Connection As Activism

by GEM Magazine / Mar 30, 2015 / Comments

I hold a dream for our world. One in which compassion is the most prevalent force. A world which is pervaded by harmony, peace, and attendance to the needs of all beings. I believe that each of these qualities are inherent within our human nature. While, our world at present does not seem to demonstrate these aspects in majority, most people hold this dream.

I believe that on some level, all humans, yearn to live in a world that is peaceful, humane, and compassionate. So what’s standing in our way? I dare to put forward that our roadblocks are marked by how we fight with our lovers. That our speedbumps are raised when we turn our gaze from those asking for spare change. That we are standing in our own way when we dismiss others with a sweeping judgement that denies the humanity we all share. So how do we address these challenges in a world that, in any moment, has a story to break our hearts? My theory is that we reach out, open our hearts, and connect.

In my life, at the moment, I have the opportunity to connect with individuals from many different walks of life. This week I have had long personal conversations with both business executives and homeless folk. Within these diverse interactions I have found that our similarities vastly outweigh our differences. We are all doing our best to have our needs met, and to contribute to the lives of those we care about. I have also noticed that when I bring up that which I hold dear, like community, connection, nature, and equality; most folks I come across share these core values. It is apparent to me that as a human race we share a common set of needs. When we can identify that we are all acting from the same set of needs, understanding the actions of another becomes more possible.

I often imagine what is going on in the mind of someone whose actions I don’t understand. Even when I feel hurt, or appalled by their actions I wish to continue to include them in the human family. I find that these ‘hurtful’ choices are a tragic attempt to meet their own needs. I think that at times each of us can be unaware of the extent of our painful impact. At these times we may seek to separate ourselves from those we’re impacting. Whether consciously, or subconsciously, dehumanizing those we would like to disconnect from is a strategy that is widely employed.

One example that comes to mind is the proposed pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to the British Columbian coastline. At present the Canadian government has put forward a bill that, among many other things, frames opposition to the pipeline as a ‘threat to the security of Canada’.

In order to open my heart to the people pushing forward the pipeline, I make guesses as to what needs they may be attempting to meet by creating a bill that takes away civil rights and liberties. By imagining what needs they are trying to meet, I can feel a connection to these individuals. Also, I then have an opportunity to look at strategies that meet their needs, and really work for everyone. In this instance a few of my guesses include that they might be attempting to meet their need for financial security, along with their need to contribute to the lives of their employees by offering them financial security as well.

This is, in no way, exhaustive, but I can see those needs within myself. I, too, have needs for security and to contribute to the lives of others. With seeing this similarity, I am able to see how the idea of ‘us and them’ is only an idea, and that these people are not better or worse than I am, only fellow humans doing their best. I also now feel empowered to find solutions and strategies that attend to their needs as well as my own.

When I strive to understand the needs that lie underneath the actions that have such a painful impact on myself and others, I release my concept of ‘otherness’ in relation to the person whose choices I don’t appreciate. I feel a sense of connection between myself and this person. From there I see possibilities for moving forward with everyone’s needs in mind, and in heart. This is how I see our capacity for connection correlating with our ability to change the world for the better.

By Alicia Graham

Alicia is a Dancing Freedom Facilitator and Partner-Acrobatics Teacher who works with empathy and non-violent communication in her community life, mediation, and personal relationships. She is passionate about personal, social, and systemic change, and writes to contribute to the world she would like to live in.

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