What is Restorative Activism?

 
The essence of Restorative Activism is relationship. And prioritizing relationship puts us on the spot like nothing else.
 
            Do what you must with people,
            but never let anyone out of your heart,
            not even for a moment.
                        -- Neem Karoli Baba
 
Just imagine living your life as Karoli Baba suggests. What would that take? Would it make you a stronger and more effective activist?
 
Because the state of the world is what it is, because our trajectory is what it is, I believe that there isn’t anything more important right now than building relationships. That doesn’t mean agreeing with everybody, it means understanding our interconnections enough so that we can dialogue, so we can talk about what’s real and important. We can disagree and still hold relationship and interdependence as primary.
 
Restorative activism is an integrated approach to being and working in the world. It integrates body, mind, psyche/soul, spirit, and action. It offers theory and practices which cultivate self-awareness and self-compassion, supporting a rich, life-long process of becoming ever more conscious (the very essence of being an adult). Being at peace within one's self is where peace has to start. Compassion for others and wise action are by-products of the work we do with ourselves. 

A strong inner foundation has many of byproducts including:
 
·      Moving beyond shame, blame, anger, and desperation;
·      Realizing that there is no us and them, only us. We all participate in the destruction and injustice;
·      Building durable communities. Why do most intentional communities, for example, ultimately fail? Because the individuals involved haven’t done the necessary inner work.
·      Moving us in the direction of unconditional happiness and joy.
 
The Restorative Aspect?
 
Activism of this nature can be restorative for us as individuals. It can help knit back together some of our fragmentation. Because there is no inherent duality or split between interior/exterior, psyche/society, personal/political, humans/nature, we are called to make our intimate relationship with the world overt and conscious. We are called to be in reciprocal relationship with the world and all beings. This means resisting injustice. When activism is undertaken with a peaceful heart, out of love and not hate, it can be healing for the activist. Engaged in in this way, activism becomes sustainable and an antidote to burn out and self-righteousness.
 
Restorative activism is also outwardly more effective in the long-term. It sows the seeds of peace and relationship and positive vision. It seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
 
Restorative activism is inspired by restorative justice and its principles such as the 5 Rs: relationship, respect, responsibility, repair, and reintegration. In restorative justice, accountability and honesty replace blaming, shaming and justification. Restoration  and repair replace punishment and revenge. Every voice is important and heard.
 
Ultimately, restorative activism supports us in being adults. This is not empty rhetoric since the dominant paradigm and the industrial growth society has hindered the development of us all. Too many people old enough be adults, nevertheless do not demonstrate characteristics associated with true adulthood (honesty and integrity being a couple of obvious examples). True adults channel wisdom and steadiness and offer it to the world.
 
Restorative activism helps us “hold our seat.” In other words, it supports us in staying centered, staying in our adult, even when sitting in the fire of strong emotion and the destruction of so much that we hold dear.
 
Scott Brown
revised January 6, 2011
 
 

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