Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Solidarity

   

      

 
We are all woven into a complex web of social interconnection. That web is not morally neutral, but a system of interlocking oppressions and privileges, domination and subordination, exploiters and exploited.  Some of this web is visible; some hidden. It is larger than any person's perception; no one sees and understands it all.

In some ways, the social web is a like a vast nervous system, a brain, filled with uncounted connections and neural pathways. It's organized in a particular way. It notices some events, like a sudden shift to colored shoelaces, while being oblivious to others, like child abuse. It values some people and ignores others.

People eat food, and are unaware of the people who grow it, and process it, and move it. There are few neural pathways along which that connection is communicated. How would a strawberry picker in Oxnard, California tell you about her life? The way our social system is structured, it is a violation of the norms for the person who brings the food to your table in a restaurant to mention her children, her anxieties or her dreams. 

Changing the social system requires re-shaping the social brain,creating new neural pathways, new connections.  And the social brain is re-shaped by expressions of solidarity.  

Expressions of solidarity, reveal and create, new neural pathways in the social brain. 

Take, for example, the UU Minister, Rev. Wendy Von Zirpolo, who serves a church in Marblehead, MA. She is in a fast for the families being torn apart by the immigration detention practices of the US government. Her actions reveal the connection that exists between the North Shore Massachusetts and detention centers. Her actions also create a connection between her and the people she encounters while fasting. Her actions will not create much material change. No one will be released from detention because Rev. Wendy fasted. Rev. Wendy will still not really know from the inside the experience of being an immigrant. But in the vast buzzing collective nervous system, a new neural connection has been revealed and strengthened. 

To change the system is to mobilize along the strands of interconnection to create and express power. It requires revealing the web of interconnections to one another; identifying ways in which the people over here are connected to people over there, and how each of us stand at the intersection of many social forces.

The system will change when the big social brain understands itself differently, when the connection between detainees and Northshore UU ministers is as present as the connection between me and Hollywood celebrities. I am made conscious of the conditions of their life everyday, while the detention system is invisible.

The mission of religion is to re-progam the collective human brain. Expressions of solidarity are not just the buzzword for social justice. Congregational worship and programming are all about solidarity: revealing, and strengthening, the strands of interconnection between ourselves and others. Between the hidden parts of ourselves and the hidden parts of others. The worship of God who is the creator of us all and knows our most secret thoughts and still loves us is another way to express that interconnectedness and webiness of human life.








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