Saturday, September 6, 2008

Silences

Reparations can never be made. For those of us agitating for reductions, eliminations in oppressions, injustices it absolutely will not do do hold onto our fear, our outrage, our frustration until after the injustice has ceased. We cannot remain angry until, for example, the patriarchy is over. Having expressed our critique, our pain (to the best of our abilities), it will not do to repeat the litany of complaints like a meditation in reverse, like a prayer of pain and hatred, like a talisman to keep the world at bay. No. Having addressed the world, all that there is left to do is to recognize it, release one's anger and begin the work of loving it.

For me, that can be difficult. Foolish and immature though it is, I (too) often feel that if I do not punish those who hurt me, then they will have 'gotten away with it', that my forgiveness and love will then condone their selfishness or meanness. I know that this is not true but it is difficult to feel that as well.

What does something like feminism look like without anger? What can be the impetus for change? Can love work better than sustained outrage?

This is related to being able to hold simultaneously multiple, not fully compatible kinds of knowledge - acknowledging, for example that, yes, 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted while also refusing to see every man as a potential assaulter. Or, acknowledging that there are real, deep and pervasive racisms that can be found everywhere while also intentionally relating to everyone as though they were anti-racism.

Feminism (as have many of the other progressive '-isms') has done an apt job of pointing out grievous wrongs and wounds in our world. We've discussed the difficulty of 'dismantling the master's house' but where have we developed sustained thinking and acting to creating a really new one? To paraphrase Igor Stravinsky (with echoes of Shakespeare), what would be more powerful than love in creating our brave new world, peopled by such people as we would like to become, as we could possibly love?

If we continue to focus on hurt, doesn't that hurt then become our world? This does not mean we can make ourselves blind and therefore not act. Or, we must not then become morally blind and hardened to suffering. But couldn't there be an ethical blindness, one that can (somehow, I certainly don't know how) critically and lovingly recognize wrongs, work to end them without becoming an instrument of them, without becoming an extension - even a critical one - of that pain?

I realize this all doesn't make a lot of sense. I'm okay with that. This is a kind of questioning to which I will be returning, so perhaps in time I can clarify myself. For me, however, it may be that where I am most hurt, I will become most silent.

2 comments:

Bacchant said...

"Having addressed the world, all that there is left to do is to recognize it, release one's anger and begin the work of loving it." What a beautiful, noble, and, of course, very Christian thought. That it is Christian in its origin does not make it less worthy, less important, or any easier to "love your enemies, and bless them that curse you". One of the reasons why this is so difficult is precisely because, as you have noted, we feel instinctively that "if I do not punish those who hurt me, then they will have 'gotten away with it', that my forgiveness and love will then condone their selfishness or meanness." The reason we feel so is because it is often true. True, anyhow, in the sense the the persons who have acted selfishly or meanly often DO feel that they have "gotten away with it" and are condoned. Sometimes, love requires punishment; Jesus was not remotely as pacific as his worshippers give him credit for.

The ability "to hold simultaneously multiple, not fully compatible kinds of knowledge" is related to this, for if your persecutor is not able to comprehend that you love them and are not angry with them despite their ugly behavior, but that this does not excuse such behavior, than your love falls into a void of silence. It is possible that, years later, that person may look back reflectively and reconsider their actions. It is also (more) likely that they would not and that the event will forever have more importance for you than them, for whom it will be forgotten. Unconditional love requires a multiplicity of knowing, for there is no other mechanism that allows such paradoxes. But multiplicity it has its own dangers: "I love him even though he hurts me" is a phrase that should send up red flags of ire for any feminist.

"If we continue to focus on hurt, doesn't that hurt then become our world?" Whether or not we focus on hurt, or even acknowledge its existence, hurt is a part of our world. To be alive is to hurt. Moreover, it is a truism that to love someone is to be hurt by them, for to love is to remove the armor of our souls and stand naked, asking to be loved in return. To love the totality of the world, to truly do this, would invite such pain and suffering as would surely destroy a person. Perhaps this is why humanity was and remains tribal. We imagine ourselves, always, as Us and Them and though this construct is often maligned I wonder if it may secretly be that which saves us. For it limits the boundaries of our love to within practical reach. Those without those boundaries are "beyond the Pale" and so beyond our ability to love. Those we love may hurt us with relative impunity; we accept this as a part of the bargain of love. But those who exist outside our love may not do so, and so we feel, instinctively as you say, that they must be punished for them to know that this was not acceptable. Not coincidentally, it is in the borderlands between such spaces where war most often occurs.

philosophotarian said...

but there is a difference between acknowledging that pain is a part of the world and experiencing a world that is nothing but pain