3 paths, one truth: change the current reality and the systemic reality at the same time

in the past couple of weeks, i’ve had the same insight come to me in three different pathways.

  1. an interview from the on being gathering that happened earlier this year (which feels crazy that that conference was this year, not last).
  2. the last paragraph in a report i read earlier this year about organization trauma and pain.
  3. chapter 4 of pedagogy of the oppressed.

the insight, which is also to be found in more places than these is age old and yet still striking and urgent today: in your work to make the world a better place, you must be doing work to directly make situations betters for people today while you are working to change the systems that causes people to not be well.

pathway 1: on being gathering conversation between rami nashashibi and lucas johnson

rev johnson mentions this quote from a sermon, a time to break the silence, that martin luther king, jr. gave at riverside church: “On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

pathway 2: where does it hurt? health and disharmony in organizational ecosystems

this report by ora grodsky ends with a section about how acupuncturists think of healing and the bolded section is my own emphasis:

“Acupuncturists think about disharmonies having both roots and branches, what we might also call manifestations and deeper causes of disease. For example, if you have a fever, you may take ibuprofen or Tylenol to bring it down. The fever itself, however, is likely only a branch, a manifestation of a deeper disharmony, perhaps a virus that was able to take root because your immune system was weakened. To truly restore health, it is necessary not only to reduce the fever, but also to boost the immune system.

pathway 3: pedagogy of the oppressed by paolo freire

i can’t find the quote right now but basically his says this: the role of the revolutionary leader is to blend together the worldview and therefore vision of the people they’re organizing with a sense of the systemic thing that, from a larger sense, also impacts that same issue, so that both situations can be transformed. the example i seem to remember was worker wanting higher salary. the work of the revolutionary leader if that’s what the workers want is to organize with the labors for a higher salary while also helping them to see that a higher salary on its own won’t solve their issues. but by organizing with them, creating active, proven solidarity, over time they will come to respect and listen to your insights and then be willing to support you in your work as well. and hopefully, in the end, they will see (as maybe you have already seen) that the whole system must be reorganized.

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