In this year commemorating the 500th anniversary of Thomas Moore’s book ‘Utopia’, the very concept can seem hopelessly idealistic. Yet in the most suprising corner of the world the dreams of an anarchist social ecologist called Murray Bookchin(1921-2006) are being put into practice. In Northern Syria 3 Kurdish held cantons (Rojava) are working with his ideas of direct democracy in municipalities rather than a State. This is partly because their leader Ocalan who is still imprisoned by the Turkish government was inspired by Bookchin. They are also affected by a world wide movement away from rigid hierarchies as expressed in The Arab spring, Occupy, the Indignados in Spain etc.
But in Rojava the ideals are practised on a society wide scale. There is an acceptance of all religions and ethnicities, although there is also a strong secular left influence. There are people’s assemblies at all levels including those on each street. Women make up over 40% of all organisations. Salaries are similar regardless of the job. The sub title of Bookchin’s most famous book ‘Ecology of Freedom’ is ‘The dissolution of hierarchies’. He sees them as being linked to our domination of nature, leading to ecological disaster. He argued that any spiritual aspect of this social ecology would be related to the sacredness and interconnectedness of nature. The idea of deity is seen as problematic, part of the old hierarchical religions. That’s why my new painting of Attagatis is kind of dissolved into the many dimensions and rhythms of nature. As an image and a myth, such as laying her egg in the Euphrates river, she can encourage us to new beginnings as well as an honouring of the ancient land.
We all know how quickly hierarchies reassert themselves, and for some people it may be that a new specifically left wing spirituality could be helpful. And that could include flexible, imagined deities like Equalia who can be a loving mother as well as a force of nature. When someone recently read my book ‘Deep Equality’ he associated it immediately with Bookchin. As a proud utopian idealist I was encouraged by this connection and would love to see it as a psychological and spiritual companion to social ecology.
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