Introduction to Tikkun’s Approach
This site will be continually updated with new articles, so check it whenever you are wishing to hear what people in the spiritual progressive world are thinking. Tikkun does not necessarily agree with all the articles we select to publish below, any more than do we necessarily agree with articles we publish in the print magazine (which is available by subscription, or free to people who join the Network of Spiritual Progressives at the $50 level—and on line only to our subscribes or NSP members or donors).
But what makes an article Tikkunish? It approaches this topic and any other social phenomenon with a supposition that people who are acting in ways that are hateful, hurtful, violent in speech or action, anti-Semitic, racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, religiophobic or otherwise acting in irrational or self-destructive ways are often responding to internal psychological or spiritual needs that are legitimate needs that have been systematically frustrated and which have much in common with needs of many others who do not respond to them in the same irrational or hurtful or violent ways. Those who respond by being attracted to extremist ideas–whether they take the form of “America is always right and we have the absolute right to impose our way of thinking or being on those who disagree with us because they are wrong,” or substitute here in place of “America” any other nationality, religious community, ethnic or racial group, gender, sexual preference, or other grouping—are often seeking a way to deal with inner pain or the absence of a loving environment that all human beings need to flourish, and have adopted a strategy for having their needs met that is destructive to themselves or others.
I learned this methodology from Wilhelm Reich whose attempt to develop a mass psychology to combat fascism in Germany in the 1920s was rejected by the official voices of the psychoanalytic associations of Europe and the U.S. and by the Communist Parties of the world at that time. Reich thought that fascism was growing in large part because of sexual repression, which the Nazis were able to channel into support for a totalitarian family structure. Herbert Marcuse, a generation later, argued in his book One Dimensional Man that the kind of domination of mind that flourished in the U.S. was not based on sexual repression, because sexuality was now being openly promoted by corporations and the media they controlled in order to link its fulfillment to the accumulation of goods in an ever-expanding capitalist marketplace. My own contribution to this conversation is to argue that what replaces sexuality in order to use Reich’s methodology but not his conclusion is that what is repressed, denied, or inadequately fulfilled in 21st century societies shaped by the ethos of materialism and selfishness endemic to global capitalism is the hunger and yearning for a world of love and justice, and for a healthy spirituality that teaches us to respond to other human beings as embodiments of the sacred (as opposed to seeing them primarily in utilitarian terms) and teaches us to respond to the Earth with awe, wonder and radical amazement that then energizes us to overcome all the forces that are destroying the life support system of this our precious planet.
It is this way of thinking that has led us at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives to propose that the best way to deal with fundamentalists of every sort, religious, nationalist, secular, etc. (and most forms of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular, do not automatically lead to violence or oppressive behavior) and to achieve “homeland security” is through “a strategy of generosity” to replace the “strategy of domination” that in fact has been the guiding strategy for the West in the past centuries. To give concrete form to that strategy of generosity we’ve developed a Global Marshall Plan to eliminate (not just ameliorate) poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate education and inadequate health care and repairing the destruction to the environment done by 150 years of irresponsible industrialization and economic growth from both capitalist and self-described socialist or communist societies. Please download the full version at www.tikkun.org/gmp. But as you will see if you read it, our Global Marshall Plan is not just about dropping money into developing countries. It is also about developing a genuine spirit of generosity and caring for the other without which any aid program is bound to fail. Generosity of spirit leads to empathy, seeking to understand others, and genuine caring and respect for others
No, we do not have the simplistic view that if we just dump money onto ISIS, or accompany that with caring and empathy, that they will stop their violent and hateful ways. Some may, others will be less likely to respond to any strategy of generosity. But what can happen is this: the people who have been feeling that they are not being adequately respected, people who have felt dissed or humiliated by others, people who have felt alone and uncared for, and who have not yet fully immersed in the hate-filled ideologies of ISIS, or other religious, nationalist, xenophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, immigrant or refugee fearing worldviews will be far less likely to take further steps in that direction when they are met with love and kindness, economic and emotional generosity, and real attempts by others to understand and empathize with them. It is this strategy which is far more likely to have lasting impact than the short-term victories promised by the militarists on all sides of these struggles. Once we renounce the strategy of domination (including not only military but also economic, political, diplomatic, and cultural domination), and embrace a full-hearted strategy of “loving the stranger/the Other” and sharing the resources of the planet with them in the same way that we’d share with our loved ones, we will break through the barriers of fear and anger and resentment and eventually win the hearts and minds of people around the world and in our own country.
But what about in the meantime? This is a long term strategy, and so, some argue that “ in the meantime we need to rely on the strategy of domination. Wipe out ISIS militarily, and then we can talk about generosity.” Well, as many of us who are committed pacifists argue, “that was what people like us said about World War Two, and we are glad that Hitler got defeated, but remember that these ideas of generosity were used only in a very narrow instrumental way to combat the popularity of communism, but were never really deeply integrated into the worldviews of the capitalist West and so, after a short period of the old Marshall Plan working to rebuild Germany and Japan, this first attempt at a strategy of generosity was very quickly forgotten and this ‘ long-run’ never happened and so we were soon in new wars in Korea, Vietnam, etc.”
So while spiritual progressives are divided on the issue of whether or not we need to take military action against ISIS (those against it pointing out that this was the same thinking that led us into the very wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that yielded the creation of ISIS and dozens of smaller hate filled groupings), we are united on this: that any short-term strategy must be accompanied right now by the launching of a simultaneous strategy of generosity and a Global Marshall Plan. Doing so will insulate much of the world from falling into the arms of the haters (of every sort, I say, to remind us that the U.S. haters have felt new zeal by channeling their hate against ISIS and then spreading it toward Syrian refugees, Latino refugees, and from there hatred toward all liberals and progressives). If the West follows the path we’ve developed for a Global Marshall Plan, the nationalist and religious fundamentalisms of every sort will have a much tougher time building support in the countries not yet overrun by ISIS-type haters or France’s La Pen-type haters, or the new fascistic forces emerging in Germany or the Trump and co.-type haters that dominated our US media in recent months. The haters will eventually give up or die out if they are facing a world that has been immersed in a global campaign for a spirit of generosity and caring-for-each-other, and we at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives can play a role in popularizing this way of thinking and hence changing the dynamics in both advanced industrial and developing nations.
The articles in this section may at times reflect some of this perspective, but we will also be seeking smart critiques of our approach. And we will be adding new materials all the time, so get into the habit of checking out this part of our website www.tikkun.org/overcomingISIS. And if you want to help us build support for the Global Marshall Plan, please join the Network of Spiritual Progressives at www.spiritualprogressives.org/join and after you’ve joined send an email to the executive director of the Network of Spiritual Progressive, Cat Zavis, Cat@spiritualprogressives.org and tell her about your interests in being involved, where you live, and what skills you either have or want to develop to do this potentially life-saving work and whether you would be willing to approach friends, neighbors, civic and charitable organizations, local, state and national political leaders, cultural figures, and religious leaders to get them to endorse the Strategy of Generosity and the Global Marshall Plan.