what will become of us?
October 25, 2013
what will become of us?
Loan recently posed some questions on tumblr asking questions of the format:
without patriarchy, what is femme?
The ensuing discussion between girljanitor, tranaqualizer, and blackfoxx is something everyone should read.
One way to interpret this (which is how girljanitor has taken it) is that, more or less, oppressed peoples don”t or can”t exist in a context without our oppressors. This view has some serious problems (not girljanitor”s but that this view is encoded in the questions posed by tranqualizer).
In many respects, this is essentially a foucaultian approach to understanding identity formation. Wherein power, in order to maintain itself, actually creates channels and routes of opposition. This is the process he largely describes in the history of sexuality.
In a very general sense, this is a causal argument. So-treu pointed out that, as far as casual chains go, the reverse is likely true. That when white people encountered the non-white body, they needed to create white supremacy as an institution to regulate, dehumanize, destroy, etc. those bodies. In this view, we can suggest that rather than white people creating the ‘other”, the other already existed, and thus necessitated whiteness.1
One problem with foucault”s approach (as girljanitor points out) is that it implies that our lives have little meaning outside of the powers that oppress us. Indeed, this is a large part of why foucault”s overall work is dismal, since it tends to imply that the oppressive machine is too large for us to ever really destroy. That once power has you in its grasp, there is little way that freedom is actually possible.
This is partially confirmed by what Loan says in response:
i asked these questions because i want to move from a place of thinking of myself always as reactionary and in survival mode. and while it’s big to say that one day we will live in a world without white supremacy, ableism and all of this other shit i think it makes it seem a little less intimidating when we start putting some of our energy trying to find ways – even if just for brief moments – to live what we want and that’s community and the small things but also stuff like justice and equity and love.
Now, for myself, I have very little interest in exploring the causal relationship between oppressor and other. I also have little interest in exploring what the ‘other” will be when the oppressor is overthrown, destroyed, and removed.
I don”t personally view myself and what i do as solely (or even a large part) as reactionary or just surviving. I am definitely doing those things. But to a certain extent, i think framing ourselves in this way is to, in part, accept the causal narrative described by foucault (himself a white man) wherein our lives have no real meaning outside of our resistance and oppression. This is, to a certain extent, the point I see blackfoxx making.2
Some of my problems, though, with even the framing of these questions is in a way that i”m not a fan of. In a very subtle way, it suggests that we focus on the positive, rather than the negative. Which… yes. Okay. This is how some people need to navigate the world. But I generally resent any and all implications that ‘positive” approaches are better than ‘negative” ones, in a normative sense. If you need this to keep yourself going, fine. But the general ‘can we talk about this?”/‘think about it?”/whatever has always struck me a suspect. Because it can and has been used for respectability politics. It also plays into a system whereby those how smile while oppressed are rewarded.
Another of my problem is that, I truly don”t understand why these questions need to be asked. And I mean even in a more general sense, as in “what will the world look like without oppression?”. Not only do I find this question meaningless, but I also find it counterproductive. I”ve touched on this before. We are all far too embedded in our current context of oppression to be able to adequately describe what life would be like, outside of this. Like asking a fish what the forest is like.
More to the point: I think the fact that the end goal, what we are working towards is indescribable is one of the best things about working for freedom. What will happen?
But this fills my heart with glee and joy. Because it means that all the hallmarks of my life will be gone. The racism. The transmisogyny. The ableism. Etc.
It is a world with endless possibility. Where anything can happen. I don”t understand how this isn”t thrilling for other people. I also don”t understand how, if freedom is the goal, how we can conceive of the future in any other way. When we are trully free, we won”t be able to know what will come next.
As it stands now. And if nothing or little changes. I know exactly what the future will bring. This is what I find alarming and intimidating. This is what I resist.
My last problem, with these sorts of questions, is the way that it make freedom deferred. Freedom becomes somethng that will happen in the future. Freedom is something we work towards (but will never experience). Freedom is always then and never now. That freedom is something we need to plan for. That freedom, ultimately, is for someone else, since we can only daydream about it.
The thing is, is that while I know that I”m not free. I believe that I can be free. And that I can be free now. That we can all be free now. Not in five minutes, not tomorrow.