Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships is a 1964 bestselling book by psychiatrist Eric Berne. This book catalogs a series of “games” in which people interact through a patterned and predictable series of “transactions” which are superficially plausible (that is, they may appear normal to bystanders or even to the people involved), but which actually conceal motivations, include private significance to the parties involved, and lead to a well-defined and predictable outcome, usually counterproductive.
One of those games that I distinctly recall is “Ain’t It Awful,” and when I read or hear a list of complaints against the status quo, beating the drums of alarm and fear to invoke desperate acts of defiance, I begin to wonder if this is that same game.
Although many in the activist community may identify with the idea of FIGHT, I would suggest that the real revolution comes with the idea of SURRENDER—in the sense of reclaiming our innate ability to communicate honestly and openly, and to use our vulnerability to get our needs met, instead of manipulating others with concepts of win-lose, struggle, and fighting, which tend to hold the “problem” in place. Fighting creates a static situation in which the expectation that the person who disagrees with us will not change becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Another way of saying this is that analysis, taking inventory of the other, without synthesis, including an inventory of ourselves, leads to paralysis.
“Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?”
The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up at us and said with a gentle smile, “Well, war is obsolete, you know.”
Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he said, “Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back...but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.”
We are at war with OURSELVES, we are deathly ill with interpersonal and systemic violence inflicted on ourselves. Our vain attempts to be secure have left us exhausted, empty of resources, and questioning. The time is ripe for genuine weeping, empathy for ourselves and others, and a radical shift in our strategies for achieving security, health, and growth. Rugged individualism has lost its virtue. Compassionate community is the more believable, trustworthy focus of our efforts.
The joy, wonder, and power of people working together in community could be better elicited by articles that do not strike FEAR into the heart of the reader, but instead inspire HOPE because they see someone actually creating an alternative to the domination system, and their imagination is triggered to move them to action.
I refuse to characterize myself as a victim of capitalism, globalism, or any ism. When I see myself as a victim, I define power as scarce, limited, in short supply, and belonging to someone or something else other than me, and I have none, or very little by comparison, that I need to “get some” as if it were “out there.” This kind of thinking posits that health care, or full employment, or peace, is an object, a possession, a destination that can be purchased with power. This kind of thinking perpetuates the domination system, and confirms that the domination system exists within me, I own it, I am responding to it exactly as those who dominate wish that I would respond to it—submissively, as someone without power because it has been stolen, or reactively, as someone without power trying to grab it.
I do not submit. I have the power to create an entirely different social structure. I have the power to create a world that works for all, and it does not depend upon the domination system to disappear for me to engage in this creative act, although if I persist in exercising my creativity I am absolutely certain that the domination system shall eventually collapse, implode, and die because it will be seen clearly as dysfunctional. This time, there will be no blood, the military-industrial complex will simply dry up and blow away, useless and unwanted.
No struggle, no rebellion, no acts of violence are necessary to destroy the domination system. The dominators are already in trouble and worried about their own survival, and they would be greatly reassured of their power if someone would only rise up in rebellion against it. How reassured will they be when we simply walk away from the battlefield? The presence of millions of culturally creative revolutionaries everywhere on the planet is the beginning of that walk, and is now unstoppable.
There is a rebirth in progress: the house of rigid, hierarchical, authoritarian, institutional, and male-dominated structures is being replaced by flexible, horizontal, nurturing, familial, and female-guided networks. We are finally learning how to communicate, as in “commune,” building community. The absolute best way for the activist community to move things forward to a sustainable future is to invent it in the present, to build it now, to do an end-run around the opposition. Allow the opposition to fall on its face, which it is doing rather rapidly.
The response-ability is OURS, the grassroots, to invent and create the joy, wonder and power of people working together in harmonious community. THIS is the real revolution, THIS is the revolution that needs no funds, no power, no television coverage. WE can overcome the obstacles of privilege and power to create an evolutionary, inclusive culture at the fringes of humanity, where all true survival strategies originate. The marginalized peoples have much to teach us about living in the midst of “crisis.” The evolution of humanity demands that we take a leap into a non-rational state of being, a non-analytical state of mind in which relationships define us, and we are no longer materialistic individualists.
Peace—a sustainable world—is an act of inner transformation, an action of acceptance, an engagement with all that objectively is without subjective judgment, an act of creation and co-creation of vitality, serenity, and potency. Peace is to no longer have the tunnel vision of myself as a single particle separate from all other human beings or as belonging to “us” instead of “them.” It is to share the anger, grief, and cynicism of everyone who believes peace is impossible, AND to be willing to expose myself to the pain of learning how to remain in the conversation about building a world that meets everyone’s needs, instead of shutting down or lashing out to be in control.
Freedom isn’t free. Real freedom comes from doing the difficult work of learning to listen to our feelings, listen to others’ feelings, and listen to nature and the Universe. When we do those things, our fear of abandonment will dissolve, and we will truly be free. The fear of abandonment underlies our rules to not talk, not trust, and not feel, which are ways of keeping ourselves numb. Those rules, in turn, create the most violent forms of self-abuse and other-abuse we know.
Peace is not a destination, it’s a process, it’s a journey into the unknown. It cannot be bought with money, power, or rebellion. It is ours to claim, now.
“When an old culture is dying, the new culture is created by those people who are not afraid to be insecure.” ~ Rudolph Bahro
David Hazen has a passion for non-coercive conflict resolution and effective communication, having grown up in an era when physical punishment and nuclear bomb shelters were the norm. He has a Master’s degree in systematic design-planning and a multi-faceted work history in teaching, boat-building, sign-making, photography, addiction counseling, and customer service. He is currently retired and devotes his time to activism for peace and tinkering with his electric car. He is currently an “imagineer” for the Eugene City of Peace and is in the process of authoring and editing his new book, “Love Always Wins,” due to come out later this summer. This article is a chapter included in that book. He can be reached at: [email protected]