This past march, I decided I wanted to do a workshop about overcoming violence. It wasn’t meant to be a definitive guide, or a step-by-step program, but more of a “here are some things you may notice yourself doing if you are being violent to other people” and then explain what worked for me in overcoming them. You see, I used to be gripped in violence. I hurt people around me. But over the course of some years, with therapy and a supportive group of friends, I worked through it and eventually was able to live like I wanted to live, positively, without hurting people, without violence.
Solving a problem of violence may seem easy: don’t be violent, but actually its a lot deeper than that. There are many things that can arise violence in someone; hurt, fear, fear of hurt, and also, there are many things that have to occur for a person to become violent; dehumanization of others, lack of respect for boundaries. Trying to explain all of this quickly is complicated, but after being inspired by a class on Non-violence I was taking, and talking to some of the amazing people I met in that class, I decided I’d try and do a workshop on it.
Around the same time, Mo at Wingnut was talking with me about the problems the activist community was facing with rape, and Mo expressed a concern that not enough is being done from the perpetrator side of the coin. So I mentioned my workshop idea, and that, as rape is a form of violence, perhaps some of this process would be helpful to those whom are dealing with violating others sexually.
So I decided to try and do this workshop, and aim it at those whom have violated others, period. As it’s something of a mental health concern, My spouse, co-mindful liberation project person Megan, and I decided to do it under the MLP banner, and Wingnut agreed to host it. So far so good.
I made up the material for the event, invited a bunch of people, asked people to invite people whom have perpetrated others, and made a little website/flier thing explaining clear as day, this is for perpetrators to learn how to OVERCOME violence. I also made a little zine that distilled the process I took in my life, to give out free at the workshop, in hopes others may learn from that as well.
We had concerns how the event would go. We did not want to traumatize anyone by exposing them to perpetrators (hence our very clear trigger warnings on all fliers/facebook pages/website) but we also did not want to exclude those whom werent perpetrators from coming and listening. After all, many of us may have a friend whom has a problem perpetrating people, and if they won’t show up themselves, educating the folks around the person on these behaviours seemed better than nothing.
The event came and went, and I thought it went amazing. I worried I’d hear apologetics. I didn’t. I worried I’d hear people acting like it wasn’t an issue to be taken seriously, I didn’t. What I did hear, was perpetrators asking what they can do to make things right. They seeemed to want to deal with these issues. A few asked about Accountability processes. We talked a little about the possibilities of that occuring, and then I let them know that hopefully, we as a community can work together on this in the future, maybe with accountability processes, or something to try and create some kind of positive, and growing solution to these violations. And that was the night.
A few days later, I was relayed some criticisms of the event. And a few days after that, I heard us being called ‘rape apologists’. I talked to a few people about the event and the issues they had, and scheduled to talk to a few more. I had to cancel a couple of these because of the amount of negativity being shared, particularly when it was addressed to my spouse via the machine of hatred known as tumblr.
Somewhere around this time, Wingnut was going to hold a ‘consent brunch’ but the facilitator bailed. Feeling good, I told Mo that Megan and I would facilite the brunch if need be. A day or so before the brucnh, I fell ill with some neurological issues that I’m still dealing with now, so I had to cancel at the last minute. I mention this last event only because I think some folks are grouping them together with the workshop.
So why am I writing this? Becuase the hatred spread on tumblr has continued to escalate, and is now resulting in claims that the Wingnut, the folks that hosted this event, support rapists. Nothing could be further from the facts. And I think it’s time to address a couple issues.
1) Presenting a workshop to help people find their path to overcoming abusive and violent behaviour does NOT mean that the presenters condone that behaviour. NA and AA do the same exact thing, and neither is subject to the conclusion that they support drug abuse. This is not like a ‘needle exchange’, where right-wing criticism is laid that such thing encourages drug use via clean needles, our position is to OVERCOME VIOLENCE, not make it acceptable. Unfortunately, not much has been done on overcoming violence, so we are breaking a bit of ground here, and accordingly, I know to expect criticism and mis-understanding.
2) Hosting a workshop on overcoming violence does not make the hosting house a supporter of rape. You wouldn’t think the hospital that hosts NA encourages drug use, why would you think any different here?
3) Tumblr. I’m all for connecting with each other, spreading ideas, etc, but there is a reason I don’t have a tumblr, a few, but mainly, it tends to aggregate hatred. Just a lot of hatred. I try to be a positive person, I’m kind of old, I have health issues, and I have a daughter. I have to pick my battles, and what I expose myself to carefully. I know situations are different for each of us. But it really kills me to see things I have put nothing but positive effort into, things that my peers have given me nothing but support for, things I spent a lot of time questioning, trying to make sure I was doing the right, positive thing, with right intention, and right mind; seeing those things criticized so heavily, it really saps the will of a person to do much more.
Since this workshop, and the reaction from it, I’ve questioned my involvement with radical activism in this city. And this isn’t something I picked up a couple years ago, I started when I was 14, first with political punk music, playing around town, then with activism. Today, I still do these things. I still make music and release it on my label. I make zines. I make art. I still care. And I love that I can still be involved. This place has always had hatred, but I’ve never seen the levels of this, leveyed at people who are doing good work, with good intentions.
I’d ask that before we go and empty our venom onto tumblr, we ask ourselves; What is it that I ultimately care about? Being right? Proving someone wrong? Or helping people? If it’s the latter, ask yourself if your words will help this person, really help this person. I’ve never met a person that was actually helped by negative reaction, or by hatred. And I’m as guilty as anyone of having done this, hence the need for my workshop in the first place. But ultimately, we can choose to be the people we want to be. We deicide who we are with every action, every minute, every day. And we effect each other so so much. To think we don’t is to alienate ourselves from the power we all share as human beings. Lets work to help each other: open the fist and pat each other on the back once in a while, Unclench the teeth and tell someone how they made your day better.
Or just hold back, for one second, and ask “Will this really help the world be a better place”?
Mindful Liberation Project