At A Radical Guide, we want to give you a platform to tell your story. Your story is powerful, and it can inspire change. We believe that sharing our experiences can empower others to resist oppression and work towards a more just world.
We have the privilege to hear Matthew of Epic Tomorrows story of where and what radicalized him.
“Radicalis” – of, or having, roots
By Matthew of !Epic Tomorrows
Jason Bayless of A Radical Guide asked me #WhereWereYouRadicalized?
Chaia Heller of the Institute for Social Ecology (1) asked me, What makes you a radical? To answer them both, I will name no specific times and places. Radicalization, for me, has been measured predominantly as an internal series of realizations.
At the top, “radical” has several meanings (2). I prefer the adjectival meanings: “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough,” and also “advocating or based on thorough political or social change.
The global hegemony of nation state capitalism which drives the climate and deeper ecological crisis, is so horrifically wrong, that, how could I not identify as a radical…although strategically, not with all people at all times?
The word “radical” dates from the late 14th century,(3) initially meaning “originating in the root or ground”, from the Latin radicalis: “of or having roots,”. Since the hegemony is so anti-nature, including humanity, in these times of ecological crisis it seems particularly appropriate to identify as “radical”, from the ecological root; far-reaching and thorough political and social change can only ever be rooted in ecology.
I was first radicalized when I realized that a severe mental health crisis was not caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain, or even the faults of my parents, but the fragmentation and de-ecologization of society. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this personal crisis contained my nascent radicalization. I was informed by the anti-psychiatrist RD Laing (4), the Thai Forest Tradition of Theravadin Buddhism and the sociologist Anthony Giddens (5).
I was further radicalized as I realized the extent of the climate crisis, the deeper ecological and resource-use crisis, and the inability of the capitalist, nation-statist hegemony to save us. I was inspired by the Transition Towns movement and by some Marxist analysis. I also received sustenance from the WWOOF organisation, that’s Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, although I now realise its white privilege.
My radicalization grew when I realized that the hegemony is not only incapable of freeing us from the deep ecological crisis, but is largely responsible for it, as well as the ongoing racist colonialist destruction of diverse world cultures, and the ongoing oppression of women and all marginalized groups. Altogether, this is the metacrisis. I thank my mother, who raised me almost single-handedly, for my feminist sensibilities.
I was irrevocably radicalized when I realized that the metacrisis is leading to an increased likelihood of societal collapse this century; in the words of Jared Diamond, “a drastic decrease in human population size and/or political/economic/social complexity over a considerable area for an extended time.“ The implication is that this would be largely uncontrollable and disorganized, although not necessarily rapid. This is not to belittle the societal collapse that is already being experienced in some countries, and it is also not to assume that widespread societal collapse will definitely happen. Read Danilo Brozovic (6).
In recent years, my final radicalization has been the growing understanding that only developmental social ecological solutions, based on an evolving dialectical naturalism, as opposed to a strictly Bookchinian dialectical naturalism, can provide me, personally, with the praxical foundation that I need to conceive of strategic pathways to an ecologically harmonious world, liberated from all oppressive hierarchies. Social ecology, for me, is a sort of ecological social anarchism and political-economic localization teaching that the subjugation of humans by humans and that of nature by humans, are co-destructive. We need to deal with both, equally (7). Without the Institute for Social Ecology, and the inspiring teaching and scholarship of ISE faculty like Chaia Heller, who wrote the gorgeously insightful Ecology of Everyday Life (8) and teaches the ISE’s online Feminism & Ecofeminism course (9), and Peter Staudenmaier, who wrote the elegantly incisive Ecology Contested (10), I would not be in this fortunately radical position.
The social ecological utopia of confederations of stateless self-governing communities, with resources held in common, is unlikely to happen everywhere; indeed it would be a neo colonialist supposition to think otherwise. Nevertheless, the only appropriate mitigation of the climate crisis and metacrisis is some kind of social ecological activist and political programme, respectful of biocultural diversity. Even if this is only achieved in small pockets of global society, it’s good. Diverse groups are already working in good ways. In some respects, as Peter Gelderloos writes, “the solutions are already here” (11).
Moreover, the most appropriate adaptation to actual and potentially unfolding societal collapse, is also some kind of social ecological action. As part of this, we have a big responsibility to look after the increasing numbers of climate refugees.
To sum up, I think that the only sane response to the insanity of the capitalist, nation-statist hegemonic metacrisis, is to radically root oneself in social ecological solutions.
This is how I have been progressively radicalized. Now I want you to tell me about you, so that we can find a common way forward.
- Radical, meaning
- Radical, etymology
- Societal Collapse: a literature review, by Danilo Brozovic, January 2023.
- What Is Social Ecology? Murray Bookchin
- Chaia Heller, The Ecology of Everyday Life
- Feminism & Ecofeminism
- Peter Staudenmaier, Ecology Contested
- Peter Gelderloos, The Solutions Are Already Here