An open space for global conversation
Occupy is a movement based in dissent, both outwardly directed at the economic and political status quo, and inwardly invited via processes like the General Assembly. "Authentic dissent" serves the well-being of the whole, and comes out of a sense of ownership and acceptance of one's own part in creating the current state of things. Other forms of dissent, such as blame, complaint, resignation and denial can be destructive to our efforts to bring forth something new.
Rebellion is another kind of dissent--and a flash point within the movement. Some feel that it is our only option. Others suggest that it is not the way to invite the 99% to come together to co-create "a future distinct from the past." [See the post below for more on this question.]
Similarly, our response to dissent is crucial. When it is authentic, are we willing to hear it without trying immediately to "fix" things? Can we resist the urge to argue, give advice or "take care of" the dissenter?
With the Occupy movement at a crossroads of possibility, we sense that doubts, concerns and reservations are also in the air. Before we are ready to fully commit ourselves to something, we also need the opportunity to say "no."
Join us for this Monday's Vital Conversation when we consider what it means to open the space for Authentic Dissent, based on the model developed by Peter Block in Community: The Structure of Belonging. Eric and Elaine Hansen, who have worked extensively with Block, will co-host a discussion in which your authentic dissent about all things Occupy will be welcomed with deep listening and curiosity.
And as always, we invite you to use this forum space as well, to expand the conversation. Please post your thoughts in advance of (or following) our Cafe Call. You might consider one or more of these questions:
[Photo from Network]
Thank you, Anna.
Actually, their game, the mass murder of millions of innocent civilians to enhance defense contractor profits, and the permanent pollution of the entire planet to enhance corporate profits, really is the most important thing that is happening, and it would be the height of apathy and irresponsibility to pretend that it isn't. If this planet and any life forms on it are to survive, that game must be stopped.
Think of it as there being many directions from where we are now, but having the absolute certain knowledge that if we continue in the direction we're going, it will lead to certain destruction. We may not know where all the other directions lead, but we know that the direction we're going leads only to total destruction.
Now supposing that we cared, and that we didn't want to destroy the planet and all its life forms. That would mean that we would have to change direction. We cannot change direction while continuing on in the same direction. Imagine that you are walking east. Can you change direction and walk south or north while continuing to walk east, or do you have to stop walking east in order to change directions?
What led to our current predicament is hundreds of years of voting to delegate our power to representatives, so that they, not we, would have the sole power to make decisions with regard to war and the environment. And it turns out that they always made bad decisions that grew increasingly worse.
There are many better decisions that could be made, but if we keep delegating our power to representatives, we won't be able to make those decisions. So if we want different decisions, we first have to stop delegating our power to representatives.
Once the entire planet is made permanently uninhabitable for most life forms by a few dozen aging nuclear power plant meltdowns, or a few nuclear wars, it will be too late because creating alternative lifestyles can't undo the decisions that extinguished life.
While I don't think that everyone needs to agree, I do think that if anyone is to survive, we all have to resist the powers that be, as you say. Trusting them, delegating our power to them, or voting for the powers that be, is not resisting them. Resistance can take many forms, but voting for the current power structure isn't one of them. It isn't part of a spectrum of actions in resistance, it is supporting exactly that which we need to resist.
So I'm not advocating one alternative over another, I'm just saying that for any alternatives to have any chance at all, we have to stop allowing the powers that be to continue their wanton destruction of innocent life and of the planet.
Would the powers that be continue their destruction without our consent? They probably would, but it would no longer be with our consent. They could no longer claim to be doing it as our representatives with our express consent, but would be doing it without our consent and against our will.
Would we be able to stop them? I don't know. What I want to know is if we can agree to resist them. To stop empowering them. To stop granting them our consent of the governed. That isn't just one of many possible actions, it is THE crucial action. Before we can change direction, we have to stop going in the old direction.
As long as 50% of the electorate continues to empower the powers that be to continue killing innocent people and polluting the planet, we may have petitions, we may have protests, we may have a multitude of alternatives, and we may even have violent rebellion, but we will not have resistance.
If I am being pulled in the wrong direction, and I continue to allow myself to be pulled in the wrong direction, I am not resisting. I have to try to stop being pulled in the wrong direction, to try to stop going in the wrong direction, before I can be considered to be in resistance.
Reaction can be both appropriate and necessary, as when failure to react is likely to result in the permanent uninhabilitability of the planet. I question the intelligence of those who do not understand that the planet is in danger, and the motives of those who wish to prevent us from reacting to that knowledge before it is too late.
I don't know what forms successful resistance reactions might take, but I know that they are all impossible as long as we continue to go in the direction that leads only to mutually assured destruction. I also know that defense contractors and their political representatives, are making trillions of dollars from this wanton destruction and want it to continue. They want it to continue so badly that they'll even invest a few million in fake grass-roots groups, websites, books, and teams of astroturfers to try to discredit anyone who advocates not voting, and to dream up ever more selfish and short-sighted reasons for people to vote. I know those reasons sound good, like having good local officials, or obtaining health care, gay rights, reproductive rights, immigrant rights, more jobs, better pay, fewer bailouts, better or at least less expensive education, but none of them would be of any use if we allow the powers that be to make the entire planet uninhabitable. Make laws right now that grant all those rights and more to anyone within five miles of Fukushima, and see how many of these single-issue (I call them selfish-issue because they are willing to trade the survival of the planet for their personal rights) advocates move there.
Not voting doesn't construct an alternative. It simply stops going in the wrong direction. And that is the single most important thing we must do if we are to ever have any chance of moving in any other direction.
Thank you for your patience, Anna. And I thank the stewards for not silencing me. I will not be on the phone call (I don't use phones very often) so I won't disrupt the discussion.
A special thank you to all who joined the call on May 15. I appreciate how you engaged and helped "hold the space" for people to express their doubts and reservations...their differences. Listening to the podcast of this call filled me once more with gratitude for all those who are contributing to shifting the conversation in the Occupy movement to:
Dissent rather than lip service - let your yes be yes and your no be no without losing your place at the table. It answers the question of "What is the yes you no longer mean?"
Possibilities rather than problem solving - problem solving is interesting and holds us to the past, possibilities holds the opportunity to move us into a future distinct from our past
Ownership rather than blame - ownership answers the question "what is my contribution to the thing I complain about?"
Commitment rather than barter - commitment answers the question "what am I willing to do without expectation of recognition or reward for the well being of the whole?"
Gifts rather than deficiencies - Gifts answers the question "what is the gift you are that has gone unexpressed?"
Invitation rather than mandate - Invitation answers the question "why was it important to you to be here today?"
This is an oversimplification of these conversations. There is much more behind each of them. It is about creating a social architecture that opens space for these rather than those same old conversations we've been having for too long. These conversations invite you to move from your head to your heart. At least, they move me from my head to my heart.
If you are interested in practicing these conversations, you can join us for our monthly free call on May 23rd at 11:30am. To learn more and register, go here. Also, we are partnering with Occupy Cafe and will be presenting another conversation using the A Small Group technique on June 11.
To add to what Elaine has said, there is something to these conversations and this approach that has the power to shift conversations and relationships.
For me, a key feature of the technique is replacing advice and fixing with curiosity. I have several times experienced the power of asking (and of being asked) "Why does that matter to you." More than once, people get a little peeved when I have asked that question, only to discover at the end they have learned a deep powerful truth about themselves.
There have also been times when people refuse the question, either directly by passing or indirectly by not reflecting on the question and instead giving an answer that is not personal and specific but is general. It's easy to let go when someone passes directly. Passing is always allowed. It's harder when someone gives a BS answer that doesn't answer the question. I have sometimes asked the question again, only to get another BS answer. I usually remember to stop trying at that point and try to remind myself that I can't control someone elves answer, I can only do my best to create a safe space where they can answer.
I do invite you all to join us on the ASG In The Clouds call. Learning about the technique is not the same as learning to use the technique. It takes practice.
Elaine writes, "Possibilities rather than problem solving - problem solving is interesting and holds us to the past, possibilities holds the opportunity to move us into a future distinct from our past."
I don't think I'm hearing and understanding this concept correctly.
As a nation, our past and our present involves a problem called imperialism which has murdered millions of innocent people. These days it takes the form of drone-bombing innocent children in foreign countries every day. Every day. In our name. I think that's a problem, but some people see it as a source of income or a source of pride. What I think I'm hearing here is that this problem is not relevant to our lives, and that, indeed, if we are to progress towards new possibilities in our beautiful and precious lives, we can't allow ourselves to be bogged down in the past with attempts to solve an irrelevant problem like ongoing daily genocide in our name. That genocide is an issue of the head and we have to move toward issues of the heart, and our hearts being kind, enlightened, and progressive, can't be concerned with intellectual and irrelevant discussions of the genocide we're committing. We can take ownership of other things, but not of having delegated our responsibility for genocide to others.
Ben, I'm obviously not getting it and I obviously don't belong in this topic. Perhaps you can once again translate what I'm trying to say into something appropriate to a new-age cafe, and start another topic for it?
Mark: the point, as I see it, of focusing on possibilities for the future is not to deny that problems exist in the present or that our past history is connected to them. What is the declaration of possibility you might make about a world where governments like ours don't use drones to bomb innocent people? Declaring a vision of the future that inspires you and that is something we might build together has power. Complaining about the way other people are behaving now or in the past often, in my experience does not.
I'm not saying we shouldn't be knowledgeable about the past by any means. But I can tell you that sarcastic comments like the one in your post above about how "we can't allow ourselves to be bogged down in the past with attempts to solve an irrelevant problem like ongoing daily genocide in our name" don't leave me feeling like I want to connect with you about ways to create change. And I know that others have the same reaction.
Again, I think part of it comes down to this sense that we're always having to argue with you to convince you we might actually be "on the same side" in many respects. You are telling us "you don't belong." It is exhausting, and what we all need is the opposite. Something inspiring and energizing. No one's forcing you to be here! That said, I have no doubt that you have many things of value to contribute, and you are indeed welcome and it is very important to me that the Cafe be seen as a hospitable place.
In fact, believe it or not, I am concerned about our conversations being too "new agey" and turning off people who are looking for ways to create change on the most important issues of our time. That doesn't mean we are going to stop talking about the heart, spirit, empathy and compassion. But we do need to be sure that we are doing so in ways that don't somehow convey a lack of outward engagement or some naive sense that all I need to do is clear my own mind and the rest of the world will take care of itself.
You might be interested to know that the one time I worked directly with Peter Block, on a call about "Community for the 21st Century," he spoke about the destructive paradigm of "American Imperialism." Block also talks about the idea that changing ourselves is not enough and that we need to transform our communities. And he is also very eloquent on the idea that we need to become political citizens, not political consumers--the latter being people who think that voting is the only thing they need to do and that, if things don't work out, they should just "switch brands" and choose a different politician. Citizens, on the other hand, "choose to own and exercise power rather than defer and delegate it to others." Sound familiar?!
Hi Mark - thanks for engaging with my comment. I agree we have much to learn from history - unfortunately, it has usually been the victors who get to write history...and so do we then even see the full range of the historical moment? …and it is all a story.
Ben – thanks for your additions to the conversation – I think it helps give more clarity to my earlier post for those who are not steeped in this ASG process the way I am.
Mark - While I freely acknowledge the terrible atrocities that have been committed in the past and continue even today, dwelling in that keeps me stuck with conversations about retribution, blame, revenge, lack of forgiveness, anger.
I do not pretend to have the answer to the world's problems.
I do know, for me, that these are the conversations we have been having for decades (maybe hundreds of years) using the same themes of retribution, revenge, dehumanizing our enemies, etc. These conversations have not moved us to a better world...and it is not a world I want to leave to my children and grandchildren.
And you can find these conversations – everywhere. Finding different conversations that call us to our better selves are few and far between. (and I would add – that it is my point of view that as long as we continue to intellectualize, debate, focus on weaknesses – we will never come together to do the real work of healing and building a new future.)
The A Small Group community was birthed following the 2001 race riots in Cincinnati, my hometown. Peter Block decided to take the conversations he had crafted over many decades and set them in the context of community - of restoration and reconciliation of Cincinnati. We have been working at this since about 2003. It is not a quick process to invite people to consider changing. There were real hurts and wrongs committed by all. But magic happens when people practice really listening to one another, suspending judgment and certainty for curiosity and speak from their hearts. And interest is building for these kinds of conversations that matter.
The context for the six conversations I detailed (very briefly above) is about opening space for an alternative conversation. It is hard to articulate here as it is more the experience of these conversations that holds the possibility of transformation for both listener and speaker. It builds connections and empathy for others. It is in discovering how much we are alike that we are then able to talk about our areas of difference.
I have many stories that support this is true from my experience.
To build on what Ben has shared – when people speak with absolute certainty they leave no space for others to have a conversation with them. They leave no space for difference. And I would add that I experience “certainty” as a form of imperialism and I leave.
On the new-age comment – I can only say that I am weary of that lament. Where ever we show up, we are a whole person – mind, body, and spirit. Our culture has rewarded only those who show up with their minds (and bodies – sort of). Having spent more than 20 years working with accountants, engineers, and lawyers I have had my share of living in my head. It has been a conscious effort for me to re-learn how to show up as a whole person and embrace all that I am. For me, new-age is really the “ancient” way of being in the world.
I am biased and I love the A Small Group process. It is has been life affirming for me. it is important for me to state – it is a core value of ASG that everyone is responsible for their own experience – and can say “I pass” without losing their seat at the table. A Small Group process is not for everyone. You are welcome to pass.
Thanks for engaging. I appreciate hearing your perspective.
Elaine, I don't understand why talking about the atrocities we have committed in the past and are continuing to commit today, leads you to think in terms of "retribution, blame, revenge, lack of forgiveness, anger." Those are the types of things that our government uses to justify and build public support for atrocities. When I think and talk about the atrocities, it leads me to think in terms of the positive vision of no longer being manipulated by government propaganda about retribution, blame, revenge, lack of forgiveness, or anger, and to think in terms of taking control of our lives and our government and stopping the atrocities.
Do you think that when Peter Block spoke of citizens who "choose to own and exercise power rather than defer and delegate it to others," he was intellectualizing? He seemed to be speaking from certainty, so why didn't he drive you away?
I'm glad that you have escaped the rat race sufficiently to participate in what you apparently see as a counterculture, however ancient its principles. I started reading when I was a child and I read books that my peers, parents, and teachers didn't read. I read literary classics but I also read the great philosophers. Rather than being led to intellectualizing, I was led to reject material values. Accepting a materialistic consumer culture and intellectualizing are two different things, not one and the same, and they can lead in completely different directions.
Although you thank me for engaging and say you appreciate hearing my perspective, I sense hostility in suggestions that this might not be for me and that I'm welcome to pass. Is community not for everyone? Must dissenters "pass" so that conformity can be enforced within a community?
During the many years that I was homeless in New York when I was young, my friends were racially and culturally diverse. I own and use a computer, but when I discovered the writings of keith harmon snow online and learned about the ongoing genocide of millions in Africa to obtain the coltan for electronics, I vowed to never buy a cell phone, iPod, game box, e-reader, or other blood gadget. I agree with peace activist S. Brian Willson that, "We are not worth more, they are not worth less," and I won't "vote" for genocide either by delegating such decisions to governments or by spending money on gadgets derived from corporate-sponsored genocide. I care deeply about the global community of which I consider myself a part, and I try to act so as to do the least harm possible.
We are on the same side, but I am not drawn to formulas or generalized panaceas, I feel that it is my responsibility to try to know what is going on, who is being harmed, who benefits, and how I personally can act in responsible ways. I really don't understand how a person can be responsible for their own experience by saying, "I pass."
Again, rather than disrupt this thread, I'd prefer that Ben start a topic on dissent that allows for dissent. I apologize for thinking that this was such a topic.
Hi Mark - I will try to respond to your thoughts in the morning. It is very late at night for me and that is never a good time for me to try to carry on a conversation. Thanks,
There is no need for another thread, in my opinion, Mark. We are offering dissent here, and also discussing the concept of the "dissent conversation." I hear that you are determined not to ignore the truth that you have learned, and are committed to expressing it boldly and loudly. That's fine with me. Again, I appreciate your calling out important information, such as the millions of innocents who have died in wars over access to coltan and other minerals in the Congo.
One of the questions for the ASG Dissent Conversation is "what doubts and reservations do you have?" I think much of what you say fits into that. The core message that I hear over and over again is that you believe that by voting for candidates who support some or all of the aspects of what you see as the the American Imperialist Agenda, we are giving legitimacy to that agenda. You are therefore concerned that these atrocities will not end through the use of our current political process. I'm pretty sure that everybody who reads your posts gets that this is how you feel, as you express it quite clearly.
Elaine has expressed a different reservation, which is that for her, "dwelling in [the world's problems] keeps [her] stuck with conversations about retribution, blame, revenge, lack of forgiveness, anger." She says doesn't have answers for those problems, and she also sees conversations about those problems all around her. So she wants to help create a different kind of conversation--one in which she feels alive and in which "magic happens" because "people practice really listening to one another, suspending judgment and certainty for curiosity and speak[ing] from their hearts."
We are inviting you to be a part of a conversation like that and of a community with a culture that values such things. You ask "is community not for everyone?" I would say that community is, by definition, for people who choose to care about their relationships with one another. Not everyone is like that, I suppose. A welcoming and hospitable community, which I strive for this to be, does not kick anyone out unless they are a danger to others. Indeed, our friend Mr. Block suggests that the restorative community's greatest power is in bringing those on the margins into the center.
You also ask "must dissenters 'pass' so that conformity can be enforced within a community?" Here, I think you misunderstand the idea of passing. It is not that you must pass, but rather that you are free to do so if you don't want to participate in a particular conversation, and in doing so, you do not "lose your place in the circle." Similarly, expressing authentic dissent does not cause you to lose your place either--indeed, it is welcomed.
This does beg the question--well worth asking--of what, if anything DOES constitute grounds for asking someone to leave, and what process ought we put in place to support that? To date, Jitendra and I have performed that role, and only once have we taken such a step. Our criteria was a pattern of using language we saw as violent towards other members, and what we took to be a refusal to accept that there was anything wrong with that. Going forward, we would like to have a process that is more clearly articulated to the whole community up front, and that does not rely on the two of us alone.
Ben, I would agree that it is futile to keep repeating the same old conversations, except that I'm unaware of those conversations. Most of the things I feel it important to express have been taboo topics, unacceptable in the mainstream media, unmentionable in mainstream society, and subject to severe repression when expressed in the signs and chants of Occupy. The atrocities of capitalist imperialism isn't a topic that has been done to death, it is a topic that is scrupulously avoided by those who want the imperialist agenda to continue and don't want to rock the boat.
Elaine's brief summary of the types of conversations desired, includes, "Ownership rather than blame - ownership answers the question 'what is my contribution to the thing I complain about?'"
I think my talk about not voting fits that category. I asked what my contribution to capitalist imperialist atrocities was, found that I was authorizing and perpetuating those atrocities by voting to delegate such decisions to others, and stopped doing it.
It also seems to fit the catetory of, "Commitment rather than barter - commitment answers the question 'what am I willing to do without expectation of recognition or reward for the well being of the whole?'"
In refusing to delegate my responsibilities to others, I have no expectation of recognition or reward, I'm simply taking responsibility for my actions in areas where not taking responsibility results in atrocities that harm the well being of the whole.
I was delighted to learn that Peter Block expressed the same ideas that I express, and did not avoid mentioning these ideas for fear that they might be depressing. Some sort of magic must have happened, because when Peter Block talked about not voting it was apparently not seen by Elaine as just repeating old conversations or precluding new ones. Elaine says that the small groups began after race riots in which real harm was done, but I don't see any mention of that harm having been banned from the discussions so that they could stop dwelling in the past and move forward on a positive note. Was that what happened? Were people instructed not to mention the harm done in the past and to focus only on positive possibilities for the future?
I've often said that if I want to get another's boot off my neck, the first thing I have to do is to make sure that my own boot isn't on somebody else's neck. If I am acting in ways that oppress others, or that contribute toward the oppression of others, I am not free to escape my own oppression. As long as my boot remains on another's neck, I am immobilized and unable to escape from the boot on my own neck.
Why is it that Elaine and I have different reactions to the same conversations? Why does talking about our personal responsibility for atrocities lead Elaine to think of "retribution, blame, revenge, lack of forgiveness, anger," but lead me to stop doing things that support and perpetuate atrocities? How is it that Elaine has no answers to the problems of atrocities, while I feel that the answer is to take responsibility for my part in them and to stop avoiding my responsibilities and stop delegating them to others?
What is the difference between the way that I express this and the way that Peter Block expresses the same thing? Why does it lead Elaine to negative feelings when I say it, but not when Peter Block says it? As far as I can tell, Mr. Block and I have expressed the same concerns about the same problems and suggested the same solution.
Why is it that Mr. Block and I have answers for the real problems that are causing great harm in the world, and propose that we take responsibility for our part in allowing or perpetuating those problems and change our behavior so that we no longer allow or perpetuate those problems, while Elaine has no answers for those problems, doesn't wish to discuss them, reacts to such discussions with negative thoughts and feelings (blame, revenge, anger, etc.), and is looking for magical discussions that don't touch on problems or solutions?
In the past few weeks a friend's mom died, another friend was found to have terminal cancer and is dying, and a third friend came very close to suicide. In each case, I talked with them about their pain and their feelings. To my mind, saying, "Everything will be okay, let's talk about positive things," would have done violence to their authentic needs and feelings. And strangely enough, although I never suggested or even mentioned it, because I don't think it is my place to question how people feel or tell them how they should feel, all three are now taking a more positive attitude toward their situation.
It isn't my place to question Elaine's authentic reactions to certain topics or certain types of discussions, or to try to tell Elaine or anyone else how they should feel. But I feel that I'm also entitled to my own authentic reactions to those same topics and types of discussions, even if my reactions are quite different from Elaine's.
So if some topics and some types of discussions aren't appropriate in this thread, perhaps they have a place in a different thread rather than being shut down completely.
In the case of the person who was banned, I think that their authentic anger led them to violent expressions which weren't appropriate here. But I shared their anger, even if my own anger didn't lead me to make personal attacks on others who did not. If great harm is being done, I think anger is one of many appropriate responses, but it does not have to lead to violence. I'm angry at what the US government is doing, but I don't think that more violence, such as violent revolution, is an answer or a solution. I think the answer and solution is in rejecting violence and refusing to tolerate or support violence in any way, even passively or by ignoring it. So the same emotion, anger, can lead to quite different actions. I don't think that we need to ban anger, or to silence discussions that could lead to anger, but to ensure that there are positive and constructive ways of channeling anger. It's okay to be angry at the harm that is being done in the world, but the response should not be to add to that violence and harm by lashing our or seeking revenge, but to take personal responsibility for our part in the harm being done and change our behavior so that we no longer contribute to that harm. If we stop being part of the problem, we can stop being angry with ourselves, and that will allow us to stop being angry with others. If we have solutions to the problems, we don't have to avoid mentioning the problems.
For many of us who might occasionally experience what Joanna Macy calls the 'pain for the world', it's enough to know that it is there. Maybe we learn something from it and then we move on. We don't want to stay there. Like when we touch something burning hot the natural reaction is to pull away, to protect ourselves from the pain.
For some like you Mark, the pain cuts so deep, and feels so real, that wherever you go you have to keep repeating how much it hurts. Whether it is in order to wake people up to the pain, or whether it is to get some relief by sharing it, it is like The Ancient Mariner who feels compelled to repeat his story to anybody he meets.
The greatest crime, according to Joanna Macy, is to lose the capacity to feel this 'pain for the world', to be numb to it. Like when after a visit to the dentist, part of the mouth is numb, and we would happily chew on it without noticing the blood pouring out. For many of us that may be the reality of how we live. The pain is too great to be consistently in touch with, so we numb ourselves to protect ourselves and our loved ones, but in so doing carry on with the destruction which caused us so much pain in the first place. For others perhaps we have never felt the love for the world and its creatures that is the prerequisite for being able to feel the pain at the destruction. Nor felt the need to take the responsibility that really coming alive would entail. We have enough personal pain in our lives to deal with without having to care about all the people and places which may exist in other parts of the world.
In the face of that 'carelessness' it is understandable that people like you feel called on to keep protesting at the pain. It is probably incomprehensible to you that people seem to feel OK with it, can keep smiling and maybe actually enjoying their lives. How can they when so many are suffering? May be you feel more at home with those who like your 3 friends are suffering too.
Only you can choose when you have left your hand long enough on the burning hot place and decide to pull it away. I sense that at the moment you do not feel you have a choice, that your life is dedicated to this task. Whatever you decide I wish you well.
Thank you, Anna.
Many years ago I happened to see a documentary on TV about a serial killer. His parents were very cold, authoritarian, and had no feelings for him. I recognized that my own parents had been the same way, and was incredibly grateful that I hadn't reacted the same way he had, but also wondered how it happened that I had escaped turning out like him, given that our upbringings were almost identical. In the same circumstances, his reaction had been to kill other people mercilessly and without any feeling at all, while my own reaction had been to, as you put it, dedicate my life to feeling and protesting the pain that is caused by those who don't care about others. Perhaps I am as compelled to feel and share the pain for the world as he was to kill people. Given the alternatives, I think I chose what was and is for me the least painful way of coping. Given the large number of people taking anti-depressant drugs, I have to question whether pulling away from the pain really worked for them.
I agree with Joanna Macy, that losing the capacity to feel the pain for the world is the greatest crime. Do you have any links to where I could learn more about Joanna Macy?
Thank you for your deep understanding and your good wishes, Anna. I am deeply touched by your understanding.