|Entry tags:||#occupy, kyriarchy, politics, rant|
A lot of activist rhetoric talks about "taking our country back"--from the bankers, from the warmongers, from the straight-white-Christian-male oppressors who benefit from patterns of kyriarchy and discrimination, and so create subtle (and sometimes, not so subtle) laws to reinforce those habits on all levels.
There's a problem with that goal: the country was never "ours" to begin with. The US was founded on the premise that wealthy white men would vote and decide all the important rules; participation in that process was grudgingly extended to one limited group after another. This has never been a place "with liberty and justice for all," despite the pledge. We have lofty rhetoric built into our founding documents and legal system--"life, liberty & pursuit of happiness;" "freedom of speech, religion, assembly & the press," "due process"... but access to those "rights" has always been dependent on the lucky combination of race, class, gender, and normative behavior, defined as "behavior the guys in charge approve of." There is no "back" to take our country to. We need to take it forward, to somewhere it's never been.
The tradition, in "let's fix the country!" blog posts, is to hearken back to halcyon days of... the 50's, or the Roaring 20's, or the pioneering years, or some other looks-pretty-in-retrospect era. And then we're supposed to gloss over the oppressions, overt and covert, of those eras, and presume that, if we All Get Our Act Together, we will be able to give *everyone* all the privileges that the ruling classes of those times had.
Well, one, we can't, and two, we don't want to. One, the privileges of the wealthy-and-powerful of those eras were all built on oppressions. We couldn't rebuild the shape of life for comfortable-and-privileged without re-creating those oppressions, potentially with new targets. "Pioneer life" sounds nifty to a lot of us tired of city rat races... until we're forced to realize that the "open territory" was being used by several nations of people, who, since they had no paper maps nor guns to enforce those maps, were evicted by force. And two, as much as we might like some of the ideals of those eras--friendly & safe neighborhoods, extravagant displays of joy, self-reliance and hard work--those were the veil used to obscure all the things they didn't like to think about. Like how people who weren't in the comfortable-and-privileged groups had to live.
One of the reasons the #occupy movement has no neat checklist of demands, no outline of Changes We Want or even The World We Want To Live In, with a side note of "and we're not going away until it's here," is that we know, firmly and absolutely, that any map we make will be wrong. That what we need is not "the fifties minus racism and sexism" nor "the twenties minus corrupt politicians" nor "the 1870's minus the wars against the Native Americans." We need something different. We need an economic system that refuses to reward fraud with bailouts--we've never had that. We need a criminal justice system that doesn't assign harsher penalties if the victim was a white male--we've never had that. We need an education system that encourages children to learn as much as they can without shoving aside everyone on either edge of the bell curve--we've never had that, either. We need an employment system where workers can rely on rewards for skill and loyalty--(you get the idea). We need a health care system, period.
There is no "back" that has what we need. We need to look to our history to find all the *good* things, and figure out which of them can be worked into our future.
Not all will be able to stay. The close-knit neighborhoods of the 40's and 50's? Counted on assigned gender roles and neighborhood membership restrictions. But we can get different communities--we have the whole internet to find people to ally ourselves with, people who care and support each other. Your friendslist and blog readers can't help rebuild your garage after a tree falls on it... but they can throw a few bucks toward PayPal, and suggest a good contractor in your area.
We can't take our country "back." We never had it. And there's no former time when things were the way we want them to be. Oh, there were times "not as bad as now," by some measures... but not by others.
Twenty years ago, mortgages and jobs were a lot more stable... and Bowers v Hardwick had established that homosexuals had no right to privacy regarding their sex lives, and states were free to prosecute them for their orientation; employers and landlords were free to throw them out. We don't want to lose the freedoms we've fought so hard to get; while we want our government to be focused on the people, not the dollars--we need to acknowledge that our government has always belonged to the ultra-wealthy and privileged; it's just that, until recently, the barriers for anyone else getting control were more overt.
The kyriarchy isn't fighting to keep money in charge. That's their final smokescreen, their last barricade at the door... must be THIS RICH to enter; if your income is below this line, you must ride the Rat Race Clown Carz instead. But that's not quite true... what they really mean is "must be One Of Us," and they'll find their kin in the 1% because all the other methods they used to use have fallen apart on them. It's not just men who own land, anymore. Not just white men who vote. Not just upper-class white men who run businesses. Not just straight Christian white upper-class men who go to prestigious universities.
They've been amassing money, by hook and crook, for decades, because it's all they have left to use as an exclusive leverage for power. And they're terrified we're going to take it away from them.
Not the money--we can't really take that. Not enough of it, not to enough of us to make a difference. And we know in our hearts that the money itself doesn't matter--people don't live for months in a tent eating cold rice pilaf without realizing that the quarter-million-dollar house-inna-suburbs might be nice, but is hardly necessary. We're not demanding more money. Instead, we're chipping away at the fulcrum, working to make "money" not the biggest point of influence in politics, in the world we want to live in for the next decade, the next century.
Five hundred (and change) years ago, in England, money wasn't the marker of political power. Plenty of merchants and seamen had more money than many members of the nobility--but power went with titles, not cash. When the US was founded, we had no titles, and we established different, more nebulous ways of defining who had power and who did not. We started with race, gender and property ownership... and all three of those are gone now, from the legal system, if not yet in practice.
If we're going to have a government "of the people, by the people, for the people," we need to take our country forward until we have it. The inspirational speeches of the past can be used to inspire us again--we just need to remember that those are hopes, not past achievements.
Building the country we want--the world we want--requires that we do something new. 2012 is the year we can start to do that--we have the communications technology to find each other; we have the understanding of history to avoid the worst mistakes of the past; we have the drive and focus distributed among enough bodies that no one person's burnout or destruction can end the movement.
Occupy your city. Occupy your life.
(This post has been inspired, in part, by The Big Lie by Michael Thomas, link courtesy of </a></b></a>pj.)
This entry was originally posted at http://pj.dreamwidth.org/333142.html. Please comment here or there there using your LJ ID or OpenID.