Communities Change Fierce Civility
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Joe Weston

Preparing for a 21st century LASTING peace movement – #5, Vision and new beginnings

new beginning

Christmas Day, 2011: Today I start my trip across the country to start the next phase of my life. I’m all packed and ready to follow the calling to spread the word of Respectful Confrontation and provide peaceful strategies for our future to individuals, organizations, as well as government.

I start my trip in LA teach a training and to talk with organizers of Occupy LA to support them in finding powerful ways to bring diplomacy into the actions of the movement. In my preparation for this, I sent a letter summing up my vision of how we can effectively move through these challenging times and find lasting solutions to our current problems.

Here is an excerpt of that letter. This gives an idea of what some of my hopes and goals are for my move to DC. I believe fully in inclusiveness and bridging the differences of our times. Even though I speak here in dualistic terms, the ultimate success will be in overcoming duality and oppositional thinking. When we all can take responsibility and show compassion to all involved, things can change. Let me know what you think:

I have been back in the States for almost 7 years now. I was living in the Netherlands for 18 years and loved living in a country with a relatively intelligent government and a social system that allowed individuals to realize their dreams and also take care of those in need. I also saw how the Dutch people have basic skills in communication and debate that is helpful in solving problems. I learned a lot and did a lot of research on how things can work. Holland has the healthiest, tallest and happiest people on the planet (according to polls).

During the Bush Jr. years, I saw the systematic breakdown of reason in policy-making. I did as many Europeans did. I blamed the American right-wing parties for the hideous way the US was abusing the world. I saw the reputation of America go from respect to ridicule to fear – the kind of fear you would have when in close contact with a psychotic person with a gun. But then I saw that it can’t all be blamed on the right-wing.

The result of the complete breakdown of reason in the U.S. and the unimaginable chasm between the rich and the poor is ALSO the fault of the paralysis, laziness, apathy, confusion, cynicism, and powerlessness of the Left. One day I realized that I couldn’t sit back and watch this happen. In 2005, while many were getting out and giving up, I decided to move back to the States to see if I could help.

My goal was to find ways to empower those who shared these viewpoints to bring values of cooperation, compassion, respect, inclusiveness and sharing back into policy and overcome the dark reign of greed. In our recent history, bullying, disempowering, direspect and greed were not only permitted, but rewarded. The shameless permission to take without concern for others or the planet planted the seeds for our current situation. This Rambo era allowed government to create both domestic and foreign policy that disregarded the needs of anyone who wasn’t like those in power. Even Alan Greenspan at Senate hearings in 2008 admitted that his economic formulas failed because he wasn’t able to anticipate the level of greed that took hold of those in power.

Anyone who showed opposition and tried to speak reason was attacked with Rambo-like tactics and torn down before any change could happen. This left them with no choice – either use the same polarizing, demoralizing tactics or say nothing. Most chose the latter, sitting back and watching things degenerate.

With Respectful Confrontation, I want to support  those who want to make a difference to stand in their power, speak their truth, and not have to revert to the bullying tactics of their opponents. With the skills, wisdom and courage that one develops with the RC practice, one can stand in the face of bullying and reactive behavior and still stand their ground and follow through with their message. And that message is one of collaboration, personal freedom, inclusiveness, and creative problem solving. This would result in less polarity, more balance in the economy, a government that works FOR its people, and policies where personal gain is rewarded as well as respect and trust in social systems that actually work.

RC honors the truth of everyone involved. Being “right” has never solved any conflict. Acknowledging that everyone has their own subjective truth and that each truth holds a piece to the larger truth will bring about lasting change. When you understand the true power of the heart – understanding, respect, compassion – and let go of judgment and labeling, anything is possible and new, creative solutions emerge.

For instance, the Occupy movement could let go of the need to “fight” with the 1%. Common sense and history shows that fighting only causes more fighting, not lasting change. In order to succeed, I believe the movement needs to develop tools to be able to sit down with the 1% and get past the labels, the judgments, the blame, the anger and seek out common ground and recognize that we are ALL part of a global community and ultimately dependent on each other. The path to an evolved society is understanding that collaboration is our only option for the survival of us all. Unfortunately, we were never taught the language of collaboration. RC is that language. RC is the practice of developing True Power, the power that is revealed when one stands in their vulnerability.

Put simply, RC reframes three fundamental beliefs that keep us spiraling back into war, conflict and poverty: True Power vs. brute force, Confrontation vs. conflict, and Assertiveness vs. Aggression. When an individual knows they can stand in their True Power (not engage in fighting), confront issues that need to be addressed (not revert to conflict), and assert their truth, feelings and needs (not destroy or bully) then they are unstoppable. By standing in their True power, they invite the other to do the same, and a new way of communicating can emerge. This is the level of engagement that is necessary to bring about new solutions to old problems.If hanging out with people we already know was going to solve our problems, we would have solved them already! So the only way for lasting change to happen is to find a respectful way to talk with those who are different and glean from each other the information necessary to put a new puzzle together which will help us find the new, evolved solutions.

I am very inspired by what is unfolding. Current events are helping break through the apathy and inertia, the confusion and cynicism, the fear and paralysis of those who know that things have gotten out of hand. I don’t think anarchy and revolution are the way to have a lasting positive effect. We have seen in history how that has only created temporary relief.

I believe that we are at the threshold of new possibilities, where we can sit down and confront – speak our truth, hear the truth of others and TOGETHER come up with new evolved solutions. These solutions can only come when both sides – the rich and the poor, the CEO and the public school teacher – can find a way to collaborate and be creative.

We don’t need a REVOLUTION, we need an EVOLUTION!!! Let’s learn the skills of Respectful Confrontation and make this global shift happen.


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Communities Change Fierce Civility

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