(Video) Discussing our desire for mutual recognition in Boston
Watch below in four parts Peter speaking to a good crowd at Cambridge Cohousing in December, full of thoughtful and deeply engaged attendees.
All human beings are animated by a desire for mutual recognition. A desire to see and be seen by one another as we really are in our whole presence to each other. That desire, in a way, was described by Martin Buber the Jewish theologian as the experience of “I and Thou”.
Our detachment is learned. But we long to enter into each other’s presence, to be here, rather than being detached, aloof, and peering out at the world from a distance.
Take for example Dylan Roof who committed the catastrophic murder of members of the African American prayer group in Charleston. If you take one look at this boy you can see this is someone who has never been graced with the recognition of the other his entire life. And so out of his humiliation, his disgrace, his feeling of unworthiness, of never being seen, he’s constructed this threat to the white race and that he’s going to protect by “standing up for the whites”! The same is true for the children at the borders; people who are afraid of the other, literally of the people around them or in their presence, project the threat of mutiny on America by people coming up from the south, crossing the border, another imaginary line, into our collective space. And that is going to threaten the dissolution of our imaginary unity. They aren’t experiencing the humanity of the children, and so they are able to tamp down what shame and horror at vulnerable children they do experience and instead focus on the threat to their own collective psycho-spiritual false we.
Our previous liberatory social movements have suffered from an internal lack of confidence in themselves that made them collapse from within. A social-spiritual activism is required to sustain the open-heartedness and loving energy that can overcome the residual fear of the other that otherwise haunts our social movements.
At a deep level we long to live in a world in which we can truly see one another's humanity and have this authentic humanity recognized in ourselves--yet we live in a world characterized by a fear of the other, a fear of each other, that can produce pathological nationalism, terrible wars, and class and racial hierarchies that are dehumanizing and despair-inducing. The pathway forward for those of us committed to fundamental social change is the pathway based on social-spiritual activism, activism that pursues a progressive agenda while also strengthening our ability to see one another as fully human presences, as embodiments of the sacred.