These days Community Building seems to be centred around the digital spheres rather than the localised. I remember my disappointment when ‘Community Manager and Developer’ became synonymous with Social Media Management. It made me really sad, that more and more of the world was moving online away from our geographies, innate human connections; abandoning touch, smell and deep conversation. Back then I used to believe that digital communities were a little alienating and odd. That was way before COVID 19. I don’t think Zoom even existed. Now I feel less inclined to agree. You see Social Media seems to have done something rather extraordinary. It has filled in the soul-sucking emptiness that can accompany our physical geographies. Beyond Zoom fatigue life seems brighter more connected online. At least mine anyway.
How did that happen? Maybe it’s because we can delete all the people we don’t like and even have the occasional Facebook cull. So that we can live in a blissful Twittersphere. Yet we wonder why the world is becoming more polarised? Maybe we are becoming less able to handle conflict or accept differences. Remember the days of when you had to apologise to people in the pub? That was and is a thing. What if we all learned to apologise more or even better, thank people for there difference of opinion. Only yesterday I was talking about my experience of living in South Africa, where the relative safety of monoculture is largely obsolete. A place where we cant presume what people think or why they might think it because cultural diversity is an actual things there. We cant make people wrong just because we don’t agree with them.
This is exactly why community building is important. We need opportunities to meet, collaborate and resolve. We need to find ways in which to connect and find each other again. If COVID 19 has taught us anything it’s got to be that cuddles are important, human contact is important, intergenerational relationships are important. outdoor spaces are important, good quality housing is important and of course Black Live Matter. Yes Pro-human systems are important. We live in times now where we have to explain this to one another. Human life matters. Black Lives Matter. Isn’t this the very nature of community? That we value one another. Isn’t this the very nature of fulfilment? High-quality relationships. That we should be able to relate to one another. Imagine you were just able to to have a conversation with a total stranger and not fall out with one another. Imagine that you were able to create something based on common interest? I usually like to build my relationships based on shared common humanity. Why does that feel revolutionary right now? Yet at the same time I deeply acknowledge that our shared common humanity is very much built from a space of service. How can I be of service to you?
When it comes to building community in my experience it so often starts with creating the things that we need for ourselves. I find that in that process we meet the needs of others. That if we can turn up for ourselves we are able to support others. That by connecting to our needs we connect to others.
Regular meetings can create a real point of stabilisation of the more fragile. Land-based local gatherings can also provide a great amount of balance for those living in chaos. If COVID 19 has taught us anything we should all just get to know our neighbours. Still, at the centre of all that, we also need to make sure that we are able to hold ourselves as co-collaborators with love in creating a new world.
Is Generational Healing confusing you? Why exactly are people out marching for equality 150 or so years after slavery? Trauma is inter-generational. The inequalities and injustice of slavery have never been fully healed. Why did slave owners get compensation? Yet the newly freed slaves didn’t? And why has this never been addressed? Ah I think you’ll find it’s something called systemic racism. Just because you ignore something it doesn’t mean it goes away. So here we are witnessing a nation demanding the generational healing it should have received 150 years ago.
I work with systemic trauma. Maybe this is a good opportunity to explain exactly what that means. I believe that overall we live in an anti-human system. If your looking for references why not ask your nearest essential worker about their day to day lives? You can ask a woman what it is like to feel silenced? You can ask a person of colour what it is like to live in their body? (Ask for consent for the conversation first and remember enthusiastic consent is the only form of consent that is acceptable) You can ask an immigrant what it is like to be treated as ‘foreign’. Speak to a disabled person what it is like to be discarded or for the old to be abandoned. These individual stories are important, relevant and pivotal at this time. And Yes Black Live Matter.
If you preference the book of an academic or a well respected figured over the personal stories of your locally marginalised ask yourself why? Why do we trust the published, the legitimised over our neighbours and friends? Published and legitimised by who? and what? Why do we value the opinion of a Oxford Don over a Cape Flats Builder? Where does your reasoning come from? In what way have you been prejudiced in your thinking and why?
You’re carrying the weight of institutions and ideas that you have never actively consented to be part of.
Even if something can be reasoned does it mean it’s justified?
Ideas of race are non-scientific invented by the powers that be in order to keep us separate. Our institutions and governments are built on a race based fantasy. You inherited these systems and you have been forced to accept them as your own. Paradoxically even though the system is based on unconscious bias the impacts of non-scientific belief systems are very real and have measurable impacts on the demographics affected. Systemic racism demands that you believe that people of colour are inherently disadvantaged as result of ‘race’ rather than by systemic racisim. The system is of course narcissistic in it’s characteristic gaslighting of it’s participants with lies and propaganda. It is the most extreme tool of oppression. The idea that any human is superior or lessor based on any physical attributes, belief, creed or ability is of course anti-human.
That is why systems of governance are very much about keeping you stuck, as we wage war within ourselves and against each other. Information overload is designed to bamboozle you. To stop you from taking any concerted action about most things.
All my personal questioning has led me to the understanding of collective systemic trauma that affects everyone in the system. Yet negatively impacts the quality of life of those marginalised by the system. The privileged have a responsibility go on a decolonisation journey to understand how our choices impact everyone in society.
We can’t reason with the unreasonable. So for me the far deeper question is what do you feel about it instead? Is whats happening out there on the street inhumane? Is what happening to you and your family unjust? Are you finding it hard to survive in anti-human society? Are you bamboozled by the cognitive dissonance of what is presented and what is actually happening? Have you found a way to reconcile that?
In my work all I ever do is listen to stories, powerful deeply unique stories. There is no one size fits all solution to systemic trauma because it is all so deeply personal. How I was treated in school is very different to how you were and so we draw different conclusions.
I wonder what would happen if we listened to each others stories. Personally I feel that the systemic racism that occurs across the western world is abhorrent and that the best solution that I have is to continue to discuss and explore systemic trauma in response to that. I care about people of colour or whatever politically correct term, we are using this this month to identify people, people who are actually more than capable of identifying themselves.
You see experience has endlessly taught me that I don’t get to pick someones descriptive, pronoun or identity. When it comes to the classification of people we are only every following guidelines and ultimately how someone chooses to identify is down to them. If you really want to talk about race, you can ask someone how they self-identify. You might find that they don’t even identify with colour. Lets face it I’m a white person that wouldn’t use white a my first descriptive, that’s white privilege at work in case you didn’t get the memo. You see white identity is normalised inside the white system this = whiteness.
In the last few weeks I have been on the most extraordinary journey with The Red Tent Doulas. All based in birthing and story. I never knew that birth stories could be quite so powerful if shared with intention. What is more generationally healing than a story about birth? Your own birth. The birth of a movement or a nation? What are our origin stories? That tell us who we are and the ways in which we were brought into this world? What’s your birth story? You might be very surprised at what you find here. It’s not sugarplum fairies and the stork. Did you know that in the UK a black women is 5 times more likely to die in childbirth that a white woman? That’s 3 times higher than the US’s known statistics on the matter.
Isn’t it interesting this is a uprising starts with death and a grown man’s cries for his mama. What would it take to heal this injustice for one family? What would it take for this injustice to be healed for all families dealt the same brutal state orchestrated execution. What would it take for us to heal all the people involved in those stories? What would it take for the trauma not to be catching? Could we heal a community? Could we heal a nation? What would it take to heal three continents that the story triangulates round? Only to find that we’d excluded all the places in the world where slavery and colonialism have co-existed for millennia. This affects everybody and we can only heal together. We can only heal in community. Where it is safe. Where we feel safe, heard and loved. The answer is in listening to stories.
In the healing circuits we say continually that healing is non-linear. I believe the only reason for this is that we have not been allowed to heal. That our emotions have been disregarded as non-fact. That our humaness has been denied in order for us to fit into a system that values our profit making abilities more than our innate human gifts. We have to change everything about ourselves to undo this reality as it stands at this moment. I’m asking you step beyond individualised trauma here.
I’m asking you to build a bridge between the relational, the generational and systemic. That the way that we relate to people how we treat one another gets passed on. We are all equal we are all valuable and we are all worthy of each others love and respect. To step out of this we have to move beyond our own pain. As someone with privilege I need to use all the skills I have to minimise harm and utilise the resources I have to support those who are highly vulnerable at the hands of the oppressor. Which happens to be, me, someone who is complicit in an oppressive system. Yup don’t look away now. The problem is you. We are complicit in a system that is designed to traumatise.