“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows." - Doug Larson
Recently I found myself in a discussion about weeds. Well, actually, it was about the subtle paradigm shifts possible for perspectives on different types of people in society. But weeds did come in as a central theme. The conversation was generally along the lines of “It’s a shame some people aren’t seen for the value they contribute to society, especially those who are outcasts”.
And in amongst the conversing I found myself sharing a thread familiar to me, specifically about another way to perceive the “outcasts” of our social collective. In essence, that thread goes: when the both/and* paradigm is embraced and when integrate-rather-than-segregate is the cultural norm, the lens for looking at the human ecosystem suddenly shoots open with a wide angle, allowing in a panorama of other perspectives.
This tangent carries a powerful natural parallel, and that in this case is weeds. Weeds are the plants people love to hate. I suspect the label ‘weeds’ is an alternative to how many people describe the social outcasts; the people that people love to hate. In Australia, the plant-weeds are usually non-native imports who have found a niche to exploit: a dandelion growing through the cracked footpath, lantana brimming along eroded river banks, cats claw vine climbing virulously up tall trees. Likewise, in Australia the “people-weeds” tend to be imports, but imports in the sense of it being different to the cultural norm e.g. queer, corrupted and troublesome, as well as immigrants and refugees.
As any true fractal will enable, there’s much we can learn from plant-weeds to help understand people-weeds.
First, we must recognise the bigger picture motivating plant-weeds. Despite what Joe Bloggs with his spray can of RoundUp might think, plant-weeds exist not to frustrate humans (and thereby initiate their own demise through pesticides). Their motivation is rather to contribute to a sophisticated expression of life, acting much like an aid-worker in a war-torn country, bringing essential and critical resources to support recovery and progression.
The reality is, plant-weeds reflect a glitch in the natural ecosystem allowing their growth with wild abandon; they reflect a silent ‘war’ to which they’ve loyally and nobly attended as the weedy aid-workers. Usually, we humans have created this glitch by creating the conditions perfect for a thriving weed. The lifeless cement footpath, having lost connect to soil structure, cracks, allowing life to peek through in the form a serrated dandelion leaf. Lantana thrives in disturbed soil, a condition humans are expert in creating through vegetation clearance and waterways mismanagement.
Weeds are but symptoms of imbalance, and initiators of the balance required for the sophisticated expression of Life.
The dandelion’s long tap root runs deep into the soil profile to mine minerals to allow surface layers to be nourished. Lantana stabilises disturbed soil: locking it down and conditioning it, cultivating better conditions for more “acceptable” plants to grow. They are pioneers and healers.
So what about the people-weeds: the people people love to hate? The drug-addict, the alcoholic, the mentally and physically challenged: examples seen the world over, archetypes of depravity, imbalance and that which is not-normal. And those who are just different: different skin colour, different culture, different language, different history all hold sway in the discrimination stakes.
With the dandelion’s leaf as our guide, we might start to transmute cultural biases and explore our perceptions in a different way; rather, seeing the ‘outcast’ behaviours and differences more as symptoms rather than problems.
Symptoms of what you might ask?
Perhaps of a human without the emotional resilience or ability to endure traumatic experiences; (which is something which can easily be bred through socio-economic groups who end up in a seemingly endless cycle of emotional, physical, mental dis-empowerment, often by causes outside of their control).
Symptoms of simply being from a different history, a different culture and a different people group (something that can be terribly threatening to the comfortable status quo).
Symptoms of the collective culture lacking the capacity to effectively support and integrate human experiences into critical learning about how to avoid said traumas.
Symptoms of broader cultural imbalance and deficiency, rather than ill-willed neurosis and expression of “evil” from one individual or societal sub-culture.
So, with that said, where do these symptoms get us? Well, if we take a leaf from the dandelion’s cluster, our perception and understanding for these people (and their behaviours) may be compassionately guided to see these ‘problems’ as ‘solutions’, with the aid of a subtle yet powerful paradigm shift of utilising inclusion and love.
Take an integrated both/and approach, one will see opportunities for growth, creativity, deeper understanding of the human experience. Take a separating either/or approach, one will experience and perpetuate fear, disconnection and dis-ease.
By choosing the inclusive approach toward people-weeds, a culture will start to develop means to feel and care for it’s fellows. By taking the inclusive approach, a society will experience a course-correction, one where bandaid solutions (like putting folks in jail or medicating them into submission) disappear and where a preventative methodology is embraced. A methodology where normal is more about allowing these “damaged/different” folks to express and progress their experiences, and perhaps even be a reminder of systems not serving the higher good of humans. By taking the inclusive approach, we might come to experience cultural insights, foods, and practices from far-away places that shape and enrich our understanding of being human.
Without wanting to be a naive reductionist about these complex matters, the difference between the inclusive and exclusive approaches seems to be quite simple.
And that simple difference is… choice.
Though, I’m sure a wise person once said “that which is simple isn’t necessarily easy”.
Because this choice to be inclusive requires the collective to look at how they’re doing things, to look at why they are doing things, and to consider the construct of their societal norms. And that ain’t necessarily so easy ~ much like those folks who don’t want to go to the doctor when they know there “could” be something wrong.
Having traveled to far-away countries through my twenties, I came to contemplate quite a lot what it means to be a white Australian. It wasn’t long before I realised the colonising of the indigenous peoples of Australia was the same practice encountered by indigenous peoples of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (from where my bloodline hales). Like colonising tends to do, it had destructive impacts on the intact cultural heritage of the people-groups it imposed upon.
And in essence, those destructive impacts are what (usually) creates trauma; trauma that deeply embeds in the psyche, sustained generation upon generation until, consciously or unconsciously, it is healed and transformed.
This is what seems to have come to Australia – humans traumatised and spat-out by the Industrial Revolution, landing in a very different land (full of strange creatures and humans) where they needed to survive. The victim-perpetrator paradigm was ripe for rolling out, generation upon generation, until a new set of conditions were formed. One might say discrimination is hard-wired into our cellular memory as a “normal” way of being.
So what does all this mean?
If we go back to the inclusive-rather-than-exclusive piece, we’re reminded about looking at the target of our discriminations as indicators rather than pure annoyance. (This is otherwise known as ‘projection’ - a habit of the ego-self who isn’t willing to acknowledge it’s own deficiencies so it projects them onto the context surrounding it.)
By acknowledging the crisis experienced by the people-weeds amongst us, we may just start to acknowledge a reflection of our own selves that we are loath to recognise but to which we’re intimately familiar. If we consciously receive this reflection, we have the first step to change: acknowledgement of the issue.
It is then that we can start to re-wire another operating system for interacting with the behaviours expressed through a diverse collective of humans.
By supporting those who are traumatised in our cultural landscape, we have opportunity to learn on a macro-level, perhaps shifting the collective behaviours in small but powerful ways.
Perhaps the realisation will be available that by tending our social garden to avoid disturbance and erosion of the human character, we’ll have less trouble to deal with; and ultimately more empowered, healthy and whole humans to co-create with.
We might also come to recognise the resilience, character and empowerment embodied in these humans are a doing the best they can with what they have to work with.
Through the eyes of my heart, this wide-angle lens of compassion, honesty, healing and transformation of the integrate-rather-than segregate paradigm seems far more life-affirming than any other. That’s the essence cultivated by another divine fractal, and I suspect you might be on the another divine fractal path too.
* The Both/And concept will be explored and explained in future blog posts. Stay tuned to find out more about this strange yet provocative set of words.
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