Foreword from Arnold Mindell's Sitting in the Fire, Large Group Transformation Using conflict and Diversity (Portland: Lao-Tse Press,1995).
Behind the world's most difficult problems are people--groups of people who don't get along together. You can blame crime, war, drugs, greed, poverty, capitalism or the collective unconscious. The bottom line is that people cause our problems.
My teachers told me to avoid large groups: they are unruly and dangerous. The only way work can be done, they maintained, was in small groups where law and order prevail. But the world is not composed of docile little groups. Enforcing law and order can't be our only strategy for resolving problems.
Many of us shudder at violence. We want to insist on peaceful behaviour: line up here, single file. Follow Robert's Rules of Order. One person speak at a time. Finish one subject before moving on to the next.
Yet enforcing order does not stop riots, hinder war or reduce world problems. It may even kindle the fire of group chaos. If we don't permit hostilities a legitimate outlet, they are bound to take illegitimate routes.
This book demonstrates that engaging in heated conflict instead of running away from it is one of the best ways to resolve the divisiveness that prevails on every level of society - in personal relationships, business and the world.
The pages that follow will introduce you to innerwork as a way to overcome the fear of conflict. You will gain understanding of the cultural, personal and historical issues that underlie multicultural violence. You will acquire some of the skills necessary to work with large groups of people.
The fire that burns in the social, psychological and spiritual dimensions of humanity can ruin the world. Or this fire can transform trouble into community. It's up to us. We can avoid contention, or we can fearlessly sit in the fire, intervene and prevent world history's most painful errors from being repeated. Process work, which will be described in Chapter One, refers to the creative utilization of conflict as "worldwork".
After I finished the first draft of this book, I had a dream that was set near the turn of the millennium. In a conference call, leaders of many cities were talking to one another. People in Vladivostok, Anchorage, Seattle, Chicago, Montreal, New York, London, Berlin, Helsinki, Stockholm, Warsaw and Moscow were saying, " We have tried everything else. Nothing has succeeded. Let's try this new worldwork. Let's open up to what is happening in communities. Perhaps we can begin a new world order." In my dream, people actually learned to work with one another.
In the real world today, though nations of the North have developed advanced telecommunication systems that connect all parts of the globe, people still can't communicate effectively when there is trouble. In the South, a background noise of muffled oppression complicates interactions and makes revolutions. This noise is the low roar of vengeance from people whose voices are neglected by the mainstreams of First World cultures. When the energy of those voices spills over, the results are called "riots" or "minority crime". People who support minority representation are often warned by those in power to change direction, as though conflict and latent violence would go away if only we ignored them. However, suppression leads to revolts and more unhappiness.
That's the essence of the old multicultural paradigm: deny the problems and they will go away. Avoid and punish those who rock the boat.
My dream foresaw the full emergence of a new paradigm that is already trying to break into mainstream consciousness. I hope that this book will inspire you to take part in the realization of that dream.