Thursday, November 17, 2016
"Oppressors always expect the oppressed to extend to them the understanding so lacking in themselves." -Audre Lorde
“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.”
― Assata Shakur,
I know oppressors very well. Although I didn't grow up black, or muslim, or exiled as a refugee, I have grown up in a system of oppression, within my family, within my community, and within interpersonal relationships, including marriage. Being well-trained to fit in under patriarchical rule in any situation has been like wearing a huge "kick me" sign on my back. I'm working on taking off that sign.
There is an understandable outrage on the part of those who are oppressed, and also a strange curiosity about an oppressor. The oppressed works so hard to enter into a conversation, to get the oppressor to hear how their behavior affects the humanity of another.
The inability to acknowledge the humanity of another person is abuse, cruelty, oppression.
When I posted the Assata Shakur quote, a friend asked, "then how do we get to oppressors since righteous indignation doesn't work?"
What I know of oppressors, and these are also hallmarks of abusers/scapegoaters/cruel people, is this:
-They refuse to receive input about how their behavior affects another human being
-They refuse to acknowledge your humanity by not entering into any kind of conflict resolution-their stance is, "my way or no way"
-They constantly insist their way is superior, even when they make mistakes and completely mess up
-They blame others for their mistakes, and take credit for the successes of others
-They don't change their position except to go from perpetrator to victim, and they take everything personally.
-They have an exterior that looks flawless and perfect, and an inner life darkened by selfishness that stands in complete opposition to their superficial presentation. In other words, they are not congruent.
-annnd incongruence means they are hypocrites. They complain they are poor while not working or having fat bank accounts. They claim they are for women's rights while themselves abusing and exploiting women. They claim they are about love while scapegoating. Confusing, right? Which facet do you believe in the moment?
-They have no empathy
-They know they are oppressors and they don't care-they are proud bullies.
-They are invested in the superficial, meaning, image is really important to them. If they can put on labels such as "pastor" "healer" "doctor" "philanthropist" "therapist", they are in a better position to hide behind those labels and work on people's assumptions that those "types" of people are safe. This allows them to manipulate people's sympathies to get what they want, including scapegoating another person.
-They love assuming a victim role when asked to change their behavior, when their negative traits are brought to light, or when they are confronted. They will hear nothing true about themselves...only acceptable fictions they approve.
-They believe they are superior and for that reason, feel they have the right to judge others according to their narrow right/wrong views, and that view is they are always right while others are always wrong
-For them, the end justifies the means and how you get to an outcome is not as important as the outcome. Doesn't matter who is hurt.
-oppressors don't care, will never care, can't be made to care.
Clearly appealing to morality doesn't work, since oppressors live under completely different "morals" than most people. The problem with oppressors and the oppressed comes when those who are oppressed do not understand these basic principles of abusers.
Oppressors are dependent people. Notice how many of their characteristics rest on the assumptions of OTHER PEOPLE. Their positions are not based in genuine altruism or kindness or empathy. Their positions are based on how they can manipulate other people, like a chess game. I believe this sets up powerful and ancient reward systems in their brains, and they cannot overcome their compulsion to scapegoat and control. I mean, how rich can the richest man get? At some point don't you just stop?
In my opinion, the way to achieve relief from oppressors is to take away their "dope". Their addiction is targeting other people, and they keep going because others and neoliberalism reinforces that, either by banding with them or by being manipulated by them. They are never REALLY forced to look at themselves, because they can keep replaying their self-righteousness narratives within their family group or social groups, mainly by preying on common sympathies. They are masters at inspiring your pity, and once you pity them, they have you by the crotch.
"The divide" people speak of is possibly about those who support social justice, and those who do not. Social justice is about distribution of resources. If resources are hoarded and concentrated in one place via exploitation of others, then that is inequality, and inequality means injustice and human suffering. If the exploitation is justified via sexism, racism, or intellectual barbarianism, then a divide is created between people who would not think of treating their fellow man with such disdain, and those who see it as "just business" and cannot count the human costs. We've seen that trickle-down theories almost never work, because the morality of oppressors is such that they do not consider the human costs of their efforts.
I am still thinking through this. I believe that a huge grassroots movement is the way to go. I believe it starts in our friendships, our families, and our communities. I believe if we build from there and do not allow first of all, bullies, then full-on abusers, to take root, then we can get somewhere. I think family court would be a great place to start, because all across the country sexism, racism, poverty, and slavery are perpetuated via family court. In one convenient place, you find the skewed values that are forced on our country, values that serve abusers. Heal families and stop allowing abuse through the courts, and then we can get somewhere.
But we need practice. There is too much talk of uniting this country. I say we need to become even more deeply divided before we can do that, for the simple fact that our collective morality is not clear. If our whole country were truly on board with oppressing people, then we'd have a clear morality. Once we have a consistent ethos around caring for each other, we can build the infrastructure necessary to band together in nonviolence and effectively topple neoliberalism. But we need community and structure. We need to make sure our neighbor the refugee or single mom or black person has all that they need. All this talk of peace and love and unification is neutrality and it's wonderful for abusers.
I also have a heart for those, including me, who do not have all the answers. Not everyone understands everything everyone else is talking about. It's important to know that good hearts are fooled by bad ones, and we can be clear who the good hearts are. This, too, is practice...compassion for what all do not know. But I do know I am sick of oppressed people...I am sick of not feeling safe, first in interpersonal and family relationships, and now as a woman.
We need to deliberately create the divide. We need to bring evil into sharper focus by shining the light of love and care for each other. If you have more, give more. We don't "give Caesar what is Caesar's", especially when it denies us our humanity and enslaves others. We don't get caught up in assessing an abuser's intentions. Abusers and oppressors don't have intentions, not in the sense of thinking through the human consequences of a behavior. That would suggest a conscience. We want to have compassion while bearing no loyalty to cruelty.
These are the wolf-people. It doesn't matter what label you give them, they are wolves and won't change. But if the wolves are surrounded by thousands of strong horned sheep, they will be pressed into shame and be forced to make amends for their hatred.
Posted by Indigo, madder, marigold at 7:12 PM