A popular painting features a dictator statue carousel. It shows revolutionaries pulling down a dictator only to inadvertently pull up another Strong Man. This cyclical nature of the world vis-a-viz power continues to be one of the most baffling things ever. Of late, however, I’ve come to see it as a nod to the impossibility of communication.
I’m not sure what I think about feminism anymore. Having hopped onto it with astuteness when I was, I realise now that I was looking only for a definite set of rules to yield. This was much in the same way I had held christianity, which I let go of shortly before finding feminism. The theories of hooks, Lorde and Steinem gave me a language with which to hold the atrocities I saw in the world around me. They gave me a way to view and understand structures that were built with no consideration for my existence. Their thought validated the fact that these structures were driving inequality and that their existence was not my fault.
I’m about to throw two things in the same pot. Don’t worry, that’s how cooking happens.
I was brought up as a staunch seventh day adventist. The bible was a book of absolutes and, short of following all the rules in Leviticus, we were trained to follow it to the letter. Anything unclear/misunderstood/illogical was just god’s mysterious ways, or human incapacity to understand that which is beyond us. Compare this to what Saul Williams says in his poem. . . “your current frequencies of understanding outweigh that which you have been given to understand”, which is a quite different, more empowering, narrative. The carrot and stick (or heaven and hell) system used by christianity is good for one thing: it creates and perpetuates very clear dichotomies. What is wrong is wrong, and what is right is right. Good people do the right thing, bad people do the wrong thing. Good people deserve reward and will go to heaven — even if the world cruelly denies them reward on earth. Bad people deserve punishment and will get it either here, or in hell, or both. Importantly: if you’re doing something to change a bad person to a good person, the moral line is fuzzy because you’re focused on the greater good.
The philosophies of inclusivity also draw a very clear line between good and bad. To say that we are different, or to point out differences, is definitely bad. It means that you are creating a barrier between people (or at least perceiving one). In defining a difference, the logic runs, you create it based on emphasis, of which there can be endless. Second axiom: difference is to be eliminated towards creating the utopian paradise. This, of course, creates a paradox because you cannot destroy that which you do not recognise. So, instead, inevitably divergent behavior is labelled as bad and worth exterminating. Any actual pushback is attributed to whatever “bad” exists in the difference being defined (racism, sexism, homophobia etc) and serves as justification for its destruction.
This is not an essay about the right or wrong of feminism, or anything else for that matter. This is about how we hold what we have and how we relate to our power (and the power that others have – although this might be the same thing). The fear of hell is a strong motivator that keeps many people holding faith desperately with christianity, because, who wants to burn forever? In another connection, the fear of social sanction is an equally powerful motivator to keep people in line and it is highly effective. However, fear can also keep us from doing the critical work. In the first episode of Midnight Gospel, a podcast-style show on Netflix, “the President” being interviewed states, “Health is dealing with reality on reality’s terms.” In fighting for control of a central narrative, we can insist on planting our terms onto reality and, in failing to get reality to confirm, find ourselves desperately frustrated.
This is not to say that these structures don’t exist. Just like any good religion has a powerful, true, important and necessary philosophy at its core, the truths of critical theory continue to resonate. We don’t even need the (overwhelming) evidence to see it – we know it because it is true. The gospel truth must now be spread to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Lorde and saviour. Those who do not believe are cast to perish. Any wrong done to a sinner in the name of saving their soul is validated. Questions and critical feedback is ignored, anything inexplicable mapped back onto the intrinsic evil of capitalist patriarchal structures without second thought. We insist that the world be seen through our lens – our better lens – because we believe, and faith without action is dead.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
“ I may be sincere, but never serious, because I don’t think the universe is serious.”
If you think about it, it’s almost comical, how we go around the world dragging logs and battling specks. Except some specks don’t go away. Some specks point at the logs we yield. So the cycle of violence continues, with everyone claiming innocence. Someone give me some popcorn.