Harambee: Pulling Together in the Digital World
Borrowing a word from Swahili, the most prominent African language of East Africa seems appropriate to initiate this collective, website and publishing imprint. Swahili became popular in the late Sixties among black Americans as a celebration of African-ness. Harambee means pulling and working together for justice and freedom, that summarizes the vision of The Firebird Rising. We seek to transform digitized isolation, anonymity, and cynicism by building a community of courageous creative collaborating souls, who mine their personal depths and experiences in writing, paintings, photos, and other creative media. Our work emerges from the deep mine of years of life experiences tempered with heart and soul. Paradoxically, we also tap the sometimes naive dreams of youth to inform hope in our work.
One quality of the hippie days I sorely miss is the sense of purpose and community we had. We ‘thumbed’ rides, we demonstrated en mass, we passed doobies to strangers, and we flashed the peace sign to fellow-travellers. Our togetherness had an idealistic purpose: Make the world a better, more fun and fair place. Of course, young people are by nature idealistic. Whereas now we older/ senior citizens may see the futility in the political process, as youth we dared to hope, make that expected the Establishment to change its evil ways. That is until we became the Establishment.
Riding the crest of an economic boom in the 60s and 70s, the Baby Boomers weren’t concerned about income equality. Our retort to the conservative slogan—‘love it or leave it’—of ‘change it or lose it’ activated a backlash to our dreams of a cooperative, peaceful, and humane society, which in the 21st century reached fruition in the 2016 presidential election. The core capitalistic tension between exploitation and ‘free-enterprise’ has been exacerbated with the election of a “B” movie actor as president in 1980, minimum wage stagnation, and income inequality exceeding that of the Gilded Age of 1900. Due in varying degrees to globalization, technology, union-busting, unbridled illegal immigration, and corporate greed, we now live in an economy that assigns almost all responsibility on the individual.
Our current extreme interpretation of self-reliance represents some sort of apotheosis of American greed. Originated by progressive positive-thinking writers, the early 20th-century self-help slogan “If it is to be, it is up to me’ was appropriated by the new agers and their ilk in the ‘me decade’ of the 80s. Ballyhooed as self-esteem, the go-it-alone mentality became a siren call in the 80s/ 90s for success. Conservatives said the market works wonders, so let’s drop pensions in favour of 401 Ks, trade job security for independent contractor status, and exchange right-to-work for unions and ethical news media for social media.
What do people band together for anymore? The SuperBowl? The Oscars? The demise of the commons has led to an atomized society where survival is like Bob Marley’s concrete jungle, the survival of the slickest. Find your own way. But back in the day, we had a different version: John Lennon promoted ‘Come Together.’ But come together for what? At the time Boomers were young and inexperienced, now the opposite is true.
Like the web we all use, rather than the current fantasy that everyone can win (and 99% lose), perhaps by pulling together/ Harambee, we can invoke the Revolutionary War slogan by Ben Franklin, “Either we all hang together, or we’ll hang separately.” With knowledge gleaned from many years of service/ work in the world and a heartfelt desire to offer a legacy, Boomers are perfectly poised to offer wisdom for building a more caring and cooperative society. My personal mission builds on those roots and my experiences to foster creativity in the community by reviving the original hippie ideals before they devolved into crystals, psychics, and hugging gurus. The Firebird Rising offers a space for individual and collaborative original expressions from our creative collective.
RW Klarin, founder/ publisher of The Firebird Rising
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