Brian Butler posted on Lateral Love Australia the following message calling nationally for all Language Groups to sign on and commit to Lateral Love:

“From the National whip around from my connections who keep me up to date on what’s happening in their communities, there seems to be an awful lot of lateral violence happening today.

I want to tell everyone what I believe in, and what I believe in comes from the Great Spirit and was handed down to me from my wise ancestors and I am sharing because I believe that everyone needs to know about it.

I believe that nothing in Aboriginal and Islander (including the Torres Strait) people’s lives will improve or change for the better unless all of our National Language Groups agree to sign on and commit to Lateral Love.

Brian Butler - Photo, Lateral Love Australia

Brian Butler – Photo, Lateral Love Australia

Without Lateral Love there will be nothing by hate and violence, greed and domination within and towards our people.

I shudder when I hear about babies, children and Elders going without food, or medication being taken from the frail to satisfy other people’s habits.

I hope each and every one of you thinks seriously about these words and can take action in your own way.

Let me know what you can do to get this positive movement operating right across Australia and throughout the world!”

Brian Butler Anti-Lateral Violence Campaigner

Followed by this, Lateral Love Australia’s Question of the Day which generated a host of discussions sending me searching far and wide to see what other people in other lands are saying about this debilitating phenomenon once again.

Included was the following information to set the context for the question, stating that some of the frequent manifestations of lateral violence include:

• nonverbal innuendo (raising eyebrows, face-making),

• bullying,

• verbal affront (overt/covert, snide remarks, lack of openness, abrupt responses, gossiping),

• shaming,

• undermining activities (turning away, not being available, social exclusion),

• withholding information,

• sabotage (deliberately setting up a negative situation),

• infighting (bickering, family feuds),

• scapegoating,

• backstabbing (complaining to peers and not confronting the individual),

• failure to respect privacy,

• broken confidences,

• organisational conflict,

• physical violence.

The Lateral Violence that we talk about at Lateral Love Australia is far from being a ‘fuzzy buzz word’ that many people have been using to dismiss or discredit the people who are attempting to address this destructive behaviour right around the Nation.

Together with Brian Butler, my Co-Founder and Co-Director of Lateral Love Australia, we believe that “We all must acknowledge our actions and behaviours to be able to work towards healing our souls to create positive opportunities for our future generations.”

I find it interesting when talking to the many people – from many different walks of life that we come into contact with daily – that there are not many conversations that do not end up discussing or being linked back to lateral violence.

The types of struggles with poor communication and a lack of recognition and respect appear to be common issues that the majority of humanity seems to be grappling with on a daily basis.

The difficult thing we all need to achieve is reaching some common ground with which to base our knowledge and opinions from.

Many individuals do not recognise their own behaviour as being laterally violent or bullying in nature, especially when the term ‘violence’ is understood by the individual to be only associated with physical violence or domestic violence.

People will cut you down at every opportunity, some people will even do it routinely to people whom they have never met or talked to before. Somehow they still feel warranted in their actions because they have been unable to get beyond their own ego in regard to lashing out about something they may have read or heard that they in turn interpreted inaccurately, passing judgment without the full picture in sight.

As would be expected, these topics generate heated discussion everywhere I go and the more it is talked about, the more the conversations are had in environments built on mutual respect and cultural safety, but unfortunately there are still comments made and feedback given unabashedly regarding the work surrounding Lateral Love which is nothing short of pure Lateral Violence in itself, this just seems ironic to me.

There is an increasing body of knowledge presenting around the world regarding Lateral Violence and it is often described as displaced violence directed against one’s peers rather that one’s true adversaries.

This construct is used often in explaining minority-on-minority violence in developed nations. It is also understood that many members of low-status ethnic minority groups face greater stresses. Some evidence suggests that these minority groups are also more likely to be involved in crime.

Lateral Violence commonly occurs in workplaces where there are unequal power relations. If you have one group of people within the workplace whose ego and self-esteem is controlled by the external need for money, prestige, power and status Lateral Violence can occur.

People who have experienced Lateral Violence need a safe place to share their story, be validated, ask questions and seek answers.

When exploring Lateral Violence in our homes and communities, it is always better to try and establish some ground rules before we begin, most of which boil down to open communication and reciprocal respect to encourage continual learning about the topic of Lateral Violence as a means of fostering positive self-empowerment.

In Australia and Canada, Lateral Violence is widely seen as an intergenerational learned pattern and a major social problem in Aboriginal communities.

In Australia surveys have reported that up to 95% of Aboriginal youth had witnessed lateral violence in the home, and that 95% of the bullying experienced by Aboriginals was perpetrated by other Aboriginals.

Kweykway Consulting continue to lead the way in Canada stating that “Lateral Violence occurs within marginalized groups where members strike out at each other as a result of being oppressed. The oppressed become the oppressors of themselves and each other. Common behaviours that prevent positive change from occurring include gossiping, bullying, finger-pointing, backstabbing and shunning.”

Horizontal violence, intra-racial conflict and internalised colonialism are also terms used to describe Lateral Violence and when you remove the racial connotations from the lens the term is also used in explanation of workplace bullying as can be evidenced in the Nursing profession around the world.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada maintains that intergenerational trauma of colonialism is the root cause of lateral violence in indigenous communities.

Here is what some people have had to say in response to Lateral Love Australia’s Question of the Day and regarding Lateral Violence and its presence in our lives, families and communities in general:

“I would like to see more support and information for young people in the workplace that experience bullying and lateral violence.”

“I have been experiencing this, with someone very close to me. I had a good talk with them just a while ago actually, resolved some things. Thanks for sharing this piece.”

“Sadly to say but all of the above.”

“I just thought it was me but sadly not.”

“Count me in.”

“i don’t think a lot of people understand it or choose to ignore it”

“include ENCOURAGING JEALOUSY in your list of frequently enacted lateral violence, . . . as that was the pattern men been to prison kept failing to notice they had”

“my brother. his wife is controlling and keeps him isolated from me his sister and he was also estranged from my mother and father. I hope she’s happy with herself.”

“I try to stay upbeat and happy but it’s really getting to me. My nerves are on edge and I always doubt myself”

“Yes! Finally someone writes about systemic destruction and the ways forward.”

“Just browsed through your website. I am not familiar with aboriginal plight in Australia. But now I will continue to read all about your cause & efforts. May the force be with you in this great cause!”

“Hello from Canada. I have extensive experience working with the Shuswap, Chilcotin, Carrier, Nuxalk and Heiltsuk First Nations in the Central Interior of British Columbia, Canada. I commend the work you do and the causes you champion. My fight with the 100 Mile House RCMP, is all about justice for aboriginal people. Too many aboriginal men and women die in RCMP cells for lack of respect, lack of compassion and most of all … colossal ignorance. My case may help to put an end to these senseless deaths. Once again … thank you.”

“Greetings! I’ve been following your web site for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the good job!”

“This is a great read. Thank you. I shared it with my friend. She is part of an organization in the USA who are preserving the mostly oral history of the Igorots who are a culture from the Philippines. I had the honor of interviewing her for my last book. I learned so much about the Igorots who I knew nothing about before. I also enjoyed it for myself, as I am part Cherokee, who are a native people of North America. A majority of what I know of my ancestors are stories passed down from generation to generation. It is amazing to know about this part of me that is not in history books. Cheers!”

“I can only wish more non-Blackfella’s read and understand the concepts.”

“This heart breaking situation has been reported on Canadian television. One town is under emergency alert due to the high suicide rate. Also, the highest rate of homelessness is among First Nation peoples, which is a contributing factor to suicide.”

“An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I do think that you ought to write more about this subject matter, it might not be a taboo matter but typically people do not speak about such issues.”

“Oh my, that is so much wiser than sitting around and belly-aching about what’s wrong with the world!”

“We could use that program in our prisons here in the U.S! I live in Georgia & our prisons have been in the news for violence and murder that happens in them. Those guys could sure benefit from hearing Dean Daley-Jones’ story.”

“These people and they know who they are, will one day have to answer to the Ancestors who are ever vigilant. They will ultimately become a Yowie, stuck between this world and the next, crying out, eternally for a way out. Our legends were handed down for a reason, as a warning to control our greed. So we can leave our descendants a better world for our passing. I seriously feel a lot of our mobs are without a conscience. I also know many of us will experience a better place beyond here, but too many of us won’t.”

“Native American tribes deal with this a lot too. Though I imagine the fine points are really different.”

“Thank you so much for sharing this link with me. Your words are beautifully poignant and relevant. The struggle is the same for all people who have had to break free of the cancer of colonization. Peace to you!”

“I am not sure being ‘progressively moved to city areas’ would help. I live in a country village and would hate to live in a city, and i am white. Any tribal culture that is used to country life would probably feel the same – trapped, enclosed, restricted, choked etc. I feel cities are inherently unhealthy due to high volumes of people and traffic, and I cannot stand the constant noise around me, and the hustle and bustle. I have to live in a village and have the freedom to walk in the quiet of nature, without the energy and the noise of many others. Has any research been done as to why those Aboriginals who come to the city relocate to the country again later? Do they return due to family pressure or their own claustrophobia from being out of their natural, known environs? Is the violence that they then get embroiled in due to the group feeling resentful of that person’s progress outside of the culture? Does the group feel that the returnee has failed in some way by coming back instead of bettering themselves for whatever reason, and do they take that frustration out on them? Violence etc. has always been part of any culture, and due to migration of the masses, we are now more aware of this around the globe. What once was ‘in-tribe’ and unknown outside of those boundaries of land that they inhabited, is now open to judgment from anyone. Everyone gets involved in everyone else’s business and judges whether it’s right or wrong. But in whose eyes is it right or wrong? I don’t condone the violence or abuse in any way, as any culture, tribe or individual is able to conclude that this is unacceptable, but I do wonder at society as a whole, and why they chose to interfere with other peoples ways of life in the past and didn’t just allow each culture to have its own practices, justice, and traditions. who are we to say that something is right or wrong when we have no idea about it because we don’t live it. If, in the past, everyone had let everyone else just ‘be’, none of the current conflicts would have arisen. If you decided to move to another country or area, then really you should abide by their rules etc. isn’t that why Australia has its policies about immigration? And other countries too. You try to keep your belief system etc. intact because of your culture, but every other tribe/culture etc. has the right to do the same, whether they extend that right or not.”

“I agree with you; people always fear what they’re too lazy to try and understand, and being ‘unique’ is a threat to the sensibilities of many.”

“When, is a question this government will never answer; one could be forgiven for thinking the current policy is to wipe out Aboriginal culture in Australia and erase all memory of its existence. Action speaks louder than words.”

“I think there is an undercurrent of racism in Australia, depending on how you define it. I mean, it’s got to be prejudice against a group because of their colour or race or culture, not because of things that people might see as correlated with those aspects. For instance, I don’t think people are afraid of hijab wearing women, they actually feel it as an affront, in the same way as a Saudi Arabian would if you went out in the street in the bikini. And since open sexuality and bikini wearing are common in Western culture, some non-Westerners dislike our ‘culture’, a valid decision. Whether they dislike us or we dislike them, as individuals, is another question.”

“Totally true – lived that experience too many times! Being whole is a pre-requisite to a happy relationship. Although a kind, loving, encouraging partner really does help…”

“WOW! This is such a blessing, and an eye-opening experience to read about the folks at Lateral Love Australia, and the stories that are powerful, not finished, still being written, bringing hope to this rattled & embattled world … I will be follow you. Peace, and thanks – for the work you all are doing.”

“We are not Australians, but my son had a teacher from Papua New Guinea. She told her class that in her country there were white people. The few black people there only drank and fought, never wanting to work. My son felt offended, he is part African. What a tragedy to have people with stupid ideas educate our kids!”

“Having spent so much time learning about lateral violence, I feel that the name of your blog ‘Lateral Love’ says it all!”

“as a child who went through the children’s homes and orphanages, my twin younger sister and I were continually bashed into saying we were white as our skin is fair, we remember our aunties and uncles our family being Aboriginal, why do we not have the right to our Heritage, we are listed among the Forgotten Australian’s as we were never allowed to talk about our family or sign a paper saying yes we had Aboriginal Heritage, when we asked for help tracking down our history we were knocked back as our skin color is to pale, the co-op only went on marriage certificates, we were bastards as were most of our family so do all of us not exist ?,we did not put ourselves in these abusive places, tear ourselves away from family, the state did, and now we are not allowed to find out who we are and where we came from, this is just so wrong, yours sincerely an adult who is still seeking the truth!”

“Abuse of Aboriginal Elders comes in many forms, e.g. we cannot access our superannuation until we are dead and can’t benefit from our labors. I am one of eight with four siblings dead under 45.”

“I was not aware that children were taken from their mothers. I will continue to read more to better understand what Lateral Love Australia is all about. Thank you.”

“Disheartening to read about this, but good to know you are bringing it into the open, regardless of how painful it is.”

“Your message, mission, and stories leave me speechless, as does the thoroughness of your labour of love. If I can contribute in any way, in the way of discussion of schizophrenia, please let me know. Childhood stressors, trauma, negative environment, as well as other factors appear to play a role in the illness, so I imagine you have seen its symptoms in people you serve. Thank you for your work on behalf of the broken-hearted.”

“Is there a clearer and more heartbreaking statement these children could make? Those of us who can turn a blind eye to this situation are already dead inside.”

“It’s always dispiriting to read about the inhumane treatment of indigenous peoples, even more so when it takes place in a so-called civilised western-style democracy. Australia will never be great as long as it breaks and demoralises the country’s first inhabitants.”

“Unfortunately these words ring true no matter what country on earth you’re on. This site addresses quite accurately some of the aspects that Idle No More is fighting against here in Canada.”

“You must know how deeply this affects me. I have been espousing on the living conditions of Indigenous Peoples of America and here I find that this same scenario is being played out in Australia. It is beyond the end of enough.”

“The suicide rate for young people growing up on our reservations is also unimaginably high. The effects of colonial practices are deep and long lasting, and the governmental response always inadequate.”

“What does it mean to be born into a marginalized group? Most of us know, whether we experience it fully or not. Most of us have been told who we are from one authoritative paradigm or another. And some—like the subject of this powerful piece of writing—have been so deeply oppressed that they identify with their oppressors. This speaks to the disconnected pieces of each of us, the parts that we lost in our efforts to belong and survive….and it educates us about the reality of this specific cultural story.”

“Wonderful work. Grandfather was a re-educated First People in the U.S. Tribe now declared extinct. Weird World, to be declared extinct.”

“Thank you Lateral Love Australia for your heart concern for all those who have been wounded and hurt by a lack of understanding and compassion. I was a neglected and abused child for years, and then abandoned so I was thankful for those who cared for me, but we were of the same Culture so they recognised my being neglected and abused but what some consider normal others consider not acceptable. We must always look at the big picture not just bits and pieces of the puzzle and we must seek to forgive and move on in Love.”

“If only we could learn to practice this amongst ourselves, community and then the world, we would be further along today. I am not saying that we would not have disagreements but we would focus more on the commonality between us then what divides us. Love Unconditional.”

“There are so many interrelated issues you have discussed in some manner of depth in this article, and I just want to say that in many ways I can personally identify with a good number of these issues on a deeply historical and present-day level of personal experiential awareness. Two in particular stand out most readily at this time and these are inter-generational trauma and perpetuation of internalised oppression through lateral violence.

It is also very difficult sometimes to confront these issues within an intra-community context because sometimes it is the case that when one is trying to do so, one comes up a barrage of denial. You get those people within the community who are going to come out and say – “Well, this is all part and parcel of having to come to terms with being hated for being different and in order to avert persecution, people co-opted or adopted the habits and fashions of the dominant society. If they didn’t do this, they wouldn’t have been able to “get on” and survive.” Just before Christmas me and a friend from the same community met and talked about where we were currently at on our journey of self-actualization. During our time together we discussed the issue of cultural assimilation and how this has historically adversely affected us as a people. I touched on the issue of it damaging our ability to “be us” and went at some lengths to try and explain how in fact these assimilationist tactics have psychologically tried to turn us into Europeans. She agreed but then went on to defend the giving in of many to this push to assimilate as “the only option” sometimes in the face of relentless persecution. I tried to hear what she was saying because I felt for her confusion and I tried to explain to her that co-opting just makes matters worse for our own community because what it is – is essentially giving up of our own soul and replacing it artificially with another that isn’t ours. I probably didn’t say it as clearly as this but my intention was to convey the point about the cultural damage giving into assimilation does.

The following excerpt from your article is a really poignant present-day example from the local situation in Australia which clearly serves to highlight the seriousness of damage done when we buy into the ways of corporate ladder-climbing at the expense of our own moral consciousness:

“These young people often looked up to their Aboriginal and Islander leaders who have made it to the top and try to seek guidance and assistance, only to be treated like half rate citizens and bullied back into some kind of subservience. These senior Aboriginal and Islander people continue to perpetuate their own victimizing behavior. This ultimately alienates good people who are willing to fight the cause with them and also undermines any genuine intentions they may have toward improving the health and wellbeing of the greater community. ” [Butler, 2012, WORKPLACE BULLYING (Is a manifestation of Lateral violence)]

See what’s getting in there? Phariseeism! That’s exactly what has resulted from some traditional people taking on (unconsciously or consciously) the adverse assimilationist ways which the colonists inadvertently forced them to adopt. Of course, these members of the traditional community (these leaders) are not exempt from their own responsibility in taking on board these unhealthy practices. That is all part of why we must be ultra-conscientious in healing these areas of our histories and our current situations where manifestations of such co-options exist. We have a choice – to act upon the wisdom of our ancestors or to ignore that wisdom and play the game of ‘knowing-it-all’ from a world’s system perspective. If we choose to play the world system’s game, then we have fallen into the hands of assimilationist tactics, thereby perpetuating lateral violence.

This perpetuation undermines potential collaboration and solidarity amongst us because stratifying and placing class divisions in status/rank in between us and our relations is giving into the “divide and rule” strategy the world system wants us to succumb to. If they can’t beat us by will of force, they will try a sneaky and politically sophisticated tactic of getting us to fight amongst ourselves by firstly trying to acculturate us and then enculturate us into their hierarchical modus operandi. This means that slowly we become numb to the effects of this system operating under our noses and eventually we become sucked into its’ grasp, acting out of it, and puffing it up meanwhile we try to make it on the outside or exterior look cosmetically like “ours” – dressing it up in some kind of traditional garb. On the inside though, the ethics of practice remain the same as those of the secular or Eurocentric world – top-down strata, getting one up on the next person and telling those ‘beneath’ you to take a step back or to sit in the place reserved for ‘outsiders’ or those of ‘lower rank’.

We must be aware of this within our own communities in the present day as well as learn from our own histories where this kind of phenomena has besieged us. We must also be on guard against it in relation to collaboration and solidarity efforts between us as uniquely different but equally united in struggle, indigenous cultures, nations and peoples. On the international level this is very important too because there are many media sensationalists and political opportunists who would want to try and avert emergence of genuine, unbridled solidarity between us native peoples world-wide. These negative forces want to tarnish the indigenous peoples’ movement by turning inside out the portrayals of how certain struggles on the international scene have played out. There are those who want to distort the truth about these struggles so as to divide and conquer the indigenous rights movement globally. We must be vigilant and do our very best not to let this continue.

I love your site – thanks for being a vibrant and resilient part of the change.”

“Here in South Africa the term is ‘coconuts’ for blacks – dark on the outside and ‘white’ on the inside. I thought it was just our country that did this, seeing as how race is still such a touchy subject but you’ve proved me wrong.”

“In my day job, combating prejudice and racism lie at the heart of what I try to do, so I can relate strongly with what you seek to achieve. That said my knowledge and understanding about the plight of Aboriginal and Islander people in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere is far too limited. Your site will be invaluable.”