfly.

If you are feeling helpless and hopeless, I invite you to stop looking at the world from the perspective of the caterpillar.  It’s time a significant number of us started dreaming about what comes next.

And please remember: in the transformation from the caterpillar to the butterfly, THE BUTTERFLY ALWAYS WINS.  A caterpillar never walks out of a chrysalis.  NEVER.  It’s inevitable.

It’s one of the really great things about being an imaginal cell… our victory is assured.***



** Note: Said more accurately, the problem is not JUST Trump.  The problems catalyzed by Mr. Trump are not our key challenges.  If you look at the list of societal challenges on page 38 of “Creating a World That Works for All”, Trump neither resolves them, nor makes them substantially worse.  For all of his negative energy, he’s a non-issue.

*** Note:  Over the next month, I will be laying out the groundwork for how we can all start moving from hopelessness, anger and despair to positive action for societal transformation.  It’s time to get our butterfly in gear!

5 Comments, RSS

  • Victoria Zelin

    says on:
    February 7, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    This is amazing. Just what we need! Someone with the credibility to stand up, and from a transformational lens, shape the attitude, thinking and dialogue, and then the goals and actions to achieve this possible future. Thank you for doing this. I am with you, and when I understand how we will organize to transform ourselves, I will be sharing it. What’s next?

  • John Brown

    says on:
    February 7, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    You say this well! Here in coal country or soil carbon country, we have the strong pull to kick the caterpillar and waste our energy on that when we have so many butterflies to bream up.
    Imagining what it might be like to have you out to coach individuals as well as organizations in metamorphosis.

  • Brian Setzler

    says on:
    February 7, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    I agree 110%. When people describe themselves in terms of anti-, I get lost. (I’m an anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-cop, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic anarchist radical!).

    By holding up a vision for what you want, the universe begins to manifest it, in unexpected ways.

  • Elankovan

    says on:
    February 8, 2017 at 3:53 am

    This is a wonderful piece Sharif. Very pertinent and encouraging. We see this with protests in Sri Lanka as well. Proposing ideas & solutions of how things can be different “Over the next month, I will be laying out the groundwork for how we can all start moving from hopelessness, anger and despair to positive action for societal transformation. It’s time to get our butterfly in gear!”

  • Pamela Allee

    says on:
    February 8, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for this, Abdullah! You express why I am a convinced WTRR (war tax resister/redirector) – We can resist by refusing to send our tax dollars to the IRS, to be used in misallocation for war, and redirect them instead to the many real needs in our communities. In my opinion, people sleeping in doorways is as much a manifestation of war, as bomb craters and rubble. (This is only one example of how one can define war, of course.) On “Tax Day” when we redirect to the causes of justice and true need, we hope to redirect also the nation and the planet to a better path.

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