I was at a gathering recently of about a dozen or so lefties – I’m sure everyone in the room would agree to the broad label. ‘Broad’ is definitely the operative word; the spectrum of beliefs within this group was interesting, if not highly entertaining and provocative. We talked about the recently publicised ‘boy banned from wearing corn-rows hairstyle to school’ issue; female genital mutilation, the movie MATRIX (which seems to have a very important social-philosophical message for some), national identity, human rights principles – are they really universal?; sexuality; sexuality in the workplace and more. We came from diverse backgrounds, a range of national, ethnic, racial and religious identities were in the room. I suspect we all came from similar class backgrounds, but cannot confirm that.
It was a social happening – which means people were laid back and felt comfortable (as far as I could tell) being honest – so honest that we had plenty of arguments. These arguments included not just loud voices, but dismissive tones, talking over each other and other similar forms of communication. So, why am I sharing this? I am sharing this because of a reminder I took from it: we who call ourselves ‘progressive’ are a hugely diverse lot and while we can put aside our differences to focus on coalescing around broad shared values and judgments/critics about the ‘opposition’ we also might serve our selves well to be delving into how and why we disagree with each other, exploring how we move together when engaging with the more controversial areas. In short, I’m calling out for us to have greater ‘movement’ awareness.
A social movement requires a shift, motion – as the word ‘movement’ suggests. A key question: ‘How are we moving? Applying the physical movement work I do to social movement, I see how we can think of ourselves as inhabiting three spaces (thank you, Ya’Acov and Susannah for this!): our deep internal space (what we are engaging with inside ourselves), the space immediately around us (how we start to move outwards, while still focused internally on what’s alive inside ourselves), and our wider space (how we move further outwards, giving awareness to and interacting with our surrounding environment). I’m inclined to call these spaces (I’m using different terminology than Ya’Acov and Susannah) internal, intermediate, and expanded. We are constantly moving within and between/across all of them.
Thinking about this has got me reflecting on this space we call ‘progressive’ – and how we move within it, individually and collectively. I’m considering how each of us moves within our inner space, our intermediate space and our expanded space – and how we connect them all. I ask myself: what’s alive and moving internally, and how does this take form when I move in my intermediate space, and finally what shape does my internal movement take when I open it up into expanded space? Do I integrate with the movement around me? Do I carry on my movement regardless of what surrounds me? Do I find myself losing my sense of internal movement and become completely absorbed by the movement of others – and unconsciously imitate them or react to them without conscious agency of what I’m doing?
How do these questions apply more collectively? What I’m thinking here is that if we are trying to grow a progressive movement, we all (whoever ‘we’ are) could benefit from reflection – in order to understand more clearly how we actually are moving – separately and together. When doing physical movement work, we come to awareness – for example – of repetitive motions we get stuck in, of movement we resist, of when we forget our inner and intermediate spaces and get totally absorbed by others in the expanded space. What might we gain if we apply the same practice – awareness – to our social movement, focusing firstly on the inner space and than moving outwards into the expanded space where we consciously connect (or not, as the case may be) with our ‘progressive’ peers?
In working with our movement in this way, we can gain awareness of how we are moving – firstly among ourselves. We also can create the opportunity to transform our movement – reshape it, so that it flows more freely even while we are negotiating shared space with others. We can become aware of our patterns in negotiating shared space – constructively and destructively. We can explore new ways of moving and opening up our opportunities for engagement with our selves and others. Then, with this experience and awareness alive within us, we can expand out into wider, more challenging spaces, e.g. involving the ‘opposition’.
In doing so – expanding outwards – we would take with us a deep understanding of our movement. As a result, I believe, we will become stronger and more empowered ‘movers and shakers’.