Great POST by Mauro Sifuentes – Defining from where we are speaking

My colleague on his blog, has written a very straightforward piece, defining some terms.  When reading posts and comments, those of us who have invented/invested time, energy and commitment into the techniques of oppression that we and others practice as individuals, communities, groups, organizations, nations, etc., it cannot be taken for granted that we are speaking about the same things in the same way.

Especially terms that are ‘loaded.’  The issue is that when people bring certain words up, there are shields and defenses and attacks.  There is a wall that goes up.  When you, the reader, are reading my posts, please understand that all language has underpinnings and differences and purposes, no matter how ‘common’-sounding.

So Mauro Sifuentes has done a fantastic job in presenting what I feel/think/understand to be what I am speaking of when I talk about racism, for instance.  Other ‘ism’ terms are similar.  The issue is how our ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ emotions about these things, work to protect ourselves from being ‘bad’ and therefore not dealing with how it works as a STRUCTURE, not ‘inside’ like some kind of cancer.  That is the common psychological language that keeps people in denial about how the structure is what we live within, through, with, as, and also in resistance to these ‘ism’-forms in various ways and amounts and intensities.

People who have been a target of isms, and have experienced more violence, and/or have seen it expressed upon others through physical, emotional, institutional, legal, military, and other ways in which violence is transmitted, will feel more urgency.

There are many factors in the maintaining of oppression that we practice everyday ‘without meaning to.’

Being mobile, being ‘good,’ equalizing, making people feel good, charity, and a whole host of other things have links to oppression (they aren’t necessarily maintaining, but play their part).  For example, being mobile–both physically and emotionally/mentally/spiritually, are conventient roads to escape and deny.  Being mobile is connected to privilege (some can move further and faster and easier than others due to socio-economic class/caste, race, gender, nation, etc.).

Individualism itself, embedded in individualities and corporate capitalism and western religious ideals, are also a factor in how racism and sexism and heterosexism, for instance, functions.  In other words— have we, as persons, grappled with how our individual sense of self, our individual lives and philosophies, are individualistic, or alienating, or isolating, or without history of community, etc.?  We are individuals, yes.  But individualism is not the same as individuality,  Individualism privileges American-centric, capitalist, community-destroying forms of relations.  Individuality is another thing altogether.

The issue of the ‘survival of the fittest’ in relation to science and progress, is very much an unquestioned aspect of the ignorance and escape from dealing with racism by the so-called ‘good’ people.  So the targets are sad, crazy, or cured through therapy.  The other end is that the targets are all equal to us and these are just isolated events that can just be taken care of with ‘don’t worry, be happy’ or with the understanding that an ism effects ‘them’ and not ‘me’ so I will feel sorry and do what I can for ‘that friend’ or ‘community’ but it really is their business and not ours.

One, and perhaps the most important point of Mauro’s posting, is forgetting and alive-ness.  Being alive is mere surviving when it is cut-off from history.  Our forgetting of where we’ve come from and the processes that create our current world is a primary reason why our lives are the way they are and increasingly smaller and smaller–personal joy and expression and comfort.  This fits in with the current state of the cultural malaise of the ‘meaning of life’ that has been trained into us in the United States, globalizing itself.  Colonialism plays out continually through us and our values.

They are not really ‘our’ values.  However, they are dependent on our forgetting the patterns and structures and powers that create our world and what we have to do or not do, survival, happiness, understanding and knowledge. Or not.

Understanding is the first open light towards change.

Here is the link to Mauro Sifuentes’ post:  Turning Our Backs On History: Internalized Racism and Class Oppression

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What of Democracy? Chick-Fil-A commentary

Democracy must have democratic values and actions put into it.

Democracy as a form of governance is an experiment.  It is a dream, a hope.

Because it is a dream and a hope, it is also something that can be called “unreal.”

In this kind of underlying psycho-social vision of “unreality” and “dream,” it is often thought of as impossible and therefore absent from our actions, words, behaviors, ways of governing, living.  It is given up.  Then as a form of “goodness,” many people will pretend to be democratic.

Built-into this kind of critique of democracy-as-dream and the effects of such an unconscious assumption, is the lack of awareness of power relations and accountability.

Taking Chick-Fil-A as an example.  This Food Chain business in the USA has recently come out openly and is in the news quite a bit around the country, opposing Gay Marriage.  In so doing, many people have gone out to either oppose them as a business, or help their business by supporting them in words and/or deeds–such as showing up and buying their food.

In a what I feel is a ridiculous display of American “rights” and individualism, there have been commercials and news segments interviewing people who were praising Chick-Fil-A food and saying that Chick-Fil-A has a right to set up business.  Others just say that they have friends who are Gay and who are gay parents and whatever, but that their eating at Chick-Fil-A has nothing to do with their friendships with their gay friends and it’s about how good the food is at Chick.

Hmmmm…..and in addition, there have been a couple of people who brought up “God.”  That each individual person has to answer to God and nothing else, and that it is the Gay people’s final judgement before God that matters, and that their support of their own rights opposing Gay Marriage has not deterred their friendship.

And those who view Chick-Fil-A as a business representing hatred against Gays, may be somewhat reactionary from a certain point of view.  Many who continue to eat at Chick, and who have gay friends, do not “hate” anyone.

That is the old kind of racism, sexism, homophobia, where hate is outwardly expressed against individuals.

But there is a political injustice and oppression happening, where heterosexually-identified persons, who have social mainstream dominance, who have have at least over a thousand more legal rights in so many ways, and that go unnoticed and unthought by most, are now feeling less dominant, and threatened, or who manage their everyday lives with the knowledge of their own sexual-orientation as superior.  It’s unconscious.  The “others” are “alternative.”

Don’t get me wrong, I think marriage is a heterosexual institution and is problematic because most people in the world do not want to be constricted to one way of living their sexualities or anything else. However, in this world, heterosexual power is undeniable as political dominance, and maintained through crafted spiritual and religious dominance by heterosexually-identified persons (even though many of them have secret sex with same-sex partners).

Life cannot be undemocratic.

But the world certain has been made that way.  It is because of links with history and certain forms of power that gain credence and legitimacy through repetition and discipline (read Michel Foucault).

So the “vandals” write that Chick “tastes like hate.”
This is a natural resistance to the forces of dominance.

However, in the current globalizing system, resistance against further oppression is make criminal.  In most cases, the vandalizing persons would be arrested and made to have criminal records, while the industry of socially-empowered anti-democracies, with wealth and power in communities, goes unchecked. In many cases, even if lawmakers agree with the resistors, the resistors will be told to be “better” and do it “legally.”  But under our current misguided system in the US, sometimes this is already a losing game.  This is how democracy is eroded.

It is a form of ignorance to think that the US is a democratic society.  We have some advanced democratic ELEMENTS  in the US system, but it, or anything else called “democratic” would have to be much more attentive and honoring of difference (without assimilation and before identity-making and so-called “self-evident” values) and much more attentive to class and identity power relations.

There are many people in the world do not have any strong opinions or values and just like to be where trouble is, to make conflict, enjoying the excitement, and perhaps the violence.  People who like to be anti-gay and people who like to be anti-anti.

Then there are the very real issues of how we create suffering for others or ourselves, on and on.

So on many levels, in so many way, there is complex genesis of the histories of we have ignored.

There are major problems here.

On a social justice level, if we are to just understand how politics in market capitalism and majoritarian voting, and other American systemic formations work in our lives, we must understand that helping the financial maintenance of organizations, including fast food restaurants that serve “good food,” also helps that chain’s financial power and their relations and links with forms of power and community.  If we are to assume that there are many anti-Gay people and Fundamentalist Christians who are opposed to homosexuality while supposedly, yes supposedly, “loving” their Gay friends, and who are wealthy and/or who have some social power in political, and capitalist circles (banks, stock market, real estate, etc.), then we are supporting those aspects as well, giving those discourses, those thoughts, those values, currency in culture (not only finances).  Wealthier people can also control resources in far-reaching ways, more so that those who do not.

So where is this “love?”  What is this “love of my gay friends”?  What are its contours?  What is the underlying meaning of this kind of “love?”

And if it is about some sort of God who demotes certain groups of people, then we must assume that democracy has nothing to do with it.

This is where democracy is going.

Can we, then, apply these questions and critiques and concerns, to almost every issue we have in the world?

Yes.

What of democracy?

We cannot all hold hands and sing a song of peace and love when we know that just two or three hands away, or the hands that we hold, may be of those who deny someone else love, equality, justice.

And these are age-old questions that are seemingly impossible to resolve.

I think the main issue here is not that we don’t know what to do.  I think it is that it’s too difficult—that it may cost us our jobs, our friends, our loved ones, our comfortable middle-class lives, or give someone we “hate” some kind of power.   We must examine notions of the “human” that we have psychologized and internalized through centuries of Puritan-Catholic-Baptist-Protestant Christian “Church-ianity.”

Institutional conservative Christian cultural forms are with us, whether we are religious or not.  It is an aspect of American culture that even Europeans are baffled by.  Secular Americans do not often understand that their own thinking may be very much linked with conservative Christian norms in thoughts of love, compassion, sacrifice, hate, right, wrong, good, bad.  Getting to heaven may be psychologized into “personal growth” toward unity with a God or Peace or Nirvana.

Becoming a Good person is also quite Christian.  In Asian cultures and African cultures and Global South cultures in general, there were other systems that were vastly different.  Now there are only remnants, as the engines and juggernaut of alienating, industrializing, individualizing, identity-making, technologizing, homogenizing, assimilating, criminalizing, and militarizing, and sexualizing of all-reality becomes much more along the lines of a coherent “postmodern” sameness —where we can now recognize right and wrong and beauty and ugly along the same lines in every corner of the world, where people-of-color, once colonized and now postcolonial, may now act much like their former oppressors during colonization.  This is still ongoing and not finished.

Chick-Fil-A media segments give us a good lesson in how ignorant, isolating, self-righteous, spirituality-based, goodness-based irresponsibility and disconnectedness now operate everywhere, making democracy’s vision cloudier.  Others who do not feel this way just leave the situation and go about their merry way, going shopping, eating somewhere else, doing whatever, as anti-democratic systems, often unconscious and un-named, grows and grows.

Later, we wonder why the world has become a certain way, with certain pains, uncertainties, ugliness.

We can now turn to the Christian doctrine of “original sin” which operates quite conveniently for some, to say that “yes, we humans are fundamentally evil, fundamentally stupid, fundamentally sinful.”  So even as we try to live “good” as “good people,” on a social level–nothing changes.  Individual goodness only serves undemocratic social systems.

Here I have presented a purposefully provocative critique of postmodern malaise and its links with internalized Christianity, using anti-gay business as an example.

There are paths we can take to change things.  But it will not be the comfortable path you may have gotten used to and expect in the American Empire, now much like the Roman one that fell.

Although there is no world to “save,” I feel that our lives can account for something more than having breathed, eaten, slept, gone on vacations, had sex, laughed, been jilted by lovers, farted, and watched video games a little, and/or wore nice clothes and saw some interesting things and traveled when we lived, while were name this “being alive.”  Do you see that these things are all very colonial, very 16th to 18th century goals?  Even as we work to lose weight or to have good jobs or to reach our dreams, keeps us occupied toward making the wealthy wealthier, all the while, democratic values wane and cries to us that it is only a dream.

It’s only a cleverly internalized self-fulfilling prophecy.  Perhaps as Christians would, we need to get this out of us.  There is not pure goodness anywhere—that is not my goal.

But we can certainly see clearer and act in more responsible ways after we have seen through the cloudiness of internalized colonization and its subsequent forms of oppression that we may practice, that may thwart democratic values.