Archives for posts with tag: oppression

Today is International Peace Day. I think a lot about peace and I try hard to cultivate it within myself as well as to be a peaceful participant in the world around me. The degree of success varies but it is rare that a day goes by without my being mindful of my intent.

I have not written as frequently as in the past, in part, because my mind is fragmented. My emotions are fragmented. The world is not making sense. There are many things going on but they are all getting wrapped up literally and metaphorically in our U.S. Presidential election. It is white male heterosexual privilege against everyone else. We have a major presidential candidate with no experience who is viable just because he is white, heterosexual, powerful, and more importantly, an explicit spewer of hate and selfishness. When he cheats, he is savvy. His exploitation of people and resources makes sense because he is the right sex, orientation, and color to dominate others.

Meanwhile, we have a very competent woman running for president with decades of experience who manages to get things done despite the fact that she’s been held to a level of scrutiny that arguably no other candidate has ever faced. Her crime? She’s made mistakes. Women are not allowed to make mistakes. They are allowed to be perfect mothers or to serve men.

Meanwhile, African American people, some children, are being murdered by police. No, this is not new. What is relatively new is that the incidents are now filmed and even when they can be viewed, many white people still come up with reasons why the person, often unarmed, sometimes with their hands-up, deserved to die.

Meanwhile, an African American football player decides to stop standing for the National Anthem at football games. There is strong backlash against this kind of “disrespect” to our country as well as to our military. This is a peaceful protest by a man who belongs to a race that has been owned, systematically oppressed, and clearly shown on video, hunted. It is 2016. This is still happening. We have a major presidential candidate who is whipping up hatred for every “otherized” person. People, what are YOUR PRIORITIES? Respecting the flag or not killing people?

Meanwhile, nearly half of the homeless youth in the U.S. are LGBT. LGBT youth, more generally, are subject to a high incidence of sexual and physical assault, drug/alcohol use, and suicidality. This is all because we believe that not being straight or cisgender somehow threatens our safety.

Meanwhile, immigrants, potential immigrants, or anyone who resembles an immigrant from a non-European country, are being treated like terrorists, despite research evidence pointing to the opposite. Immigrants, by and large, are hard-working people. Their children, on average, engage in significantly less crime and drug use than U.S. born white youth.

Meanwhile, I was at home yesterday when my husband received a text from a friend, who referred to him as “a girl” as a joke. My tolerance for this kind of sexism is low. I told him that it was a misogynist joke. He disagreed and his feelings were hurt. Both men are good and decent men but I was taken aback that my husband defended the joke and acted like I was overreacting. My reaction may have been stronger than usual but that is only because it is exhausting and unhealthy to be in a constant stage of outrage over the insidious and outright violent oppression in our country and world.

I know that I can best advocate for peace, when I have more myself. That does not mean not being angry, afraid, or in grief for some very hateful forces in our world. But it does mean balancing them with the good that exists around me.

In about an hour I am going to the Frye Museum in Seattle where there is a sitting meditation every Wednesday. That will help as will meeting my friend, Nancy, there.

I wish you all peace in your hearts.

 

A beautiful lion was killed in Zimbabwe by a rich American, who paid $55,000 to do so. There has been a great deal of outrage about this. There has been a great deal of compassion expressed toward a rare and beautiful animal who was killed just so that a human being could use his power to kill and dominate.

There have also been people upset by how much compassion and outrage have been spent on this one lion in contrast to relatively less so about violence and racism in our own country especially toward African Americans.

I was upset by all of these events, quite frankly. I actually saw them as being part of the same problem, the problem of using might to make right, the corrupting power of excessive power, and domination for domination sake as it happens at all levels of culture.

I understand why people are angry that violence against oppressed groups of humans is not creating similar outrage. I do wonder, however, if in giving people negative feedback for expressing righteous indignation and compassion is somehow discouraging compassionate action in general.

If I were in a crowd of people and saw a small child in front of me fall down, I would express sympathy and try to help, if needed. I would not scan the crowd to see if there were a person or situation more deserving of kindness and compassion. And I don’t think that by exercising a small act of compassion on perhaps a lesser problem, that I would somehow run out of compassion. I also wonder if these small gestures, to address small problems right in front of our eyes, right now, and with swift action, may buffer in some way against the passivity and inaction that can result with being overwhelmed by the enormity of the BIG PROBLEMS.

I find that acts compassion, offered in the moment, can add a bit of fuel to my emotional gas tank rather than depleting me. There are a lot of messages out there that treat compassion as a rare, easily depleted commodity. Even in the breast cancer community, there is a sense of having to have the worst case situation in order to exercise compassion toward oneself. Meanwhile, we invalidate ourselves and others over and over, like there is no limit.

Compassion doesn’t have to be a big game.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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