A: Well, they do have power and that by acting like killers they get more social power, but this is a weakness. From the psychological viewpoint, my viewpoint, that kind of power is a weakness because it leads you to early death, to suicide, to war, etc. Actually, the outer thing of going to war is nothing in comparison to constantly feeling you should be strong all the time. There are so many men who feel they should do powerful things. You read in the papers, all the time, about sexual impotence, a big problem for men is now sexual impotence. Viagra. I just read about erectile dysfunction and it’s just the same thing all over again. Maybe some part of the man is saying, ‘I don’t want to. I can’t. I don’t want to be the big dude anymore. Let me out of here. I want to be incapable. I want to be a failure. Let me loose. Let me out of this role.’ Maybe this (erectile dysfunction) is a somatic symptom of that. That’s what I see there.
S: But what happens is that drugs have developed to try and help the erection get back up again.
A: I have nothing against the drugs, but I'm totally for the body the way it is. People can do whatever they want, but I want people to pick up these aspects of the whole body. I've gotten very interested in the aging process. And the aging process is saying nobody is meant to survive. No one. That’s how we are created. Something in us survives, but we as we are, are not meant to survive. We are not built that way. As individuals we are meant to disappear. And knowing that death does exist, that’s the basic Buddhist, Hindu or anything, the basic attitude in all the world religions. And if people could get that into their minds a little bit, if you start getting sick or something doesn’t work you could say to yourself, ‘Ah ha, this is the way it ought to be!’ This is not meant to take away from those who want more power and need it. I'm just talking now about the beauty of leaving the power position. Others can take it and need it for a while. Have it when you have it, and when it doesn’t happen, throw it out. Become a plant.
S: In a way it’s looking at power or social power from a rich psychological perspective.
A: Yes, looking at it from a psychological and spiritual perspective because it’s something that needs to be, should be. Learn to shoot, be a big dude. And then let it go. And laugh.
S: Let’s focus on marginalized groups of men? White, middle-class, Christian men are mostly the groups that are talked about. They seem to be the popular groups that a lot of the books are written about. There’s a bunch of others--the racial men’s groups, African American, Latino, Aboriginal, Native American. Related groups are the Gay men’s groups, also Jewish men’s groups. I wanted to ask about your experience of the particular challenges and needs of these groups.
A: Well, you named a whole bunch of them and I’ve had lots of experiences with the ones that you’ve mentioned, but I’m hesitant to say anything because I am a white person, a white, heterosexual male speaking. So how can I say anything? But on the other hand, why not say something wrong? I am pleased to do that. Let’s take one group at a time.
S: Let’s take a few. The ones I am most probably interested in are the African American group and the gay groups. Those are the two more prominent groups.
A: The gay men need to realize they are the future leaders. They are not aware enough that they could be real transformers, they could teach men how to be whole men. Every man has deep feelings and has all the ‘classical’ things being projected on to them (gay men). Every man has these various sides. But a gay man is in many ways, not all ways and not under all circumstances, more whole. He is allowing, trying, is fighting for the permission to be more whole than other men. And so would have an incredible teaching, and yet they are feeling so marginalized that frequently that doesn’t happen. There’s just depression and difficulty that happens in the gay men’s community. My viewpoint is that they could be great and fantastic awareness teachers in the future.
S: And the African American group?
A: The African American men see what’s wrong. They’re clear. They know what’s wrong because they are so severely marginalized. Every group is severely marginalized, but gay groups don’t always have to show that they are gay because of skin color. The blacks have been leaders in social and spiritual development since the beginning, especially since the civil rights movements.
S: It’s amazing that the main spiritual elders are people of color--Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Mandela, the Dalai Lama.
A: We’re talking about African Americans though, so that limits it to the United States. My feeling about that is that those men themselves know what’s needed and it’s togetherness. And the groups that I’ve worked with are trying to get together to support one another. So that they’re not divided internally by the same racial divide that they experience externally. Every group has internally the same division that they experience with themselves in the world. So there’s mainstream aspects of every marginalized group.
S: There’s like an internal marginalization.
A: That’s right. And so there is a need to feel the support in coming together and working out these issues with themselves. Within their own community. I feel that they need more time by themselves. They need to support themselves in getting time to be together in black pride. The million man march. That was so beautiful. That’s the coming together of that group. And the group itself will know what to do. They’ll just know and balance one another in time. Just encouragement.
S: Have you some thoughts around the Jewish men’s groups.
A: Jewish men’s groups. So many Jewish men’s groups have come together. I know them only incidentally through being a Jewish man myself and being part of Jewish men’s groups as a result of this. There is a secret paranoia that upsets most Jewish men and women as well. But with men it’s sometimes cuts down their ability to do things in the world or if the paranoia works, motivates and drives them to succeed in ways that they don’t feel like it. So I think the challenge for Jewish men’s groups really would be to realize the paranoia that they have and that paranoia is due to the fact of being disliked. Even though most or many Jewish men especially in the United States are white. They are disliked and yet look white. That creates paranoia because they can’t see the anti-Semitism all the time. But they feel it. So that’s the specialty of this group. Gay groups have that, too. You’re marginalized, but not seen overtly. So there’s a big thing around working with paranoia. And fears, having lots of anxieties. Everyone has anxiety, but this particular group, Jewish men, also the Hispanic communities as well as all marginalized communities, women and what have you, have a lot of anxieties.
S: So I see how that internalized anti-Semitism works, I see this in myself in putting myself down, there is an antagonism against myself. But I am not quite sure about the paranoia.
A: You yourself aren’t characterized by that very much. There are a lot of people who are paranoid about the world, afraid or they have it as a medical condition. They get afraid for their health. That’s a very widespread Jewish problem. Suddenly there’s a paranoia or something’s killing me.
S: It’s actually an invisible anti-Semitism all over the world. You can’t pick it up because it’s invisible. That’s fascinating because when I was a kid in South Africa, my school was mostly Jewish and the teachers were actually mostly Afrikaans. The Afrikaans people had a strong anti-Semitism. Frequently we were beaten as kids and I never identified it as being because I was Jewish. I just felt beaten by the teachers. I realize that it was anti-Semitism. We were all being beaten, but the Jewish kids got it harder. How do you envisage a world where, in particular, mainstream groups begin to embrace those more marginalized groups of people, marginalized men in this instance? What are the mainstream groups losing by not embracing these other groups, whether it’s the gay groups, the African American groups, the Jewish groups?
A: There’s a hidden social agenda in your question. I just want to make it explicit, that the mainstream is sick. And that the other groups will help to balance it. I don’t want to say anything about that. I just want to say that’s a statement that you have and I just agree with it. That the mainstream is one-sided without all the other sides and that is going to be true of every mainstream everywhere.
S: Going further into this, my experience has been, for example picking up the gay part of myself, has been incredibly enriching for me. So rather than put it onto gay men, I need to actually pick up some of my sensitivity and feeling states. Does it not enrich the culture for us to begin to re-own some of our parts?
A: That’s the basic psychological premise. If you project something onto somebody, it’s got to be you. This is true not just, and I'm going beyond your social agenda, for the mainstream. This is true for everybody. If you continually project something onto another person you don’t know it as being yourself.
S: So not only is the mainstream projecting, but marginalized groups project too.
A: All the time. And the marginalized groups are saying, ‘We’ve had enough, we’re fed up with trying to internalize and we've been forced to internalize.’ They say, ‘We don’t want to do it, we want to have our own selves now.’ Great, that’s the right process for them. At another point they need to remember that they too can have mainstream powers and be unconscious of their power. Otherwise transformation won't happen. And the mainstream needs to realize--the white Christian groups need to see this and that. Absolutely. Not to say it’s just a part of me. I am gay. Not to marginalize and say it’s just a part, I am gay, I am black, I am Asian, I am a woman. I feel like a woman. I'm not sexually and gender wise, socially considered a woman. Whatever a woman means to me I surely am. I want to be.
S: It makes you whole.
A: That’s the whole process orientation, you are what you are feeling and what you’re projecting on to the world. So this is a psychological feeling, but it’s a social agenda at the same time. We are all these things. That’s why I say awareness work is such a great way of getting there. For those who like it.
S: I like that the social activist also needs to be investigated. There is a sense of self righteousness which doesn’t allow self reflection at certain times.
A: While we are talking I've got to dance there for a minute (laughter).
S: You keep dancing, Arny. One men’s group that emerged was called the radical feminists, and they basically said you got to stop oppressing women and address issues of sexism. Period.
A: Great I'm with them. It doesn’t sound radical--that sounds right to me.
S: How do you do this?
A: All the things we've been saying. How does a man stop doing that? Stop oppressing your feelings. Work on whatever man projects upon the woman. It's up to each individual to find out how to do it--him or her self, in their own way.
S: Another group called themselves the social feminists. They said the oppression of women doesn’t just happen across gender, but it happens within the mechanism of class. It brought in all the inequalities about pay, keeping women down by virtue of economics, or position or stuff like that. In a way a ranking system.
A: Under the word sexism is an umbrella. Under sexism is economics, child care, heterosexuality. All sorts of things are under the word sexism. So there are many, many angles to it. So these two that you're just saying, are superficial. There are thousands of angles to understanding what sexism is about. They’re bringing up very good points. Ageism is in there. You can’t talk about sexism without talking about ageism. You can’t talk about sexism without talking about racism and different races have different ways of working on sexism. So when you’re talking about sexism without talking about racism, it’s racist. Talking about sexism without talking about economics is stupid. Talking about sexism, without talking about ageism--you cannot separate the two things. The attitude towards the older woman is dreadful.
S: There’s another group, that emerged in the eighties and the nineties. It's the right wing Christian movement. They had been present previously at the turn of the 20th Century, when the Suffragettes were around. At this time a lot of the preachers said men shouldn’t be sissies. They were against the feminization of men. And they have emerged again. The largest of these groups is called the Promise Keepers. Their essential idea is that men need to reclaim their rightful position as spiritual and social heads of the household. The question I have is, why does this group again emerge?
A: Because men have been attacked so much. I think you can understand the world scene like an individual. As an individual, as a man if you say to yourself, ‘OK I'm going to develop so-called feminine traits.’ That’ll work for a while. And then how about the so-called masculine traits, which are not masculine or feminine in my mind. So it's just a natural development. The other side comes back. Any one of these programs will be too one-sided. Any social agenda that has no process orientation is bound to be there for 15 or 20 years then it's done. The human organism, the gigantic global dreambody, doesn’t like to be one-sided.
S: The Promise Keepers follow the power theorists’ idea of rights. A lot of the early philosophers were really interested in looking at king’s rights, then people’s rights. The Promise Keepers in a way follow the ‘rights theorists’ in terms of giving men a certain god-given right as head of the home, etc.
A: Oh, OK. You're men, you should take your power. It's a great side. It's just one side. All the sides are important.
S: Those in power such as white men might say that trying to level the playing ground or create a space for all the voices to be heard is sometimes threatening for them.
A: Always. Not sometimes. Always.
S: So how do you deal with that?
A: By appreciating it. That it's fear and fear making. Again it's the same idea, that all the voices are important. Fear is important. It's scary. Who wants to do it, let’s get out of here. Let's hold our breath. But it's important, we need to do it.
S: The interesting thing also is that many women have supported this group, the Promise Keepers.
A: Yeah, they would like people, somebody, to play father, too. Absolutely. Everybody wants, I say everybody because we’re talking about women and men, everybody wants a man around to do things. It's a role. And so it's understandable that part of the population says, ‘For god sakes be a man and stand on your own two feet and take your role up like you're supposed to.’ That’s the other side. They want that. But of course the concept of what it means to be a man is just again another one-sided thing here.
S: Then the men will get stuck in that again, in a way. And the women will get stuck in that and…
A: That’s why I suggest awareness. Rather than a program.
S: Right, else we’re just going in circles. Some of the women who’ve been supportive of men in these groups say they'd rather have a man there who is not screwing around, is faithful and takes the power in the family. Someone women listen to, rather than someone who’s running around. They don’t have any sense of control. So in a way that’s the flip side of it. Men will get tired of that eventually, too.
A: And the women, too. But not just women, any partner who has another partner who is always just behaving like a parental figure will get tired of this. You’ve got a parent not a partner. Well, that’s the problem. That’s a concept of man being a parent and not a partner. So that’s a weak thing there. You want to talk about relationship instead of what his job is in the family. But I want to now to stand for them, because taking a stand for family can be extremely important, especially where the whole relationship thing has been thrown out. Yes, yes, yes--and the next step too.
S: More also needs to happen. Why would this group be so strong? If you look at these meetings a hundred thousand men will come to a meeting. This group has huge membership. If you think about Bly, for example who is an influential guy in the men’s movement--400 men would come to his meeting. Here you are getting these stadiums packed with these guys.
A: It's giving them back their power and it's giving them back the kind of family power that really is important--that says that is very important. It's another side of the whole thing. There’s a lot of people that want the man to do this and it's right for a lot of men to really get their act together and get their family life together. That’s right for a lot of men. They feel, ‘I want to pull my life together, I want to pull my family together, I want to have more hope, I want to clean up this act, I want a certain ethical standard.’ It's beautiful really in a way. But the relationship is not stressed enough. So therefore all these social agendas are very one-sided.
S: Some feminist groups are very upset with them because they feel giving men their rightful power back and their god-given power … it doesn’t go down so well.
A: It can’t be god-given if women didn’t give it to them. Because women are part of God too, so if they say no, the answer is no.
S: I presume the Christians would probably say God is some authority external to human beings.
A: I think that’s going to change. That’s what used to be called Judaism and Christianity, but it is changing. There is a lot of fundamental thinking still the same as it always has been, but there’s also a huge transformation happening in the religions. And an attempt to come together. You just have to listen to the Pope talking about anti-Semitism and stuff like that. And I think we should also be careful not to be righteous and better than religions which themselves are beginning to show a lot of transformation. Support them rather than knock them.
S: The mythopoetic groups say that men need retreat from women and get in touch with the deep masculine and the wildness inside them. On the other hand, groups like the radical feminist group feel like the work is really with women in learning to change relationships. What are your thoughts about these differences?
A: Both are right. There’s a phase when you have to withdraw from the other and do your inner work. That’s typical for the men’s movement, too. Men need to be with women and then they need to withdraw and do their inner work. But what is the meaning of the inner work if it doesn’t then finally also have a significant connection with the other person.
And not just with the women. This is too heterosexual. That it's also the men’s movement with the men and also with the gay movement.
S: A lot of this work is separatist in a way. Like for example we talk about the mythopoetic movement--it's very much white, middle-class, middle-aged Christian men that tend to be in the groups. Maybe in a way it's important for all groups at some point in time to interact also.
A: Again I see the whole globe, like an individual or the groups themselves as individuals. You need to withdraw, do your inner work and come out and interact--otherwise you're only half a person. The same is true of a group. A group that only does its inner work, it can’t fully happen. It wants to come out and have relationship afterwards.
S: If you look at psychology, the behavioral psychologists focus so much on social normalcy, being part of a culture and adapting to the culture, as opposed to for example Jungian psychology where there is a focus on individuation. I'm thinking that these two forms of psychology also have parallels in working with personal power. Jung says you need to go in, in a way, and work things out. The world will be OK if we work inside. And there’s some of the behaviorists who say adapt to the world.
A: Instead, doing all of them, go inside, do it in one-to-one relationship, do it in world work and large group work, do it socially and systemically. All the levels are important. Why look at only one?
S: In this sense, psychology has done the same thing. It's looked at one side or the other. This is an important contribution of Process Work. Let’s go back to spirituality and the use of spirituality and power. Some of the elders have been able to somehow stop a revenge cycle, many of these people have belonged to marginalized groups and yet been able to actually inspire others from their spirituality. I am thinking about Martin Luther King, Mandela, Malcolm X, the Dalai Lama. And I'm interested in your vision of how people get to that place.
A: Well, each of them had their own way of doing that--Mandela I don’t know about. I couldn’t understand from his book enough about his personal life. The Dalai Lama, that’s part of his job in a way. He’s supposed to do that. Who he is personally I don’t know, so I can’t say anything about him there. So I don’t really know, but I…
S: Do you know of many men where you do know how they’ve got there?
A: It's very unusual. Very, very unusual, that somebody actually does arrive at that spot. But the people that I know that I have worked with and the world leaders that I have worked with, haven’t gotten to that spot. They don’t get there.
S: Can you talk about your experience with world leaders and what you're learning with them?
A: They are very ordinary people--as a whole very unprepared for the jobs they have. They have none of the psychological orientation that’s needed to understand people. And a lot of the problems that they have had is because of this. But I don’t expect the leaders to be able to do the kinds of things we’re talking about. And I think that the great leaders aren’t the important leaders. Though they are fabulous people, great characters--the Dalai Lama, Mandela, Martin Luther King, I don’t think that that’s where the essence and the weight should be placed. But upon each of us who has a little bit of this detachment that comes about. Through burning your wood and through living and working on yourself, and if you flow with yourself and let your feelings out, after a while those feelings change. You're not always one thing. That gives you the right attitude. For me that’s a spiritual attitude. A flow of things. That you have this feeling and then you have another feeling.
S: In a way it has a courage though, to have those feelings.
A: It takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of courage and it takes an understanding that it’s OK to be various things. That is a very, very new social thought, also a very ancient one. Socially you have to have one character and one personality and that’s who you are. It's too limiting. And nobody succeeds at it. But those people who really are compassionate, with all sides, are people (that I know at least) that have worked on themselves and managed to get there through accepting their own various changes.
S: We are talking about men. As a man, can you share something of your own personal journey. About the challenges or changes in your own growth and development.
A: Well, first I have to say I don’t know myself very well. I'm always just in the middle of discovering myself. And I don’t really know. And that the answer to this will change in time. But that I grew up under very harsh circumstances and felt greatly the hatred between different communities. My mother especially wanted to live in an area which wasn’t the better side of town. They left that (better side of town). Now I understand what really went on--she was rebelling against the Orthodox Jews. She wanted to be with everybody, and for me the world has always been everyone, that my family is everyone. It also is the Jews, the Jews are my family, but also the whole world is my family. I suffered incredibly as a child. Just talking about it and just thinking about it, is so hard. As a child, being a Jew and being so hated. I was the only Jew in the neighborhood and I was hated for that. By the Italians in my neighborhood. As that was during the time of Mussolini and parts of Italy were anti-Semitic and on Hitler’s side. So I suffered. I was like in a concentration camp, in the United States, in my own home town. I was afraid to go out of the house. I managed to survive by learning how to befriend the Italian community and with the help of the black community who supported me in my fights, and learning how to fight and how to wrestle and how to get along with the street scene.