Wednesday, June 04, 2008

On Freeing Ourselves

In my last post, I mentioned that I sometimes ask myself, "How am I a slave? What oppressions have I internalized that keep me in bondage today?" Later that day, I read and made a brief appreciative comment on a remarkably insightful post by TheFreeSlave. He, of course, being a deep-thinking kind of guy, asked me in response to my simple thanks a question about how we can advocate individual personhood without sounding as if we support some version of what is popularly called "colorblindness." My response to his response (sorry about that, Faithful Readers, you know how it is) follows, modified slightly to make it read more sensibly. I strongly recommend that you read TheFreeSlave post first in the interest of having any idea whatsoever what I am talking about. I think you'll be glad you did. In fact, I have permanently ensconced a link to the post in question on my blog roll to the right under "On Freeing Yourself." Then, proceed with caution:

To me, TheFreeSlave's post moves the consideration from the arena of "politics" (having to do with the use and distribution of power) to the arena of "spirituality." Don't misread me here. I don't mean warm-and-fuzzy-esoteric-new-age-mumbo-jumbo type stuff. I mean down-deep-in-the-gut-where-the-rubber-meets-the-road-and-the-individual-psyche/biological-being-meets-history type stuff. In the end, what I call my spiritual being gives birth, I think, to my political perspective (which is how I see the personal and political as connected). Being one's whole, unmitigated, unapologetic Self (again, for me) does not, then, wash all the "color" out of the visible image, but rather actually heightens the color (continuing the metaphor). It shines the light of acceptance of all beauty on each individual image.

A rose garden can be lovely, but the kind of garden I like best is an explosion of all different kinds of flowers: different colors, shapes, heights, sizes, scents, etc. Each flower is beautiful because of the characteristics of the specific group it represents. No flower in such a garden is the only one of its type, though every flower is different in it particularistic manifestations of its group characteristics. Such flowers don't jockey for position, don't hold knock-down, drag-out battles to establish hierarchy, don't engage in sneaky, underhanded and manipulative attacks (either publicly or privately) out of ego or greed or ignorance. They just bloom and shine and pass the bees and butterflies one to the other.

Admittedly, though there is such a thing as weeds, humans are grossly more complicated than flowers. But I think that's part of what TheFreeSlave gets at so well in his post. We complicate the shit. We make it ugly. "Fighting the good fight" (if you will) often creates people and groups not wildly different from each other in important and frequently negative ways. And, of course, capitalism has left virtually all of us all but ruined as keepers of the flame of life.

Do African-Americans need to band together to survive and bring about change? I think so. Do women and men need to educate themselves about the patriarchy and take organized action against it (again to survive and bring about change)? I think so. Do immigrants and poor people and prisoners (and others) need to see themselves as similarly situated and act accordingly? I think so. But that does not negate the Truth inherent within TheFreeSlave's post.

"Resigning" as a White person (something I did some time ago, I guess, when I started using the term European-American and then started referring to other European-Americans as "people who look like me") does not mean I stopped honoring the beauty and experience of people in general and people of color as definitive groups, in particular. But it means that I see all Life (and not just all human life) as sacred. In order to do that, I must be fully Conscious. Conscious of others' struggles (because of the socially-constructed political notions of "race" and "gender." And Conscious of any ways in which I have participated on any side of those struggles -- in order to be healthy mySelf. This is obviously a lifetime process of Becoming. But it's the bottom line for me at the end of the day.

I am not antagonistic toward and don't have any argument with those who feel that they must be in a different space at this point in time. In fact, I often support them uncategorically. There's a reason that, in the only photograph we have of Martin and Malcolm together, they're grinning like delighted children. We don't have to be clones to be effective or to be allies.

And I am incredibly Conscious that enemies stalk the Earth, that there are many humans who do not support Life and the other perspectives that rational, loving people naturally support. I do not make them enemies. They make themselves enemies. They may destroy Life on Earth, if they are allowed to do so. I am going to do what I can to stop that process and nurture Life instead. And my full Self represents a number of groups and experiences of which I am an amalgam. But I am also an individual and stand individually responsible for everything that emanates from my center.

It's not easy to make sense of all this, but it is reality, to my mind, and therefore, a crucial aspect of the dialogue that will carry us into a sustainable future, if there is to be one.
The image featured above appears on posters, prints, t-shirts, bookmarks and stickers produced by the Syracuse Cultural Workers.


Anonymous said...

Sweet as it was meant, your flower garden does engage in knock-down drag-out battles for hierarchy.

Have you ever seen that antique film of some grand Poo-bah of the Klan raving his fear of interracial intercourse. He says something nearly unintelligible. Something like,"Bulotta Mongrels!"
That, dear Changeseeker, is the answer. To overwhelm the human brain's desire to categorize and classify. Fill our world with beige children who sport dark green eyes and coal-black curly locks. Screw the racists out of their ability to discern - literally. Only then will you find the change you seek.

Thanks for the Gen. Tubman stuff.

Changeseeker said...

You haven't read much of my blog if you imagine that sweetness is my base functioning principle, Anonymous/quakerJew. And I find it very odd that your comment does NOT typify what I understand about the practice of the Quaker faith. In any case, difference has never been the problem. It is the rabid desire to acquire and maintain power through violence using the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" that is the problem.

I have no argument with bi-racial relations of any kind. They were going on long before they were against the law in the U.S. And the human race may ultimately wind up totally blended. But that wouldn't be necessary if we'd commit to the idea that recognizing and protecting the human rights of ALL people is the only way we're going to survive.

At the rate we're going, I don't think the human race is going to survive long enough to become (as you put it) "beige." If there's a handful of people in the world who have a lock on the power right now and they don't care whether or not the human race survives, I would say they're the problem. But, in order to unhook their computers (as it were), to disengage them from their power, the rest of us really must eventually come to grips with the necessity of doing the work on ourselves as individuals that will allow us -- finally -- to celebrate and enjoy the differences, respecting all people and demanding respect of all social institutions for all people. The reality is, we might have to reach that point before we could reach the point you're talking about anyway.

Anonymous said...

You're right.
I haven't read much of your blog. My initiation to the blogosphere was that night. (such a novitiate that I'm not sure how to post a comment outside of the anonymous category - so, sorry about that.)

I was following a research thread and linked to a piece by freeslave and found myself flying - gliding through the treetops - feeling every branch of his beautiful referential/etymological prose. It was a manic ride, and a thrilling one.
I was hours into it before my 1:54am (your time) cynical comment trickled through my fingers.

I do believe the human race will survive. The "handful of people" do care. What would become of them without their slaves?
Let's not say "all people". Let's say "each person". All becomes most, and that becomes acceptable.

Thank you in advance for forgiving my peculiarities. Weeds are only weeds because we sit in judgment of what plants we will allow into our tidy little gardens.

Love (and I really mean it),

Changeseeker said...

Oooo, it's a great moment when a new thinker discovers the blogosphere. Welcome to the neighorhood, quakerJew. Drop by (and comment) any time.

I remember when I was new and before I was a blogger myself. Some blogger had to school me on the difference between snarking somebody and whatever it was I had done. They were very gentle, but I was still SO new and intimidated on some level by it all that I was embarrassed and got veeeery careful for a while. Now, that seems like light years ago.

You write: "I...found myself flying - gliding through the treetops - feeling every branch of his beautiful referential/etymological prose. It was a manic ride, and a thrilling one..." and THAT, quakerJew, is blogger talk. ;^)

As for the weeds (back to the garden metaphor, sorry), they kill gardens. They may not mean to, but that's what happens, if they're allowed to flourish. I'm not "The Gardener" (whoever that would be), but I know that if I was in a rowboat and somebody was drilling holes in the bottom of the boat, I wouldn't just sit there and try to understand where they were coming from, if ya catch my drift.

quakerJew said...

Thanks changeMAKER,
I'm hunting for an understanding of snarking - I hope that I haven't been doing that. Please help me understand. Adults have so many rules in their outcasting ways, and I don't want to commit any unforgivable sins.

thefreeslave's prune juice is working on me. The explosion may be more than my diaper can hold.

When I feel them, I like reaching deep inside, grabbing those germs of racism, slapping them down on the table, and announcing, "Look at what I found!"
Awkward in civil society. Like I'm the last to know that we just don't talk about such things.
If it's easier, think of me as that doe-eyed 9 year old who is asking questions about what he is learning - trying to weave a rug he can stand on (fly with?). We wouldn't snap at the boy. We may weep a little, but we'd help him with his weaving.
- Hasta

Changeseeker said...

You wrote: "I'm the last to know that we just don't talk about such things."

A lot of folks get twitchy about this topic, but in the blogosphere, those who want to examine it can. If you check out my visitor locations button to the right, you'll see that people all over the world are interested in the socially-constructed political notion of "race."

But when it comes right down to it, QJ, we're all just muddling through the best we know how. Some of us have been at this for a while, but what would anybody gain from snapping at someone who wants to learn along with us? My blog roll (and the blog rolls on other blogs about race) can feed your desire to know more. The first ten or twelve links on mine are to posts (some on my blog, some elsewhere) that I think can help folks catch up, get started, or develop a more comprehensive grasp of what I see as the primary issues.

And as for snarking, I still don't know how to explain it. Just don't try to get smart with anybody until you get a better feel for it and you'll be okay. At least that's what I did.