Crafting Gentleness

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Politics of Gentleness?

Someone said to me yesterday that they had never heard the term 'politics of gentleness' before.

I've been thinking about what politics might mean. I've been thinking that in my attempts to settle into an attitude of gentleness it could be very easy for me to fall into the trap of unhelpful self-help, the achievement of harmonious smugnicity (don't look it up, new word). It's important for me to keep in mind that walks, meditation, eating better isn't about feeling better about myself and leaving it at that. As I move towards gentleness (and move away, and move towards, and move away ...), as I come to a more subtle awareness of what's going on, and a more subtle awareness of how I participate in what happens, in that listening I will find myself taking more care of my attitude in that participation. I will, in a sense, hopefully be able to respond more subtly to the 'call' of what happens, making myself more political, more personally political, more helpfully political. A little more aware of the frustrations, confusions, and uncertainties of everyday politics and relationship, perhaps, but more helpfully attuned to deal with whatever comes up. That's the idea, anyway.

For example, a simple thing, I've found that the more I look after the gentleness stuff, the more likely I am to pick rubbish up off the street as I pass. I used often to take the 'someone else will do it' attitude, but I can't get away with that now. The person who most gets to have influence on my attitude is me, and when I come closer to having an attitude that is about responding to the conditions of the moment there's no going back, I am where I am, and taking the 'helpful' path doesn't lead to disengagement (although in other circumstances 'standing back' may be helpful (When in doubt, wait it out?). It depends on the circumstances, I suppose.). Not sure what I'm saying here.

I suppose it's just that some people have responded to my championing of gentleness by dismissing it as a political possibility, I suppose in some ways working with the assumption that action is something other than that which we ordinarily do, that politics is necessarily something other than washing dishes, hugging dogs, or writing letters. For me, if I hold that action, politics, creativity, or change is something other than that which I ordinarily do, then what I ordinarily do is considered less hopeful or helpful or powerful that it might otherwise be. It remains crucially important for me to start from a place of helpful assumptions - I just don't find it helpful to reduce the range of possibilities of a transformative politics before I even start. The personal is the political for me; the smallest body movement, the most tender silence, the wildest boogie, the blowing out of birthday candles, the bus-stop conversation. I always-already make a difference, and I think it's important for me to be careful about how I do, to believe that there is nothing more personal, political, or relevant than attending to the character of my own attitude at any time. That's only ever going to be the difference that I make, it seems to me. That's my contribution, then I pass on.


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