Archive | January, 2014

Affected to Thriving (reimagining victim/survivor)

20 Jan

A while back @chiefelk tweeted that we need to reexamine victim/survivor discourse. The idea struck a chord with me. In a society that values, success, heroism, violence, and a generally saccharine, highly disturbing form of optimism; no-one wants to be labelled a victim. We rush to proclaim ourselves survivors.

How often have you heard the statement “I am not a victim, I am a survivor”

The victimizer and their ever so polished allies, rush to silence the victim and say things like ‘victim card’, ‘stop the pity party’, ‘race card, race card’, ‘stop the excuses’, ‘chill bro, just joking’ and launch many other genuinely heartfelt missiles.

If the victim responds in anger or in emotion, this is taken as a sign of irrationality and as validation of victimizer’s position. And thus the dance of domination continues merrily on.

The intended unstated goal is to silence the victim by shaming them for being hurt. Shame and guilt are powerful paralysing emotions.

“I am not a victim, I am a  survivor” contains an implicit judgement of those who for whatever reason, have not been able to recover.  It plays to the liberal ideology of the individual and neatly masks the social forces at play.

The victims, who struggle or who speak out are constantly shamed by pointing at the survivors. For a glimpse of how this works, look  at #notyourinspiration or inspiration porn. Another example of the tragedy of inspiration porn, is the saga of the Oscar Pistorius.

There are many examples,

– hiding systemic racism “Mandela forgave, why can’t you”, “we are post-racial, we have a Black President (Obama);

-hiding patriarchy “Why was she drunk at the party, she was asking for it”, etc., etc.

This is overwhelmingly saddening

  1. The mind is not a machine, using the survivor metaphor is a sophisticated form of “get over it”
  2. A survivor remains defined by the event. Just surviving does not mean, one is whole again

Agency is often cited as the way forward. Agency, however, is not freedom. Agency is room to manoeuvre within the invisible restrictions that society continues to impose. So, even the capacity to recover is mediated by social structures.

The idea is to move from victim/survivor

                                         TO

Affected > hurting > healing > thriving.

I hope to expand on that in a future blog.

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The dance of my social identities

18 Jan

Introduction

Identities are problematic things on which we fixate and which exert a strong influence on our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. This has been proven scientifically over and over again, yet liberalism continues to harp on about the individual. That is a  story for another day. Today is simply a reflection on my personal social identities and how I relate to them.

I am aware of my various social identities. I choose the ones that I incorporate into my personal identity. I choose how to relate to the rest. I do this consciously so that I can be aware of the subconscious impact of my identities when statements (espoused theories) clashes with my actions (theories-in-use).

Without this commitment and willingness to fearlessly be willing to confront myself, I risk being a pawn playing my unconscious part  in maintaining hegemony.

Blackness:

I choose to integrate my Blackness into my personal identity, because as a South African Black male born at the height of apartheid, it has been core to resistance against one of the most heinous systems of domination, modern humanity has devised.

“To be Black is to acknowledge the heritage of struggle, the ancestors who maintained their dignity under trying circumstances, and fought for their rights.

To be Black is to know that the system of White supremacy and domination has not yet come to an end and requires that we continue what our ancestors began.

To be Black is to stand for social justice.

Masculinity

Yes I am a man, a fact I base on having a penis but I completely, thoroughly and with contempt reject any notion that a third leg, should confer on me power over others (women and men whom I can dominate).

I note also that as Bell Hooks puts it, we live in ”white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” therefore  my assigned dominion is Black women and Black men. Others like Whites occupy a different realm and beyond my place.

I thus choose not to integrate a submissive masculinity into my personal identity.

I choose to have dominion over no-one. I make no claim to deserving respect based on my masculinity.

I pledge to work against patriarchy in all its malevolent forms.

Homosexuality

Yes, I am primarily attracted to other men about 95% of the time, with the occasional attraction to a woman. I have heard it defined as homoflex.

I, however, choose not to integrate homosexuality into my identity. My sexual preferences are greatly enjoyable, exquisitely orgasmic and sometimes orgiastic but they place a limited role in my identity.

I note with alarm, the growing trend of homonormativity with its politics of respectability before inclusiveness.

Religion

I was born and raised a Catholic. My confirmation name is Thomas and my saint is doubting Thomas the Apostle. The Catholic Church, therefore will claim me as a member for eternity, unless I commit a heinous deed and the Pope excommunicates me. One can dream.

Nowadays I adhere to the Buddhist notion that the existence / non-existence of God is irrelevant. I thus choose not to make an identity out a personal spiritual beliefs. I assert that in this regard, there really is no difference between an Atheist and a member of  religion. They both have made an identity out of their beliefs. The modern Atheists merely add smugness.

I choose freedom.

Conclusion

There is also the terrifying mediocrity of middleclassness, but that is for another day.

This post was inspired by a @fistvoices tweet which said something to the effect of “I am not a man, deal with it’.

These are some of my identities, in the brilliant words of @fistvoices  ‘deal with it’

And while you at it, go forth and narrate yourself