The Dragon Journal: Issue 2

Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising
by Starhawk

Review by  Adrian Harris

Webs of Power  is a guide to the most exciting movement for social change we have seen in our lifetimes and an insightful analysis of how our spirituality can best serve it. Starhawk combines thirty years of social activism with front-line experience and spiritual wisdom to portray the ‘anti-globalization’, or more accurately, the ‘global justice’ movement.

Ecofeminist Starhawk is an author of six books, two of them novels. She has place in the hills where she practices permaculture. And, crucially, she is a witch. Words like ‘Witch’ may seem provocative or inflammatory, so Starhawk is careful to explain her meaning. A ‘witch’ is "a woman or a man who honors the cycles of birth, growth, death, and regeneration as the Goddess - and who often takes on a role of responsibility in their spiritual community, as healer, ritual maker, teacher, priestess." The book opens with a concise introduction to the key players in the globalisation game: WTO, IMF and the rest -- dull names hiding an inhuman ideology of mindless devotion to profit.

I was shocked by my ignorance of the issues. Starhawk writes:
"The UN estimates that 6 million children a year die because of policies imposed by the IMF and the World Bank."

The bulk of the book divides into two sections: Part one, ‘Actions’, consists mainly of frontline reports originally written as e-mails during the protests. Driven by the immediacy of the situation, they are urgent, tasting of fear, passion and anger.

She writes from the moment and from the heart of dramas as exciting as those in her novels. More that once I found myself holding my breath as I turned the page to discover what had happened during some front line confrontation. But of course this isn’t fiction - it’s life, and that bites.

Part two, ‘Visions’, is more considered. Though written far from the danger of the protest, it draws on those experiences and feeds from a full life of spiritual exploration.

Starhawk articulates the issues from a deeply human perspective, opening up theoretical aspects with personal anecdotes. She doesn’t offer pat answers - there are none - but focuses on the practical strategies.

Though "solutions already exist to most of our major ecological problems", we must create a space for these alternatives to flourish. This demands commitment and hard work, but the alternative is to tacitly support ‘business as usual’.

Some of Starhawk's most intriguing ideas seem rooted in permaculture. What is our role in nature? What if we see the movement as an ecosystem? What happens when we stop and truly take the time to see?

This approach reveals connections and relationships, the very patterns of life which globalization would break. We are bonded to the land, and "The whole system we call ‘globalization’ is predicated on the destruction of this bond". Perhaps, Starhawk says, permaculture has "more to teach us about abundance than the current dysfunctional economic theories".

The 60’s are still lauded as the defining moment of a revolution that failed, that degraded into the ‘me generation’ and the cynicism of the 80’s. But Starhawk presents the organic growth of the Global Justice movement as the most significant revolutionary force the world has ever seen. Why? Because it’s non-violent, rooted in personal empowerment and rejects the ‘us and them’ mentality that has characterised past efforts. As Starhawk says, maybe the other revolutions were just for practice -"This time lets get it right."

You would have to be at least sympathetic to Neo-Paganism to enjoy Starhawk’s’ classic debut, The Spiral Dance , now in it’s 20th anniversary edition. But with each subsequent book this has been less true, and with Webs of Power  the embrace of her ideas opens still more widely.

Starhawk’s spiritual vision remains central: It’s why she risked getting beaten up - or worse - on the streets. Her understanding of the sacredness of the body, of the erotic and of life itself, informs the whole book.

"When we know what we stand for and are willing to risk ourselves for, what the standard is by which we measure our actions and choices, what is most deeply important to us, and what most profoundly nourishes and inspires us, we know what is truly sacred."

If I had to choose just one message from Webs of Power , it would be that the revolution is now:

"Revolution is what we are, not what we will become; what we do, not what we will do someday. An unfolding enlivening experiment, something we continually reinvent as we go, a living process happening now."

Starhawk quotes a Native American proverb that says, "If we don't change our direction, we're going to wind up where we're headed." The power to make a difference, to change where we’re headed, is in our own hands. This is the ‘last revolution’: If we fail this time, there won’t be another chance.

Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising
by Starhawk

New Society Publishers Canada 2002 
Paperback £13.50
ISBN 0-86571-456-8

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