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Power of The Grey Space

Words and image by Jabali

I’ve been sitting here thinking deeply about what it is I’m going to write for this post. So many things come to mind, and yet I really don’t feel like exploring any of them. Do I want to take on another ideological mindset that I find problematic? Yes, but at the same time no. It feels like there’s just so much to resist. So much to tear down. So much to destroy. And that’s what I’m really doing when I take on a ‘problematic mindset’. Attempting to destroy it. Why one might ask, to which I’d respond, so that it ceases to do harm. All of course from my perspective.

Destroy this idea and that idea. Make it stop. Negate an idea’s hold on the decision-making process of others. Negation. It's woven so deeply in my DNA. Since before birth. Negating the idea that my parents were inferior to other humans just by virtue of skin color and genitalia. Negating the narratives of domination. It feels like second nature. Why was anyone surprised I ended up in the punk world??!??

A group of negators got together to build something…it sounds like the start of a joke, but that frame is tantalizing and tenuous. When disparate groups disagree on how to oppose a common enemy, the enemy is able to use division to their advantage. This doesn’t need to be the case though. If the negators can work together to see how their differing approaches can work in coordination with each other, magic can happen. This then perhaps becomes one of the negators most necessary skills: to learn how to work with others. Fred Hampton knew this and the Rainbow Coalition was a manifestation of that knowledge.

A group of negators got together to build something…, and it was no joke. It required folks to sit down and talk with each other —for a long while—, setting aside elements of their particular ideologies in the service of a larger shared vision. It was, and is, hard work. Work that requires people capable of existing in the grey, because this is where the real work resides.

This is work that does what cancel culture cannot.

This journey of navigating ideological negation isn’t just about tearing down what’s harmful; it’s also about collaboration, empathy, and engaging deeply with diverse perspectives. The urge to destroy problematic mindsets is a natural response to injustice, but real progress comes from building bridges between disparate groups and finding common ground. Buckminster Fuller is quoted as saying, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” I can’t help but think that this is the work that does not get enough attention. Perhaps it starts with taking stock of those people with whom you do not wish to sit, but who are also suffering an injustice of some sort. Then go sit with them and see what can be built.

DIY, another punk hallmark comes in handy.

True transformation comes not just from rejection, but from the willingness to build something new in its place. This requires a shift in mindset, a move from the comfort of negation to the sometimes messy, often uncomfortable territory of collaboration. It means seeking common ground with those who hold seemingly disparate viewpoints, even when the initial impulse is to recoil. As the story of the original Rainbow Coalition illustrates, magic can happen when negators learn to see the strengths in each other's approaches and work together towards a shared vision.

This work isn't easy. It demands deep self-reflection, humility, and a genuine desire to stop othering and engage. It means venturing into the grey areas, the spaces where easy answers don't exist, but where true progress often lies. It's a journey that requires more than just tearing down; it demands a willingness to build bridges, to engage in empathy, and to co-create a future where harmful ideologies lose their power.

This is work that deserves our attention.

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