The ‘Other’: Dark Currents of Democracy
Arny Mindell, the founder of Process Work and World Work, asserts that everything we encounter is part of our world—part of us. Drawing on Carl Jung, shamanic traditions and Eastern philosophy, he speaks of a world of reflective interconnection, where we are all part of a constant process of emerging. This ongoing becomingness of reality is the dynamic and ephemeral world in which we live and act. We cannot control what is happening, but we can join with the energetic currents of the moment to support the natural evolution of life.
Arny has worked around the world in places of deep and unrelenting conflict, bringing opponents together to speak what has not been spoken and to listen to what has not been heard. I have attended some of his trainings and I have never seen a human being so genuinely delighted with whatever is happening. His certainty in that the ‘arc of history bends toward justice’ is palpable as he works not to contain or smooth over conflict, but to find out the essence of the problem in the assurance that the current disturbance is exactly what reality needs to move forward.
This Process Work position is not so much something to be believed, but rather a perspective from which we can engage in our lives and the world around us. If everything we encounter is part of our world, it means that ‘the other’ that we wrestle with is part of us. This ‘other’ usually appears as an embodiment of what I am not. All of the qualities I do not see in myself, I project onto some person or group because I can’t admit to them in myself. Jung called this the ‘shadow’ – that part of ourselves that we have not fully integrated.
For more than a year now, Trump has been rousing crowds around the country with promises of ‘getting rid of the bad actors.’ He populates the world with dangerous ‘others’, then proposes to undercut democratic principles and processes in the name of necessary safety. It’s the Muslims. It’s the Mexicans. It’s the fictitious rise in crime. We are in danger and we must be strong. We don’t have time for the niceties of due process.
So it was in the fifties with Joe McCarthy and ‘Communists’. So it was with almost every wave of immigrants into our country – the Chinese and Japanese, the Irish, the Italians, the Poles. Every group is initially seen as ‘the other’ – almost sub-human. It is essential for us to see the perennial appeal of this response to anxiety: blame someone else.
But I can’t recount this American history without going further back. The very foundation of our country rests on a hatred for and extermination of ‘the other.’ Our great nation, which we claim is based on the principles of liberty and justice for all, has its roots in the extermination of native peoples and the enslavement of black people on an unprecedented scale. You and I did not do this, but we must begin to take responsibility for the racism and violence that is woven into the fabric of our great democracy.
Our work to preserve the foundation of democracy in our country in the face of Trump’s daily assaults must to include a new awareness of and work to undo the ongoing structures of racism and economic violence that have been conveniently hidden from many of us.