by Miki Kashtan
This article emerges from years of reflection, experimentation, learning, conversations, and mourning about the challenges of taking on leadership when we are committed to nonviolence, to collaboration, and to a vision of liberation for all. What I am attempting here is to look as closely as I can at three interrelated systemic patterns that result in immense difficulties about how to deal with impacts: both those we absorb and those we inflict. I am seeking to increase the possibility that we can find new ways of experimenting in a fraught environment that are bold, humble, transparent, and within capacity.
When I am in a position of structural power and leadership, I fully accept my responsibility, in general, to hear impacts of my actions on others with less power before saying anything about my own experience of the relationship and any impacts I may have absorbed within it. For years, I aimed to accept this principle as holding true in all cases. Over time, my own experience and my own contexts led me to a more complex view containing a painful dilemma: Is this principle always the way to go, or might we gain something if we reframe this as an invitation to discernment? What does a liberation perspective tell us about this dilemma? What does a commitment to nonviolence contribute?
This is delicate territory, and, as a result, this article was months in the making, including integrating deep feedback from several close colleagues and many others. The cumulative impact on many, especially those with little structural and social power, is so immense, and the invisibility of what I am trying to call attention to so common, that I wanted to present it in a way that would invite you, the reader, to embrace the dilemma with me, and with all of us who struggle in these ways, in support of our collective liberation, even if we don’t know each other. If you have experiences of your own in positions of leadership, you could use them to apply my questions and insights and find your own next steps with the challenges you are facing in your context. If not, I invite you to imagine yourself stepping into leadership and being in my position and to engage with the piece from that perspective.
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This is a space for discussing tough subjects: both personal experiences and the massive challenges in the wider world. The culture of this blog is one of looking for the possibility of forward movement through loving engagement, even, and especially, in times of disagreement. Please practice nonviolence in your comments by combining truth and courage with care for me and others you’re in dialogue with.