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[Xmca-l] Re: What is a Pedagogy of the Oppressors?


In response to Peter's comments about the binary, it made me pause. I don't mean to make a joke of this, but can one be an oppressor without oppressing another? Can one be oppressed without an oppressor? Doesn't an oppressor imply an other being oppressed?

I could oppress my pillow at night without realizing it, but somehow I don't think it minds. 

If I may ask some questions in light of Francine's, these would be:

Why does an oppressor oppress in the first place? Like all activity, there must be a motivation and a goal in mind. 

Is there something in common to Francine's questions that point to a basic cause?

I'd offer that "difference" is an assumption made prior to any motivation. Also known as "otherness."  Otherness is likely common to both oppressors and oppressed, but they reflect otherness onto the opposite side. 

In cases where there is otherness and no oppression, compared to where there is otherness and oppression, I'd have to say another factor that creates tension in the latter scenario is fear. More specifically, fear of the other. Where there is no fear of the other, there is tolerance and possibly understanding. 

So it seems to me that some factors absent in the dance of oppression would be tolerance and understanding, and it is highly likely there is an abundance of fear. 

Over a longstanding period of suffering fear of the other, this likely develops into hatred, and hatred is what likely creates the unfortunate setting for violence and despair. 

However in a space of equals, two parties who see one another as the other doesn't necessarily motivate oppression. It could be just indifference or possibly appreciation.

So it is likely what brings in oppression as a distinct move, after these precursors are established, would be vulnerability and an imbalance of power. 

In the case of Fergusen, the oppression did not break out overnight. It may be that the police are explaining the issue as arising from "bad apples" but does anyone really believe this? Oppression by its nature is systemic. I don't think we consider acts of oppression to be something done incidentally. If they were, perhaps there would be no reason to call it oppression. Maybe that is what bullying or rudeness is. 

In other words, oppression cannot be individualistic. It must be done collectively.

I cannot imagine being a police officer without having to deal with ongoing fear, intolerance, violence, and despair. I'm not attempting to elicit sympathy for police officers, but without excellent training, wouldn't the most resilient and well-meaning person hoping to keep the peace take a false step from time to time? And yet, what we see is something different. It is a culture that encourages unity in the ranks by dehumanizing the other in order to legitimize oppressive behavior onto the other. I feel that it wasn't Michael Brown's blackness that killed him, but Darren Wilson's intense fear and hatred of the other that was previously conjured by a collective act wrongly utilized to create unity in the ranks with other police officers, and courtrooms, and communities. It was all a head job.

In the case of elitism, it is a little different, but there are certainly commonalities. There is perhaps less a culture of fear, and more a culture of entitlement. I wonder if there is also a tribal communion that "you lived through the ritual of university as I did, and so you and I are family. That other person over there did not go through the ritual as we did, and so that other is not-family." 

Family is about taking care of one another, which means securing resources to share, right? In the case of people who are better educated, that would indicate privilege in the sense of being more knowledgeable, though we know that isn't always the case. There is also the political aspect of knowing others of the family and that the reason something like Facebook took off is because of "look who I know." It's all about exploiting one another's rolodexes. Networking doesn't only happen among elites, but something about this particular kind of networking seems to revolve around halls of power, which secures the best resources for the family. Also, it means maintaining the status quo so that these more hallowed forms of oppression are intact for the next generation.

Another factor I see in considering the two forms of oppression that Francine has called to our attention is the matter of distancing. Oppression cannot occur without distancing. Usually that distancing is about justifying an oppressive move just before or after it has taken place, as in "the other deserved it." As if blaming the victim is an act of courage, not cowardice. Or "If I didn't do it first, the other would do it to me," which is in synch with "You are either a hammer or a nail," reasoning. 

What boggles my mind is that the reasoning of hammers and nail binaries, is that nails don't remain nailed, like inanimate objects. The other is in community with other others. And where there is violence involved there is hurt, and where there is hurt involved there will be fear and hatred and also enmity. 

Enmity is not created nor dislocated overnight. Why anyone would want to create an enemy is not by any means the sign of intelligence, because even if one is the victor in this round of violence, from that point on one must always look over one's shoulder for those in search of revenge and retribution against the victor. There must always be vigilance, which feeds into the systemic aspect of oppression. Control is legitimized because "Now they will come after us."

There can never be peace in this circumstance, and it is a never-ending wheel of suffering. 

Thanks for letting me think out loud.

Kind regards,