“Where Was the Violence in Your Life?”

In my role of International Liberation Reference Person for Working-Class People, I am often asked to come and do working-class liberation workshops. Where there are not enough working-class people, I have been doing workshops for people of all classes called “Discharging on Class Oppression and the Current Economic Crisis.” I used to call these workshops “Working-Class Liberation for Everyone,” but that confused people too much. Since the 2007­–2008 global economic crash, no one seems to be confused about my current title.

At one of these recent workshops, I wanted to find a way to work in the whole group on oppressor material1 and create space for raised-poor and working-class people, and people targeted by racism and genocide, without making the other people feel guilty or defensive. I had noticed in the past that counseling white people on fear was a good approach to helping them discharge in mixed groups on recordings2 tied to racism, without putting attention on the racist content that many people would have no attention for. At this workshop I decided to counsel people of many constituencies on the question, “Where was the violence in your life?” Everyone seemed to have an answer.

First I talked about violence, or fear of violence, being at the root of every oppression—the oppression of young people (which we all have been or are currently), racism, sexism, anti-Jewish oppression, genocide, Gay oppression, class oppression, national oppression, language oppression, “mental health” oppression, and so on. I then did a series of ten-minute sessions in front of the group with people of different constituencies, including Southern U.S. people, working-class and middle-class people, women, GLBTQ3 people, African-heritage people, Asian-heritage people, men, Jewish and Israeli people, and people targeted by political violence. Some incidents people worked on went back to their oppression as young people. We did mini-sessions after every person’s turn, as I did not want people to go numb. People were surprised that people of all backgrounds had an incident or incidents to work on in answer to the question.

I think it was an excellent way for people to work on oppressor and oppressed material without getting lost in guilt or putting direct attention on the various oppressions that of course would be running4 between people in the room.

What we are really looking for is each other’s humanness, and that is a lot easier to access once the fear has been discharged. Looking at this common experience of having been threatened by violence seems to be one way to experience the humanness.

Working this way made it clear that the real purpose of oppression is to terrify us all into silence and inaction, and that violence plays a key role, for all people, in doing that.

Dan Nickerson
Freeport, Maine, USA
Reprinted from the e-mail disussion list
for RC Community members


1 “Material” means distress.
2 Distress recordings
3 Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer
4 “Running” means operating.


Last modified: 2017-04-06 16:01:36-07