Pat Parker (1944-1989), poet, teacher and activist, wrote this poem: For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend and had this wonderful line:
The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black. Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.
For any social difference that exists in any society, we can place it there, in the space of “Black.” In any case, color-blindness, gender-blindness, mixed-space blindness, sexual orientation blindness, socio-economic class blindness, neighborhood blindness, body-size blindness, nationality blindness etc. etc. — we have to pay attention to how quickly we may subsume, make invisible, refuse (ignore), make trivial, something that makes a difference. Sameness is too valorized in the globalizing society. It’s not about any particular choices we have in holding on and letting go—-because even this is an action and a series of action (holding or letting go, that is), that come from political positionings that rely on privilege, luck, ability, amount of trauma, fear, violence, and a host of other things that come from oppression and social constructions of society.
Let us not forget how completely and utterly different we are from each other. This way, we truly understand diversity. If we “understand,” then perhaps we do not understand difference at all. We just consume, co-opt, and bring into our own history and culture and language and values, that OTHER. This is a violence to that Other.
But in saying they are different, do we automatically become AFRAID? Or do we automatically become ANGRY? Do we automatically IGNORE? Do we assume we can translate, communicate? Yes we can communicate, but understanding its partiality is important.
Honor you. Honor me.
In our difference. Utterly different. Utterly ourselves. Yet somehow, we are related as humans, as that who has experienced pain.
Perhaps other things. But do not assume equality.
There . . . . . . Can we allow difficulty, struggle, powerful connection and dissonance?
I am a person who has been bullied. As a child in both Japan and the United States, I was the target of bullying. Both of my parents were also targeted. The imagined ideal, given to us by our cultures and societies, in the context of certain times, when certain things are happening, allow bullying as a fabric of legitimizing ‘survival of the fittest’ memes that circulate as universal natural sciences, masquerading as social science as well.
We handle being targeted differently, according to severity, our personalities, the communities we live in or transition into, the time period and circumstances, as well as an effect that anyone hardly mentions: accumulation. Bullying is not just about a person or group targeting someone for their looks and/or behavior or race and other factors perceived as ‘go’ lights to offend and abuse, maim and kill spirits. It is mixed with national and cultural histories as well. It is usually repetitive because it is the relationship between dominant and subordinate.
As an example; in my mother’s case, she was born in China, then her family fled to Japan when she was little. Her mother was assassinated by national Japanese soldiers. My mother’s mother was Chinese and Austrian. All non-Japanese in Japan in the late 1930s and early 1940s, were suspect and were mostly accused of being spies. In Japanese schools and neighborhoods, under the fascist dictatorship of Tojo, the police were basically terrorists. In addition, some people in every neighborhood would be branded ‘good citizens’ by being the neighborhood watch, reporting to authorities and being free to hold people and situations they deemed ‘un-national’ and unpatriotic. Of course. As one can guess from this scenario, the racism intensifies, legitimizing very harsh penalties for Japanese who even socialize with or are seen with a non-Japanese, much less being free to marry or whose parents and relations were from different nations and cultures. This scenario also legitimates all sorts of lies and stories that could be made as a tool of power if one simply doesn’t like someone. Someone may invent a sordid story which suddenly becomes more true and believable at this point, legitimizing violence. This scenario, is not too different from other areas and times around the world, when the building of a nation rests on certain intensifications of racism and other forms of marginalizations including local stigmas, legitimating superiorities and punishments.
In addition, my mother experienced being bombed by the Americans and having an older sister killed in Hiroshima. Another older sister of my mother’s committed suicide after social stigmatization. She had been kidnapped and made a comfort woman for the Japanese imperial army. My mother was bullied in elementary and junior high school in Japan, for being non-pure Japanese. In high school, my mother became a bully, belonging to a band of girls feared at her school. It is not that one decides, necessarily. The circumstances warrant some response. In any case, violence does not just go away. It always has effects.
One can imagine this tender beautiful, funny woman who is my mother, at certain times, would become an ugly and scary, violent woman. I would sometimes fear her as much as love her as a mother and confidant. The fabric of all of our lives are made of this. Those people who experience non-violence in the home, have most likely been shielded from the exploitative violences that have shaped privilege. Privilege is sometimes un-thought, unspoken. For instance, a Japanese woman who has experienced fascist governments, suicides, daily humiliations by classmates, abuse and being ordered around by a stepmother and older brother and is bombed by the Americans everyday and a host of other things, cannot be told to be peaceful and quiet and good. While that is true, many Americans think that they should, while their families were the ones building the bombs and making the American war effort succeed without bombs to run from or fascist government dictates. They have been told that the Japanese were bugs that should be smashed off of the face of the earth and that Japanese knew nothing of democracy. It was a sham, a propaganda, a way to be superior. The Japanese would also make stories of the Americans and this would keep the violence at a high level in both countries. Whether one was a soldier or not, it doesn’t matter. The racist hate-mails I receive in the present day, are not from former US soldiers in the World War fighting the Japanese. People calling me ‘Jap’ and slant-eye that should die, often come from young people. Their grandparents have passed it down. There is a certain worldview. It is politically incorrect so it is not around on postcards and bugs bunny cartoon shows, or in magazines as they were regularlyduring the war. The hatred is kept private, and comes out towards people like myself, unseen to others. It is often a surprise to classmates and friends and sometimes those racist-carrying people would be defended and I would be labeled a paranoid lunatic who is making it up. This scenario is one such generalized example of the legacy of racism and legitimate bullying and how it is carried forward. It looks differently according to climate and circumstance, etc. but it is still there. Other people have gone through changes about this. In my mother’s case, being told to be ‘good’ by people who are in a privileged position in relation to the history between the Japanese and the Americans, the being told is a furthering of the bullying. It already establishes a positioning in relation to violence. The privileged who carry out the violence, then continues to tell people how they should act in relation to the violence? This is violence as well. My mother did not invent fascism. She was a little girl in a country that was ruled by fascist leaders. It was not pretty. But neither was what Woodrow Wilson and the other bankers and corporatists and the military leaders of the US and England did, continuing to fabricate reasons to amass finances and resource-power through militarization and superiority over the Asian nations, attempting to colonize before the World War.
Bullying has many faces. The inter-personal bullying is a part of how nation-states can become strong. Bullying is a way in which we may choose ‘the strong’ over the weak. The CIA recruits people who do not have feelings and who can carry out orders with a smile. They know how to smile and be charming. Being detached from compassion is a part of smiling and being charming. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Some of the coldest and calculating people are the most charming. Yet they are the quiet bullies. Some are more overtly aggressive while others do it covertly. Torturing is a learned thing.
In the movie ‘ The Bully Project‘ ( http://www.thebullyproject.com/_/Bully_Project_home.html) one notes in one of the stories that even after a youth kills himself, the bullies come to school wearing fake nooses around their necks as a furthering torment. It is continuing fun. It is not thought of as something bad or wrong. There are smiles and laughter and joinings in. The school board continued to ignore it, because it was embarrassing to them. They wanted it quiet. The parents had fought long and hard and yet the school officials kept it hushed. These parents, however, did not give up. It is sad that so many of the parents of the other children (the majority), did nothing but listen to the speeches like it was entertainment, telling their children to stay away from the families of the bullied. In this way, the institution, the school, condones the bullies. It knew it was.
In doing anthropological/sociological research on prison systems, and the spread of US systems into Turkey and Japan, for instance, which I have done, it became clear how prison systems are related to bullying and the spread of military superiority. Time and again, when interviewing prisoners and former prisoners as well as prison guards and interrogators, whether reading their accounts or interviewing them myself, that it was important that the military had those who are expert bullies who felt nothing in relation to perpetrating interrogations and torture.
Nowadays, in the television programs and the most popular movies, violent and malevolent speech and physical brutality as a way of communicating distaste and devaluing the other is commonplace. Smartass comments are funny, even though it is often violent. Often, nothing different can enter. As much as we think that every individual makes their own decisions, every individual is in a different position in relation to violence, and depends on class, race, and behavior in relation to masculinity and femininity continuums, body motion techniques (do I walk right? eat right? talk right? etc.). So the connection between violence, heterosexism and homophobia, patriarchy and militarism are very close in American society and most of the wealthier nations. Most likely this is becoming more true as we speak, in a globalizing world, in the wannabe countries. There is less diversity than ever before. More violence in the world than ever before. Why?
I want to applaud and support The Bully Project for being one of the strongest voices to speak to bullying and its connection to nation-state, masculinity and manhood, and the non-acceptance of difference. If we cannot co-opt and/or recruit into our own fold, then we antagonize and destroy. These are the only options increasingly in the globalizing system. And we know there are most of us living, who fake it. Then we wonder why we are depressed, seeing therapists, destroying our families, getting drunk and doing drugs all the time, having addictions, etc. etc. I do not believe we need more drugs and therapists to cure. These are social problems related to the violence that is our modern and postmodern cultures, constantly being created by either our actions or our inactions.
My mother turned to bullying for awhile, to combat being swallowed by bullies. that aspect of her has not changed, even though she is no longer throwing her weight around in school hallways. Others like myself, chose more silence. However, later it caught up with me and I tried to take leave of this world. It didn’t work. Suicide is an ultimate harm to oneself. I chose other routes afterwards. My father took the route of trying to assimilate. As a Black man in the US, he wanted to be the fairest, well-spoken and educated, open-minded man and was truly a humanist. But he gave up so much in order to be this. And humanism has so many problems insofar as diversity is concerned. And there are some things he does not understand because of it. Short of accusing my father of being ‘white,’ how can we communicate through difference? My father feels (at least the last few times we spoke) that all humans are alike with trivial differences. His actions also speak to this philosophy. My mother is the opposite. She feels that people are very different and this cannot be reconciled and we have to live with it.
The Bully Project, which is a movie that shows the crisis in which US society shows itself in young people, yet is mostly ignored. This Project addresses questions about what is legitimated socially and about community and nation. How can a nation have nice and compassionate kids while everyday we know that bombs fall representing us, onto families who are not running governments, being killed as pawns of difference-equals-expendable? All the moral preaching won’t work. It is a lesson in hypocrisy and illegitimacy. It is a lesson in the violent underpinning of Empire and nation-building.
The Bully Project is about all of us, whether we believe so or not. Where do you stand? What do we do?
Impunity and the Social Fabric of Violent societies–
A junior high boy is thrown to the mat after a ‘discipline’ session by his judo instructor, with the help of the senior student and judo champion. He then, dies.
This happens time and time again in Japan, and other countries, in some form, as a way of discipline.
It goes as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘an accident’ and ‘boys will be boys.’
It goes that this is a fabric of our democratic society. This is what happens when violence is allowed and individualized. It takes the pressure off of the social/cultural fabric and system and places it on these individuals. This is also about gender. This also happens to women, girls, gay and LGBTQIQ folks as well, but is a regular and accepted ‘natural’ (supposedly) phenomena between males in most societies. We must protect women and children, but boys???
It is not a secret that the wealthier receive the best medical care. The poor receive the least in amount, type, speedy-ness, and quality.
I am a person who is in a low-cost health care program called ‘Healthy San Francisco.’ No doubt, this service is better than nothing and I am grateful. I am very privileged to be in the US. At the same time, I am afraid for my life and others’ lives (that are not rich).
Individual nurses and doctors at both South of Market Medical Clinic, where I was first received for my emergency care; and then at St. Francisco Medical Center where I would stay for six days for this particular ailment, was pleasant. The individual nurses, on the whole, were mostly pleasant, engaging, and listened well and took care of me as best they could. Particularly at St. Francis in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) where I was first rushed to for my treatment, the care was top-notch and comforting, aiding in my recovering, I feel.
The problems I saw, were in the system. I think there are several reasons for these ‘problems’ that I saw. On two occasions, I could’ve died from ‘mistakes’ if things would’ve been just slightly different. I feel that my stay at the hospital was made more stressful, and therefore NOT conducive to healing and empowerment and comfort, because of politics and the organization of treatment. What the nurses, especially, must navigate in order to do effective work, is largely shut down. The system is supposed to work in favor of all: the patient/client, the various nurses (RN; the aid; floor manager nurse; etc.) and the doctors and specialists. What really makes the organization worse, are the intentions of the administrators and bureaucrats of hospitals. These administrators want the best hospital around so that money would come in and continue its flow through the halls and into the medical journals and cocktail parties. Reputation comes from receiving high merits and having less trouble. Most of the administrators never see patients on a regular basis, and rarely do they speak to the staff, unless there is crisis. Crisis management is what ‘management’ has become. It is no longer about everyone being on the same page, so to speak. The client/patient and what is best, is the furthest thing from that arena. Its link with capitalism is the tightest and closest, and therefore, cannot afford to pay too close of attention unless there is some financial benefit. The care is left up to the nurses and doctors and specialists, but they are deeply affected by the organization of things.
In my six days of stay in the hospital, I went through 42 different nurses. Three different nurses on staff= one day shift group of three nurses (an RN, an aid, and the floor manager nurse), and a different set of three for the night shift. Everyday they would diligently come in and write their names on the white board so I will remember their names.
At various points along the way, one nurse would refuse/ignore reading the chart that has my treatment, and would actively contradict what the last nurse told me. Even as I insisted, they ignored and talked down to me as if I were a child. In all fairness, I know that for most people, when they take care of others, they speak in a tone as if they are taking care of a child. This would be the only reference many people have as far as ‘taking care’ and how to speak to people. But to assume that patients don’t know what they are talking about is the biggest crime of most all of mainstream dominant western medicine anyway.
My mother was a medical student in Japan, in the postwar period. Japan has had centuries of its own medicine system, combined with indigenous and Chinese and Korean medicines, Ryukyu and Ainu systems, and Dutch and Portuguese medicine. The one thing my mother told me was that after World War II, the American doctors actively shamed the Japanese doctors in front of patients and their families. It had to be done in a western way with ‘western medicine.’ Japanese doctors were used to using a vast array of medicines and treatments that did not rely on surgery, pills, and shots. But she remembers that everything began to be turned into one of those three material things, giving the companies who owned those things (the fluids, the implements and technologies, etc) money. My mother also said that one of the best things she remembers about Japanese medicine is that the doctors and nurses listened to the patients about their own ailments and feelings and thoughts and adjusted and discussed. She said that the Western doctors just wanted to know where things were wrong in the body, then that would be the end.
This is certainly what I experience in US hospitals. It is very violent, from my point of view. The patient (in this case, me) is an object of the doctor’s technology. The doctors’ careers rest on their using technologies and medicines that they are brainwashed into loading into their career package, and their own package of techniques of being the identity: DOCTOR.
The doctors decided, according to one nurse, to take out my IV (intravenous) needle. The next morning another nurse started putting another back in, even after I told her the doctor and nurse said I didn’t need one. She didn’t even look at my face during the whole time. The other nurse at night, said that she had a talking with that nurse and asked why she didn’t read the order that was written on my chart? The nurse said ‘she didn’t bother.’ This is scary!!
Many things happened during my visit in the hospital. What I come away with is that the foundations of our American society are based on being dependent. People talk about being independent but it’s hogwash. There is no power or even acknowledgement when it comes to leaving our health in the hands of ‘experts.’ We do need medical people and people who care. But ‘care’ in the US, at least in the medical field but most likely in many places and sites, has become just something an individual does with their tone of voice and asking the same questions over and over and then we’re supposed to give them an answer, even though they already know the answer and will contradict you anyway. Even if we tell the nurse or the doctor such and such, the nurse or doctor may do what they want anyway.
At one point, the fluids going into my body (in this case, heparin–which thins the blood) is supposed to be at certain levels and was not happening. The nurses changed the machine and did things. I asked one nurse what was going on and she told me not to worry about it. Not to worry about it???????? Then a few nurses came in discussing with each other in front of me and were tinkering with the buttons and levers on the machine. Obviously something was up. Then the one nurse honestly told me that the wrong level of heparin was going in because the wrong bag was replaced with the other fluid. She said that luckily the levels became too low and would not have harmed me as much as if it were tweaked the other direction by mistake. Apparently the wrong buttons were switched on and off (there were two different fluids going into my body and they were reversed). I, apparently could’ve died if it was the other way. How comforting.
The nurses were irritated. With each other. How can they care for me effectively? With 42 nurses in a six-day period, they rely on paperwork for information, if not actual dialogue with each other. They clearly did not trust each other’s words either because there seemed to be some nurses who don’t even read patient daily reports and instructions on the job!!!! So there is fear and irritation. Most of the time, when the nurses visit, they were in a hurry to get to all of the patients in their rounds. Doing their jobs. Healing is not their job. Healing is seen as ‘giving medicine’ and doing the appropriate technologies. The individual nurses understand the patients more and understand that other things are needed. But they don’t have time. They must fill a quota on their rounds and do huge amounts of paperwork and administrative work. The managing floor nurses have the worse jobs. At St. Francis, the reason there are so many nurses is that all the nurses rotate through all of the different nursing jobs so that there is no burn-out. It is disconnected from patient care. But they have to do this to keep their jobs.
Why, would the rotating of nurses be done this way? Why not continuity? I know for one fact, from being anthropologist of social change and violence, that a tactic of administration in dominant first-world nations now, is to not allow too much time for workers to fraternize and share information and to ORGANIZE. So there would be no time to organize against grievances and injustices if the workers were kept working on crazy shifts that went against their own interests. This IS A TACTIC. Instead of acquiesing, I always feel that resistance must also become creative.
Western medicine is not about healing, or even preventing illness. It is about feeding the drug companies and the technologies of western medicine. When acupuncture was not taken seriously, it was off-limits. As soon as the western establishment learned how to incorporate it into the system, that is when there was more so-called ‘open-ness’ to acupuncture, albeit slowly. It is racist and capitalist. It effects what we need to care for each other.
My feeling is that we are living in a degenerating USA and it will not get better in the short term. Our economies continue to collapse and the richest of the richest will fly their health care people privately into their rooms or resorts via their private jets and they will be the cream of the crop with the latest in technologies. They may even have a Peruvian, Ainu or Yaqui or Hopi shaman and a indigenous visionary healer from Kurdistan or Finland to heal them. The rest of us must be disempowered enough to totally in the hands of the capitalist doctors……or begin combining old medicines with new, or leaving western medicine altogether, and other such ways. Also, I know quite a few people who have undertaken paths to ‘know our own bodies’ to resist the disempowerment of the current western systems.
Memory can perhaps serve us, and also not just to co-opt and use, but to understand what has been lost. Some of it can be recovered but we must know what can work in these times even though they may have worked in another cultural and historical context. We have differences and similarities. We need discussion. We need negotiation, we must also pay attention to our own colonial personalities that wish to co-opt without understanding or respect to history, etc. We must also not think of ourselves as biologically and culturally determined as well. In taking care of ourselves, what does this mean?