What does dismantling oppression require?

This is one of those generalizations that depends on a personal bias for agreement. For example, what does it mean to “actively dismantle” and is there a way to do that perfectly? ⁠Deep sadness triggered by the news of the world will often precipitate the judgment that we are unable to do enough to alter the ongoing tragedy. This is our culture of domination talking to our self-respect, and it is lying.

If this meme is referring to “spiritual bypass,” the person who coined the term in 2002, John Welwood, defined spiritual bypassing as using “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep [avoid] personal, emotional ‘unfinished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks.”

So is it one’s personal task as part of one’s spiritual development to dismantle systems of oppression, to contribute to social transformation? Yes, and it seems to me that spiritual progress leads inevitably to dismantling the internal complicity with oppression. To me, this would mean the recognition that I have been a default racist by cultural indoctrination and in addition I have the ability to respond with love for all peoples, along with compassion for the trauma history of oppressors and subversion of their behavior with alternate systems, the classic stance of nonviolence.

Gandhi specifically explained how this works. If we defeat the enemy within, we create an attractive challenge to oppressors to adopt new behavior.

It would be a mistake to allow one’s bias to evoke enemy images. It is the oppressor’s systemic, unconscious behavior, not their identity, which needs replacement. However, it is ourselves who first need that transformation before we launch a campaign to transform others. We must let go our comfort zones and risk our own identities in order to truly restore ourselves to the family of humanity and save our family in the process.

Having said that, it is more than obvious that personal growth is a very steep mountain to climb. I believe that somewhere along that path we must allow ourselves to be supported by a larger community of fellow seekers in order to continue. Eventually we may discover there are no limits to the size of that community and it is then that we step into our true ability to dismantle systems of oppression.

Of course, it may seem that before we reach that point that we are not contributing to the needed transformation. We may seem to be hopeless dilettantes, avoiding the really important issues, yet who among us has the right to condemn others for a lack of progress? What we need is encouragement, grace, and examples which inspire us to keep going. It takes great courage to confront our inner demons. We need each other to provide encouragement because the journey is long, steep and confusing, like Frodo’s journey to Mordor. He had Sam Wise to remind him of why he was taking the journey and to urge him on.

I believe the most significant thing we can do for global social change is to provide that encouragement to take one tiny step beyond despair into hope, which is the rocket fuel for social change. I hope to simply take the next right step, however small, for after a thousand little right steps I will have traveled a very long distance.

We will get there. If we look in the right places, if we clean up our own lens through which we see our companions, if we are compassionate toward our own lack of progress, we will free ourselves of that despair that peace and justice is happening so slowly that it may never happen. This is the stuff from which miracles are made.

We are all bozos on this bus.

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