It was on a bulletin at a local coffee shop, Cross Class Dialogue Circle. What did those words mean? Cross made me think of the patterns on top of a pie. Class, I thought I knew what that was: divisions based on wealth and a word I always flinched at for some reason. Dialogue, easy: a two-way conversation with the truth coming out somewhere in the middle. Circle, so everyone would sit in a circle?
I signed up. I had no idea what to expect. No idea that it would change me, unearth deep-seated doubts, dreams, mysteries in my relationships with people I loved. had no idea that it would inspire a more informed way of life.
Tackling Taboo Topics
My+life are two words that always felt like they belonged to someone else. Money is another difficult topic. I never had much of for myself but also never had to think about. And class? I had always been uncomfortable with that word. Why?
There are topics that are not brought up when you greet a stranger on a bus. They can become so buried they may only come up once a year, a flash in a situation or a conversation that gives you something to think about.
Moving out of a small town into the city for school I found words that connected the dots: Racism, heteronormativity, sexism, transphobia, privilege, capitalism, class. Long words you don’t need college to learn, but it still gives you the definitions. I found out through this dialogue circle that the deeper its buried, the more powerful the word.
Our group met biweekly on alternate weeknights. Childcare was provided, and there were snacks! I had been munching on stale bread left out on the street and relished the warmth of that room even when the heat built up in our conversations. Secrets that had been dormant for many years were unleashed.
The Cross Class Dialogue Circle helped me realize the behaviors, expectations, assumptions and values that are a part of me are because of my class and the way that I was raised.
A Deep Dive
I can give you a taste of what this circle meant for me, a downwardly mobile professional-class, working-class queer white Jewish person:
- It helped me understand the decisions of my friends and my partners.
- It helped me realize the behaviors, expectations, assumptions and values that are a part of me are because of my class and the way that I was raised.
- It helped me look beneath differences that are supposed to keep us apart and towards those strengths that unite us, like:
- Dismantling a system that does not care about our mental or physical well-being and actively shortens life expectancy for those who are poor and/or are not accepted by people who control resources.
- And so much more I’m still figuring out. (I would love your comments below to help me do so.)
I remember when the facilitators of the circle introduced the topic of dismantling capitalism and several of us were at first caught off guard. I wasn’t opposed to the idea. But on the other hand, we had only just started sharing our stories and getting to know each other, were we ready for action?
It turns out the facilitators were right on track. We were. Class had already caused enough suffering in of our lives to motivate us no matter the degree of intensity.
Completing the Circle
After completing the circle I noticed my life changing in small ways. One of which was that I realized the power I had. It was my life (my+life, remember), after all.
The first was health. I didn’t have health insurance or money for a doctor at the time. A local acupuncturist suggested work/trade for a problem I was having, and I was able to babysit in exchange for sessions. I was healed after four months and had a wonderful relationship with the family.
The next was money. Once I had taken care of food, housing, loans and insurance, I started donating to organizations. I recognized the strength in reallocating resources as part of overthrowing a system that hurts everyone and deprives of us our humanity and dignity.
I began recognizing the economic privilege I was connected to. I write emails to my family and friends asking for their financial support for important causes without guilt. In fact, I feel glad that I can provide them with the opportunity to use their wealth for positive impact.
I’m still finding ways to think outside the capitalist system. I welcome suggestions large and small. I believe this system has to end and that it can, even though it will take time.
I found so much hope and growth in opportunities like the Cross Class Dialogue Circle. I hope everyone has the chance to connect with their community in this way. However small it may seem, at least for me, the ripples have been huge.
Visit the Cross Class Dialogue Circle to learn more.
photo: Cross Class Dialogue Circle