Tuesday, August 6, 2013
"Attentional Violence" by Otto Scharmer
One of my greatest intellectual teachers has been the peace researcher Johan Galtung. He is known for developing the term and theory of structural violence. The concept of structural violence dawned on him while seeing the victims of poverty in India. People were suffering and yet the cause for the suffering was not another person (direct violence) but the collective economic structure (structural violence).
Likewise it dawned on me over the past few years that there is yet another form of violence that tends to be even more invisible, unrecognized, and pervasive: attentional violence. Attentional violence is to not to be seen and recognized in terms of who you really are – in terms of your highest future possibility. Instead you are only seen in terms of your journey of the past, that is, in terms of the circumstances of the past, in terms of who you happen to be today. People are blind or ignorant of that aspect of your self, that isn’t (fully) born or manifest as of yet.
Who is the victim of such attentional violence? It's our highest future possibility, our essential or authentic Self. When our authentic self and highest future possibility is not seen, then its future potential is cut off from the evolution of the present. It does not have a holding space where it could land, where it could presence itself. Not being seen is a form of violence because it violates fundamental human needs. Our culture (following Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) thinks of material needs as more fundamental than our spiritual needs (such as being seen in one’s highest potential). I believe that is dead wrong. When do your social and spiritual needs start? at 1200 calories a day? 1500 calories? 2000?
It's the wrong question. Spiritual, social, and material basic needs are always present with us. The attentional violence today hits most people on earth all the time. But it hits the hardest those of us who happen to live in marginalized groups (including youth in general), in which people are habitually not recognized and not referred to in terms of their true future potential. All great teachers, leaders, and educators are highly developed in terms of seeing the other (the student) in their highest future possibility. In fast, SEEING that highest future possibility in the other IS the essence of great education and leadership....