WMWC is a gathering in which we touch deep magics together. And at the same time, we are humans in all of our messy glory, flaws and misunderstandings and differences and all. Misunderstandings, miscommunications, and conflicts may arise for you throughout camp, and we as organizers want to be better equipped to support you when this happens. To that end, WMWC will have a conflict team at the upcoming 2019 camp.
WMWC’s Position on Conflict
We as WMWC organizers acknowledge that conflict is a fundamental part of human interactions. Conflict is inevitable and necessary for growth and change. In the dominant culture, conflict is most often dealt with through coercion or avoidance. Neither of these allows us to harvest the wisdom or change brought by that conflict. Both coercion and avoidance leave power structures left untouched, and pain unseen. As organizers, we want to co-create a world where humans can have respectful relationships with each other, the earth, and all of life. That’s pretty different from what we have now in the industrial-techno-capitalist nightmare, and may require doing things differently than in mainstream society, including how we face our conflicts.
Conflict at camps and in radical movements in general can be especially volatile and painful. Some reasons for that include our deep desire for our movements to be a respite from dominant culture and our ultimate disappointment when the same racist/classist/sexist/ etc. systemic dynamics take place. It may also be that many of us have disaster fatigue and deep sadness from watching the earth be destroyed despite our efforts, and little tolerance for further harm and conflict from each other. Whatever the reasons, many of us have deep anger, sorrow, apathy, guilt, and other painful experiences resulting from conflict and harm in our movements.
While conflict is not negative in and of itself, harm is often caused when people do not have personal and community support to move through conflict in a healing way. Too often conflict is viewed with an eye towards punitive justice, echoing dominant culture’s way of “resolving” conflict (which can actually cause more harm than it heals). In order to move towards collective liberation, we as communities must learn to more skillfully navigate conflict and move towards transformation, rather than punishment after harm is caused.
What We Can Offer at Camp
Our conflict team is small. Our container at WMWC is short; camp is less than a week. Additionally, camp is organized and attended by people who live all across the continent, and might not have much in-person interaction throughout the year outside of camp. The types of support the conflict team will be able to offer individuals and/or small groups during WMWC, and the limits of our capacity, will reflect these realities.
We welcome folks to come talk to us – if you need a listening ear, if you need some witnessing, if you want to talk through a conversation before you go engage in dialogue you are worried about, if you feel like you have been harmed, or you have caused harm to another.
We have the capacity to offer empathetic listening. We can hold space for folks to process, and can offer (with consent) things such as silent witnessing, affirmation or validation, or support brainstorming next steps. We have capacity to talk through things with you, to serve as a sounding board for ideas about what your next steps could be, or to work through language if you are trying to find the words to explain your feelings to someone. Some of us can offer support as a third party mediator to a conversation that feels hard, or simply act as a witness to a conversation in which you would like that support. There may be more ways that we can support you as the need arises, so please feel free to reach out to the conflict team.
If you feel like you’ve caused harm, please feel free to reach out to the conflict team. We may be able to help you reconcile the situation, understand and apologize appropriately for the harm you’ve caused, find further resources for growth and/or leave the camp in a manner that minimizes harm.
We do not have the capacity at this stage to support ongoing accountability or community repair processes. We welcome information from folks if they are involved in an accountability process that the conflict team should know about to better support people within the camp container.
WMWC supports survivor-led processes of healing and harm repair. If serious physical, emotional or sexual abuse takes place at camp, for the sake of short-term harm reduction, perpetrators may be asked to leave camp. If something like this occurs, we will communicate with the survivor about their needs, offer what support we can in the limited time frame we are all together at camp, and share resources for healing and repair. Furthermore, we will be frank in our communications with all parties involved about the capacity of this specific conflict team or of individual members to support any harm repair process outside of the WMWC container.
Who is on the Conflict Team?
As of a week prior to camp, the conflict team consists of two cis-women and four non-cis people. Full disclosure: We as conflict team members have not undertaken any training together prior to the 2019 camp. Some of us as a group took Rain Crowe’s Trauma-Aware Conflict Transformation course; some of us did not. We have a varying range of experiences and skills helping folks navigate conflict and emotional turmoil in our own home communities. We all believe in the importance of supporting community members as they move through conflict, and believe that we can all learn to navigate conflict more skillfully and healthful-ly. We desire to serve our community in this role. We will all do our best to support people in the ways that they need, as long as these needs align with our values and our capacities; and we commit to being honest and self-reflective about times when what folks need might be outside of our capacities or experiences. If this is the case, the conflict team will work together to try to find a healthy solution – either by pairing a person up with another conflict team member who might be more appropriate, or by directing folks to resources outside of camp for longer-term support.
While this may change in the future, we want folks to know where we are coming from, and what they can expect from us.
This is the first year we are having a conflict team at camp, and as such this will be a learning experience for all of us. We as organizers welcome the chance to grow at these edges. We welcome feedback before, during, and after camp about your experience with the conflict team and any suggestions you may have for conflict support in future years. You can submit feedback by emailing the camp organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org