Date: October 11, 2023
  • Blog
  • Undoing Oppression
  • Deep Time
  • Anti-Oppression Resource Group
  • Undoing Oppression
  • Systems Thinking

As a member of the team creating and revising content for the new Work That Reconnects Network website, I had the opportunity to contribute to an updated framing of the Foundations of the Work. Based largely on the work of Joanna Macy, these foundational teachings have traditionally included Systems Thinking; Deep Ecology and Deep Time; Ancient and Enduring Spiritual Traditions; and Transforming Our Relationship with Power.

I saw an opportunity to elevate another essential teaching and framing: Undoing Oppression. Thanks to the efforts of many, the Work That Reconnects Network now formally recognizes Undoing Oppression as foundational to the framing and efforts of the Work That Reconnects.

The Network is indebted to many facilitators who have laid the groundwork for this shift. Facilitators of the Global Majority, who have witnessed and experienced harm in WTR spaces, have led the way. The Anti-Oppression Resource Group is one iteration of an ever-evolving web of contributors to this effort. I am personally indebted to Aravinda Ananda in particular for years of teaching and mentoring. The Network’s Social Justice Committee, with its Global Social Justice Advisory Council initiative, is working to expand these efforts.

The focus on analysis, revision and adaptation of the Work That Reconnects is ongoing, as we work to empower equity, dignity and respect within our practices and within our group culture. A high priority is educating facilitators from privileged groups about the patterns of harm that have arisen in workshop spaces and providing guidance for moving forward with greater wisdom and skill.

While the work of Undoing Oppression has always been fundamental to and essential to the success of Great Turning efforts, this is an important historical moment for it to be stated explicitly and embraced as a foundation of the Work That Reconnects. Developing awareness of and working to end human oppression must be woven into each dimension of the Great Turning: holding actions, the building of Gaian structures, and of course the shift in perception and values.

“Unless it is consciously interrupted and transformed, much of the harmful conditioning of the dominant culture will pervade any social space. The WTR workshops and retreats are no exception.”

(from Toward Greater Solidarity and Diversity within the Work That Reconnects, written by US-based Anti-Oppression Resource Group members in 2018)

As one example of the kind of reframing you will see on the new website, the story of the Great Unraveling now focuses much more deeply on the exploitation of people and their labor, and on the deep historical roots of this exploitation by the forces of white elite and colonizing power. The Great Unravelling did not begin with the nuclear age, or even with the development of the Industrial Growth Society. For centuries, communities and cultures have faced the onslaught of colonization and other systems of human domination.

I hope you will read – and comment on – the new Undoing Oppression web page.

It’s exciting to have this new content on the Network website! And of course website content is most meaningful if it supports transformational learning and renewed efforts on the ground. Here’s to a commitment to exploring the many ways of doing that.

Paula Hendrick, a descendant of English colonizers in the United States, lives in Massachusetts. She volunteers with the Communications Committee and participates in the Anti-Oppression Resource Group. Recently she retired from her role as a volunteer WTR Network Weaver.