Giving Up Individualism, Taking Responsibility

The following are reflections on an Eliminating White Racism Workshop, led by Anne Barton, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

We paid particular attention to the tone of the workshop, with a direction of “we get to be happy.” This contradicted the heavy feelings from our inherited white identities and gave us room to look at some tough topics. Anne invited us to give up our attachment to Western individualism and instead practice “social thinking,” in and out of Co-Counselling sessions. This is a way to free ourselves and enable us to dismantle the institutionalized racism around us.

Rowan White
Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia

I kept reminding myself that I am free to choose how I look at my past, present, and future. This lets me counsel on early hurts from the perspective of a powerful, creative, playful, flexible mind. The actions I choose can be new, not based on any stories. Research and relationships become inviting from this perspective.

Hanna Jenkin
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Australians have patterns of silence and vicious harshness, a legacy of the genocide of the Indigenous people and our harsh beginnings. Capitalism has us thinking that we, and our individual actions, don’t matter. This is a massive discouragement to act and results in racism. We do matter, and everything we do matters. I can be in the world and ask questions, make relationships, and say what I think, because I matter.

At the same time, capitalism has us thinking that we are defined by our individuality. Individuals “make choices,” so when the system excludes or marginalizes some, it is “their own fault” because they have “made the wrong choices.” This is another lie.

Victoria Kemp
Thornbury, Victoria, Australia

I have been reminded that I have all the necessary tools (relationships and discharge) to be a big threat to oppressive institutions.

Kelsey Dalton
North Carlton, Victoria, Australia

Anne spoke about how embedded in late capitalism is the focus on self-critique, rather than social critique. This keeps people looking inward to try to solve what are largely structural problems.

I will take away from this weekend a decision not to let a false perspective take up any of my time and will put more attention on acting strategically for change—ignoring what Anne described as our “Australian propensity for silence.”

Lisa Rasmussen
Northcote, Victoria, Australia

 My learned whiteness is a limited, constricted way of being human. I can make new decisions, find new allies, and challenge racism.

The theft of the discharge process from me as a young boy left me confused about feelings. That was the key to my learning to blame other people for my feelings, and their feelings, and becoming an oppressor. Blaming people for their feelings is part of the armoury of oppression. Capitalism gave me the right to blame people for their feelings. I relinquish that right!

Stephen Costello
Thornbury, Victoria, Australia

 Hearing Anne talk about my white identity and the systematic way I was raised gave me the big picture. What a relief to know that it is not my fault, that I haven’t made bad choices—it is how our society is purposely structured!

I’ve gotten into the habit of looking at where I need to “improve” instead of boldly going into my world, with all of the people around me, for how I want things to change. I can work with people who restimulate me! I now decide to move forward with this.

Cynthia Johnston
Frankston, Victoria, Australia

 If anyone or any part of the world is suffering or degraded, I am diminished. Discharging feelings and pursuing a life connected to other minds is what I am after.[1] This is a great, fun puzzle and task of joy that I can put my mind to, well connected with other minds.

Capitalism has us looking inward, convinced that it’s our fault as individuals if we fail to keep ourselves or our families thriving. If we look out and take responsibility for our world, we can put ourselves[2] to setting up systems and connections that nurture our world.

Christine Marnane
Kew, Victoria, Australia

 I have come to notice more deeply the importance of relationships and being connected. It involves noticing that I actually have relationships and discharging the feeling that tells me I don’t.

It occurs to me that white racism is contingent on people in the oppressor role not being able to notice the good, solid relationships they have (or the possibility of them) and build upon them with more and more people. Things go better for me, and the tangles I get in with people unravel more easily, when I am able to notice that I am connected with people.

Tony Smith
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Anne gave us the direction, “I choose to forgo my rights as an individual.” This is a challenge! Individualism is a “sacred” tenet of Western culture. The dominant Western economic paradigm has at its centre “homo economicus”—the “rational” individual decision maker. Individualism shapes our economic policies and our institutions, while the majority of the world has more communal cultures, in which the needs of the group outrank the needs of the individual.

I come from a long tradition of individualism. I am so immersed in it that it’s hard for me to see its extent. (It’s like a fish’s knowledge of water.) This “works well” for me, because I live in a culture that adheres to individualistic values and in a world that is dominated by that culture. I can take advantage of my individualism and not have to feel anything about it!

Dennis Wollersheim
Rosanna, Victoria, Australia

I was reminded how important it is to live a life like a “real human,” with love and kindness. This is our true nature before the hurts go in.

Yehudit Koadlow
Caulfield North, Victoria, Australia
Reprinted from the newsletter
of the Melbourne, Victoria,
Australia, RC Community 

[1] “After” means pursuing.

[2] “Put ourselves” means apply ourselves.


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00