Hurricanes wreaking havoc, floods displacing families, bodies engulfed in water. People across the globe without access to basic medicines and disease prevention, or proper nourishment. Bodies being trafficked as commodities for capitalist consumerist’s gluttony. People of color being erased, excluded, restricted, regulated, enforced, subjugated and denigrated. Systems of hierarchies separating people by class, women carrying baskets of shit on their heads to feed their families simply by being born into the “lesser” of a caste system. Males of color in the US filling our prison systems as bodies of cheap labor (modern day slavery), while our federal government grows ever the more punitive (white supremacist), wishing to return to a nation of “law and order”(erase people of color). Thousands diagnosed with cancer daily and dying. Americans by the numbers dying of obesity related complications. Global warming and environmental destruction. Unspeakable violence and wars engineered by quests for power. All this and the list goes on, but what are we talking about again?
These are the issues flooding my mind the past month as I have sat in an academy with highly privileged folks fixated on “correct pronouns” and identity politics. Is this what graduate school is about…perpetuating toxic individualism and being politically correct to the point it only furthers the great divide? Does anyone care about bridge building or are we so focused on critical analysis we cannot see past the critical mind’s eye? Is this what it takes to become qualified to actually go out into the world and effect change? We must gruesomely, and somewhat violently, sit through dialogue centered on the “I”, reinforcing the overly individualistic culture we are bred and embodied in. I wonder if anyone has lived far beyond the reaches of their laptops, data bases, google searches, research labs, personal biases, and overall sense of entitlement? Has anyone any real experiential conception of the things we sit around and debate? Why are we even debating these things again? Why was the most important thing in many of the Women’s and Gender Studies courses making sure everyone understood correct pronouns for those who identify fluidly? It is important; please do not mistake my concern. I wonder would a native tribesman, woman or child in Africa who was dying of AIDS, starving and displaced, concern themselves with pronouns? Would the woman lying on her back to feed her children care more about how she is addressed (always already other) over the need for survival? Would the flood victims in India right now, never mentioned might I add, care more about pronouns versus the assistance they need”? What about the island populations devastated by hurricanes that our governmental administration does not consider worthy of assistance? Not to make anyone feel less than worthy of dignity and value–I am more or less questioning priorities and focus. When did we go so far from reality, in order to make everyone feel included, special and “safe”, we have graduated to animal identifications, further complicating the whole conception of humanness as we know it? And why all this ridiculous verbose anyway? Did we not construct all of it in the first place? Of course, I suppose that gives us the right to shift and change it any way we see fit. I find it exhaustive of our energies that could better serve real calamity in the world, issues that extend well beyond our individualized conceptions of “self”.
Everyone seems compelled to participate in this system of specialization, categorization and divisiveness. What the hell is going on in the world? Why are we all fighting? How come people fail to recognize that all the divisiveness and specialized identity group formations are what is causing the conflicts? Where did our self esteem deteriorate so and confidence in our own capacities for greatness fall away? Why are we interrogating and policing anyone’s private lives or identities anyway? And why do we feel compelled to share in the first place, so that we may be policed in return? Do not we see all the divisiveness in society as a direct result of the dominant system’s shaming and exclusionary mechanisms?
Why is it if you ask anyone in the world what they want most, the majority will answer “peace”, yet 98% of them have absolutely no idea how to obtain it? When will we be able to stop looking at everything outside of our selves, seeing difference, creating boundaries, and projecting our own self-hatred onto the canvas we call life? When will we recognize the source of all conflict starts with us, our perceptions and responses; that if we actually took a moment to analyze them, shift them maybe, we may allow the light through the cracks? What if we re-framed the idea of conflict instead into “opportunities for growth”? What kind of revolution could we all be witness to if we understood the simple privilege it is to be born into this lifetime as a human, every day given a chance to use your own unique and specific gifts to color the world? How powerful. How very privileged we are. All of us. These are just some thoughts I am grappling with.
Last night I had to turn in a reading response for my Feminist Theory class, and I wanted to share it here to reflect exactly what I am feeling as I navigate the academic world trying to understand just what my purpose is, or the point any of it means:
“As a woman, challenged and starved at times by her socio-economic status, more or less non-employable as a felon in the US, and the single mother of three mixed-race children, I understand experientially the lived experience of being a displaced woman. I struggle as we sit in class and discuss “contemporary issues” from a “scholarly perspective,” yet as a Women’s and Gender Studies department, little to no attention is given to displaced women in general, who are still apparently at the base of the population and scale of importance. I cannot wrap my mind around how identity politics have taken a front seat to issues of coercion, human trafficking, and exploitation, not to mention the power and prestige both fueling and monopolizing this arena. Where I admittedly feel less than up to date on all of the present day identity related politics some days, there is an equal part of me pushing back saying how difficult it is for me to conceptualize, when myself and millions of other women’s lived experiences across the globe, continue to go unnoticed. It feels like privilege arguing for more privilege, entitlement at its best, and a continuous erasure or dismissal of the struggle displaced and exploited women face. I certainly mean no offense in saying so, while I am a strong proponent of equal rights and fair treatment of all. I am a feminist, simply put. Yet, I want to know when the issues revolving around power, privilege, race and gender politics will take a bold step towards encompassing the very real, dangerous, and emotionally/physically/psychically taxing lived experiences of displaced women. I find it odd, if not violent, how we focus on politically correct terminology, creating a “safe space” for a few, when there are women here and around the world who have to make the choice of whether to lay on their backs, bend over or fall to their knees at the feet of the oppressor, in order to eat or tend to their families. When will our lived experiences as displaced women become a topic worthy of attention? When will we be safe, or seen for that matter? Just a thought. Please forgive me if I seem insensitive or indifferent.”
I will close here and say I wish only to be a good human, always working to improve upon my own understanding of self, engaging kindness and love in every aspect of my life and work, while cultivating a deeper sense of unity in the world. I realize my vision of a more sustainable and love encompassing world seems a far reach, and may be called utopian, or completely impossible. To those who are only able to see outside of themselves, or rather focused only on their ideas of “self”, this will likely be the response. Yet, I challenge you to look within, and see the goals I imagine are absolutely attainable when we all wake up and realize it begins with transforming ideas of self and individualism everyone is so focused on, in order to heal the collective whole.