22 May 2008

Self-Righteous Enlightenment

Today, after watching a "controvertial" documentary about discrimination against an extremely marginalized group with a party of 50 or so people, things degenerated quickly.

One person reacted very disrespectfully (I did not see their reaction)and some of the other people in the group, justifiably, were very much offended by the persons reaction. Many of other members of the group, including one of the leaders, leapt eagerly at the opportunity to attack the person for their reprehensible behavior, despite the fact that he expressed tearful remorse and regret. At no point did the person try to excuse themself, but rather, openly admitted the innapropriateness of their behavior.

My reaction was instantaneous. I felt that in a group of voluntary association, as this one was, in which all the members were to some extent or another actively attempting to confront the insidiously heirarchical American cultural system, it was antithetical to attack a person for reprehensible discriminatory views. I will here attempt to justify my reasoning; this is not an attemopt to excuse or justify the bahavior of anyone involved, rather it is a universal implication. "There is no heirarchy of oppresions. Each is terrible and destructive."

The purpose of this association is to acknowledge the existence, and interconnectedness of the causes and sytems of injustice and discrimination, find ways in which we collude, and discover ways to dismantle and resist those systems.

Attacking an individual for their wrong beliefs in that context does not address the cause of the beliefs, which in my understanding is the core purpose of this voluntary association. Attacking the individual is a short term solution to a long term problem.

Being in a position of "oppressed" does not give the right to righteous judgement, rather, it should afford a person the opportunity to operate from a position of understanding of the condition. Granted, it is not an easy position to take, particularly when attacked.
The very real oppression, persecution and butchery of the Jews by numerous other groups in history does not afford them the right to oppress and persecute others any more than the Serbs hyperbolic percieved persecution gave them the right to reciprocally oppress and butcher the Albanians and Croats.

If I believe that violence in any form; verbal, emotional or physical, is wrong, then I believe that violence, even against my enemy, is wrong.

If we seek an end to oppression in all forms, does this not mean that we must end our own personal oppression of others on an all levels?

Attack the issue, educate the followers. Attacking followers creates devotees.

I vigorously disagree with the statement that "sometimes we have to bring up the difficult issues", requires a verbal group attack on the individual(s) whose views are wrong. Violence, verbal or otherwise, has never to my knowledge solved any problem in the long term. In fact, it seems to me that in this context the purpose is to confront and undermine the use of violent power in all its manifestations.

Cruelty does not rectify cruelty.
Abuse of power does not justify vengeance. Neither does it excuse an individual from behaving in an offensive and discriminatory manner.
However, to convulse with arrogant rage and revulsion is to resort to the same boring tactics used by the oppressors.

It is simply; self-righteous enlightenment.


PT said...

Amen Brother. It takes a lot of reprogramming to put the truth of this in action on a day to day basis. Although I believe your opinion to be true I have been guilty of this on many occasions.

Tennessee C. said...

I agree completely. Attacking people doesn't negate an idea. Only better ideas can do that.

The Goodkind said...

I wrote this a number of years ago, but recent attention has caused me to re-read this essay/rant and I still think it is pertinent.

It should be noted that I am a white heterosexual male and therefore not in a position of 'experience' regarding oppression here.

Still I regard the public 'shaming' of this person to have been excessive and uninstructive. And I still think that education and the exploration of empathy is the nearest way of finding common ground.

Empathy is also I believe, the basis of moral philosophy, hence my desire for liberation.