Rules of Survival
Ahh…the smell of bull-shit in the morning. Nothin’ like it! After encountering this steaming pile, I was left trying to shake the smell all day. Has it been that long since the post on gaslighting? Gaslighting is all about changing minds, too. Well, since the first bolded sentence references politics, perhaps it is prudent to note that politics is about the exercise of power.
Where are these questions about change and accountability taking place? What are the operational backdrops, the stage-settings?
- Christianity—both the religious and cultural practices. That one has a moral obligation to forgive anyone of anything at their request…or even, not at their request. To fail to do so is considered a grievous sin and act of evil. UPDATED: Also, we are all sinners, and all sins are the same in the sight of God (all bad acts are equally bad).
- Brainwashing of oppressed and marginalized individuals and communities to accept their lesser status. “Forgive and forget.” “Water under the bridge.” “Greater reward in forgiveness” (what Joe Hill called “pie in the sky when you die”). The erasure of history and encouragement of historical amnesia. Permeating every facet of a political culture of injustice are various messages to give one’s oppressors continued opportunity to engage in and advance their oppression. The oppressed are called upon to do the work of the oppressor on themselves, lightening the oppressor’s burden once again.
- Calvinism that has filtered through the USian political backdrop—the blessed have power, those who do not are not blessed. Also, there are a limited number of blessed, and who is blessed and who is damned is predestined—no amount of effort can change it. The blessed are not required to respect the dignity of the damned.
- the Protestant Work Ethic—the idea that hard work is good in its own right and that ‘the elect’ are visible through the fruits of their work.
- Individualism—the rugged individual, standing on his or her own ground, unaffected by the masses, more powerful than the larger social forces surrounding him or her.
- Objectivism—the extolling of selfishness as the highest human virtue and the near-worship of laissez-faire capitalism.
- and along with all that, kyriarchal value (already reinforced as intrinsic) permeates our everyday physical lives. Housing, neighborhoods, school districts, healthcare, grocery stores, the infrastructure of cities, the goods and food one can afford to buy, existance of or access to the commons—all this and more serve to remind individuals and communities exactly where they stand in relation to others.
The injured are constantly being asked to cede power to their injurers. Taken to task when they refuse to do so. Make no mistake; this is the operating framework. And it is within this framework that the injured are being asked (yet again) to question themselves when it comes to forgiveness. To ask themselves if they “actually believe people can change”. What the parameters of accountability look like. They are being asked to do the work—work that benefits the injurer, often at the direct expense of the injured. They are also asked to consider these questions as separate and apart from the social/political dynamics that are inseparable from their lives. As individual questions, apart from the collective structures where they originate. This is a toxic dynamic. It violates the basic rules of survival.
In the spirit of prioritizing the injured, rather than the injurers:
- No one is entitled to your forgiveness.
- It is not immoral to refuse to forgive.
- It is not immoral to protect yourself.
- Refusing to engage with those who have harmed you is a viable and healthy form of self-protection.
- Refusing to engage with those who share the same toxic traits as those who have harmed you, (especially when they have a track record of harming others, and most especially when that track record shows a distinct pattern of targeting people that resemble you), is a viable and healthy form of self-protection.
- Questioning the narratives you have been taught, and discerning what (and who) promotes your health and survival from what (and who) does not, is a viable and healthy form of self-protection.
Transformative Justice is a liberatory practice of healing individuals and communities. The process of transformative justice is not placed in the individual setting, but in the context of state and systemic oppression and violence. It prioritizes the needs of oppressed and marginalized people in an unjust system; it does not require vulnerable people to relinquish their human need for safety and security. Most important to remember is that much of the work on transformative justice in the United States was envisioned and developed by women of color in response to the prison-industrial complex. So, when asking questions of accountability, one has to keep in mind who is accountable to whom. In that light, why is it contingent upon marginalized people and communities to enact and enforce accountability from those with greater power who utilize and exploit the aforementioned state and systemic oppression for their own ends? How, exactly, can that happen? With the pre-existing structures still intact?