Double, Double Soil and Trouble: Bewitching Cultures and the #metoo Movement
“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”
William Shakespeare, from MacBeth
Happy Halloween! Today we celebrate the freaky side of life, and death. Images of graveyards crawling with insects come to mind and a hand suddenly bursting through the soil. The dead awakening hungry for justice. A metaphor for those who’ve been silenced?
When I first began gardening in soil - like real soil, not potting soil - it did kind of creep me out. I’d dig with hesitance and fear, until I’d inevitably unearth a grub, dew worm or some other surprise and be totally gagged. With time and experience, however, I grew to appreciate the creepy-crawlies and the important jobs they do. If you consider the garden as a community of plants, soil is its culture. It’s creepy, crawly culture. When it comes to growing plants, why is this important to understand?
Because, at practically every scale of life
we see that culture dictates growth.
At the cellular level, the research of Dr. Bruce Lipton has shown that by changing the culture of the petri dish, the fate of a stem cell is determined. Therefore, the chemistry of the culture dictates the growth of the cell.
Dr. Lipton expanded his understanding to explain that our own bodies operate in a similar way, where our cells function as a community within a culture that is our blood. The chemistry of our blood then dictates the growth within our cells.
On the broader scale of the global community, we see that how our culture (or ‘the system’) functions influences the way we grow as a species. Our behaviours and attitudes dictate how much we choose to reproduce or kill, learn or squander, evolve or devolve.
Understanding what dictates growth
gives us a better grasp on how to influence change
to grow in a preferred direction.
Like a witches cauldron, Dr. Lipton’s stem cell research demonstrated that by tweaking the chemistry of the petri dish, you could ‘cast spells’ on otherwise genetically-identical stem cells and alter their future expression. So, two genetically-identical stems cells would grow to become two entirely different tissues.
Does this mean we may be able to ‘cast spells’
on other forms of culture to alter fate?
To grow a beautiful garden requires a understanding of its soil culture and how to influence it. We can negatively influence soil by using pesticides and herbicides that obliterate important life forms crucial to creating a healthy soil structure.
In a lot of large-scale agriculture, for example, the soil has been so drastically degraded that plants simply won’t grow without the heavy input of synthetic fertilizers. These fertilizers quickly leech out of poor soil into waterways and in some cases groundwater. Waterways become over-fertilized to the point of becoming anaerobic. Fish die. Birds suffer… Not to mention the quality of the food that was grown with those fertilizers is generally poor. It’s just one cascading cluster-fu*k of problems.
Or! We can positively influence soil by adding lots of organic matter, in the form of compost, to increase the number of bacteria and fungi present. They control a lot of the chemistry at the root of plants, altering the molecular structure of elements to make nutrients more readily available to the plant. They also serve as food for larger beneficial insects that all function in a beautiful harmony known as the soil food web. Organic matter also increases the water-holding capacity of the soil, thereby reducing runoff. For a more in-depth understanding of soil health, have a listen to this fantastic podcast featuring Dr. Elaine Ingham.
When it comes to our growth, as Dr. Bruce Lipton so brilliantly explains, we change the chemistry of our blood with our brain. Stress, for example, releases chemicals like cortisol that cause our body’s core blood vessels to constrict. While I’m no Doogie Howser, wearing out your blood vessels does not sound like positive growth to me. Take MacBeth as another example: the very ‘idea’ of gaining power ultimately consumed and destroyed him.
Whereas, a positive mindset does the opposite spurring positive growth. We see this with placebo effect, where the belief that things will get better makes them so. A positive mindset can also influence our blood by driving us to adopt healthy cravings to be active and eat well.
While there are a number of ways to influence our behaviours and attitudes individually, how do we influence them on the whole? At the scale of our global community, perhaps the most widespread influence today is social media.
In fact, last year it was reported that
Of course, the influence of social media can be positive or negative. In a negative sense, the introduction of algorithms in social media has led to the development of echo chambers. These arise when people are fed information that is only in support of their view, creating a self-serving social environment and dialogue that may be quite biased and far-removed from the truth.
However, in a positive sense social media allows us to make powerful connections on issues of global concern. A good example of this was the recent #metoo movement that arose in response to allegations of sexual harassment and assault by American film producer Harvey Weinstein. A New York activist by the name of Tarana Burke created the movement, asking women who’d experienced sexual abuse to simply write “Me Too” on their social media platforms to give people a sense of the scale of the problem.
This was an eye-opening movement for me for several reasons. When I first saw the words appear on my social media feed, I felt sympathy. Like, “Oh, poor her.” And then a few minutes later it hit me, “Me too!” As I reflected more, the memories started to come back to me. Some events subtle and covert. Others entirely blatant. Like that time a guy put his hands down my pants in a cab when I repeatedly told him, “No,” then kissed me on the cheek and said thank you after. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy myself at the party once we arrived. I could go on, but the point of this blog post is not to share my personal accounts but to remark on the culture I grew up in.
What disturbed me was not remembering the events themselves. It was my ability to file them away in my memory in a folder labelled “unfortunate”. It was as if my mind normalized the behaviour of sexual harassment and assault as an unavoidable experience… because it was (and is) quite normal.
But what’s normal in a culture
doesn’t necessarily equal healthy.
Is a culture of poor soil normal? As much as 33% of the earth’s land has been degraded to the point of desertification, affecting more than one billion people, the majority living in Africa. Not exactly abnormal, is it? Furthermore, only about 11% of the earth’s land surface is left to feed a population of 7+ billion people… that’s not including all the other animals on this planet!
Is a culture of stress normal? According to statisticbrain.com, 77% of people in the U.S. report they regularly feel physical symptoms caused by stress. I’ll admit I was surprised that 23 % report they don’t.
But does knowing these facts spur change? Not really. Facts and figures may shock us, but then we continue to live the way we do. However, if we can evoke deep emotions on a mass scale, we unleash the power to change our body chemistries, our blood, our inner cultures.
There lies the brilliance of the #metoo movement. It allowed us to connect emotionally to an issue, whether it awakened the silence in us personally or it opened our eyes to those we know intimately that have, up until this point, remained silent. It juxtaposed a normal and unhealthy aspect of our culture and distilled it into two simple words, using the magic of a pound key to sync our individual experiences into a collective whole.
I’ll admit, when I first discovered hashtags as a thing, I thought they were really dumb. It wasn’t until I started to understand them as keywords that they began to make sense to me. Eventually, I caught on to the humorous side of them.
But I never imagined hashtags would become
a social tool to influence positive cultural change.
And with a positive change in culture
comes positive growth.
Did the #metoo movement influence positive cultural change? I think so. It un-silenced so many victims. It created widespread collective solidarity spurred from a high-profile case, bringing together people from all sorts of backgrounds towards one moral good. Which brings up another interesting point about hashtags.
If algorithms and echo chamber effect can negatively influence culture and social media, hashtags have the power to transcend them. Take this article describing a Super Bowl event, for example. This company strategically used hashtags to reach audiences outside of their algorithmically-defined ones.
While it’s probably still too early to say if the #metoo movement will create lasting positive growth, I believe it represents an ideological shift in how we as a culture respond to sexual harassment. I believe that jokey, “locker-room talk”, derogatory bullsh*t won’t fly like it use to. I believe and I hope we’ve reached the critical mass in our collective consciousness to not tolerate and call out this kind of behaviour when we see it.
When it comes to cultures, growth and how we influence positive change, what I hope you’ll take from reading this is:
Support farmers who respect soil health. The fate our food system and utter existence rely on it.
Cast a placebo spell on yourself. Tell yourself repeatedly that things will get better despite any signs that suggest they won’t. Mindset over matter.
Above all, speak your truth. First and foremost to yourself. Then, aloud to others and across your social media platforms.
If the norm is unhealthy, be abnormal.
And what better day to celebrate the abnormal than Halloween!
If you enjoyed this article, like and share it with your friends. The more we understand how to influence positive change, the more positive change will occur.
For more information on Dr. Bruce Lipton’s research, check out this youtube interview.