December 3rd, 2012

coffee time - evil eye

The Problem of Oppression

Am approaching the halfway point with Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. Everything makes so much more sense. I feel like I've been given 3/4 of American history that I've been missing. I'll have to re-listen to the audio book after the initial listen and eventually I'll have to find a print copy. Based upon what little I've read, it seems the government wanted to set things to right. General Grant when he became president of the United States appointed an indian as the Head of Indian Affairs. At the same time, those who were closest to the conflict did everything in their power to cheat and exterminate the indians. If anyone among the U.S. military's ranks decided to stand up for the indians they were punished. I suspect it had to do with the acts of atrocity which were first committed by whites upon indians. Understand, it's my nature to wonder what those not in power can do to protect themselves. This isn't victim blaming. It's me wondering what can be done. Clearly those in charge can't entirely solve the problem. (Although, choosing not to murder, rape, and oppress others would go a long way to resolving the issue. It appears to be too much to ask of any group in power.) As these things go, the instant the indians retaliated with the exact same form of atrocity they handed off justification of their extermination to the whites. I hate to go against Grossman's excellent studies* but frankly, I'm not sure that simply refraining from retaliatory atrocity would have helped. When indians behaved with honor the whites lied their asses off. Submission wasn't the answer either. The peaceful indians in California merely got wiped out faster and with less notice. The whole thing is/was horrific, and I'm still having nightmares.**

I have no idea how one heals this kind of... evil. There isn't another word for it. Knowing what I do of history, it seems that it's human nature to do whatever is necessary to get what is wanted from others that are deemed 'lesser.' It doesn't matter the group. Oppression is a system that is employed in consistent ways. The groups in question don't really make a difference. 'Witches,' immigrants, terrorists, Jews, indians, persons of color, women, gays/lesbians, Palestinians, the 99% (or if you're Romney the 47%)... the same steps are used over and over. It might be executed in a different order or (if people are lucky) halted before things go too far, but the steps are the same. Depending upon how long it goes unchecked the result is the same as well. Religion obviously isn't the answer. It gets used as an excuse to oppress every bit as often as racism and sexism. If you have your doubts--if you think we've moved past using religion for an excuse, look again at the recent American elections. Religion was used against both women and the poor. Those who did it didn't even think long enough to come up with an original or creative reason for it. They merely vomited up excuses from the freaking Gilded Age.

Being a member of an oppressed community doesn't make you exempt either. Righteous anger gets turned into oppression every bit as often as religion does.

I despair of humanity ever working this out. Seriously. We've mindlessly repeated the pattern so many times it's just... awful. How stupid and blind are we? Maybe with communication being what it is now we'll finally learn? I want to believe we will. I really, really want to. But I have my doubts. As I've learned in a university perception class -- we're hardwired to fear Other. I don't believe that destroying that part of us is the right answer. That instinct also protects us from harm. That's the issue. It's deeply connected to our need to protect.

This isn't a simple problem. It doesn't have a simple solution. The SF community goes on and on about how technology and science are what will save us. I don't think that's the problem we're on earth to resolve--this being as smart as we can be. I think we're here to resolve the problem of oppression. 
* I'm referring to the book On Killing by Lt. Col. Grossman.
** If you're wondering why I'm continuing to read, it's because I feel it's the least I can do -- to accept the knowledge of the truth. Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.