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Spencer's Final350

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Spencer's Final350

  1. 1. California State University- Monterey Bay Dynamics of Oppression: Standing in for the Enemy Spencer Peak Global Studies 350 Dr. Kathryn Poethig 4 May 2015 “Happiness and personal well-being are intrinsic elements, guaranteeing a fullness of life.” -Ada María Isasi-Díaz
  2. 2. Peak 1 Through the eyes of a hegemonic masculine society, patriarchy is non existent. Gender violence is a myth and people only receive the direct treatment for their individual actions. The existence of oppressive structures in society is a creation that people use to rationalize bad decisions. This way of viewing the world stayed with me for the longest of times. Ignorant of any minority struggle or suffering, I believed all people were equal. This naive approach to the world that surrounded me, manifested in my own identity and the way I projected my privilege on that world. When humans are born, they begin to inhabit an identity. Rather than a biological fact, identity is constructed by society.1 Learned through interactions from when we are born, we develop relationships with the environment and people around us that epistemologically determine our views and our social reality. Through this reality, we gain consciousness of a societal structure that benefits some while hindering others. Kupchan sees this inherently reflected in one's culture as well.2 Culture refers to the practices, significations, and symbols that arise from ethnicity, race, and religion. Depending on one's identity, one can be expected to act in ways that further engenders humanity. When these lines are drawn, a consciousness is formed where only one's own views and opinions are correct while all others are wrong. This way of thinking creates divisions between people that formulate how individuals feel about each other. Historically, people are easily able to befriend those who have cultures similar to their own. Cultural commonality follows social selection.3 When looking for friends, former adversaries who share a similar culture are more likely to share similar views or ideological perspectives. 1 Ricky Lee Allen and César Augusto Rossanto,“Does Critical Pedagogy Work with Privileged Students,” Teacher Education Quarterly 36, no. 1 (2009): 174 2 Charles Kupchan. How Enemies Become Friends : The Sources of Stable Peace. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2010), 62. 3 Ibid.
  3. 3. Peak 2 From the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire identifies the minority and majority struggle. He notes that the struggle between majority and minority exist due to dehumanization.4 This decrease in evolution is something that takes us back to primordial way of thinking. This distortion of human lives, is the result of of an unjust order that engenders violence in the oppressors, which in turn dehumanizes the oppressed.5 Freire notes that oppressed people often inhabit the world of the oppressor. Once this world is inhabited, the oppressed peoples begin to accept the world of the oppressor. This often manifests in an acceptance of the dominate culture and even the defense of its existence.6 Because the oppressor often generates the mode of thought and what is able to be thought, many oppressed people are oblivious to the oppressive structures at work. (i.g. Women Against Feminism) When women enter a political space, they are often unable to affect change from their position. Cynthia Enloe explains why women are often powerless to do little, even when they are in positions of power.7 Men often occupy positions of power for their own political gain, where they’re able to determine social orders with the use of their resources. Unlike men, women are measured by their intellectual acuity and how they inhabit spaces of intelligence. They are seen in the eyes of their (male) colleagues as women who have earned their position. This position is justified only if they embrace the silence of the global gender gap. Managing to put forth a direct feminist discourse in the dominated society that women inhabit further risks their positions of power.8 The irrefutable gender violence that Enloe presents demonstrates a myriad in which women are constantly refuted in politics. When constituting equal political efficacy, it's important to adhere to three main segments of the social order. Distributing political power among social classes is critical to developing an 4 Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 2000), 44 5 Freire, 44. 6 Leaven ,2003. 7 Cynthia Enloe, Gender, Conflict, and Peacekeeping (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005) 281 8 Enloe, 282.
  4. 4. Peak 3 equal voice to make sure diverse opinions are heard and respected. Distributing political power among ethnic, racial, and religious groups guarantees that minorities are apart of the majority discourse. Kupchan identifies the last segment to organizing principles of economic production and commercial activity.9 When people have similar ideas within social groups, the interests of that group are advanced and suitable legislation may follow. However, when two social groups have adverse economic interests, societal integration dictates that the more privileged group will have their needs heard and legislation will reflect that of the dominant group. Looking at the identification of gendered states shows us to what extent patriarchy permeates every aspect of life. Patriarchy directly affects the ways in which a majority is created. In response to this majority, some “other” group will also develop. In such a situation, this “other” is more likely to learn that they are part of a particular group. Through perceived aggressions and microaggressions, members of an oppressed group will become conscious of the discrepancies at play. To contrast that, the oppressors will will be numb to the effect of these aggressions and they are taught that they are normal or simply human.10 Oppressive peoples often overlook criticisms from the oppressed groups. For example, white people believe they are nice, caring, and conscientious people; that they have worked hard to obtain their wealth and status. Whites are often unaware of their day-to-day privileges, let alone what was done historically to procure the privileges that come with being white in a society built by white racism.11 Only with a critical look at oneself and the surrounding structures at play can they realize the privileges they have. Men often reject the idea of gender inequality. Inhabiting the identity of a white, patriarchal identity shows women as different to men but equal none the less. 9 Kupchan,60. 10 Allen, “Does Critical Pedagogy Work,” 174. 11 Allen, “Does Critical Pedagogy Work,” 175.
  5. 5. Peak 4 Humans have an inherent need to validate the way in which they’ve suffered. Because humans are more in touch with how they are oppressed than how they oppress, humans often compare their violence narratives.12 Although useful, its important for those who benefit from the system that further oppresses others to legitimize the oppressed narrative and give it validity. Instead of doing this, oppressive groups will often become hostile toward the oppressed group as they are ignorant of the full spectrum of forces at play. Allen also identifies how important it is to understand that one can be the oppressor as simultaneously as being oppressed.13 While being conscious about their own oppression, they should also be conscious of how they further oppress others. Just as a black man is oppressed by a white man, he could also be oppressing a black woman. Because of the distinguishable levels of oppression, being conscious of the spectrum is important to the way one treats different people and responds in different situations. Knowledge of the existing cyclical structures of oppression are simultaneous with the inability of urban youth to escape their environment. This simple realization further demonstrates the need for the knowledge of this critical pedagogy. Ada Maria Asasi Diaz critically notes that the oppressed peoples are not completely without their own defining structures. Oppressed peoples are not only living in the world of the oppressor but also able to influence the existing structures that are in place.14 Diaz’s critical view of the oppressive structures in place attempt to empower the oppressed to breaking out of the realm of the oppressor. Suffering is imperative in life. Functionally, oppression is domesticating.15 This oppression further dehumanizes individuals and alienates them from the communal goal of a shared experience of equality. It is apparent in every life and endowed with tribulations, trials, 12 Allen, “Does Critical Pedagogy Work,” 171. 13 Ibid 14 Ada Maria AsasiDiaz, "BURLANDO AL OPRESOR: MOCKING/TRICKING THE OPPRESSOR: DREAMS AND HOPES OF HISPANAS/LATINAS AND MUJERISTAS," Theological Studies 65, no. 2 (2004): 346 15 Freire, 50.
  6. 6. Peak 5 and a struggle. This struggle is often perceived, from an ideological standpoint, to harm the minority group. Once the minority has been so broken down, they will no longer attempt retribution; having been beaten down time and time again leaves them with one simple path: obedience. James H. Cone utilizes the spiritual song developed during the period of slavery in the US, “Nobody knows the Trouble I’ve seen, Nobody knows my sorrow.” 16 A statement like this heard by the uninformed, ignorant, oppressor directly challenges the way they have also suffered. This need to empathize with and internalize the sufferer’s experience. (not a complete sentence) This example (although broad) is inherent among most humans. The need to be apart of suffering, to have a voice within the circle of suffered individuals, is a mistake that most individuals make. True, if one has not experienced the violence that is being spoken about, they are still able to be within the circle. However, they should not be offering advice as if it affects them directly. Taking a first person narrative to violence that didn’t directly affect one's life only further upsets those who have actually experienced that violence. Just as I would not advise alcoholics on the importance of staying away from alcohol, (Why not? Maybe just word that differently. It’s ok for anyone to tell an addict to stay away from their vice. Say you would not tell an alcoholic HOW to overcome his addiction. Your 2nd example about a victim of sexual violence is good.) I would not tell a sexually violated individual how to overcome their suffering. If one has been through violence, they are entitled to speak upon the violence they have been through. They are entitled to speak to others who have been through similar forms of the same violence but must be careful to what extent they sympathize their violence with that of others. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be a part of different narratives of suffering; they must simply realize their place in that circle is to listen and acknowledge the struggle that the 16 James H Cone. “God and Black Suffering: Calling the Oppressors to Account.” Anglican Theological Review.90, no. 4 (2008): 712
  7. 7. Peak 6 individuals have been through. Often privileged people will attempt to enter these circles of suffering and share their own experience; a space that is not conducive to receiving that oppressor’s narrative of suffering. In the US, most live a relatively privileged life.17 Privilege in the US manifests through being white, male, able-bodied, heterosexual, christian, middle-class, and English speaking. Freire notes that the existence of the dominant group is essential. As a benefactor of oppressive group membership, it’s important that “enlightened” oppressors be a part of change that needs to happen. When one is a part of the oppressor group, it is their duty to work toward an active world where the suffered minority feel empowered and is conscious of the factors in play. It is also the job of existing structures to work toward inclusive legislation. Freire notices that if the system manages to flip, it is important for the oppressed to not then begin to oppress the previous oppressors but instead restore the humanity of both. Robin J. Crews notes that violence is learned, as is nonviolence. 18 To begin unlearning, the dominant narrative is a long and arduous process. The oppressed must rise up with those who are are solitary with their efforts. Because the oppressed understand best the effects of a dominative society, it is imperative that they assert a humanity over people that is just and inclusive. The pedagogy of the oppressed as a liberating idea must unveil the world of oppression and commit themselves to changing that oppressive state. Once the violations have been realized by all people, the reality of the oppression will be blatant and change the oppressive regimes will become a priority for all people.(Not sure this sentence makes sense.) 19 Freire simplifies the dichotomy from the oppressed and oppressors far too simply. The way he outlines his work 17 Allen, “Does Critical Pedagogy Work,” 165. 18 Robin J Crews, Teaching for Justice : Concepts and Models for Service-learning in Peace Studies (Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education, 1999) 23. 19 Freire, 54.
  8. 8. Peak 7 doesn’t take into account the implicit structures that fight against the oppressive ideology. Restoring humanity can only be done utilizing something that is inherent to humans: compassion and love.20 Warren Reich identifies the need for compassion in the face of suffering. Compassion is the virtue by which we have a sympathetic consciousness of sharing distress of another person and on the basis that are inclined to offer assistance in alleviating the suffering.21 Once one has been compassionate, they often enter into empathy where they will begin to feel themselves the violence that the oppressed have always felt. The internalization of a suffered narrative is dangerous and one must approach these stories with caution and tenacity. Derek Rasmussen wrote something that, I thought, was far more applicable to assisting the oppressive groups in society. He states that oppressors should not only ask what they can to help but also what they can do to stop hurting.22 I think this is applicable to every narrative of oppression. What is so groundbreaking here is the way that this reflects on contemporary conflict and peace strategies. When looking at US foreign policy, if we focus not on what we can do to assist other countries, but instead focus on what we can to stop harming those countries, our foreign policy would change drastically. Similarly, when approaching those who have been oppressed, we must also focus on what we can do to stop being part of the problem. Isasi also agrees that agreeing one is part of the problem is important to making any effective change in this world.23 The most liberationist24 way to take responsibility for the problem would embrace this recourse and strategize further from this mindset. We must also not distort the narratives of suffering that are given to us from those who are oppressed. Because there is no single way to 20 Freire, 50. 21 Warren Thomas Reich, “Speaking of Suffering: A Moral Account of Compassion,” Soundings:An Interdisciplinary Journal 72, no. 1 (1989): 83. 22 Derek Rasmussen, “Qallunology: A Pedagogy for the Oppressor”. (Canadian Journal of Native Education.25, no. 2 (2001): 85 23 Isasi Diaz, 345. 24 I’m hesitant to use this word as it connotes that we as oppressors are needed by the oppressed to be liberated.
  9. 9. Peak 8 suffer, it’s important that there is no universal creation of suffering. Because each community and cultural values different qualities and signifies different modes of experience, pain is perceived and expressed differently. 25 Once individuals begin commodifying experience, cultural representations of suffering are being remade, distorted, and undervalued. To globalize suffering would undermine the subjectiveness of those who have suffered through different events. Distinctions may be made between those who have suffered different crises but comparing and evaluating them against one another can prove dangerous to ensuring each voice feels heard and understood. Kleinman goes a long way to pointing out the disparities between the need for change with the way that change should be carried out. Kleinman and many others realize that those in power are doing more harm than necessary. Once those in charge realize they are the normally respond to human problems. (Doesn’t make sense) The efforts of the professional experts must be held responsible to define how the effects of the institutional change can be controlled. This due diligence is imperative to actually solving the problem and not creating a false sense of generosity that further adds to the problem. Isasi understands the need to have a critical gaze at the litigation that is attempting to change discourse.26 It is critical to identify how effective the litigation is, and how effective that is to making the final goal a reality. Something that often hampers individuals who wish to change the bad things they see is the simple will to do good. Often, individuals are content with the good intentions they put forth toward ending the oppressive structures at work. Essentially, this bystander approach is not enough to affect common discourse and their good will is wasted. To successfully change the marginalization of particular groups, it is important to be realistic and honest about the reality of 25 Joan and Arthur Kleinman, “The Appeal of Experience; the Dismay of Images: Cultural Appropriations of Suffering in Our Times.” Daedalus 125, no.1 (1996): 2. 26 Isasi Diaz, 355.
  10. 10. Peak 9 a goal.27 If one is simply compassionate, loving, and educated about the truth of oppressive structures in society, one may reach a desired level of conscientization. One must work further to then actively try to change litigation of common oppressive regimes in society. In a hegemonically masculine society, people like me don’t see the myriad of injustice in the world. Because I inhabit the identity of a supremely privileged individual, I have never had to entertain the notion of the oppressive structures at play. Being a white, able-bodied, heterosexual male has awarded me the ability to ignore and benefit from the way society is structured. From this vantage point, I was always complicit with the structure of life. Like Allen said, I thought I was merely average; that my normal life had many tribulations and I had suffered more than anyone had known. My suffering manifested with the death of my mother when I was 10. I had always known that my struggle was invisible and I also benefited from that. When I was first introduced to the oppressive culture of patriarchy, I fought it. How could this world that I came from cause many of the problems with domination in society? I saw my flaws in stark contrast to the way I had been raised from a young age. Of all the ways that people can benefit from society, I have been given the most. I had always wanted to compare myself with others struggles.28 I’ve learned that suffering can not be as simple as singular events that happen at one point in life; that some people exist in a constant place of suffering. This violence manifests in the everyday relations with those one interacts with. Because I don’t know the day-to-day trials that members of an oppressed structure inhabit, giving feedback is not the appropriate response for me. Instead, I exist to create a safe space for these people. Existing as the contradiction to the problem helps 27 Isasi Diaz, 363. 28 When I was a first year, my roommate was a heterosexual black male from inner LA. We had many arguments around our mutual suffering and we were always at odds.I believed that I was “colorblind” and that race only mattered to those who wouldn’t let go of the past. How could I have been responsible for anything my ancestors did?
  11. 11. Peak 10 others change their opinion of how privileged peoples are received in circles of oppressed individuals. Bibliography Allen, Ricky Lee, and César Augusto Rossatto. 2009. Does Critical Pedagogy Work with Privileged Students?. Teacher Education Quarterly. 36, no. 1: 163-180. Bury, Mike. 2001. Illness Narratives: Fact or Fiction?. Sociology of Health & Illness. 23, no. 3: 263-285. Charmaz, Kathy. 1999. Stories of Suffering: Subjective Tales and Research Narratives. Qualitative Health Research. 9, no. 3: 362-382. Cone, James H. 2008. God and Black Suffering: Calling the Oppressors to Account. Anglican Theological Review. 90, no. 4: 701. Crews, Robin J. 1999. Teaching for Justice : Concepts and Models for Service-learning in Peace Studies. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education 1 Enloe, Cynthia. 2005. Gender, Conflict, and Peacekeeping. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Freire, Paulo. 2000. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum. Isasi-Díaz, Ada María. "BURLANDO AL OPRESOR: MOCKING/TRICKING THE OPPRESSOR: DREAMS AND HOPES OF HISPANAS/LATINAS AND MUJERISTAS." Theological Studies 65, no. 2 (June 2004): 340-363. Kleinman, Joan, and Arthur Kleinman. 1996. The Appeal of Experience; the Dismay of Images: Cultural Appropriations of Suffering in Our Times. Daedalus. 125, no. 1: 1. Kupchan, Charles. 2010. How Enemies Become Friends : The Sources of Stable Peace. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Leaven. 2003, “Doing Our Own Work: A Seminar for Anti-Racist White Women”Visions, Inc. and the MSU Extension Multicultural Awareness Workshop
  12. 12. Peak 11 Reich, Warren Thomas. 1989. SPEAKING of SUFFERING: A Moral Account of Compassion. Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal. 72, no. 1: 83-108. Roberts, S J. 2000. Development of a Positive Professional Identity: Liberating Oneself from the Oppressor Within. ANS. Advances in Nursing Science. 22, no. 4: 71. Rasmussen, Derek. 2001. Qallunology: A Pedagogy for the Oppressor. Canadian Journal of Native Education. 25, no. 2: 105.