The London Riots, Self-Respect & Moshe Feldenkrais

By Melinda Glenister

The riots and destruction in London and other parts of England over the last week has got me to think about what causes this kind of mentality in society and in the individual. and what we can do about it, as I think many many people were asking themselves this week.  It is particularly the kids as young as 11 caught up in the violence which seems to shock people the most.  I can’t help but wonder if what I have chosen to do- Feldenkrais- is helpless in the face of this scale of breakdown in society.

Moshe Feldenkrais was interested in what makes us human, how a person matures, is responsible for him or herself.  If what we have been witnessing is a display of lack of responsibility how have we as a society fostered this sense of lack of purpose, angst, and disconnection.

Last week I taught Feldenkrais to tango dancers and musicians at a retreat in France.  After a lesson with a young, curious guy who wanted to know more I said that the reason I liked to teach Feldenkrais is because I find it a very respectful way of working with people, and that is a ‘difference that makes the difference’ to use a Bateson phrase.  There is no sense that the person you work with is not good enough, not talented enough, not clever enough, or not anything enough.  Thinking back to my own youth, to friends, and to these kids who have been on the streets this week, I wonder what might have been different if we had all experienced more time of being treated in that kind of respectful way.

A few days ago after a lesson by my partner, I said that I wished everyone could have Feldenkrais.  Later he asked me why, and I realise more and more that it’s not the movement- although that’s always nice- it’s the deeper layers that make Feldenkrais so worthwhile to me.  The connectedness, feeling more whole, the non-judgemental acceptance.  And the feeling that you can change and improve & learn.  After all what can be more worthwhile than something that increases a person’s self-respect.

I’m not suggesting that if these kids did Feldenkrais they wouldn’t be rioting.  But maybe, just maybe, an experience of being respected, and of nurturing self-respect is enough to open something in them, however small.  Maybe the people running the country, parents and teachers could also benefit- something to teach the kids.