People often ask me where I got the name Pheonix Chicken. It is an idea that was born out of the Occupy/Decolonize movement. It was a vision that came to me, one moonlit night, during a fire and water ceremony with activist friends, on a beach in Seattle.
Our discussion starts with naming and release of fear and frustrations. We see war on the horizon, and we wonder if it might be inevitable, avoidable? But we all feel it… the shifting. The turning. Are we on the cusp of an evolution in our collective unconscious? A shift that will enable us to avoid these wars? How do we fight the oppression of media, the oppression of isolation, the slow and seemingly deliberate undermining of the skills of every day life? The oppression of this system we have created seems like a finely tuned machine directed with all of the skill and intention of a criminal mastermind. The dictatorship of the church of Profit and Consumption. Cognitive dissonance gnawing at the psyche of our collective consciousness.
Stories. We carry our collective identity in the stories we tell. Movies, Television, novels, science fiction… And that narrative whispers to us the myths of our culture over and over again. Whispers it so often that it weaves into our unconscious and feels like the fabric of reality. The story of The Savior. The Hero. The One Who Will End All The Injustice & Make It Right. Who Will Slay The Demon / Dictator / Evil King. This story permeates our media and our society and our religion. As children, we are taught that police and military are our heroes. That these brave (mostly men) people go fight the fights to keep us safe. Fight on our behalf, for our interests. Fight to keep us safe. Fight so we don’t have to. So that we can enjoy the benefits of our gloriously won freedom. But the story is just that – a story. A bit of programming. A piece of computer code in our collective processor. But it is the root of our decision making processes. The story tells us how to behave, how to treat one another, how to organize our societies.
Oh gosh though, that Hero story doesn’t match up with the daily reality of shopping malls and cubicles and gas pumps and the stifling bureaucracy of school and government. But didn’t we tell you? Oh yes, we did. There are campaigns for patriotism floating around every day. We live in the spoils of victory. That shopping mall is the American Dream that our soldiers fight and die for. That shopping mall, full of plastic, manufactured, chemical, poisonous merchandise shipped from halfway around the world so that a consumer can purchase it, use it for a while and then discard it in a landfill. That shopping mall is OUR AMERICAN RIGHT. The rosy future that our heroes fought [are fighting] to protect. DYING TO PROTECT.
And there is another story that we tell ourselves. It is the myth of The American Dream. The delusion of American Independence. Suburbia is founded on this dream [nightmare]. The dream that we can be independent of each other. The dream that we can move out into the country, set-up a homestead, and get away from all them “asshole” neighbors. That all we need for survival is our own wits and the resources at hand. But the ‘country’ became the suburbs. And our ‘wits’ became the automobile and the cell phone. And the ‘resources at hand’ became acre after acre of box stores filled with cheaply made products manufactured thousands of miles away and shipped to us on a daily basis, in a never ending supply of consumable goods. What we got with our victory was isolation [desolation]. We got a culture of people who are dependent upon those box stores and mass-produced, over-processed, ever-plentiful consumable products. Dependent upon the ability to go and buy the necessities of life in a store. And all we have to do is work 40hrs a week, every week, and buy buy buy, and if our jobs don’t pay us enough to keep buying, well we’ll just buy some DEBT! This is not independence. No, this is NOT in-de-pen-dence. This is DE-pendence. Chemical dependence. Consumption dependence. Convenience dependence. Take away those box stores tomorrow and what would happen to our society? It is unthinkable.
“American independence” is the greatest cognitive dissonance of our history. We are independent of nothing. We are DE-pendant upon the poverty of the 3rd world to manufacture our consumable goods at ever-decreasing prices. While we sign away our freedom and security to corporate lobbyists one by one, and it becomes more and more evident day by day that we are not free. We are slaves to consumption. Because we have learned to be dependent upon the teat of petroleum… that collective addiction.
So here is our greatest challenge. There is no dictator. There is no evil king. In reality, the demon to be slain is only the story that we tell ourselves about what is real. And even if there is a hidden conspiracy of evil men pulling the puppet strings of our society… they are not the demon. We can kill them, but they will only be replaced by a new conspiracy of control and domination to fill the power vacuum. Because violent revolution breeds chaos, and we will thankfully welcome the new, more blatant dictator who can restore order if only we give up some freedoms… Because we are still telling ourselves the same story. The story of the Hero Who Will Save Us. The false story of individualism and patriarchy. The isolation of top-down power-over hierarchy.
We slay the demon of Power-Over by weaving a new narrative. A narrative of interdependence. Inter-deepen-dance. Dependence on one another, together, and on the land, and the creatures who help nourish us. A narrative of working together to build balance and plenitude. The revolution is not only a confrontation of power-over authority by protesting in the streets. A vegetable garden is a protest. A bicycle is a protest. Sharing tools and resources with neighbors and community members is a protest. Working together to share experiences and learn new ways of relating to each other is a protest.
Learning to make decisions together, with diversity and respect for each other, to make time to work through our thoughts and ideas – that is a protest. Working together with friends and family to create an economy of giving and sharing is also a protest. For those arbitrarily given a position of privilege: to support and promote individuals of marginalized groups, those who have been experiencing the most intense oppression for the longest time, is a deep act of protest. One so deep that it may start out feeling uncomfortable – like a protest against our own selves. But only in learning to let go of that power-over privilege can we really be free to find the power within ourselves. The power of interdependence and individual autonomy.
On this moonlit night, we are still a group of people on a beach, sharing time and space. We share a ritual of carrying water and holding our intentions. And this non-religious ritual of open symbolism and intention is a joyful protest. As I carry the vessel down to the lapping waves to claim my small cup of water and intention, I see a vision in the sky. The clouds are making shapes and the moon makes them glow. I see a phoenix rising from the horizon. The head of this phoenix is distinctly chicken. I see it as an omen of the coming shift. The coming resurgence of life and vibrancy in our city cultures. The resurgence of the skills to build and make our own goods within our own small, local economies. The resurgence of chickens in our daily lives, because no longer will it be “efficient” to centralize farming and egg production. Because as we free ourselves from the oppression of processed food, stripped of real nutrition, we free chickens of the horrible oppression of factory farms. Because improving the lives and happiness of the chickens that help nourish us, improves our own health and quality of life, and re-affirms the value of our own humanity.
As we conclude our sharing we give the collected water, pregnant with our intentions, back to the ocean. Practicing interdependence through giving and letting go.