Sunday, 2 December 2012

Cops Are In Your Head

“The cops are in your head but their headquarters and barracks must be outside”  Augusto Boal

“Be the change you want to see....” ..Nothing will work unless you do”....”A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.” ....”Butterfly effect” ...”Every step counts”....”Change in small steps” (this list of course is longer) is a list of messages, sentences that surrounded (and are still surrounding) my work in empowerment and community development in the last years in different countries (Some of the methods that I work with includes theatre of the oppressed (especially forum theatre)

One of the features of these methods is to activate people, to determine them to take action, to stand up for their rights, to be pro-active in their community, to do something for themselves, to determine other people to do something, to change etc.- shortly to identify the right “responsibility” or “power button” and push it (and then this to lead to other “buttons” to be pushed. 

In the same time I don’t believe a person can be forced to change or do something regardless of how many buttons were pushed around but this doesn’t necessary means that there shouldn’t anything done at all and just leave it to the person in case to decide/do/change (if) anything and “clean” any other external person of any bit of responsibility.

Let’s look at a classical example referring to a universal problem – domestic violence
- we have a women- which is a physically abused by her husband (they don’t have children) for a long time. He is abusing the power he has in the relation and she feels powerless– she has various connections outside of this context (colleagues, friends, neighbours, other family members) – he also has his own connections. Some of these people from the outer circle know about their issues (or they suspect) some don’t – some are indifferent to such issues – some are not.
Based solely on this information who do you think can influence this situation and bring an improvement to this oppression between the man and the women? Who has more power to influence?
There will be people in one side (sometimes extreme) : “is her problem, is their business, is up to them/her, she has to decide what she wants to do”.... and of course on other side (sometimes as well extreme) “she needs to be advised, we need to talk to her, to call authorities, to involve NGOs, to suggest therapy, and not to give up until she is not out of there.”

I do believe that an oppressive situation could be changed by affecting the power relation (unbalanced and abusive) that is between the oppressed and oppressor. I think that sometimes until the oppressed doesn’t have enough little power to be able to stand for her/himself a bit of power can come from the people around that even if are not affected directly can have an influence. 
My work with theatre of the oppressed was focused a lot on giving this kind of awareness and mind set to any people around and to be awake and ready to push power buttons.
The ultimate change has to be done by the oppressed person – the people around can start, declick this intention, to empower with support and solutions- but this can go up to the limit imposed by the oppressed person.

We were in some situation oppressed along our life- we are all had to deal in various moment in our life with situations or relations were we were weak, powerless and worthless. We gather from these different internal “cops”-authority that maintain the oppression from inside and preventing us from having more power in various future situations (sometimes for ever). The inside oppression is tricky – you don’t know where is it, why, and how it end up there. This dirty cops came from outside but are in a mission inside.
Therefore is fascinating to use same type of methodology to work as well with inside oppression. 
Although I was focused in the last years in how to deal with outside (real life –from here and now) oppression recently I worked with “Rainbow of Desire” and it was truly inspirational to have this experience. 

It can be called the therapeutically dimension of this methodology and it has lots in common with other therapeutically schools although the true effect is beyond the rationalization and awareness – is leading to liberation without necessary identifying what exactly made which cop to go back to his office but with the involvement of every member of the working group. 
Is not a method to go in public with and is not a method to play with- is very personal and can lead to very strong emotional moments that could be difficult to manage by more inexperienced facilitators and also less skilled in psychological dynamics.
This was only the beginning – I will continue to explore it more because this road has lots to offer and is one dimension that complete the mission of change of theatre of the oppressed methods have!
(and yes ...cops can go away)

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