Wednesday, March 26, 2008

a thought before sleeping

spring break doesn’t feel like spring break. so far i’ve been catching up on homework…and that’s about it. nikki and i had a fun little thrifting adventure today, and i bought way too many clothes to add to my pile of way too many clothes—the way i justify this excess is that i buy everything used, and as soon as i’m done with it it all goes back to the thrift store. so my whole wardrobe is basically rented. still, no one needs as much as i have.

speaking of having too much, i read some articles last night about privilege, power, dominance, social systems, etc…it wasn’t anything terribly special, but it sort of compiled and closely examined a bunch of ideas i’ve been thinking a lot about, and made me see things more clearly. while reading it i kept scrunching my nose and stabbing the paper with my highlighter, mentally congratulating the author with “fuck yes! fuck yes!” at every valid point.

the articles—i guess i should call them chapters but that sounds awkward—are from allan g. johnson’s “privilege, power, and difference.” the first part of chapter 7 detailed the fallacies of the individualistic perspective—that everything is someone’s fault, that there are “good people” and “bad people” and racism, sexism, and all the “isms” are just personality flaws, and that “…if you aren’t consciously or openly prejudiced or hurtful, then you aren’t part of the problem.” i never truly grasped what tremendous bullshit all that was, and i never fully realized to what extent i was neglecting to question the individualistic perspective.

“…patterns of oppression and privilege are rooted in systems that we all participate in and make happen,” he writes. “i’m involved in their suffering because i participate in a system that produces that suffering.” the author goes on to mention “passive oppression,” silence and the path of least resistance. “that’s all that’s required of most white people in order for racism to continue; that they not notice, that they do nothing, that they remain silent.” it wasn’t all centered on race, johnson also went into things like class and gender and sexuality in depth. “…no system of social oppression can continue to exist without most people choosing to remain silent about it.”

a constant theme throughout the chapters i read is the idea of the “path of least resistance,” how we all mold our behavior to whatever is easiest, most obvious and/or socially acceptable. johnson uses the example of getting in an elevator—most people walk in, then turn around to face the doors while riding up or down. as an experiment he stepped off that path of least resistance and faced the back of the elevator while riding; it really freaked people out, and some people even tried to get him to turn around. i thought that was an excellent example of societal pressure to conform, how strong and overt that pressure can be, even over something as trivial as facing the back of an elevator.

anyway, i’m leaving out a lot of what fascinated me, but you get the gist. i have to identify which “paths” i take and remedy them post-haste. or at least try to. it would really help if i was at all articulate. so many things to think about, so many things to change.

1 comment:

be :) said...

this, this is why i love you.
you are amazing. these are the same things that i connect with. the same ideas. and i want to make the same kind of changes. and i want to not pass on my 'intolerances' to my daughter...it's really a serious task.