(I am at a café watching la policia apprehend a taxi driver as I type this. People are standing by to watch. There are, literally, 6 officers, a civilian on a bike parked in front of the taxi to prevent him from succeeding in his attempts to flee. Others are stopping their commute to spectate. Three minutes have passed and now it looks like they are towing him away in his taxi. He looks defeated. Not a good day for him).
Estaba la luna llena, and I decided to sit in on the Liberation Psychology. C engaged the class in experiential activities. One of the activities brought to surface the tensions between US visiting students and local students living in Mexico. The activity asked us to choose a group to join and each group represented Freirian concepts of colonización, problematización, ideologia, y emancipación. Each group was asked to leave class and take photos of the community where these concepts may be enacted and then we regrouped and had a discussion. For the most part, the discussions were thought provoking. One example a student shared was from the emancipacion group. She spoke of watching a woman with her two kids selling chiclets on the street in front of a Mexican coffee chain, where people were going in and out, passing her with $4 (USD) coffees in hand. The student said she felt that the woman was emancipated because there was no shame in doing what she needed to do to make a living. Others challenged her.
Discussion of experiences continued, more were challenged, followed by non-verbal behaviors communicating frustration. Jason took the class into group process. People voiced their opinions, some became defensive, one stormed out, another ended up in tears of frustration, eyes were rolling, arms were crossing, some people were trying to ameliorate, others were apologizing, yada yada… The discord was multi-layered, in my opinion. The themes I saw had to do with power, privilege, identity, and ownership. Who was more Mexican? Who was behaving in a more entitled fashion? Who had a deeper understanding of issues in Mexico? Who was more ignorant? Who needed more attention, a need to be seen and heard?
And just like that, “El otro” was created.
What I saw was US students genuinely trying to share their experiences of Mexico and these concepts, and some of the local students (all of whom have lived in the US for at least several years) were eager to point out what was inaccurate, ignorant, or incorrect. This is an important part of learning, and entering a community – to listen and learn. It is humbling to learn what you don’t know. However, this can only happen when both sides, or all sides, put down their armor and share.
How often do people enter communities with their own ideas about what needs to be improved and change things, resolving problems, without regard to those who exist in those communities? How often do people free themselves by projecting their shadows onto a fabricated “other”? How often do people choose to fight against versus share when attempting to liberate themselves? How often do people genuinely want to resolve and commune? It is so much easier to find problems and blame.
In this classroom of about 40 bodies, an enactment of what is occurring daily on a macro level, and in a more violent fashion, took place. Tensions rose, the crucible grew hot and people reacted. In this phase of any relationship is an exciting opportunity for moving through and beyond… a tolerance of discomfort (e.g. physical sensations of anger), our own interpretations and re-running of our life scripts (e.g. “I am being attacked… again” “I am feeling powerless again”) while continuing to remain engaged in dialogue is what leads to deep intimacy.
Let’s see what happens today in the class.