New Year’s resolutions, some people love them, some people hate them, and the rest of the world doesn’t really care. I’m not sure where the tradition of making resolutions exactly comes from, but it’s most common in the Western world. The need to commit to something in order to change a part of our life has become a global trend. So, why not use it in a way to make our lives more meaningful?
Decoloniality as the foundation of all New Year’s resolutions
Decolonizing has become a buzzword but when it comes down to “decolonizing our lives”, the language used to explain what is needed is often academic or hazy. In the Maria Lugones Decolonial Summer School, the question was asked: how can we live an ethical life without (contributing to) suffering? That’s eventually what decoloniality is about.
Most New Year’s resolutions focus on what individuals can do to better their life. In the top lists on Google, you will find examples such as losing weight, quitting smoking, focusing on self-care, building a better budget, reading more books (I want to do this too), reducing waste, stopping multitasking etc. I would say, once you focus on decoloniality, the rest will follow automatically. It is the foundation of all New Year’s resolutions.
In short, what is decoloniality? Three premises of decoloniality are: - the idea of Europe as centre of the world and leading in our idea of what modern life looks like; - the modern lifestyle doesn’t go without a dark side, for example our consumer society comes with unpaid labour and modern slavery; - we need to delink from what we have learned so far and thus we need to unlearn.
Here are 5 steps to start with when aiming for a decolonial life:
- Embrace your position, which might be on the racist side of the spectrum. Where do you stand along the lines of race, class, gender, education, ableism, sexuality etc? Law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term ‘intersectionality’ to describe the way people’s social identities can overlap. Have a look at where you stand and what possible blind spots or prejudices you might have towards people on the other side of the palette. It’s important to be realistic about our position because even though we don’t want to be called racist, for example, if we are white growing up in Europe, in a mostly white society and environment, chances are that racism is an ingrained part of who we are. Don’t deny your position or act as if you’re not part of the system. Instead, embrace it and then see what you can do to create a more equal world from where you are.
- Reach out and talk with people to overcome your unconscious bias, to unlearn. Saying that ‘you don’t see color’ is also an unconscious bias. Have a look at the different kinds of bias that exist and make a list of the ones you most probably have. Be honest about it, it’s not about being a bad person, it’s about uncovering habits in your behavior that can be damaging to others. Reaching out to people who you may have a bias against is helpful when you do it in a humble way, with the aim of listening to them and learning from them. Ask open questions and explain why you would like to have a chat. There is a chance they’re not open to having a conversation with you and that’s perfectly fine, never push someone toward a chat about this. It’s not their responsibility to teach you something. But confrontation with others is the best way for you to really understand the topic. When you do find someone who is willing to have a talk, be respectful and don’t lead the conversation.
- Decolonize your timeline. We can be very willing to have conversations about racism or discrimination but often when we go back to our usual behavior, we easily forget the important lessons learned. If you are serious about decolonizing, you need to also look critically at what content you are consuming on a daily basis. How many of the books you are reading are by white authors? How much of the music you’re listening to or the series you watch on Netflix comes from the US or the Western world? What percentage of news sources you read or listen to is coming from The West? Make a list of this regarding your own life and then see where you can diversify your sources. Apply this to everything you do in life. From your bookshelf to the expert you lean on for your work.
- Improve your relationship with nature. It may sound weird in this list at first, but anyone who dives deeper into the topic of decolonization knows that our relationship with nature lies at the very foundation of what decoloniality is. Christianity and Enlightenment guided us towards a hierarchy of humans above nature. For a long time, humans thought they could control nature. Nowadays, with climate change urgency we slowly start to realize that living in tune with nature is what us might save us. And we can learn from indigenous people who still hold wisdom around this topic. You can start with your own plants or pets, or with the communal garden or park near your house. Learn more about how nature works in your environment and pay attention to the cycles that influence our lives.
- Build a community. Decoloniality is about communal work, contrary to individualism which has become our global religion. You most probably are part of communities already: your family, your friend circle, your colleagues, your neighborhood. See how you can strengthen the communities in your life and what part you can play in doing so. And maybe there is space for expansion in doing volunteer work or setting up a new community if you feel there is a need.
A challenge for New Year’s resolutions is how to keep them. Creating a more decolonial life shouldn’t fall in the same category of challenges because all the efforts you take will immediately pay off. We tend to think that discussions about racism, decoloniality, and inequality need to be heavy and serious. The truth is, once you pay attention to living a more ethical life, you will notice the pleasure and lightness that comes with doing so. The planet will become more healthy, you will become a more humble and patient person, and nature will welcome you with its beauty.
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