I have written multiple pieces about how I witness cliquish behavior when I am organizing. Whether it be in labor unions, non profits, or in DSA, I see cliques being formed in every space I organize.
What is frustrating about this is how I keep seeing everyone accuse everyone else of the exact same behavior they are guilty of. Everytime I see someone in my organizing spaces complain about another group being cliquish or toxic, they go ahead and behaive in the exact same way and vice versa. Everyone is guilty of the behavior everyone is accusing everyone else of, and I’m just sitting here pulling my hair out by the roots going, “WHAT THE FUCK PEOPLE!? HOW ARE NONE OF YOU SEEING THIS!?”
Then it hit me. I have realize that a lot of the social anxieties and paranoias and cliquish caucusing that arises when organizing the working class can be narrowed down to a simple reality, there is not enough self reflection by organizers!
Some will respond their is plenty of self reflection in organizations like DSA because there is always constant self criticism. I think every activist and organizer can agree that most of us on the left are quicker to think of things we can do better than we are to count our victories and successes. However, self criticism is not the same as self reflection.
Self cricticism is the ego reflecting on what it knows in the tangible, physical world. Self reflection is the result of collecting one’s thoughts, of taking control of ones breathing, letting go, and letting the thoughts come to you instead of actively seeking them out. That is the real difference, self criticism is a scavenger hunt discussion about a single event or issue in order to actively correct or improve ones behavior, self reflection is merely the collection and acknowledgement of one’s thoughts and feelings.
In other words, self criticism is an active thought process, but self reflection is the practice of mindfulness.
The best way to self reflect is to meditate, to stop and focus only on your breath and let the thoughts come to you instead of seeking them out is the key to epiphany.
Meditation is an experience that can be calming, explosively transcendental, or both at the same time. When you only focus on breathing your mind is free to wander to its own places, and in those places you will reflect on your position, your class power, your organization, but unlike self criticism you do not reflect on what those thoughts mean or what their effect is, while meditating you simply acknowledge the thought but you stay with your breath.
Through meditation one can self reflect, and when one self reflects not only is one able to calm anxieties but their own attitiudes and behaviors are able to be acknowledged. Self criticism can only point out behavior that can be improved, self reflection allows one to acknowledge themselves on their own terms. The best avenue of self reflection is meditation.
The more leftists and organizers meditate, the more we can self reflect, the more we self reflect the more we can, for lack of a better term, calm the fuck down and start working with each other instead of turning into a bunch of cliquish teens!
In order to stop being so factional, we must be more self reflective, we can criticize ourselves and each other after we have acknowledged our own thoughts.
6 thoughts on “Why All Activists and Organizers Should Meditate”
Interesting idea. I do think that there is a strong link between social anxiety (not necessarily the medical disorder) and factionalism. We huddle for safety – from a young age. I think it will take a major shift in outlook for more people to realise that those that are different aren’t that scary.
I think you bring up a fair point Samuel. My hope is that through meditative self reflection we can achieve that shift in outlook.
The writer, Elif Shafak, speaks of understanding ourselves as having multiple identities. She is Turkish ethnically but lives in London, seeing herself as Londoner and views herself a world citizen. She writes in English and Turkish – and is interested in mysticism and rationality – her grandmother was religious, her mother was not so much.
If we are a Venn Diagram of identities, the likelihood of others overlapping with ours is increased.
I think we need to nurture this in ourselves. We are all multiples. We can expand our multiplicity by developing interests and knowledge. Yes, I think meditation could be beneficial for this.
One of the most unexpected and powerful solidarity stories I came across was of a majority white, affluent, rugby team supporting their black, gay team-mate against the threat of deportation, after his asylum claim was initially denied. In England, rugby is associated with affluence – it is not a game associated with lower economic groups – and Britain’s (and Ireland’s) expensive and elite private schools tend to produce many of the players for the national team and the top domestic teams. Whilst the team in question was not a pro team – it still strikes me as an unusual story – but one which activists must draw lessons from. In this case, sport and camaraderie created an emotional bond which energised a whole club to become activists for their persecuted friend: https://thebristolcable.org/2019/06/60-supporters-attended-ken-macharias-signing-in-after-hes-refused-asylum/
Too correct myself, I don’t know if affluent would be accurate to generalise about the players of this particular amateur team but I think it would be fair to say that most players would come from middle class or lower-middle class backgrounds, at least – and, from the media coverage, ethnic minority representation is not extensive at the club.
Comments are closed.