Xunzi and teh Discourse
October 19, 2015
Another of the panel questions was about which resistance writers or whatever inspire me. This was where I revealed my ignorance of a lot of the Important People. However, I did cite one influence because it is probably the bit of philosophy that I cannot ever get out of my head.
From [Xunzi”s “Zheng ming” chapter]:
The greatest thing that people desire is life. The greatest thing they detest is death. It is the case that some people, in seeking life, find death. It isn”t because they do not desire to live and desire to die, but that they cannot live and only die.
Honestly? I”m still not entire sure what all this means (and its been bouncing around my head for maybe… 8 or 10 years?). But it definitely is at the core for… idk, my empathy and caring for people?
I guess one of the things that it communicates to me is that, contrary to what an old friend thought, our circumstances aren”t the result of choices we”ve made. Rather, that there are instances where, for whatever reason, in how we go about wanting to fulfill our lives/dreams/desire that result in failure (re: death). For me, I see it as a combination of two possible factors. That the method by which we think we can achieve our desired goal is flawed in some fundamental way or that the context in which we seek fulfilment renders it impossible.
Obviously (or maybe not since you might not know me well enough at this point), this interpretation is fuelled by my own interests/belief that methodology matters and that systemic factors are important (and beyond our individual control). You might recognize how these two things have had far-reaching influence on how I talk about oppression.
In the first case, the other way to phrase this (somewhat) is that ‘the ends do not justify the means.” This is one way to look at it. Politically speaking, this means for me that Gay Inc could never, ever achieve any of its goals so long as it thinks that it can shit on trans women of colour with the hopes of ‘coming back” for us. On a personal level, this means that my hopes of decolonization and dismantling white supremacy cannot be accomplished without serious attention to anti-Blackness and settler colonialism, despite the fact that neither directly impacts (beyond being on the wrong side of the situation).
In the second case, what this means to me is that our context matters just as much (maybe sometimes more) as our own desires and efforts. On a very personal level, this means that I can claim to have done everything that you”re supposed to do in order to have a successful career but still be unemployable. Even before the lawsuit, the systemic barriers I face were rather large (race, class, gender, ability, etc.). It was always going to be an uphill battle. And my failure isn”t because I didn”t want to succeed, but that my context is such that success had very low odds.
Politically (and in my writing) this manifests by my laser focus on systemic stuff, rather than really engaging a lot of individuals. I don”t care about challenging radfems because I believe that if we change the context, their behaviour will necessarily adapt to the new circumstance (or they”ll all disappear into obscurity).
That”s why, for me, getting rid of settler colonialism, for example, isn”t about convincing settler governments and settlers themselves to recognize the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples, but rather dismantle the infrastructure that empowers them to think they are allowed to decide what is or isn”t legitimate. We know from history that governments and institutions can be toppled without a broad consensus.