When I was a kid, the revolutions I learned about were major events. They were loud and full of bloodshed. They were righteous. And they occurred a long time ago. Ancient history, when the suffering masses in various places rose up as one to topple their oppressor. The time before revolutions was a time before democracy. A time before freedom.
That is what I learned in school. A presentation of selective excerpts from history amounting to propaganda with insufficient context and no discussion about what freedom actually means. We did not talk about the many faces of oppression. We did not reflect on the state of post-revolutionary states in the modern world. We did not talk about who was telling the story of that history.
I was in high school before I learned revolutions were still happening in the world. I learned that some countries didn't adopt a constitution until the 1970's or 1980's. Some masses were still suffering under their oppressor. I was surprised. This wasn't ancient history, this was happening during my lifetime. It was happening right now. But it was happening somewhere else, so I became distracted by happenings closer to home and my daily life moved on.
A decade later, I watched the Arab Spring begin in Tunisia. For weeks, protestors filled the streets to demand change. And... it worked! The long-standing leader fled the country and the ruling party was disbanded. Neighboring countries were inspired and revolution spread around North Africa and the Middle East. It was amazing.
It was major and it was loud and it was bloody. And it got me thinking about the possibility of revolution in other places. I didn't think that kind of regime-toppling action could happen anymore. But if it could happen in Tunis and Cairo, why not anywhere else? Why not everywhere else?
The summer of 2020 felt a lot like the beginning of a revolution. It was big and loud, and it was bloody. And although people all over the country joined in protests for a few weeks, it wasn't a large enough movement to bring down the government. It got enough attention to pass some long overdue policy changes, but it turned out not to be the Arab Spring kind of revolution.
Which got me thinking: what if revolution doesn't always look that way? What if revolution is a mindset?
I recently had a shoulder out of whack, so I went to see a massage therapist. It was a combination of muscle tension from physical activity and holding on to toxic narratives. So we worked together to allow my body to let those things go. Through my Taiji practice, I have come to understand that the body holds trauma and emotions until our heart and mind are ready to work through them. That day I was ready. I processed the things I was holding in my shoulder. My muscles unclenched.
"How courageous" the massage therapist called me for taking care of my body (and mind and spirit). It is not in the profit interest of pharmaceutical companies or the owners of our capitalist system for people to heal and repair themselves. That small act of healing self-exploration really is counter to much of the prevailing culture.
Even the booming self-care industry is largely focused on looking for comfort or well-being from things outside ourselves. So my persistent effort to heal my wounds without buying-in to the quick-fix commercial offerings is a revolutionary act. I finally understand that it is radical to care about and to care for myself. Just as it is radical to take care of other people.
I want us all to take care of ourselves and each other. Turns out I'm a revolutionary.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.