Exploring the Iceberg

When faced with unanswerable questions and seriously challenging work, what a powerful blessing it is to be in the company of inspiring, creative, and big-hearted people!

2018 has marked the expansion of East Point Peace Academy’s menu of workshop offerings, which now includes The Gandhian Iceberg, a weekend devoted to deep consideration of our own lives and work through the lens Mohandas Gandhi’s social change philosophy. Over the weekend of March 24 & 25, I was moved time and again by the 25 workshop participants who joined us for the first-ever Gandhian Iceberg workshop hosted under the East Point banner. Together we learned from, wrestled with, resonated with, and deliberated over this fascinating teacher’s ideas and practices, and we accompanied each other as we dug into some terribly important, and often difficult questions:

What would it look like to see a nonviolent response that’s actually commensurate with the social and ecological crises we’re currently facing?

How do we hold the complex mix of Gandhi’s (and other figurehead leaders’) strengths and weaknesses? Their mistakes, blind spots and contradictions?

How do we maintain our personal integrity while swimming against the stream of our capitalistic, violence-saturated culture?

In the context of busy lives how can grow the needed movements? How do we grow the needed movements while simultaneously unlearning the negative habits inculcated by the patriarchal, sexist, racist domination system? And how and when do we attend to the trauma?

The going definition of nonviolence in our society is something more or less like this: “the tactical choice to not use physical force in situations of conflict”. The Gandhian Iceberg model explodes the myth that this definition is even close to adequate. The model describes three different interrelated and mutually supportive areas of nonviolent action and experimentation, which illustrate that nonviolence is a comprehensive, holistic way of life for courageous people, and not just a tactic that one can choose or choose against in specific circumstances.

The three areas of action and experimentation that make up the Gandhian Iceberg are self-transformation, constructive program (community-based work of social uplift and renewal), and satyagraha (nonviolent resistance). During the workshop we reflected on the relevance of this three-fold approach to nonviolence in relation to the living of our own lives and the building up of powerful movements right here and now.

One of the many things that emerged was a shared sense of a certain quality that many of us long to find and experience - and very rarely, if ever, do - within movement spaces, particularly spaces where direct action is happening. Here’s a sampling of some of the language that came forward during a small group exercise during which we explored the essence of this quality:

“...community healing, creativity & artistry, ceremony, discipline, fun, radical inclusion, responsibility & accountability to the world...prayerful, based in fact, heart-centered, well-executed, intergenerational...deep song, courage, fierce vulnerability...”

This last phrase, fierce vulnerability, seemed to resonate with particular force. And with it, the shared desire to see deeply disciplined, deeply principled, deeply strategic nonviolence come to life within our nation’s larger movement ecosystem in a way we haven’t seen before.

If that possibility speaks to a powerful longing in you, I sincerely hope you’ll get connected with East Point, or deepen your connection if you’re already connected. We’re committed to helping make that very thing happen, now more than ever - after traversing the Gandhian Iceberg with 25 amazing Bay Area changemakers




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