By Tom Mountenay
The question above is what I heard Kazu Haga pose in his online presentation Aug. 8 for the 2020 Campaign Nonviolence Conference.
Haga brings a new strategic insight to the work of nonviolence: the ongoing healing work of trauma. Acknowledging trauma — personal, interpersonal, institutional, or national — and attending to the work of healing are essential to the work of nonviolence. Building on the work of Gandhi and King, informed by his own early life of trauma, Haga promotes the personal work of healing from trauma for those practicing nonviolence actions. Healing from trauma in one’s life requires naming the trauma. He identifies “genocide of indigenous peoples and the slavery of blacks” as the “core” traumas of the United States. These core traumas are played out, in our personal and interpersonal lives, while we engage in ongoing conflict or injustice.
Without the healing of trauma in persons, institutions, or the nation, the trauma manifests as “fight or flight,” short tempers, seeing issues in “black and white,” and feelings of separation and loneliness. “Hypervigilance, seeing threats everywhere” continues, and “logic and long-term thinking goes out the window.”
Haga reminds us that too often trauma, not healed, perpetuates trauma and increasing violence escalates to increasing violence on all sides. At the same time, remember escalating violence requires an escalating response to shut down injustice.
Haga asks: “What are we (as practitioners of nonviolence) doing to prepare ourselves — to show up in the world — when the world confronts us with violence?”
Haga offers ideas needing much more inquiry and learning by us who are committing our lives to nonviolence, such as:
- Healing and trauma work require dialogue and “fierce vulnerability” by all parties to the conflict or harm.
- Further study and application of the practices of the AHIMSA COLLECTIVE — five parts to the healing process with honesty and depth (much yet to learn about this):
- Importance of naming the Shame experienced by the trauma.
- Importance of Intention. (Be honest about what we want and why we are active.)
- Importance of Vulnerability.
- Importance of Rage. “Allow rage to be burned down into a charcoal.”
- Importance of Modeling.
Notes: The Ahimsa Collective works to respond to harm in ways that foster wholeness for everyone. Kazu Haga, a member of the collective, is the author of Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm. Tom Mountenay, writer, is co-chair of PeaceWorks-KC’s Action Committee.