Justice and unity are both essential in creating healthy communities. But when it comes to the practical application of both within the same setting, things can get a little difficult (to put it mildly).
I’m sure many have faced a situation where for the sake of unity, an injustice was perpetuated. It recently happened to me again, and it brought to the fore the same questions as always: is a group united if it cannot explore its unjust dynamics?
I don’t think so.
I have been lucky that in some situations, the injustice was perpetuated subconsciously and all that was needed were a series of consultations on the general question of improving group dynamics.
If only life was always this easy!
The cases that trouble me are those that feature an injustice being perpetuated by an individual who is closed to such conversations, a situation further complicated by groups dynamics which seem to ignore or be blind to these injustices.
It happened again recently. I was part of a group in which one person was constantly putting down another person—for an easier reading experience, the first will be referred to as a male and the second, as a female—he would either ignore her, shoot down any comments, jokes, or suggestions in a way bordering on aggressive but still on the side of socially acceptable, and would make plans in such a way that she was constantly being excluded.
When I brought up a conversation about group dynamics, it became clear that only two other people in the group had noticed anything, one of them being the woman herself. The man became very defensive and the other members of the group, uncomfortable with rocking the boat, were content to let things be “for the sake of unity”.
It also became clear that what the group had was not unity, but rather a cohesion so superficial that a conversation about improving group dynamics threatened to destroy it: “party lines” started to be drawn, and defenses came up. The easy flow of conversation in the group fled for higher grounds as the waters of contention swelled into waves almost eager to crash into each other.
There are of course certain measures that can be taken to resolve the issue superficially, and I’m sure many have run through your mind as you read the description of what happened. I’m starting to think though that maybe rocking the boat is the best way of doing it, if of course done in a loving, polite, and gentle (but firm) way. After all, growing out of outmoded ways of interacting with each other at the international level is quite painful; perhaps it is meant to be as painful at the level of the grassroots?
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