A friend sent me the link to this article entitled: What do Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Palestine solidarity have in common?  He enjoyed reading about, near the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, how Black Lives Matter had expressed support for the Palestinian cause in its most recent exacerbation of the ongoing conflict in Israel’s history and how Palestinians have supported BLM in the past. The article describes these two movements as having several experiences in common: colonization, police brutality, and discrimination.

He asked me what meaning I construed from the article from the lens of  The Sum’s Power of Difference Model. Since The Sum’s model is about, ultimately, standing in solidarity across our differences, why was I not on a picket line or writing to a congressperson in support of these causes? What might move me to take some kind of action? What action was called for, concerning Black Lives Matter, the cause of the Palestinian homeland, and concerning political activism in general?

Our model, the PDM, focuses on supporting people in doing their internal work: becoming aware of unconscious patterns and bias. We find that until people do this inner exploration, we can’t make meaningful changes in the world. When we focus on changing the world prematurely, that activism, more than being ineffective, produces chaos, harm, and combativeness.  Moreover, it becomes a way for us to avoid doing the challenging foundational work inside each of us. 

There is a payoff for this avoidance. Typically, that payoff is that the other person or group,  a particular organization, political worldview, religion, culture, race, gender, etc., becomes the “problem” or the threat. We believe that if they would change, if we could get them to see, overcome them, or connect with them, then we all would be safe and the threat would be mitigated. 

We find this exploration opens up the possibility of internal integration of three primary unconscious patterns. Each pattern has strengths and weaknesses. Each can appear to contradict the others. It’s as if a sailing ship has a sailor in charge of the sails, a sailor in charge of the rudder, and a sailor in charge of the star charts. Each can hold a sense of self-importance and can minimize the other sailors or their functions. When a good captain comes on board, she can recognize and integrate the critical purpose of each function for the larger purpose of the ship.

Each of these functions exists within us but our learning needs are determined by how we identify with regard to the “external world”–also by who we feel threatened, with whom we feel unity, and with whom we experience resistance.  

We call these three patterns: Sensitivity, Oneness, and Strength. In Sensitivity, we attempt to get others to value understanding like we believe we do. We value differences but can feel stuck because we often act “too nice” and fail to set firm boundaries. In Oneness, we try to get others to connect through our shared humanity. While we value commonality, we tend to devalue differences and can minimize differences that matter to others. And in Strength, we seek to overcome weakness and dominate those who oppose us, those who we deem the “enemy.” We tend, in this pattern, to evaluate differences and are experienced by others as acting unnecessarily combative.

As we become aware of how these patterns play out internally and in the world, we begin to integrate the assets of each pattern and limit the harm of the patterns’ limitations. Using this framework, activism for social justice can look different as determined by each person.

When we read about BLM and its support of Palestine, we will likely have an emotional reaction that is determined both by our unconscious pattern and by the leaning we need to feel integrated internally. When people ask: what should I do, or what can I do, about this situation in the world (Israel with Palestine, Black Lives Matter, etc), the answer is the same: go inside and do this internal work.  Only then, action or a “calling” will be meaningfully clarified and launched!