When I had become an activist
against globalization in 1998, a colleague of mine told me that
if I was going to try to fight globalization I was only going to
make a fool out of myself. I was very surprised. I did not understand.
He said: You cannot fight the multinationals. Trying to do
that is absurd. You cannot actually achieve anything struggling
against these people.
Shortly after this conversation, however, the
MAI treaty the Multilateral Agreement on Investment of the
OECD-WTO did not get signed because of the emergence of a
huge worldwide anti-globalization movement in 1998 which caused
the French government to withdraw from the treaty (Mies, Werlhof
2003). In the meantime even the WTO itself has been at the brink
of failing, too, because the worldwide movement succeeded twice
in blocking its summits (Seattle, Cancún). The next step
was the struggle against GATS, the General Agreement on Trade in
Services, of the WTO which is still on the table (Barlow 2001).
What seems undeniable is that the paradoxical
politics of profitable destruction
(Chossudovsky 1996) these treaties are an expression of have by
now produced its own boomerang, in other words: the consequences
of the destruction are coming back to haunt us, as shown, for example,
by the various natural disasters we have recently been witnessing.
At this point it will not suffice to think about what to do in the
future, once everything has collapsed and vanished. We need to think
about how to oppose the destruction that is happening here and today.
There is no alternative to the search for an alternative. We need
a vision what to do now and how to do it.
In this context, Renate Genth (2002) says that
we need a new politics of civilization, since we are
experiencing a civilization crisis. This new politics
of civilization has to focus on a new relationship to nature, a
new relationship between the sexes, a new relationship between the
generations, and a new relationship to the transcendent.
The transcendent generally means religious needs and our relationship
to death. I would say that the relationship to the transcendent
is the relationship to earth spirituality.
The goals of this new politics of civilization,
according to Genth, are based on the five political senses,
the sense for community, the sense for justice, the sense for equality
(as in: material equality not spiritual or emotional equality),
the sense for freedom, and the sense for responsibility. This implies
that diversity is possible yet there exists a common base.
From this point of view each living being is born
free and equal by nature. The first natural right is
defined as the old mother right that is based on the understanding
that everything that has come to life has an innate right to live.
Mutual respect is the foundation of all. Society always has to be
accountable for what it does.
But, how do we get there? And what all is in our
As dreadful as globalization is, it is at least
making clear what is actually happening. It seems to have become
impossible to ignore what is at stake here. It is now more obvious
than ever. Still, next to deep- rooted concepts like Genths,
we hear suggestions about trying to help shaping globalization
rather than opposing it. Me, however, I am an uncompromising opponent
to globalization because what is happening under its banner can
never be reconciled with a notion of a world of justice, freedom
or equality. That is why I regard the somewhat pretentious notion
of participation in shaping the course of globalization
(Attac) as inappropriate. This notion will lead and has already
led to a split in the anti-globalization movement.
What we need is truly radical opposition, meaning:
an opposition that targets the roots of the problem and embarks
on a fundamentally different path of thinking and feeling. Which
leads me again to my main question: How will this be possible?
As long as we keep on believing that our civilization,
and what it has brought to us, is in any way superior to other civilizations,
or that our culture is in any way superior to other cultures (past
or present), as long as we keep on believing this and many
people generally critical of globalization still do we can
not find common ground. We have to realize that we are indeed facing
a crisis of western civilization and that this concerns not only
capitalism and modernity, but the entire patriarchal endeavour
in other words: the socio-political order with which the whole problem
began (Werlhof 2007).
Since I have been actively involved in the anti-globalization
movement for some time now, the search for the what to do?
equalled a personal crisis that was not bereft of pain. What is,
in fact, the key to an effective movement against this global madness?
I have been part of many movements, and already
in the 1970s, some feminist friends and I developed the subsistence
perspective through our own experiences in the periphery,
where people had already been reflecting on the unsatisfying state
of the world or the part of the world they live in
for decades (Mies, Bennholdt-Thomsen, Werlhof 1988, Bennholdt-Thomsen,
Mies 1999). The subsistence perspective means a notion of community
that is based on local involvement and engagement, and a related
notion of an economy that is based on the forces (both materially
and non-materially) and natural potentials of a specific place without
trying to exploit them. Meanwhile, different terms have been coined
to describe this perspective: Helena Norberg-Hodge calls it localization,
Vandana Shiva speaks of a living democracy, and people
in Porto Alegre (where the worldwide anti-globalization movement
began to gather annually as the World Social Forum)
speak of an economy of solidarity (Bennholdt-Thomsen,
Faraclas, Werlhof 2001).
There is also the term sustainability,
but this term remains within the logic of the system. It does not
fully recognize that we really do need a different form of civilization,
not just an economic reform. We need a different culture, because
cultura means nurturing. The question always is, of course, what
are we nurturing? Right now, we nurture machines rather than community.
We nurture violence rather than love. This renders our culture useless.
It needs to be changed (which, of course, does not exclude saving
certain aspects we might recognize as useful).
We need far-reaching, global, perhaps even further
extending notions and terms that are tied into a way of thinking,
acting and feeling that is able to confront globalization with the
possibility of success. Yet, success ought not to be expected,
since this would instantly lead us back into a modern, rationalizing,
calculating way of thought. When it comes to calculation, we are
inferior to them. In the same vein, we can not participate
in anything. The gender movement is wrong in the assumption
that womens future is determined by the logics of becoming
sex-less, male or patriarchal. Under conditions of globalization
such theories have all become irrelevant and lead nowhere. Christina
von Braun (2000), for example, says that there is no possibility
for transformation at all anymore because she assumes that we have
already been so alienated from ourselves by patriarchal conditioning
that is has become impossible to return (or progress) to non-patriarchal
forms of community. This kind of pessimism is also prevalent in
the gender movement, and translates into the quasi-optimistic notion
that we can at least still go somewhere within
the system of capitalist patriarchy. It is always this failure
to leave the confines of the system that divides all social
movements. In other words, making compromises with the system by
taking it for granted will always lead us back into it.
In patriarchy, everything is separated: the material
from the spiritual, men from women, the lower from the higher, etc.
This becomes expressed, on the one hand, in the form of a materialism
that regards matter as spiritless, and, on the other hand, in the
form of an idealism, that regards matter as not important. When
comparing to this the notion of subsistence I realized that the
reason why so many people still do not understand subsistence must
also lie in the fact that we, who propose subsistence as an alternative,
have forgotten something or have not thought it all the way through.
That is exactly the point.
What needs to happen is that our notion of subsistence
which is materialistic in the sense of focusing on what materially
shapes our existence, has to be explicitly complemented not
by idealism, but by an explanation of how the material relates to
the non-material, to mind and soul, to the spiritual. In other words:
we also have to explain mind and soul, the spiritual, through our
notion of subsistence. The connections exist anyway the separation
is always but a fictitious and imagined one. All things are connected.
This has to be made explicit. This is why I speak of earth
As a next step, I concluded that it is not enough
to call for a relationship to nature that is simply not antagonistic
anymore but caring, or that is also spiritual and not only material,
etc. It is also not enough to say that we want to co-operate
with nature or that we want to be part of a network.
These are all cold terms.
They are rationalistic terms that always miss something. When we
speak of co-operation we have a guideline for action since
co-operating means acting with but we do not address any
emotional or spiritual dimension. The biggest problem with rationalism
is that it tries to extinguish our feelings, or tries to turn them
into their opposites: for example, love into hate. I believe this
is the main problem of our rationalistic society. The problem is
amplified by the history of National Socialism that has abused our
feelings violently and still leaves the question: how can we rehabilitate
our emotions without arousing suspicion of becoming susceptible
to a new form of Nazism or fashism?
But we cannot shun the problem because as humans
we are sentient beings. If we do not feel, we can not think. Thinking
and acting and feeling are intrinsically linked. In our society,
we have separated the three. We think differently to how we feel
and act. Native Americans know the term KOP a term
that expresses the understanding that acting, thinking and feeling
belong together and correspond. We have lost this understanding
through the permanent processes of separation.
I then reflected on wilderness.
What is wilderness? I have always been looking for a term to substitute
nature with. The term nature has been abused
and become abstract. I realized, while reflecting on wilderness
as the original and first expression of nature, that we need a notion
of a spirituality that is linked to the wild!
Basically, spirituality is a notion that is always
related to wild nature, and that does not see nature as exclusively
material, but also as mind and soul we could also say: as
alive. Spirituality is embedded in the vitality of nature. This
is my notion of spirituality, hence earth spirituality.
But how can we express this without championing
just another cold term on the one hand, or, on the other,
without reproducing a notion of spirituality that is purely idealistic
and knows of no relationship to matter, leave alone of political
reflection and activism?
Eventually, I did find the answer.
We need a term that is not just cold, but that
expresses the affection that is inherent in life. The term is: interconnectedness
of all being! This has become my central term in the
search for what it actually is that we need to be based on in order
to confront the madness of globalization and to get a sense for
where to actually go.
When I speak of the interconnectedness of all
being, I am not only talking about connectedness as an opposition
to separation, but about intrinsic links between everything there
is. Everything is tied together, everything is connected with each
other. We are not in the world as human beings alone.
Systems of ethics do not suffice to explain what
that means, however. They mostly negate the relationship to nature
(Jonas 1979). Religion does not work as a term either, because it
does not want to reconnect us with the wild and is based on the
separation that has occurred.
My point is: There is no separation - it is purely
fictitious. That is how I came to the notion of interconnectedness
as the truth about our reality, if we want it or not.
The notion of interconnectedness of all being
is a notion that is very comprehensive a notion that guides
us back to the unity that truly exists underneath all. The notion
of interconnectedness is a notion in which love
and knowledge belong together. Contrary to rationalism which
distances itself from nature particularly evident in the
machine-logics of a computerized rationality that systematically
eradicates all feelings of love and belonging the notion
of interconnectedness embraces everything.
Interconnectedness means that we are connected
and feel mutually bound in solidarity in a decisively caring environment
to which we belong. In English we have the terms solidarity,
bonds and ties, in Spanish apego,
a term expressing closeness: the child who discovers the world still
attached to its mother, or lazo, which translates as
connection and bond. In German I call it die
Verbundenheit allen Seins. These terms are rather poetic
than analytical. I find them very useful to provide some kind of
an orientation within the diversity of being, including the diversity
of social movements. Because when one feels connected to all being
and I mean really from the leaves of grass to the universe
there is no end to this feeling. And it is precisely then
when one will actually find solid ground under ones feet.
With the concept sketched above, we will have
a point of reference which will tell us what it is that we do, what
it is that we shall and can do, and what it is that we can not do.
And it is by way of this that we will find a holistic way of thought
that does not omit anything: not the animals, not the elements,
not the planet. We will find a holistic way of thought that will
not allow for gaps, since true interconnectedness knows no gaps
either. Nature has no gaps.
Furthermore, the concept requires a call for action,
namely to take a stand for the defence of all being and its interconnectedness,
and I mean on all levels. Only through this will we be able to feel
and take on responsibility. With the return of the emotional, the
passion to defend that which is alive will return as well. Our feelings
will regain their place. They will be able to flourish again without
being abused. Because, on the basis of the notion of the interconnectedness
of all being, it is impossible to be corrupted or seduced or confused.
At any rate this is my thesis.
Because if nature is alive and not just machine
or resource, or whatever these patriarchal terms replacing nature
are, then she is neither merely object nor no object at all, but
subject, meaning: she is telling us something, she speaks to us,
she communicates with us, she is sending us messages, and we can
turn to her, we can ask her what we shall
do. We can ask where it was that we have erred and where
to go from here.
We not only have to regain our senses and our
sensitivity, but we have to expand them, also in the terms of Günther
Anders (1987) who always demanded that. In order to expand our senses,
to let them grow above us, we have to deploy antennas
of perception and realization of the interconnectedness, but not
in any super-sensual terms (übersinnlich:
that which goes beyond the senses), but in trans-sensual
or cross-sensual terms (transsinnlich and quersinnlich),
which will allow us to also perceive the senses of others, not only
our own. My energies are not only isolated and ego-logical ones,
exclusively focused on me, but they are connected to other energies
and forces that support me, just as I support them.
I know that this is the way it is. I have experienced
it. If we open ourselves to the interconnectedness of all being,
then all energies are with and behind us, and they will guide us,
and we will be their advocates and voices.
We have a calling in this world, namely to prevent
the destruction from continuing. This also leads us close to Gandhis
notion of ahimsa, which is always
translated as non-violence, but which also means innocence. Ahimsa
is a way of action that does not follow self-centred goals and the
interest to be personally successful,
but that follows the bonds of life and that thereby offers new possibilities
of acting and resisting and creating alternative ways of living.
This way we can finally leave ego-centrism behind us and become
channels of and for mother earth.
Only such a way of feeling, thinking and behaving
makes it possible to act without rational calculation and unnecessary
compromises. Compromises will be made,
but not with society. We will gain a truthfulness of action,
and even though the web in which we act will be large, it will always
be possible to have an orientation and to act very concretely in
each specific case. This is an outstanding experience since so far
we have not had many possibilities (and were prohibited from having
them) to unite theory and practice in such a way.
Acting, thinking and feeling along the lines of
the interconnectedness of all being also creates a mimetic
sphere, meaning: a mimesis which allows for the extended
and conscious exchange of energies with other living beings, since
we will establish always more contacts with them and will thereby
also create common ground and orientation.
For me all this means the possibility to escape
the one-step-at-a-time character of the alleged alternatives offered
- from above, from the west, from the left - so far, their temporality
and weakness, their incompleteness, and their lack of vision and
orientation. But this happens without needing a political
program or technological project, not to speak
of new forms of domination.
What we have instead is a way of perceiving and
thinking that follows the interconnectedness of all being and that
knows as its base the depth of this interconnectedness I
call it deep feminism.
There will also be no more separations in action
and thought. There will be no nihilism
that denies life, any more. The interconnectedness of all being
teaches us that there are no ruptures and gaps, but that there is
always a connecting rope that guides us and that we can hold onto.
The main challenge that remains probably is: how
can we turn this awareness into appropriate action in each specific
case? How can we exchange the experiences we are making on
this path? How can we know that we do the right things in order
to defend mother earth? And how do we know that we are really on
the way to another civilization?
I consider the development of a spiritual understanding
in the way outlined above for absolutely necessary and, in the end,
I consider it to be the only possible way to find an adequate response
to globalization and to develop alternatives to it that will not
lead us astray once again.
Anders, Günther, 1979,
Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen, München
Barlow, Maude, 2001, The last
Frontier, in: The Ecologist, Febr., London
Faraclas, Nicholas, Werlhof, Claudia von (Eds.) 2001, There is an
Alternative. Subsistence and Worldwide Resistance to Corporate Globalization,
Mies, Maria, 1999, The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalized
Braun, Christina von, 2000,
Gender, Geschlecht und Geschichte, in: Braun/Stephan (Eds.), Gender
Studien. Eine Einführung, Stuttgart-Weimar
Chossudovsky, Michel, 1996,
The Globalization of Poverty, London
Genth, Renate, 2002, Über
Maschinisierung und Mimesis. Erfindungsgeist und mimetische Begabung
im Widerstreit und ihre Bedeutung für das Mensch-Maschine-Verhältnis,
Frankfurt- New York
Jonas, Hans, 1979, Das Prinzip
Mies, Maria, Bennholdt-Thomsen,
Veronika, Werlhof, Claudia von, 1988, Women, the Last Colony, London
Mies, Maria, Werlhof, Claudia
von (Eds.), 2003, Lizenz zum Plündern. Das Multilaterale Abkommen
über Investitionen, MAI Globalisierung der Konzernherrschaft
und was wir dagegen tun können, Hamburg
Werlhof, Claudia von, 2007,
Capitalist Patriarchy and the Negation of Matriarchy. The Struggle
for a DeepAlternative, in: Vaughan, Genevieve (Ed.),
Women and the Gift Economy. A Radically Different World View is
Possible. The Gift-Economy inside and outside Patriarchal Capitalism,
Toronto: Inanna, pp. 143-157