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Racism and the Collapsing Society, Barbara Love and Tim Jackins, June 7, 2020

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Our Ongoing Goals

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the West Coast North American Pre-World Conference, in January 2005

We have done well these last four years with the goals we set at the 2001 World Conference. And, of course, what we’ve done is not the last step in what we need to do. We get to freshen and renew our perspective about these goals we’ve already decided on.

There will be opportunities at this conference for people to share what they’ve been able to do and where things have gotten sticky,1 so that we can think better, attack these fronts more clearly, and reach more people. We get to figure out the next steps toward these goals, and we get to notice what scares us about them. We get to be as open as we can be with each other, so that we can see each of our individual struggles.

We set goals for the Community, but to make them work, each of us must face where we struggle to put them out clearly to other people and where we struggle to move toward them ourselves. In this conference I want us to look not only at our Community’s goals but also at where each of us struggles to implement them.

We’ve done well. These are big struggles. They are some of the most crucial struggles we’ve faced.

MAKING THE COMMUNITY'S GOALS INTO OUR PERSONAL GOALS

It’s fine that we choose goals for the Community. However, none of the Community’s goals are achieved unless we are personally involved. I don’t think we have often been clear and explicit enough about this. RC must become a very personal process. For it to move forward, we have to be involved. For example, the goal to make the RC Communities more accessible to young people means that we have to personally connect with young people. Maybe it’s figuring out a two-minutes-every-three-days relationship with somebody who comes by. That’s fine. But whether the relationship goes anywhere or not, we have to learn to take initiative and notice what stops us from moving in a young person’s direction. This will tell us where our struggle with distress is. We have to take steps in spite of our distresses, not just work on them in sessions—we have to move against what they have done to us. In doing so, of course, we gain perspective and greatly increase our access to discharge.

I want to talk about the three goals we set four years ago. They don’t end after four years; they extend into the future. We’ve done quite well, and we have a lot more to do. We are struggling with how to do it freshly. We have been getting a little worn down2 by it. The restimulations creep in. We have trouble thinking of ways to have a different kind of session on them. We can’t remember how to challenge them.

ENDING RACISM

Our first goal has been to make the elimination of racism central to the work of our Communities. We get to figure out how each of us will continue to implement that—in our Communities and in our own lives. We get to find fresh ways of seeing it and communicating it.

All three goals are connected with the irrationality that occurs under capitalism. Racism is a pretext for exploiting people and for keeping them divided enough that they won’t fight for each other and stop the exploitation. Racism is a pretext for exploitation—nothing else. The point of it is exploitation for material benefit. Exploitation comes out of distress—in particular, the distress we can describe as greed, as desperation for security because of not being able to feel that one has a secure place in the world. Trying to overcome a distress by grabbing and hoarding resources has never worked. The distress can never be taken care of by having more. We may think that we could get enough to satisfy the distress pattern, that we’re just in the wrong position in society. If we have those fantasies, we’re wrong. There is no end to the feeling except by discharging the distress.

In an exploitative society, the only chance we have at real security is having enough minds that are able to think about us. That’s the only thing that can create a situation that is actually secure.

Racism is one of the mechanisms an oppressive society uses to keep itself going. This society is teetering, becoming worse and worse. You might have noticed. It isn’t just that you feel bad; the society is getting increasingly unstable. It is helpful to understand that oppressive societies grind themselves up and that that’s how they end. It’s not happening simply because you are not doing enough good things. This society is going to grind itself up, and we can’t stop it. How it happens is something we can have some good effect on.

Some things are going to get worse as society gets tighter and more wobbly. As that happens, we have the opportunity to fight against the oppressions and other irrational aspects of society so that we grow, reach more people, face our confusions, become stronger, and help ourselves and others be in good enough condition, and good enough positions, to help figure out the next steps. It isn’t that we’re going to be able to keep the collapse from happening. Don’t think that if you only worked hard enough, everything would be sweetness and light in this society. That can’t happen as long as exploitation and oppression are in place, and there will be exploitation and oppression as long as exploitative societies exist.

Racism is the key oppression at this point. By key I don’t mean that it is more important than any other oppression. It is key in the sense that knocking it out of place disturbs the hold of all the other oppressions. When you’ve got a big tangle of oppressions in front of you, and you want to end them, what piece do you aim for? You can aim for the piece that will most loosen the other pieces around it. You can aim for the piece that at this moment confuses people the most—that if it moves, people’s minds will be freed. Right now that piece is racism, and that’s why we’ve chosen it. We’re not putting any other oppression below it. Rather, it’s the one whose movement will unlock other possibilities, unlock people’s minds most quickly.

We’ve done good work on racism. There are people who left the Community ten years ago who have come back in, and they tell me how different it is. They see that racism is out in the open and being worked on, that people aren’t immediately scared into quiet defensiveness when the issue surfaces, that we have actually taken it on3 explicitly enough that it’s understood. We’re not scared into confusion by it at this point.

We’ve done lots of good things individually. We’ve established eliminating-racism work in our Communities—not everywhere, but in the majority of our Communities. Some places are still struggling to figure it out, and that’s all right—it’s due to a lack of resource, not a lack of goodwill or intent.

We’ve done good things as a Community. The United Nations World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, prompted us to form United to End Racism (UER). It pushed our work against racism into high visibility and our understanding into practice. Before that, many of us were scared to move. We could counsel on racism and work on it as part of the Community, but we couldn’t go out and show what we knew. We couldn’t take a stand on a larger stage. The fact that we did that in Durban has made a big difference to people. It has increased what they dare to do in their sessions, in their RC Communities, and outside of the RC Community in their own lives. Things have moved.

We have to keep revisiting this struggle against racism. We have to look at how scared we still are and how bad we still feel. Racism still keeps us scared of taking initiative to know each other. There are lots of people in the Community whom you would be delighted to know but who have been separated from you by racism. You smile and nod at them, year after year, and look hopeful at them—but you can’t figure out how to do something else. Part of this is due to racism. We haven’t sufficiently challenged how racism leaves us feeling like that person wouldn’t want a real, equal relationship with us, like he or she wouldn’t be willing to struggle against his or her distresses connected to racism in order to have that relationship with us. In addition to everything else racism does, it separates us personally from large numbers of people. We have to go back and attack that point.

REACHING FOR EACH OTHER IN SPITE OF RACISM

There are experienced RCers at this conference who have seen each other over several years. A step we can take is to set up mini-sessions for which people who have been targeted by racism choose individuals who have been conditioned to be agents of racism. The idea is for people of color to take initiative to reach for white people.

First, let’s have a mini-session on this idea. People of color work with each other on the distresses you have to face to do this, and white people work with each other on all of the fears and other feelings it brings up.

There are two important elements in this idea. One is to not only counsel on racism but to also take action by reaching for each other in spite of it—to work on building the connection between two people, no matter what has happened to them. There will be lots of discharge. The racism will be discharging without our having to turn and look at it.

Second, it will challenge people of color to take the initiative and not wait for white people. It will push the people of color against all sorts of distresses, but that is what we have to do. (I suspect we could do mini-sessions like this across any oppression line, with interesting results on both sides.)

MAKING RC ACCESSIBLE TO YOUNG PEOPLE

The second goal from four years ago is about making RC and the RC Communities more accessible to young people. That work has gone nicely, too. It’s not been as widespread as the work on racism, and it hasn’t gone quite as far in as many places, but it’s clear that something has changed. We have decided on a perspective. We have begun the work. As a result, there are more young people in RC than ever before—not only as part of their families but as full, independent participants. They are seeing themselves as RCers, and they want to have sessions with other young people and with adults. They are figuring out how large a role they can play in the RC Community. I saw this in several places where I’ve been recently. There was a clear difference from last year in the groups of young people I saw. They had changed their perspective on being a part of RC, on wanting this process for themselves, on having a picture of what’s possible in it for them.

Now we get to continue from these beginnings. There are young people all around us every day. We struggle to think clearly enough about them to build relationships with them, to look at them in a friendly way, or even just to look at them. The distresses that got pasted on us adults as young people still infect us and make it difficult for us to think about young people. We still have a lot of discharging to do on that period of our lives, and most of us don’t feel like doing it. We’re so relieved to have gotten out of that period.

Young people’s oppression gets worse every year. You may think that those years of your life were horrible and couldn’t have been worse. It’s gotten much worse. As society gets tighter and more troubled, the oppression gets played out4 more and more intensely at young people. The struggles some of them are going through in high school and college are really absorbing, really confusing. It’s hard for them to find any reference point in the world that says anything different from the oppression.

We need to do our work on those years, so that we can be relaxed and not need to tell our stories to young people, or compare our lives to theirs, but instead be able to listen to their completely distinct and interesting set of struggles.

We need to go after5 young people, inside and outside of RC. In order to make Co-Counseling more accessible to young people, we have to have relationships with young people outside of RC. (What did you think was going to make it happen?)

CARE OF THE ENVIRONMENT

The third goal is about care of the environment. Capitalism—and its greed and urgency and desperation—can’t look past today. Today’s profit is the big overriding push. If you have five large companies doing a particular job, and one of them figures out how to produce its product more cheaply by messing up the environment a little more, what choices do the other companies have within capitalist patterns? The need to make a profit is an overriding driving force that causes irrationality to spread more and more widely. Sometimes it gets interrupted—it isn’t that people are helpless against it—but strong patterned forces are driving it on.

This is where a lot of us run directly into the massiveness of society and the ways we feel tiny and ineffective. We can’t tell that it matters that we make good decisions in our lives, that we share our perspectives out loud with other people, that we dare to think about the environment.

One common irrationality is the idea that you can’t do anything unless you do it perfectly, that unless you are leading a thoroughly ecologically sound life, you have no business doing anything—that it’s all or nothing. People’s distresses feel like that, but nothing works that way. Nothing has ever worked that way. We can challenge this. We can begin to be part of the forces that are creating stumbling blocks for capitalism’s destructive push—the push to consume and corrupt and pollute more and more of the world, ever faster, before someone else does it and gets the profit.

This drive continuously builds up momentum. Is it too late? Well, some people feel that it is, but I think that’s unlikely. I don’t want to reassure you too much  (you need to face and discharge your fears and not try to be reassured out of them), but I think it’s unlikely. There are very few irrationally-constructed situations to which thinking can’t find a solution. However, finding a solution does require that we think and work on our distresses about the environment.

This work has not gone very far in the Communities as yet, but there have been workshops here and there and more activity on the care-of-the-environment e-mail discussion list. The issue needs our attention. We need to work on our urgencies and our discouragement. Every so often we need to convene a gather-in on the care of the environment—something that encourages people enough and gives them enough resource that they, too, can take a look at the issue.


1 Sticky means difficult, confusing.
2 Worn down means tired and discouraged.
3 Taken it on means begun taking responsibility for doing something about it.
4 Played out means acted out.
5 Go after means seek out, pursue.

 


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00