Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Subverting Patriarchy With Language

"If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." ~George Orwell

We are all trained from birth to support the patriarchal system that limits human expression, establishes hierarchies over us, and oppresses. One of the key elements of this training is language. The language of patriarchy could be called "violent communication," since it trains us to enjoy violence, and supports a social structure that violates the humanity and the rights of individuals. However, it is called only "English," or "Spanish," or "Chinese" – it is the default language of our culture, and so it hides in plain sight, invisibly corrupting our thought.

Let me offer some examples:

Patriarchal language (violent communication, or VC) encourages the abdication of personal responsibility. It is the language of blame. "You hurt me." "You make me angry." "You scare me." "You make me happy." "You broke my heart." It is always the other person who is responsible for the way we feel. But look deeper. What is the real reason we feel the way we do?

VC supports hierarchy. It is laden with "have to's" that limit individual autonomy. This especially is used against children, to train them to blind obedience to authority and to suppress their own needs. "You have to go to school." "You have to do the dishes." "You must pay taxes." "I have to pick up the kids after school." The effect of this ubiquitous term is to reduce our autonomy, to abdicate responsibility, and to disguise the choices we make as imperative demands.

VC trains us to devalue our own needs, and also the needs of others. It trains us to believe that we are by nature evil. It trains us to suppress our emotions until we can't even recognize them.

VC is the language of judgment. It says, "You are bad." "He is good." It "otherizes" people, dividing the common human family into "us and them." "They (blacks, women, queers, Muslims, infidels, whatever) are (animalistic, weak, perverted, evil, whatever); we (Christians, whites, men, Muslims, whatever) are (good, strong, civilized, blah, blah). By this means, the "other" becomes less than human, and violence against them is not only justified, it is encouraged.

VC trains us to enjoy and think in terms of violence. "The war on drugs." "The war on poverty." "My team smashed your team." "If thy brother … saying, Let us go and serve other gods, … thou shalt surely kill him." "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, … they shall surely be put to death."

Fortunately, we don't have to speak the language of patriarchy. We have a choice. But in order to avail ourselves of that choice, we have to know what it is. We must learn the language of nonviolence – compassionate communication (CC), or nonviolent communication (NVC).

Let's look a little closer at the effects of VC. What is the real reason we feel the way we do? Isn't it because we have universal human needs that are met or unmet? I feel scared not because you are brandishing a baseball bat ready to kill me because I'm queer, but because my need for safety isn't met. I feel happy when I share a nice chat and meal with a friend not because she makes me happy, but because my need for connection is met.

Compassionate communication is the antidote to the violent communication of the patriarchy. With NVC, the goal is not to establish or maintain hierarchy through domination or appeasement, but to bring about a quality of connection that enables everyone's needs to be met. NVC assumes that our natures are compassionate, and that we all share the same basic human needs, and that we choose our behavior in an effort to meet those needs.

NVC strikes at the very heart of patriarchy. It uproots the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." It says, "Your needs matter, just as much as mine." "How you feel is important." It puts everyone on an equal basis, and encourages everyone to take full responsibility for their choices.

If I assume you are by nature compassionate, and share my same needs, how can I justify violence against you? How can hierarchy be maintained when I recognize that your needs are as valid as mine, and I start seeking strategies that meet both your needs and mine?

I'm not as fluent in NVC as I'd like. I was raised in this violent, patriarchal culture, and took in the language of violence with my mother's milk, even in a religion that is based on Love. But I'm learning, and practicing it more and more, on my children, on my opponents, on my job, and even with my own brother. Recently I stopped in the middle of one of our endless political arguments, and simply gave him empathy. Peace, and connection, was restored.

For those of us dedicated to destroying the patriarchy, there is no tool more powerful than language. We can use it to expose the cruel oppression of that corrupt system, erode the sand from under its weak foundation, and bring it down.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Iceland Institutes Gay Marriage

Iceland just became a country that has institutionalized marriage of lesbians and gays. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thoughts on Different Kinds of Sciences

Have you ever seen a scale model of an atom? If I drew one on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, it would consist of a tiny dot at the center, representing the nucleus, and an appropriate number of other tiny dots, smaller than could be seen by the naked eye, representing the electrons. All of these infinitesimally tiny dots would be made up of smaller particles, called quarks, or whatever. (Hey, I'm no scientist.)

The physical sciences, all the reality discernable by our five senses, is the science of those tiny dots.

Christian Science is the science of all the rest of it.

There is no overlap between the two sciences (PS & CS, for short). The realm of one is completely independent of the realm of the other. And we each experience life in the science where we invest our attention, in the proportion that we invest.

The CS science is the realm of Spirit, of infinite Mind. In this science, this substance or reality, there is no gender. There is no body. There is no death. This substance is the same throughout all space; there is no place you can go to escape it. We all live inside this substance-space of Spirit. The science that Mary Baker Eddy developed states that substance is Mind; that "all is Mind." The PS science is the realm of the earth, of mortals, of death, and it occupies only a relatively tiny, very limited existence.

One of these must be superior to the other in power and effect; and that one is the realm of Spirit, because it is the one that can influence the other. Nothing within the power or realm of PS can affect that "empty" space at all. On the other hand, the realm of PS is completely mutable. Experiments such as Schrodinger's Cat demonstrate the paradox of the physical sciences and senses. In his book, The Self-Aware Universe, Amit Goswami relates an experiment that showed a particle in two places at the same time – until it was observed, at which point it became solid in one place. (I'm relating this from memory, so if I get it wrong, my apologies to Mr. Goswami – and my readers.) Even the existence of life is a conundrum in the physical sciences, because life can't be replicated, yet it is.

Mr. Goswami comes at this situation from a different angle than Mary Baker Eddy, but comes to some remarkably similar conclusions. "Marshalling evidence from recent research in cognitive psychology, biology, parapsychology and quantum physics, and leaning heavily on the ancient mystical traditions of the world, Goswami is building a case for a new paradigm that he calls "monistic idealism," the view that consciousness, not matter, is the foundation of everything that is." [emphasis mine] Mr. Goswami reaches this conclusion from his search into cognitive psychology, biology, and quantum physics; Mrs. Eddy reached what seems to me to be an identical conclusion solely by reading the Bible and studying the works of Jesus and the prophets.

Because the foundation of reality is consciousness (or Mind), not matter, our thought creates our reality.

My problem with Christian Science is, first, that it is presented to the world as a religion, rather than as a science. And second, that the literature of Christian Science is written in the language of patriarchy and judgment. This is understandable in Mrs. Eddy's case, given the culture in which she lived; but I find it disturbing in the literature which is being written today. I find it distracting, as I am constantly interpreting the language as I read, seeking the truth hidden within a very inadequate language.

Despite that challenge, I also find it fascinating. The power of consciousness, of Mind, has barely been unleashed upon a very malleable matter. Imagine what it can do to an oil slick.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our