An adaptation of an article published in the 2014 Winter Edition of the beautiful Barefoot Diaries – written by Antony Cholerton, founder of the Children’s Fire Movement.
Humanity has reached a fork in the path – a choice point in our evolutionary journey. Do we continue to bury our heads in the sand and cling to the old paradigm of profit-first (a doctrine that is luring us inexorably towards a very steep cliff, both socially and environmentally) or do we choose to be brave? Brave enough to step out from the comfort of our isolation and demonstrate a collective commitment towards our future generations?
I’m sure that most readers will be only too aware that we’re now devouring our planet at an unprecedented rate and that at the heart of this destruction lies a consumer culture embraced by a population now exceeding seven billion. It’s a culture supported by a dispassionate economic structure that not only fails to address its environmental impact but also pays mere lip service to the reasonable distribution of wealth (and power) on our beautiful planet Earth. It boasts 1,153 billionaires and around 24 million millionaires (this equates to the richest 1% of adults in the world owning 40% of the planet’s wealth). And yet, despite our truly magnificent achievements and burgeoning wealth, 1.4 billion people still live on or below the poverty line, whilst a child dies from hunger or an easily preventable (and commonly poverty related) disease every three seconds.
Compounding matters, and instead of tackling this injustice upon the people and planet, here in the UK politicians are taking the lead from their American counterparts and clamping down even further upon our civil liberties and our ability to speak out against such developments. Do read this article on the UK’s new gagging law (called the ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014’).
Such is our disenchantment with the status quo, and it’s inability to address the challenges we now face, many of us are now calling for a reform in the way society is structured and governed – some, including the likes of pop culture celebrities such as Matt Damon and Russell Brand are publicly calling for a revolution.
The Children’s Fire Movement
The Children’s Fire Movement (or CFM) is calling for a revolution too – a revolution in the way that we think and in the way that we (including the structures that serve us) prioritize matters in our decision making. The CFM is founded upon an ancient, and importantly, relevant concept called the Children’s Fire. The wisdom of the Children’s Fire does go deep, but on a simple pragmatic level it boils down to this…
…it is a reminder for each and everyone of us to put our future generations and the continuation of life FIRST when taking action of any kind.
This concept was an integral component of an indigenous wisdom tradition that flourished amongst cultures of both Central and Northern America. Notably, it was born of a truly democratic system called the Circle of Law, which, ironically, even informed the original constitution of the USA.
The CFM, at the time of writing this article, isn’t really what you would call a movement, yet, as it still requires a diversity of people to come forward and breathe real life into it, but the foundations are moving into place and support is now building.
I too, along with Brand, Damon et al, feel that revolution is the natural way forward but we do need to take this seriously and be clear about what we mean by revolution. If nothing else, to call for regime change in this day and age is dodgy territory indeed. As with any word or construct, revolution can mean many different things to different people – so here’s an insight into my perspective on this…
Although we popularly associate ‘revolution’ with politics and the dramatic overthrow of a government, the word actually has its origins in astronomy and is derived from the Latin verb “revolvere” or “to revolve”. It also contains the word evolution, which is where I personally sit with this.
One of the most ancient of cycles is that of the seasons – from one spring to the next we travel a complete revolution around our life-giving sun. It was through the study of natural cycles, including that of the seasons, that our ancestors were able to form democratic systems of governance which prioritized life and their future generations.
They also noted that the transitions between cycles, in this case from winter into spring, were periods of transformation and of real importance regarding the sustainability of future cycles. It was a time of reflection, of looking back over the previous year and asking “what worked well?” and “what would we like to do differently next time around?”. Holding these questions is important and highlights that which no longer serves us and needs to be let go of. This is where I feel we are as a human collective – in between cycles, digesting our journey so far and surfacing what we would choose for the cycle to come.
An important and inspiring manifestation of the Circle of Law, which reflects this cyclical understanding, was an event held every four years called the ‘Breaking of the Law Arrows”. This was an opportunity to review each of their laws to determine whether they still served a valid purpose for the healthy functioning of the community. Each law would be represented by an arrow which, in turn, was broken before deciding whether to remake it anew. This is what revolution is for me – renewal and evolution, or rEvolution. But renewal based on what and to serve what purpose? For most indigenous peoples their systems and structures would reflect the balance observed in nature, in order to safeguard their future generations – it was their children that they considered to be most sacred. And because of this reverence for their children, and life, the Children’s Fire was a fundamental aspect of the Circle of Law.
Isn’t it a no brainer to put our kids first?
On my journey with the CFM I started asking people the following question… Isn’t it just common sense to put our children and the continuation of life here on earth first – before profit, power or personal ambition? The response I received was an overwhelming yes, of course it is! In fact, a common retort was “well who wouldn’t put our children and our children’s children first?” (if you do agree – please click here to sign our Life First campaign). And yet, for a multitude of reasons, addressed in more detail in an article coming soon, we still fail as a society to implement this basic tenet in our existing institutions of power.
Now I’d just like to add that this is not a judgement and that in summary I do believe that each one of us is doing the very best he or she can, given our circumstances, genetics, life experiences etc. We therefore need to evolve with empathy and compassion as our guides, not blame and judgement.
If there is indeed to be a revolution, what grows from the ashes will not depend solely upon the isms of choice (whether it be capitalism, communism, socialism etc.) but upon the values that inform them and the way that those values are maintained. I am definitely pro-democracy, but a democracy built upon a consensus ethic that places profit and economic growth first, before the fate of our children and planet, isn’t, from my perspective, a very healthy or sustainable democracy. Nor, for that matter, is a democratic structure that allows the needs and agendas of an ‘elite’ few to be placed above the needs of the people. As with any organism, each facet of a system will contain the blueprint from which it was conceived. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. – John LennonA peaceful, democratic, life-affirming society therefore can only truly be achieved via peaceful, democratic means, and driven by values that affirm the continuation of life. Yet again it comes down to that well aired (and rightly so) Ghandi quote… we really do need to be the change that we want to see in the world. I’m with the Beatles when it comes to non-violent revolution, and John Lennon was spot on when he referred to how governments prefer violent opposition, as they know just how to deal with that.
This is probably one of the most important points and one of the main reasons that I chose to write this article. Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are. – Augustine of HippoTo be talking about revolution at this volatile time, when there is so much frustration and anger (though anger can be a powerful motivator when directed consciously with higher purpose) being pointed at our business leaders and politicians, can be dangerous if not approached in a peaceful, balanced and inclusive manner.
To support this we really need to step beyond the Hollywood-style narrative of ‘us and them’ and ‘good vs evil’ that cultivates so much judgement, fear and separation in the world. Instead of slipping into judgement (we all do it) and making the ‘other’ the enemy we need to be more inclusive – to learn about the ‘other’ and seek ways of moving forwards together, for our future generations.
When our ancestors came together in Council, in accordance with the Circle of Law, they would indeed congregate in a circular manner. This was by design as the circle is a beautiful example of symmetry – a non-hierarchical structure with no point on the circumference being of any greater importance than any other. This simple, yet fundamentally important, fact reminded the Council representatives that they too each held an equally valid perspective and, along with the individuals that they represented, were an essential part of the whole picture or solution.
For a rEvolution, don’t we need to have all the answers?
In the ‘civilised’ West, having all the answers is something our political ‘leaders’ (and actually, most of us) seem so desperate to be seen to exhibit and a commodity that they vehemently seek to expose as lacking in those who challenge them. Rainbow Hawk, a metis Native American teacher of mine would often refer to this old saying:
“The first people had questions and they were free. The second people had answers and they found themselves enslaved.”
This simple statement carries profound meaning for each one of us, and is also another beautiful benchmark for healthy, life-affirming structures and societies. “Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.” – Howard ZinnThe moment we think we have all the answers we begin to stagnate and our learning journey can come to an abrupt end. As with the Law Arrows, we need to continually question, challenge and re-examine ourselves and the systems that serve us. Peaceful civil disobedience therefore, as the late Howard Zinn stated (and recently brought to our attention by Hollywood celeb Matt Damon), is an essential component of any healthy, functioning democracy.
So where do WE go from here?
Whilst there is a plethora of activist groups worldwide, doing some truly awesome work, many of the issues that they are tackling are simply the symptoms of a broken system – it’s the system and the structures that birth such issues that we now need to tackle. I feel that it’s time for these groups (as well as continuing on with the pragmatic, life-changing work they are doing) to rally peacefully together around common, altruistic values that unite us all – to co-create truly democratic structures that safeguard life on earth.
And, we need to maintain our diversity. As Paul Hawken states, “these groups [organizations dedicated to restoring the environment and fostering social justice] collectively comprise the largest movement on earth, a movement that has no name, leader, or location, and that has gone largely ignored by politicians and the media. Like nature itself, it is organizing from the bottom up, in every city, town, and culture. and is emerging to be an extraordinary and creative expression of people’s needs worldwide.”.
And so it is with the CFM. We seek to support this rEvolution, not dictate it. We’re not looking to become the movement, or the platform around which everyone must gather. Our mission is to promote the adoption of Life First – by our communities, societies and institutions of power. And to provide nurturing support for those who would implement such a higher ethic. The Children’s Fire Movement sees that…
The vital, continuation of life and our future generations need to become THE primary consideration when making decisions. This is a rEvolution that needs to take place not only in the hearts and minds of the people but in our decision making bodies and institutions of power too.
It’s important to note that we’re not talking about a need to survive here, but a need to thrive!
We’ll be posting links on this site to other movements for life-affirming change and to relevant organisations, projects and online resources. Please do email us with any suggestions regarding this, or post them below with any comments you may have – thank you.
For now, we urge you (whether you are an individual or representing a community group, business or organisation) to demonstrate your agreement with placing Life First by signing our Life First Campaign. Once you’ve signed you are not obliged to take part in any further way, AND… it would be great if you could get more involved and help widen the discussion regarding the kind of future we want to dream in for our children, and our children’s children. To get further involved you can register as a movement Supporter and get access to our forums and CFM social network.
There are many ways for us as individuals to create change (sadly beyond the scope of this article) but to put your money where your values are is a powerful, and not always easy, first step – and not surprisingly, it often wields more clout than voting does. As our ancestors would have done, take the time to connect more intimately with the natural world as it’s nature that provides the ultimate guide regarding how to live sustainably and in balance.
In deep appreciation,
Some steps that you CAN take now with the CFM…
If you agree with the common sense ethic of placing our children and the continuation of life on earth FIRST – before profit, power or personal agenda PLEASE demonstrate this using the following links…
- Read about Life First
- Inspire others and demonstrate your agreement with Life First.
- Make the pledge to put Life First for our future generations.
PS: It would be great to hear your thoughts on all this too – so do feel free to leave a comment below?