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Connection, Disconnection,
Reconnection, and Liberation

From talks given by Xabi Odriozola1 at a series of workshops on the East Coast of the United States, in summer 2014

Some of us are people who understand the world, who love, who dream, who cry, who feel, who think, who shake, in languages different from English. And we are part of the RC Communities. You need us with you as much as we need you with us, because this project, which saved your life, lives in different languages, in different minds, and in different hearts, at the same time.

So we have interpreting not because someone doesn’t know English, or because you do not speak Basque, my language, but because of something bigger than that. It is because all of us need to have everyone’s mind, in the same rhythm, on the same road, at the same time, working on these same subjects together, if we want to move as a group in a certain direction. It is indispensable for the re-emergence of this group at this workshop that all the minds involved here have the same ideas to work on, the same information to think about, and the same time to discharge and re-evaluate, so that each of us can become a useful and real resource and contradiction2 for the rest of us.

This is the important work of inclusion: not leaving anyone behind. It goes exactly against capitalism. If we understand it, we will move forward in new ways. Thanks to all of you, to all of us, revolution and re-emergence will happen today.

I will share something about my background. My main clan is the Bear; my tribes are Autrigoiak, Karistiarrak, and Baskoiak. My father’s lineage is the wolf and the strawberry tree, and my mother’s lineage is the fir tree on the stony ground. My main totem is the Eagle.

I think it’s a good choice to have a session about the Indigenous people that lived here; or about you having chosen me, an Indigenous man, as your leader today; or maybe about my English. Some of you know that I am the International Commonality Reference Person for Languages and Interpreting. You can see that I can’t speak English correctly or fluently (and you can discharge about the possibility of my not needing to manage English in order to be your reference today). Some of you might expect me to be like the kind of leader you have in the United States—like Tim, Diane,3 and so on—and perhaps a lot of things you expect to happen will not happen today. Different things will happen that you will not like so much. (laughter) But they probably will change your perspective about the world from now on.

Why do I think it could be important that I share my perspective with you? Because I think it may be a little bit different from yours. Why do I think this? Because my people in my Indigenous country haven’t been as interested as your people in conquering other countries. (laughter, gradually, from the group) We have been more occupied with figuring out together how to survive and share what we have than with how to take from others. I have learned from my culture what it is to be in community. I have a sense of knowing that prioritizing the group’s needs before mine is a good strategy for survival.

It’s not that we don’t have patterns. We do. But we’ve had enough connections between us and with Mother Earth to feel that what we have could be enough—enough for us not to go outside and take incessantly from others.

This doesn’t make us better. But we know something about connection that may be interesting for people who have been forced to get disconnected, who have been longer and more deeply exposed to capitalism’s and imperialism’s patterns, who have needed to be disconnected in order not to feel how they’ve oppressed others. Or it may be interesting to people who have been strongly forced to assimilate in order to get disconnected so that they would not oppose oppression, which is in capitalism’s interest.

I want you to continually check what I say and decide what part of it is applicable to your life. If there is something useful, you can take it and use it. If not, if there is nothing helpful for you, this can be a nice way to spend a Sunday together.

CONNECTION AND REALITY

These are some of my ideas about the world from my Indigenous point of view. The way I understand, experience, live, and think about life comes from my parents, my ancestors, and other Basque Indigenous thinkers. You do not need to follow or accept my ideas. I prefer that you create your own and follow them.

We Basque people believe that what we call Ortzi (the Whole Universe) is passed on to us in the moment of conception. It includes a deep sense of being important and meaningful, of belonging to someone and to a species, to a group, to a place, and also a sense of being indispensable to the Whole Universe. This feeling of connection is the basic vital impulse we will use to bring to life the big decision to exist, and then it stays with us forever. (I can feel it every day, and every time I visit my mum and dad. They are still able to make me feel and notice this ancient certainty of being completely wanted, loved, appropriate, and important—to myself, to them, to the world, and to the Universe.)

I believe that this basic vital impulse is stored in our minds and can work as a reminder of the feelings from that crucial moment. I use it as an endless source of love, solidarity, power, courage, honesty, and compassion with which to go through life and to face everything that is going to happen. I think it provides us with the ability to transform every single situation into a re-emergent one.

The fewer distresses we accumulate, the easier it is to feel this impulse and this connection with everything. 

What is the result of being connected? It’s a smiling face. That’s the way connected people feel inside: happy, satisfied, at peace. Connection gives us the intelligent capacity we need to accept a perspective about reality that does not include one single distress. We have defined reality as something real—something real that surrounds us and tells us that everything is just fine and logical. If we cannot experience this, it is not because the definition does not work but because some distress is in our way of noticing reality as it is: real. I think reality is what we experience when we are connected. And being connected can be a decision that we make consciously.

Before disconnection happened to us, early in our lives, we were naturally connected, to someone or to something. This means that we had an idea of what love (connection is a component of love) can mean. We feel loved, or we love, feel solidarity, feel joy, and it’s not an effort; it’s something that comes out of us. It’s a deep, natural happiness. We feel that we are all right, we are okay, and that people around us are okay, too. We feel like we want to be alive. And if we are dying, we would like to repeat life again. That’s the situation of connection. We feel powerful and adequate in every situation. While connected, we feel that life is easy. It’s something made for us, not something we need to do to get something. Life is easy and full of opportunities, not full of difficulties. (Difficulties become options, choices, or opportunities.)

When we are connected, it’s difficult to confuse us about ourselves and difficult to manipulate us into doing things that are not human. We don’t like to oppress anyone when we are connected, first of all because we don’t accept oppressing ourselves. When we are connected, we don’t accept any kind of bad treatment of ourselves or, as a result, of others. We feel that we are the creators, the designers, of our lives. Everything goes the way we want. We understand that all the things that happen are exactly right, are exactly what we need to learn about in order to grow more and more. When we feel connected, we don’t believe our distresses! (Everyone laughs joyfully.) Actually we, and everyone, are just exactly fine and only have to connect to know our distresses are not true. I believe that all of us were this way before oppression came in.

I think that connecting with our basic vital impulse, getting it back and using it in our daily lives, can be a keystone for our moving forward as a group without any hesitation about who we really are and how deeply we care for each other.

How long is it that you haven’t felt this way? Two minutes, two weeks, two years?

How long we can focus our attention on our basic vital impulse and use it (not only to contradict any distress but to stay in touch with human awareness and connection while we are living each second of our life) will determine if we live in reality or disconnected from it.

DISCONNECTION

Unfortunately, the process of growing up in a capitalist society is about disconnection. The process of socializing, that is to say, making us be a member of a society like this, is about making us into a profitable consumer-producer being. If we keep our sense of connection, this process cannot work at all, so the first priority of the oppressive society in relation to us is to disconnect us from our inherent connection.

This happens through the suppression of our discharge process. If we had been able to discharge after every single attack on our connection from the very beginning, we would not accept disconnection as the way things are, as the normal human situation. But disconnection happened so early, so systematically and frequently, and without the chance to discharge, that we did not have any option to avoid it and it became “normal.” It became part of our life and daily experience until it became our “second skin.” It’s the way it is with fish: the last thing a fish notices is the water surrounding it; it gets so accustomed to it that it doesn’t ever think about it. We do not think about our disconnection because it covers us every minute.

When we are disconnected, life is not something we want to live—it’s something we want to get through quickly. If we are dying, we don’t want to repeat life again. When we are disconnected from who we are, life is not a set of opportunities; it is a set of difficulties. We don’t feel powerful; we don’t feel adequate. The opportunities become difficulties—challenges that we don’t want to have because we do not feel like we can overcome them.

The most serious effect of being disconnected is that we are easily manipulated by capitalism, by oppression. It is much easier to convince us to accept oppressive or oppressed roles and endure hierarchy, injustice, and inequality. Then we reproduce the system, because we have lost our connection to ourselves, to our people, to our land, and to reality. The only way to be connected with reality is to be connected with ourselves. If we are not connected with ourselves, we will hardly see reality. And which kinds of policies will we build from disconnection, from something different from reality? We will collaborate with oppressive policies without realizing that we are pushing a disconnected plan. We will collaborate with capitalism.

When we are disconnected, we tend to think that the only way life can be different is by trying to change life. But only trying to fix the “outside,” thinking that the problem only exists out there, does not address our disconnection from our real selves and from reality. Society continuously makes us forget that one of our main jobs is to try to switch from disconnection to connection (by decision and/or by discharging). Almost all of the conflicts in the world would not happen in the way they do if we remained connected. Most of them are a reflection of the distresses we humans carry inside our minds.

Question from the group: What does disconnection look like in most USers?

Xabi: I may be wrong, but here is my sense of it, in case it resonates with something in your mind and you can work on it:

• The rhythm of capitalism is faster than the rhythm connection requires.

• They have made you believe that it’s not correct to really look one another in the eyes.

• It’s also hard for you to be silent. You make noise so as not to feel the lack of connection.

EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP

Once we find the way to remain in connection, our perspective on ourselves, life, and the world changes. Our perspective on leadership changes, too. We understand that it is vital that we discharge on being disconnected if we want to be an effective model of facing the separation that people experience as human beings. We will be trusted and inspiring leaders if we work on our disconnection—one of the main reasons for the isolation that keeps us reproducing the oppressive system.

Life needs us connected, because the real power of being human lies in our inner connection.

This has nothing to do with numbers or rushing or hurrying. It has to do with acknowledging that we are exactly right, and that reality is exactly right, and that we need to make this idea ours and anchor it in our minds and hearts so that we can lead effectively in the world. When I lead from this position, I notice that my theory and practice are not separate, and are not incoherent or confusing to my people, in or out of RC.

ASSIMILATION

A strategy the system uses to disconnect you is to delete your cultural legacy or background by making you forget where you came from and telling you that your history began at the point when you came here, to this imperialist country. The system claims that your memories before that moment are not important, that the welfare of the society starts in this system, and that the more you cooperate with the system and forget the past, the more important you’ll become. Capitalism claims that if you are in this system, it is because you are superior to the people who are not.

But if you focus your attention and your sessions on your people and your roots, you will start to notice the disconnection that the system is trying to force on you. Something can’t fit in your mind. For the system to fit in your mind, you need to be a slave to it. You need to find a way to fit in that small “box.” You cannot do both. You cannot be in this system and at the same time feel connected all the time. You may often feel that the system doesn’t fit you, or that you don’t fit the system, but you are conditioned to believe that this feeling is wrong and that not fitting is your fault, that the problem is you.

With the help of “mental health” oppression (“if you do not fit in this society, it is because there is something wrong with you”), you are conditioned to accept assimilation. You are conditioned to give up on who you really are and who your people are and adopt a new identity (which is inside the “box” of accepting the oppressive structure of society), with the delusion that in this way oppression will not fall on you. You start trying to look as similar as possible to the people of the society so that nobody can tell that you are different, or come from another place, or have another culture. The period of hiding your real self has begun.

I live in a corner of Europe: the Basque Country. My people, my ancestors, my grandmother’s and grandfather´s parents and their people, went through torture, Inquisition, burning, killing, because they decided to keep their language, their culture, and their homeland present in their hearts and minds.

Not all the people decided to do that. Some decided to leave Europe, seeing what was happening there. But they didn’t know what was waiting for them in other places. When they came here, the assimilation process started as soon as they stepped on this land.

The first things that people, from all over the world, who came here by choice in the last four hundred or so years had to do were forget their background, deny their heritage, and defend the new system. If they defended it quite well, they could become a “good citizen,” with some rights—the right to be disconnected, for instance. (laughter) The message was something like, “This is the best place on the planet. The more you assimilate, the better off you will be.”4 (These immigrants, of course, had also brought with them from their homelands many other distresses—including oppressor ones, since they had suffered oppression.)

In this room, only one fourth of you said that you could speak some of the language of your ancestors, and almost all of you raised your hand when I asked if your ancestors came from Europe, Africa, or Asia. In a land based on a substratum of genocide, this is how you are required to live. “Forget it. Do not look back at it.” Once they obligate you to forget your past and accept forgetting the genocide that happened here, you are more prepared to accept racism.

I encourage you to reclaim your homeland(s) and to distinguish between homeland (your “heart home,” the place you really belong to and that is waiting for you) and “houseland” (the place you live in); to reclaim your language(s) across the oceans and to distinguish between your first language (the first one you learned) and your “heart language” (the one that belongs to your ancestors, and to you, and that you have probably forgotten or lost).

I also encourage you to discharge about this idea: reclaiming me as your Indigenous European brother.

CONNECTION AND POWER

Living in connection is inherent and natural to the human being. Nothing and nobody can make decisions for us, or manipulate our distresses for exploitation, if we stay connected with ourselves and with others. Oppression cannot decide anything about us. It can affect us and bother us, but the inner power to make happen what we dream about and really want to have happen rests unalterably in us, in our ability to hold on to our individual and group connections.

I am just asking you to explore this perspective and not to use it for yourselves until, or unless, it is right for you.

Maitasunez eta esker onez (with love and thankfulness),

Xabi Odriozola
Donostia, Basque Country

ADDENDUM

Marcy Morgan5 helped me to lead these workshops and gatherings and to compile useful ideas from them and express them in an understandable way. Nancy Wygant and Marjorie Smith6 helped by transcribing and summarizing these talks.


1 Xabi Odriozola is the International Commonality Reference Person for Languages and Interpreting and is the Regional Reference Person for the Basque Country.
2 Contradiction to distress
3 Tim Jackins, Diane Shisk
4 The better off you will be” means the better your position will be.
5 Marcy Morgan is the Acting Area Reference Person for the Spruce Area in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
6 Nancy Wygant is the Information Coordinator for People Thinking About United States Identity. Marjorie Smith is a Co-Counselor in Providence, Rhode Island, USA.


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