Replacing Domination with Cooperation
The sun has just sunk behind the trees and as the darkness increases and the air cools, I find myself surrounded by the nighttime sounds of insects and frogs. I have feasted on a dinner of home-grown sweet corn, potatoes, zucchini, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and grass-fed beef. We have been blessed with 2 inches of rain and every plant and amphibian is rejoicing. In this moment I feel as if the world is perfect.
Yet clearly, it isn’t. I have been asked to write about global unity, and a thousand questions trouble my mind. While I can imagine a world where, in the midst of our differences, we could still have respect and compassion for each person and creature, I can also see a reality close at hand where there are farmers not cooperating, neighbors not speaking, families divided. I am especially troubled by thoughts of war and violence and hatred.
Violence is real, violence is terrible and it can lead down a rational path to an irrational place. There are millions of victims of violence, of war, of abuse, of horrible injustice and many of them are justifiably angry. Feelings of anger, especially combined with frustration can result in resentment, desperation, a desire for vengeance. These forces, or sometimes even nobler motivations of struggling for justice can lead us to more acts of violence. There comes a point at which a person is willing to sacrifice their life to kill large numbers of complete strangers. A human being should never reach that point, but it happens every day.
It is not enough to just stop violence; what can we do to heal the wounds of violence and undo its roots? Some roots of violence are hunger, injustice, oppression, greed, and fear, but basically, violence is a tool used to exert power over another. We can’t just wait and see. We are consuming and destroying the abundance of our planet and our current path leads to more scarcity and hardship. How can we react to violence with compassion? To scarcity or greed with generosity? To fear with courage? Can we recall in our hearts that another human being is as deserving of compassion as we are ourselves? For myself, it requires completely turning my mind, heart, and world inside out and believing in a different possibility, that cooperation can replace domination. How do we do it—where do we find the courage? By not worrying about if it will work, but doing what is right anyway. Being abundantly generous when we are not sure we have enough. By speaking kind words to someone who has wronged us. By believing in my heart that I am part of a worldwide team or family, and acting accordingly, whether or not others want to join. In sharing food I am undoing hunger, not with a small band-aid, but by creating friendships, making a sacrifice, and speaking to the world,
“It is not right that I should eat while you go hungry.”
Alice McGary is a farmer, musician, and Catholic Worker who lives and works at Mustard Seed Community Farm, an all volunteer run project that works to serve the land and the hungry.