We started a recent virtual ebbf netherlands dialogue, joined by a global audience, (see more events here) by asking ourselves this question:
whilst we are clear that we want to fight injustice, racism, inequality, what is it that we are trying to achieve? What is the best way to go about it?
The first answer that emerged is that we were longing for more understanding, more knowledge, very aware that we are very far from having one world view, a united collective view and that we wanted to “elevate voices that are not heard”.
Martina commented how people look at the world with different eyes: for example during the COVID quarantine period the expression, “let’s do this with common sense” came up, but we soon realized that “common sense” is different for everyone.
Joe remembered the wise words of his mother of 8 children, a wise person who used to say “common sense is not common, expect the unexpected” that always stuck with him.
So learning and understanding and accepting that we are diverse and that we need to see good around us is a great first step to then feeling closer , less disconnected able to understand each other.
The other step to fighting injustice is of course to understand what people suffering, racism, discrimination actually go through.
Once again this is not a shared experience. As a white male European I have absolutely no idea what a black man or a discriminated woman at work have to go through every single day of their life.
I have no understanding of how that makes them feel, the disempowerment it creates, how they all too often have to change themselves to adapt to the broader understanding of what is just.
Oscar shared that in order to contribute to the solution, we need to try and find out, asking the questions of what the problem we are facing actually is.
At work, socially, privately at home, we need to have this common understanding, from a collective point of view, and not be limited or even oppressed by the understanding of the problem shouted by a few who have loud voices.
We need to be understanding not the symptom, but the societal root causes.
Too many things in society are now coming out from extreme of emotions.
We are dragged into emotions, take for example the refugee crisis, it is still going on but as it is not on the news right now it has lost importance and relevance in our conversations. First there was opposition to immigration, then after the photo of a boy dead on the beach a wave of sympathy arose and then again a strong opposition emerged.
The same is happening now with racial issues: are you for or against the issue? How can we move away from the simplification of villains or heroes?
How can we create a space where conversations happen in order to contribute to action, to meaningful action? Because the discourse is just the beginning of social transformation.
If we can’t have an open exchange of views, and learn our perspectives and shift our minds, the rest, the actions will be impossible. Or even worse the wrong actions will be taken. We need to be hearing views on the best ways to create conversations that lead to good actions.
Should we then listen more or act more?
Perhaps right now we are far too action or even worse reaction-oriented.
We are all too easily triggered into though-less or superficial actions / reactions. We seem to be 5% listening, 5% dialogue, 5% learning/deepening and 85% action-reaction. Perhaps the time has come to change that balance and to only have minimal action; action that is informed by that majority of time spent listening, dialoguing, learning and deepening.
That way the few actions we take, will be very well thought through, agreed by many, and far more effective moving forward.
Sometimes we are too quick to react, often in a good way, only to discover we are acting on the symptoms and not the underlying ills. This should always be balanced with a healthy guard to avoid paralysis by analysis.
Actions that emerge from understanding “what is the root cause of what is happening?” . But people right now are not asking the right questions, not profoundly searching for the truth, lacking this genuine truth searching, going to the roots, to eradicate and not allow the same patterns to grown again from those same roots.
We can stimulate that necessary genuine search for truth.
Unlearning towards compassion
We also offered the idea of an unlearning of the mindsets that are disruptive for our community and for ourselves and for how we see others.
We could move to a place of humanity, compassion and love.
Should that compassion be extended to people doing/saying the wrong things? No one wants to be wrong, but sometimes we say / do the wrong thing despite our best intentions and that perhaps should be ok, how do we deal with the repercussions on us and on others?
Understanding the difference between being born with privilege vs receiving the “gift of acceptance” is important, looking for inflection points or levers, seeing challenges as opportunities instead of problems, all of these are attitudes that provide more energy to what is on the table.
The main challenge is how to create these safe spaces to have these discussions and involving more views. We should always be looking for the offramp from the motorway of safety and of the usual group.
Engaging with others to continue to grow is the key to continue to improve.
There is a an underlying link, a connection between all the discussions with homeless, racisms, refugees, gender injustice. Those discussions are good and whilst having a dialogue on this issue with the victims is not an issue for them, there needs to be a better balance between talking with the victims and giving them a voice.
One important shift would be giving attention and the loudspeaker to the people who are victims of the society we created and whilst having a dialogue is interesting, those people still feel (and are) left out of the discussions where decisions are taken.
For example talking with or even showing the interview of refugees in the Greek Island camp of Lesbos just allows politicians to show the chaos that refugees create. Instead those people should be talking directly with the decision makers, the real situation understood by everyone, and the way forward agreed not in isolation but progressing together, with all views and possibilites taken into account.
Who should lead the change? Me, you or everyone?
Social change is not a project that one group of people carries out for the benefit of all, we are not an intellectual group of friends solving the problems of humanity from beautiful living rooms and beautiful conversations.
In the Ridvan message of 2010 “Thus, while social action may involve the provision of goods and services in some form, its primary concern must be to build capacity within a given population to participate in creating a better world. Social change is not a project that one group of people carries out for the benefit of another.”
The challenge came up of then capturing the elements on what motivates people. What can move them to do things they ordinarily would not do. A little donation on the street is not giving up anything.
Those are conversations that I’d like to enlarge with other people, listen to more people, it should no longer be “our project”, instead create the groundswell , understand how we are all in this together.
Creating a new sense that I am not “giving up” something, missing something, instead I am giving things for love and kindness and not feeling forced to do it. It has to be in hearts and not in heads.
We concluded that we wanted to move from a sense of liability to a social connection model of justice — making it a project not just for an individual or a group but for everyone. A collective and not an individual transformation moving away from blaming and shaming.
Sharing the responsibility of justice.
Samira ended with a wise conclusion:
The key is to believe in oneness and have faith in it and then we can keep trying. Just like with marriage if you believe unity must be possible you will do everything to make it a reality and it becomes simple and straightfoward we have to believe it is inevitable.
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