Thursday, November 10, 2011
And all evening I've been just sitting around, thinking about the different ways humans have come up with to hurt each other. We, as oppressed people, as anybody who is struggling in any way, have a baseline of so much violence that is inflicted on us daily. Many of the things that cause our pain are quite literally out of our control. Systems are in place (crumbling, but still in place) that ensure that poverty, racism, heterosexism and patriarchy, ableism, nationalism, and more rule our lives and keep most of us at the bottom so the elite can have what they want. We try to organize ourselves and our people to reduce harm, to dismantle oppressive systems, to create new systems, to meet our needs, and to provide care and opportunity. And the only way such organizing has a positive effect is if our relationships are solid and good, if imperfect. The only way we succeed is if we work through our shit with each other and band together.
But if there's anything I've learned, looking carefully at the world around me, and in particular in this last year, is that many of our relationships are strained, abusive, unhealthy, and broken. A lot factors into this. I think most of us know that so much of the trauma that is caused by the aforementioned systems hurts us to the point that we don't know how to act but to hurt each other. We are so profoundly suffering that even those of us who like to think of ourselves as walking a path toward causing less suffering and less harm treat each other like shit, so often. And thus, our connections weaken, our chains lose links. We become ineffective in taking care of ourselves and of each other. We don't take accountability for the harm that we cause. The suffering has a ripple effect: starting from the individual, outward: to interpersonal relationships, to communities, to our relationship to the earth which sustains us, to people who might live halfway across the world and to whom we might not feel connected at all (but are.) Our people suffer. Our movement suffers.
I/we need to find a way out of this, for me and for you and for our community and the world. From my particular vantage point, I see so many queers and POC, and in particular the overlap between those worlds (to which I belong) hurt each other in myriad ways. We are fumbling through the process of trying to do better, but still stuck in our old stories, or our old "shapes," to use some somatics language. So we decide we are committed to accountability, for example. But instead of thinking about how we might be accountable for the harm we have caused, we still position ourselves as victims, and point fingers, and demand reparations from others. In the process, we ostracize one another, gossip about one another, exclude people entirely from communities or subsections thereof. And why? Because they are guilty of the same thing we are guilty of: imperfection. Being human.
This causes so much harm. It is so hard to feel like a member of a community that espouses care and compassion and liberation and to feel like the harm that has been inflicted on you has been made invisible. Feelings of unworthiness and shame and loneliness pervade your reality. This is what I am dealing with, and I know that this is what my community is dealing with. Lately, I feel like I hear about it every day.
This means some things for me, personally. I wish that I could practice that which I know logically is best for me: focusing on myself, taking care of myself, and taking accountability for the harm I have caused in difficult situations. And practicing modifying my behavior so I cause less harm. I am actively working on this, through work with a somatics practitioner, through intentionally building relationships that are supportive of this process, and through committing to practices I know are healthy for me, like writing. I know that lately I have been stuck in the victim role. So much of my life feels unfair these days that when yet another person hurts me, I lash out. I know I can't change anyone else's behavior, logically. But I have to feel this, practice it. I must remember that all I can control is my own behavior, my own actions and reactions. I must also remember that the harm other people cause me is a) not about me and b) only has as much power as I give it. No one "makes me" feel insecure or less than, or any other way. I just feel that way, and maybe something about the way they treat me intensifies that. There might be useful information in there somewhere, like, for example, that I should stop trying to build relationships with people who do not value me or my needs, but that is not the whole point. They didn't do it to me. This is about me needing to work through my own shit.
Sometimes I feel my own hurt, so heavy, so personal. And sometimes I know I feel it because it is everybody's. Everybody is hurting. I wish our community would stop hurting each other like this. It is so easy to speak in the abstract about these issues but when we are faced with them, regularly, daily, in our interpersonal relationships, I see us so often pointing fingers and blaming and shaming. We have to do better than this. And reading over what I've written so far, I see that everything I say about myself also applies to others around me, and everything I say about others also applies to me. We're all in the same boat, here, friends.
I do also know that a great shift is happening. I see it all around me, in every moment. It is a huge transition, and it is painful, and it is making us into these roaringly ambivalent creatures. Beautiful and open and free and wild and big love in one moment, then mean and hurtful and vicious and gossiping and complaining the next. I see this in others and I see it in me. It feels like a weeding out of warriors - who is brave enough to be heartbroken over and over and over again only to show up every day with a heart full of love? Who can bring that love and care and compassion even to those who have hurt them? Especially to those who have hurt them? Because those are the people we need to be if humanity is going to survive political and economic collapse, the ravages of climate change, and rising brutality and fear-based competition in light of these changes.
And somebody died tonight. Shot in the head just outside the Occupy Oakland encampment. I have no political commentary. This death is real, this hole in this person's head is real, this grieving family is real, this is what we are faced with. We are wasting time being cruel to each other in some misguided attempt to get what we want, fill emptiness, so we can feel better, or more complete? Or what? I don't know. I am sick with this pain we are all carrying around all the time. Just sick and heavy and I want this precious life to be what I know it can be. Better. Kinder. Less anger, less trauma, less hate. More love, more compassion, more lightness, more joy. I'm trying. I'm really trying.