Photo of Thomas Feiner
I include two (2) wonderful, brooding, pointed music videos here in relation to my theme.
The first thing I want to put forward about my thoughts on oppression and continuities and activisms in order to change the course of oppressions, transforming life into more liberation-oriented possibilities, is that I do not think there are origins. Certainly, things seem to originate somewhere, but there has to have been a set of techniques, thoughts, circumstances, situations, histories, cultures, persons, skills, labor, and countless other things there–just there–at that moment when someone, some author or speaker says: “this originated at….” or “this was invented by….” etc.
Oppressions come from people and systems. Oppressions rely on sets of structures that come together and can be used oppressively. Often, a word, act, policy, gesture, law, technique, philosophy, ideology, system, etc. is not seen as oppressive or considered as such. This may be for several reasons. First, one can imagine that if one thinks of something and people like it and are excited by it, and it offers a seemingly different, new and effective way to do something or get somewhere, but we are far from those affected by it, then we can ignore or not even acknowledge or consider such a place that we cannot see, hear, touch, sound or smell. Indeed, much of our present realities and issues as far as ecological and social crises, can be considered through this lens.
One legacy of oppression can be said to be a strong origination-point for the multitude of oppressions is ADULT-ism. This is the first oppression that all of us learn. It is there, without question, and is across cultures, places, things, histories, races, ethnicities, etc. It is where we learn who gives orders, whose world this belongs to, who is large, who is small, who is considered, what is right, what is wrong. In some cases, these laws do not coincide or match across neighborhoods or even within a nuclear family, or a community or nation. In one minute we are told to do something by a parent or a principal or a schoolmaster or a trainer or a teacher or grandmother or manager, in the next minute, this may change, or be different for someone else. We begin to shape our own identities around these thousands upon hundreds of thousands of messages throughout a single day. We learn to become ‘ourselves’ through the prism of what we learn, how we are punished or not punished, how we are to think of what has happened and how we must proceed. This, with the whippings, the yellings, the ignoring, the absence, the stern looks, the hugs, the kisses, the spankings, the warnings by masters, the being teased and the being bullied. It starts as we are infants and children, in the web of the game of being so-called ‘adults.’
The games of adults are continued because we must survive and we must feel some sort of power (or not). We hide, we negotiate, we prioritize, we make invisible, we show concern, we ignore, we become mean, we become confused, we want certain things, we don’t want certain things. The legacy of the bombings, colonizations, slavery, the invasion of western economic global systems into non-western local system; the globalizing of food and health economies, the stipulations for control and mandates for depending on the wealthier countries; the thousands of people starved from economic embargos, the refugee camps, the firebombings and chemical bombings of poor villages by multi-million-dollar jet planes and millionaire salaries of corporate heads, the control of people that larger bodies deem expendable; etc. etc. are all done while our clans and villages and ways of life have been twisted into nuclear family lives, tearing us away from community life and into smaller units that are then made dependent on escalating money and costs and bureacracy.
And we learn to wear oppressions like crowns, or our arrogance as entitled and self-evident. In the name of the oppression of children, teaching all of us what we are worth, then feeds the business of ‘finding meaning’ and ‘following our deepest yearnings’ and ‘finding our purpose’ and ‘stopping to get our of our own way’ and other such psycho-social ways that keep us occupied. This pre-occupation is called ‘our daily life’ or ‘life as it is’ or ‘just the way it is.’ Well………..it has been MADE to become this way. And as this happens, more and more people globally, begin to follow the same steps. We are like sheep. But not totally. There has been resistance. There continues to be resistance. In the making of ourselves is how the powerful and uncaring and greedy, want us to make ourselves into. We think it is our own idea.
In many cultures, ‘finding our life purpose’ is a ridiculous idea. Why not enjoy our families, our friends, enjoy nature, enjoy life and deal with our relations and take care? What is there to find? Well……..in a system of nations where everything is taken away, where banks own homes and hardly ever actual people, and our schedules and lives are told to us by the jobs we get–which are owned by people who make much more money than us………..and we want those same kinds of things our bosses have and we aspire to have those things and then we think we will be happy…..or we are satisfied NOT doing those things and we ignore those that do……….we are participating so well in this system of oppression. Remember what our childhoods were like? For some, it may have been closer to idyllic. There were no troubles. But we had been trained well. People who are good at obeying and/or acting, having to pretend or having to ignore, having to be dishonest yet pretend to be honest, to know how to navigate the unfair and violent system, are rewarded.
The playgrounds of our childhoods are where we begin to learn how to socially play-out the oppressions we learn to take and give out. It is not just that our own sets of parents, most likely in a nuclear family set-up or one of an extended nuclear family set-up, or a wider community teach us everything. We learn from our classmates and what their parents and relations and schools and cultural differences and religions etc, have been lived through them. The disciplines and punishments, rewards and resistances are then combined with ours and with other adults in a web of shame and glory, silence and privilege, smallness and largeness, tears and laughter.
We don’t think of them as such, as they are now important in order to survive. Then there are the parents who are too permissive, perhaps. They will deny. But those children grow into adults, invariably, who think they deserve everything they get and do not handle being blocked from those things desired, very well. Through silence, through passive-aggression, through finding another way, through transferring aggressions to something or someone else, etc., are all the ways in which we may, perhaps, not see this as a continuation of the things we learned from adults. As we become big people, the oppressions are bigger and perhaps ignored or seen as normal, or not seen at all as oppression.
The Playground Martyrs, is a wonderful song by David Sylvian, Steve Jensen, and Thomas Feiner. This is a short song of beauty, saying something to us. The legacies of our violences and our militaries and our ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ realities are learned and made solid. The song gives us a glimpse into trying to account for this. Perhaps we can glimpse, not a dream of a future unknown, but the acts we take in the present to change our present and future through seeing the past in the present and changing effects. This song also points to patriarchal structures. ‘The sins of our fathers’ is appropriate because this has and still is, a ‘man’s world’ in many ways. So what shall we do? Where shall we go? There are answers.
I have also included Thomas Feiner’s fine piece ‘Yonderhead’ which is another angle on the same theme of the legacy of our oppressions and liberations.
Lyrics included beneath both videos. Both of these songs come from albums which are fantastic.
To listen to more of these artists and to buy MP3 downloads and CDs, visit:
You run to the gate
But you’ll be marked late
It’s for your own good
It’s for your own good
You’re likely to make
The grandest mistakes
You suffer alone
In the skin and the bones
Let’s sharpen those
New sets of arrows
For the next generation
Of playground martyrs
And joining the game
Of intolerable shame
‘Cause everyone shares
In the sins of their fathers
School bell rings
Single file in
Trade you my
Unhappily ever afters
So bring out those things
To hammer the wings
Of the next generation
Of playground martyrs
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/david-sylvian/playground-martyrs-lyrics/#hG1Ie1ZrSDK752yU.99