Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Opression Olympics

Since we've discussed how we define things and how those definitions are used to create an illusion of control, let's talk about what happens due to outside forces.

When you are trained to fear the other or the different, it makes it easier maintain a kind of systemic control over groups of people. It's something that's often seen in times of war: representing the "enemy" as somehow less civilized or human. Think about how our current media, a fair percentage of the populace, and the government present the folks we're fighting. They're shown as inhumane, wanting to destroy "our way of life." They're nameless and faceless. They are vilified and demonized, even though our country's history ought to teach us something different. We're not as likely to see women and children on the news, unless there are American soldiers helping them and being kind. The technical term would be propaganda.

After wars are over, we often learn a great deal more about the "other." We learn that not all Germans were Nazis, and that life wasn't always easy on the other side of the front lines. We also learn that we, too, are capable of horrific things. Internment camps for Japanese Americans. The Atomic Bomb. Abu Ghraib. Deception about weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. But these sorts of things often don't matter until after the fact, because at the time we're too busy being against the "other guys." And it's much easier to do that when we don't know as much about them or don't talk about them as people.

We give them names, so they're even less "normal" to us. Charlie. The Gerrys. Gooks. Sometimes it's not so much a name, as a grouping. Viet Cong. Al Qaeda. Insurgents. Rebels. Guerrillas. Anything to distance them. We draw political cartoons lampooning them. Sometimes we use marketing and advertising campaigns. If you've watched a decent quantity of Bugs Bunny or Looney Toons cartoons, you've seen another form of this. We are taught it is a simple game of us vs. them.

And the same is true domestically. A great deal of effort is spent keeping different groups fighting one another. Blacks vs. gays. Christians vs. Muslims. And the list, or more accurately the cycle, never ends. When the Federal Marriage Amendmentment was being introduced, its supporters lobbied black churches heavily, trying to stir up this animosity. "They are trying to compare their CHOICE with your experiences, and isn't that wrong?! They're not the same thing! Stand with us against them!" They went to other churches saying "They want to force you to accept and perform weddings that go against your beliefs!" It doesn't matter if it's true, the tension and division is the goal.

It's also done through economic means. "There's only so much money to go around, and we can only work on so many things at once." We're then taught to fight each other for that small piece of the pie. "Put in your budget requests so you can have programming available!" When a group does get something, the others are again set against them as opponents. "See what they got? You should have the same thing. You're just as good if not better than them." I learned a term for this at a conference a while back: the Oppression Olympics. As long as we're competing with one another, we're not working together and seeing the flaws in the system as a whole. And we're just getting little table scraps. LITTLE pieces of pie.

Next time: United We Stand - Why not work together?

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