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24 de Abril, 2007

Let's Have Nexus

Categorized under Cultura , Derechos Humanos , Literatura , Política Estados Unidos , Sexismo , Signs of the Sixth Sun , Violencia | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

THE NON-MAINSTREAM areas of the blogosfero—the Brown™, the Feminists, the disabled, the marginalized—bring us many intelligent, hopeful, restless people finding the ways in which they want to grow, to reach for their own light, their own right, their own path away from the cramped vessel of personal servitude or bondage, the trappings of others' ideologies, or who are recognizing for the first time societal or psychological structures which they have suffered behind, and lies they have come to believe and now want to leave behind. Many of these paradigms and elements are inherent in the systems of American law and government and social norms and systems of opportunity and punishment—and so those of us who make these areas our business generally spend most of our time on blogs that understand this so that we don't have to waste any of our learning time rehashing fundamental underpinnings of our awareness on these issues.

Most of us understand, from what I see, that in order to escape the further division or dilution of our energies or becoming entangled in the paradigms that keep us pitted against each other, we must find our common ground. And more than once, the question arises: What of the intersection of race and class and gender? How do we navigate these nexus of privilege and oppression?

Drawing again from the reading I do from those old paper book things, I find some interesting thoughts on the idea of entitlement, which seems to be behind just about every destructive and backward approach toward living on this earth.

I have spent the past several hours now thinking about the notion that masters "shall be entitled to their labor," and at the risk of overstating, it seems to me that entitlement is key to nearly all atrocities, and that any threat to perceived entitlement will provoke hatred.

The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen

More on that reaction in a bit, for it's an important point to connect to a few real life instances.

Jensen goes on to underline how the sense of entitlement informs racism, sexism, misogyny, slavery, genocide, and economic repression, as well as the environmental damage wrought so casually by the human race. We could further the example to the Iraq war, to NAFTA, to today's immigration issues and ill treatment of Mexican children and laborers, as well as just about every other harm being discussed by our mainstream media and the blogosphere.

Europeans felt that they were (and are) entitled to the labor and the land of North and South America. Slave owners clearly felt they were entitled to the labor (and the lives) of their slaves,not only in partial payment for protecting slaves from their own idleness, but also simply as a return on their capital investment. Owners of nonhuman capital today feel they, too, are entitled to the "surplus return on labor," as economists put it, as part of the their reward for furnishing jobs, and to provide a return on their investment in capital. Rapists act on the belief that they are entitled to their victims' bodies, and entitled to inflict cruelty upon them. Americans act as though we are entitled to consume the majority of the world's resources, and to change the world's climate. All industrialized humans act like they're entitled to anything they want on this planet. ...

My dictionary defines entitle as "to qualify (a person) to do something: to give a claim to; to give a right to demand or receive." It comes from the latin Intitulus, meaning to honor or dignify with a title. By right of my title as a white man, I have a claim to a black man's labor. Any black man's. By right of my title as a man, I have a claim to a woman's body. Any woman's. By right of having enough money to invest in capital, I have a claim to "surplus" of other people's labor. By right of having enough money to buy the rights to land, I have a claim to all the resources that it holds.

The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen

This silent and firm sense of entitlement is important to look at if we care to make progress on all those abuses that spring from this rarely discussed well of thought and identity.

I prefer not to dally too long dissecting the symptoms of manifested underlying ills, but prefer to look directly at those broad reaching paradigms or beliefs that inform them, as regular readers here know. This is why I don't comment extensively on today's political back and forth—unless as it relates to the dialogue on racial dynamics that I explore and engage in on the regular. I do like to keep an ear to the public dialogue so I am not unaware of what others are thinking, and I do think the American people require an ongoing debunking of the MSM, so I do appreciate the sites that regularly engage in this commentary, satirical shredding, and analysis. I also think those sites would do well to keep an ear to the variety of blogs that exist on the fringe or "long tail" of the blogosphere, and I know some do. Because if we all are truly interested in forming an ongoing conversation that cuts away the the husk of empty discourse and scoops out the Essential, we have to look not only at the symptoms of hate, violence, authoritarian rule, and oppression, but at the seeds that inform them and keep them entrenched, as well as socially acceptable. These vines are by now thorny and tangled and hearty, but the seeds were planted long ago, and the nourishment is delivered by all of us, and every day.

From Mister Jensen's writings, we can draw an interesting and crucial connection between all the "marginalized" blogs I speak of (as well as those humans who live the lives that give substance to those blogs) and the rise and perpetuation of all the "hate groups" and "eliminationalist rhetoric" in America (a topic of heavy focus for a couple hardworking allies at the Orcinus blog). We can also draw a connection between Kathy Sierra, Devious Diva (and many others) and the (male) antagonism that rose up to silence them or invalidate their concerns. Lashback at the Brown™ for considering themselves equal or for growing in numbers; lashback at the women for daring to jump out of lines pre-drawn in blood; lashback for any and all who move too closely to the supports underneath the dominant systems of power and control. For this—naked aggression—is the kinetic agent that always lays in wait to assert itself when the flimsy shell of rhetoric proves inadequate in maintaining a hold on the structures of privilege that manifest in (and as) this nation and its many socially-acceptable internal and international behaviors.

From the perspective of those who are entitled, the problems begin when those they despise do not go along with—and have the power and wherewithal to not go along with—the perceived entitlement. ...

Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, "normal," chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious manifestation. Hate becomes more perceptible when it is no longer normalized.

Another way to say all of this is that if the rhetoric of superiority works to maintain the entitlement, hatred and direct physical force remains underground. But when that rhetoric begins to fail, force and hatred waits in the wings, ready to explode.

The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen

Some (on the Right, mostly, I'm sure) tell us that racism is dead and gone. And they will continue to use this rhetoric until the Brown™ asserts power, whether it be in numbers or in voice. At that point, we will always see the hate and violence step in.

The rhetoric? It goes like this: You are being oversensitive. And You are making it worse by focusing on it. And I did nothing to you personally. These all attempt to shut down the talk, the awareness, the self-empowerment—which are threats to the standing power structure(s). If I continue to speak up and out proudly and loudly, the masks fall off, as Mr. Jensen writes. The raw hate oozes out. The violence rises up to do the job, for the rhetoric is only an extension of the violence. A 'lookout scout,' if you will. When the scout comes back to base and tells the colonel that a few shots over the head didn't drive back the heathens, the colonel then brings out the troops, so to speak. And a person—one individual—can house the entirety of this "army" that I (metaphorically) speak of. Which is why we can see a conversation escalate to places we never expected. Because the scouts of Rhetoric came back to base and they were not carrying scalps, but further challenge.

Those of us who write regularly on the "fringes" of the blogosphere understand this dynamic down in our bones. Those of us who swim in the main of the stream do not. The problem with a "progressive" being unaware of underlying malaise and focusing on the symptomology of same is that they not only doom themselves to chasing a whack-a-mole variety of myriad inexhaustible offshoots, never addressing the bedrock cause, but they also unwittingly lend their power to the current dynamics in place. That is, s/he unwittingly aids that which s/he professes to be against. You do not need to see the entirety of the process for it to take place, unfortunately. You can even be fully in denial. This is usually the case.

So given this, how do we "focus on the cause"? Well, this is where we find the nexus I spoke of, that place where all of us—whites, browns, blacks, men, women, disabled and everyone else—can join together, no longer divided by "special interest" (despite the fact that it is in all of our interests to address these social ills, of course) or a sphere of distrust. We can even work together without ever seeing or talking to each other. We can do this one on our own, as we go about doing everything we do.

There are some who call me an idealist. Now, I have an entire post I'm working on that deals with the harm we do to our own thinking and actions by overusing labels. But let me go along with this and say, yes. I am an "Idealist." Well, it's a damn good thing the world has had idealists throughout time. On that note, putting into practice the positive side of these observations is not a hard stretch. But it does take effort, and like any possibility of change, it requires regular work. One could make a case that the root of the failings of the Feminists' efforts is simply due to the fact that not enough men make the same effort. Aside from the fact that hatred of women is by now normalized, as Jensen talks about, most men don't see a reason to make these efforts at insight or action. Also, this applies to the failings of the efforts of the Brown™ is that too many non-Browns are not concerned with their issues. And that these non-concerned folk often have much at stake (even when they do not see it) with actually keeping the power dynamics just as they are.

Amadou Diallo was not shot by four cops, he was shot by a nation. And so it goes with all that we allow. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not killed by one gun, the invasion of Iraq has not thousands, but millions of troops on the ground, and the jailing of Mexican migrant workers is done not by ICE, but by all of us.

Again, we need to find that place where interest overlaps, lest we want to waste our time wringing our hands over symptoms forever rather than know we are making real change. With all our running around and "voting" or signing petitions or buying hemp-based clothing, we may lay claim to many "actions," (and I am not saying they are not valuable contributions) but even if you shoot a flea with a shotgun and are inarguably triumphant on the kill, you have done nothing to solve the infestation of your couch and rugs and blankets. Big change sometimes take place in the form of something as small as one thought being abandoned, and a new one taking its place.

Jensen speaks of a sense of entitlement. In some therapy and self-help paradigms, there is a wisdom that talks about expectations. Expectations begetting anger and eventually, harm. This is one of those ideas that overlap, as I like to point out is the case with these Life Truths. We might go deeper than "expectations," and refer again to that sense of entitlement that is such an American value, and which lies underneath the expectation.

Because when you get angry standing in line, why is that? Because you had an expectation that you would be done quicker, that the line would move faster, that the old woman would not need five minutes to find her credit card, that the cashier wouldn't take a break when she did. But why does this expectation lead to anger? Because you carry a sense of entitlement. After all, you have the right to fast service. You have the wad of cash, so you have the right to the type of service you would like. Or else, dammit, you will take your wad somewhere else where they recognize your entitlement.

We can chase this dynamic all over creation. We can find it operating in every abuse or argument, big and small. Pissed because you have to do the dishes? Annoyed that the person ahead of you in traffic is driving too slow? Angry that a blog author keeps talking not-so-nicely about white people? Or about Those Damned Men? Feel you have the right to swoop in and lay down the law on them? Why? What gives you the right? Why are you entitled to as much?

I could draw these lines deeper and connect them in more obvious and blatant ways, but then I run the risk of outlining only my own shapes and I would rather leave it there. See where you can take it. Let us focus on this for a bit. Let us think this over, let it seep into our mindshapes, our social commentary, our behavior, our engagement with the world. If we can begin to change the behavior and emotions that rise up out of thise sense that we all share on some level, we can affect a huge change, collectively. After all, energy is radioactive. And this conversation rolls on.

You say you want change. I challenge you to keep an eye on your temper or incidents of indignance from now until the weekend. In each instance, internally check for a sense of entitlement underneath. What is it being intruded upon? What sense of entitlement? Yes, at times questioning that sense may offend habitual thought patterns that don't really want to budge. But...did you think changing the world was easy? And after all, what happens when we remove that sense of entitlement?

We grow humility.

What happens when you nurture a sense of humility in place of entitlement? You place your feet on the same ground as I. You remove racism without really chasing "racism." You remove environmental harm without getting caught up in side arguments. You remove sexism without feeling less-than as a man. You remove road rage. You remove exploitation. You remove rape. And you join with others in the understanding that you are not entitled to a damn thing. Nope. Entitlement is the antithesis of gratitude. And honestly, you are one lucky human. And you ought to show gratitude. You were lucky enough to be born, after all. You were lucky enough to be given a mind and eyes, and breath, and whatever else you have been blessed with. Any day it could be taken away. And some days I think it should be, for we have hardly earned any of it. More often, we "deserve"—if there is such a concept—to lose it.

Let us be grateful, and join on a path where we have equal footing. Let us remember that we owe a death, and yet, are owed very little. And that when it comes to our RIGHT to do or own anything, we are thinking along the same lines that perpetuate untold amounts of harm and pain to others. If we must think of rights, let us think of the rights of others first. Perhaps at the same time, they will be thinking of us.

But even if not, you will personally be contributing to the solution that the world requires. Not the problem.

digg | | delish

Comentarios (13)

Kai dijo:


Awesome, Nezua. Even from way out here across the ocean, your words ring out with clarity and wisdom.

In Buddhism, it's said that the First Noble Truth is that life is characterized by suffering, pain, and dissatisfaction. In the Chinese tradition, it's said that "the world is a bitter sea". Many Westerners find this to be incredibly bleak, but the point is to remove our sense of entitlement and restore our gratitude and humility for whatever gifts we're lucky enough to enjoy; just as you've described. (Interestingly enough, many Chinese also say "Americans don't know how to eat the bitter".) You might say the First Noble Truth manages expectations. And the Second Noble Truth explores root causes: suffering and dissatisfaction are caused by attachment to selfish desire.

I'd also add that removing our entitlement does not mean removing our fighting spirit or our recognition of injustice or our hunger for true democracy. But it means that we're not subject to inner turmoil as we fight the good fight; indeed it augments our efforts with inner clarity and enables us to remain unperturbed even in the midst of the most heated battles.

Okay, end of tangent. ;-)


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


Right on, my friend. I always appreciate your Buddhist augmentations. They always make so much sense to me. Thank you.

OZinWisconsin dijo:


Damn Nez, you're ringing my bell today. Great post.

Pat Logan dijo:


This is excellent. Thank you.

Zaecus dijo:


You're making me think, and it hurts, but since growth hurts, I suppose that's a good thing.

I don't have the same experiences as Kai, though, so I cannot so easily see how what you suggest, even with your last two paragraphs, doesn't invalidate the fight for justice and democracy and acceptance.

If we give up everything that counts as a sense of entitlement, as many religions advocate, how can we be doing anything except reinforcing that sense of entitlement in those who abuse it?

How can I write about wrongs done to people who aren't entitled to have better done to them? How can I argue for the validity of the simple existence of people who aren't entitled to anything but death, as everyone is?

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


you are confusing a "sense of entitlement" with the rights all people are born with, which others try to convince them (us) we can be divested of fairly.

in those last two grafs, i am mostly speaking to those who feel privileged or experience privilege. as in much of the post. so i am speaking to everyone, but to each "everyone" in those moments they lose sight of humility and begin feeling entitled to property, or someone else's energy or body, or to more than what they need to live on, or unwarranted deference...

"democracy"? where is this "democracy?" please. let's not start telling jokes!

note, contrary to your comment's text, i did not say "give up everything that counts as a sense of entitlement." my point: you have no right to boss a woman, to touch her, to hurt your kids; you have no right to others' labor—surplus or otherwise, you are not entitled to better, faster, more by nature of being a male, or an american, etc; you have no right to do whatever you like to animals or the earth due to your position as a human, etc.

in regard to the second half of the third graf in your comment, i challenged you to become aware of your own sense of entitlement...not others'. there's a huge difference in agenda, focus, and result between those two.

perhaps we are disagreeing over a word, not over the consequent ideas. here is how i am using the word in this post (taken from above blockquote):

My dictionary defines entitle as "to qualify (a person) to do something: to give a claim to; to give a right to demand or receive." It comes from the latin Intitulus, meaning to honor or dignify with a title. By right of my title as a white man, I have a claim to a black man's labor. Any black man's. By right of my title as a man, I have a claim to a woman's body. Any woman's. By right of having enough money to invest in capital, I have a claim to "surplus" of other people's labor. By right of having enough money to buy the rights to land, I have a claim to all the resources that it holds.

self-respect? self-actualization? basic living necessities? the right to live free from the tyranny of others?

these are not bestowed me by means of position or title. they are born with me, upon my finding this earth. desiring those or fighting for those is not acting upon a "sense of entitlement." it is asserting that which no man or woman can take from me except by inhumane means.

LaurynX dijo:


^^^ At zaecus, I think you're reading it too far and off base.

A sense of entitlement beyond basic human rights is what breeds what we call hierarchies in society. Entitlement means the right to a privilege. Basic human rights are what makes us equal as people; that principle is what keeps us from being chattel slaves, raped, etc. Having no sense of entitlement does not equate to having no human rights.

NLinStPaul dijo:


Replace entitlement with gratitude - I've been thinking about it all day. Thanks Nezua.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


i am very happy to hear this! the pleasure is all mine, NL.

Sylvia dijo:


i think i just "dugg" it. i'm not sure. but i do dig it. so there.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


hey cool! you did! well, hell. since i was already there checking on it, i did too. jeje. perhaps not particularly modest, but who am i to let you be diggin' it alone?

gracias, hermana.

Zaecus dijo:


Yes, that was the source of my confusion; over-reading the difference between what people should expect and what people don't have the right to demand.

It's very like me to 'read to the extreme' in order to figure a concept out, and unusual with me, this time it wasn't a semantic issue. (I actually dealt with someone not too long ago who really did believe no one is entitled to or deserving of anything at all, and for some reason, I find the idea both horrible and seductive.) I'll just have to see if I can come back to the less extreme position where you guys are actually hanging out.


(Kai's the one who originally brought up democracy. My style of humor doesn't seem to have a wide appeal, so I have to steal my material. ;-)

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


ah...that explains the egregious feel. after all, i don't think i've ever heard you refer to "democracy" as an item of interest, nor got the feeling it ever crossed your mind in connection to anything. which is why it felt so disingenous in the line of reasoning you offered. but now it all make sense.

i'm glad you understand better what i was saying now.