Hope and Community as Discipline

Uncertainty brews various forms of anxieties. It is difficult and tumultuous to navigate a world where traumas are constantly inflicted against one another and never addressed. Micro and macroaggressions pepper the existences of those who live in the margins, with no hope of reprieve in a world that prioritises hyper-individualism and competition.


Sexualised violence, domestic violence, transphobic violence, child abuse – all of this violence intertwined with classist, casteist, racist violence, leaves a mark in our world. It is not just the harm perpetuated against those who suffer this violence that needs to be considered, but it continues to shift and desensitise peoples’ perception of harm. Victims and survivors of such harm cannot work on revenge alone to abolish these harms – it requires healing.


Having a community helps. However, it does not do to simply have a community that does not have shared values, concerns or principles. Community accountability for a person who has been harmed is crucial, but it can prove to be meaningless, or worse, detrimental unless they have a shared idea of care, trust, safety that works to create courageous spaces, that values the integrity and context of a person, while also working to simultaneously eliminate power imbalances and toxic behaviours.


  1. Care: Care refers to having concern about another person or thing. Care can also imply the different actions a person or a group can take to support one another, and accommodate the needs and desires of others. “Safety” can look different for people, so can care, which is why it is crucial to have discussions that outline specific details of the needs amongst people, be it in the workplace or at home.


  1. Courageous Space: A courageous space is a space where people can be challenged, where people can challenge one another, by engaging in conversation that might be difficult or uncomfortable.


  1. Trust: Trust refers to the reliance on strength, ability and the integrity of a person. Another crucial aspect that is necessary for trust is hope. Adrienne Maree Brown suggests that meaningful and impactful relationships “move at the speed of trust”. What this means is that an investment in a person or project does not occur without trust, and that trust often takes time.


  1. Safety: As mentioned earlier, safety can look different for many people. Safety refers to the state of being free from violence, or the occurrence of danger, or injury. Some peoples’ notion of safety can also be some other person’s notion of harm, which is why it is important to explore the specific meanings of safety amongst ourselves.


  1. Power: Who has decision making power? Who has bargaining power? Who has access to resources, or the ability to act on behalf of others? It is necessary to understand where power is situated, and how that may affect collaborative, cooperative and even collective work.


  1. Integrity: The state of being undiminished. A person’s integrity, where they are seen as whole and accepted, must be maintained.


  1. Eliminate Toxic Behaviours: Toxic behaviour is behaviour that negatively affects other people via manipulation. The modus operandi of toxic people is to get people to do what they want them to do, regardless of the ramifications.


  1. Equity versus Equality: Equity is the idea that people must be equipped with what they need to be successful, while acknowledging that we are all located in different social spaces and may have different needs. Equality, however, may try to promote equal levels of fairness, but it can collapse the power dynamics of people starting from different social and economic positions, and may further entrench existing inequitable social relations.


One of the many reasons why we try to bring such an idea to the forefront is because we believe that we need to continue to imagine futures without harm. Imagining a world without harm cannot and should not be limited to a world without bad behaviours – it must insist on the humanity of people, that it is possible to live and breathe and thrive in a world that is capable of transformation, accountability and care. We no longer want to envision a world where people must endure their will to repress pain. There is only so much a person, or groups of people, can fight. There is no honour in the continued performance of strength that we subject ourselves to, and the inevitable outcome of fighting is fatigue – and fatigue can also be passed on as violence and trauma. It is a never-ending cycle of intergenerational trauma that must be interrupted.


And we can interrupt it. To create communities of accountability is to create communities of healing. It is not as simple as locking our hands together and deciding to care for one another – care is real work. It requires real skill to empathise with peoples’ pain and suffering, it requires real care to continue to believe in someone who continues to struggle to survive. Some people will die struggling, but we still need to be there for them. Because that is what it means to truly live in a world that feels socially responsible for another.


This is a place of hope. It is a discipline, a principled stance. Bringing that discipline into our communities is work that we must do, because it refuses to accept that a world of harm and violence is simply the way the world works. Violence and harm have a purpose, and it is to maintain a social order where someone always suffers for someone else’s gratification. Hope, in the face of a society that continues to insist that violence is a fact of life, is something that needs to be demanded righteously because it asks for more, for better. It also asks for healing that does not rely on prisons, or state-sanctioned violence – it asks for reconnecting with peoples’ humanity, to build relationships.


Transformation and healing is simply just one of the many things we must strive to achieve, but the real goal is liberation from a world without harm; and we can do that the minute we decide to invest our lives in to creating communities – and futures – where hope for a caring, safe, courageous and equitable world is the presiding and enduring principle.


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