Monday, November 14, 2005

land of the free, home of the brave

Recently, I’ve been really depressed—more than usual. There are quite a number of reasons for this. For one, it is becoming increasingly obvious that I am loosing my connections with the culture of my birth. Friends that I have had for the past 5 years aren’t friends anymore, nor have they proven to be loyal in my understanding of loyalty. I’m still processing what went wrong in an organized initiative that I helped create but then shut down after 5 years due to some unexpected, fatal issues. My family is struggling between either embracing the culture of their birth or the culture of the masses, causing great internal anxiety as some choose one or the other. Last night I watched a film on the cultural adjustment of a group of Africans who emigrated to the U.S. with dreams expectations of helping friends and family back home. I’ve entertained other provocative media that deals with inclusion and exclusion issues either theoretically or via descriptive conflict. I’ve been taking a course on Hispanic Theology which was developed in a hostile environment, continually raging against “the conquistador” and “the great westernizing machine.” Personally, I fully identify with the categories as I begin to articulate my pathetic human existence in similar terms. In fact, all of the negative things that have recently occurred are a result of my particular socio-cultural values, plans and expectations being mauled by the great westernizing machine and its freedom and progress agenda. I know a million and one people have already sung this song and dance against America. However, for me America isn’t my particular enemy. The systems of inclusion and exclusion have existed since the dawn of time. The U.S.S.R. had its privileged classes. The middle ages had its surfs and landholders. The Amish have their privileged family of leadership and their scapegoats. No matter what system exists, it will always be oppressive to some more than to others. The thing that is so depressing is that it will always be this way as long as I live. I will either create an unjust system and be fighting against the rebelling masses OR I will be one of the rebellious masses OR I could opt to be a piece of the silent masses, accepting, acquiescing recipient of whatever crumbs the systemic elite choose to toss at me. Somehow, whatever the system, I would be dependant on it for shelter and sustenance and thus, also participate in building my own systemic prison by my very existence in it. Thus, regardless of your post in life, dominant or marginalized, we have to live in the same world. I wouldn't be happy about being dominant nor am I about being marginally marginalized. Perhaps someone is willing to talk about how we are supposed to exist together.

I will continue this miserable discourse point by gruelling point in upcoming posts, using my experiences as a foil. Perhaps, as I examine the individual points of defeat something will come to me. Perhaps, the fog will break and something meaningful will emerge. I invite anyone who is reading to please put in their two cents because those to whom this monologue is available are the only one’s who understand, better than I, the values and unwritten, excessive array of idiosyncratic rules of the dominant culture. Or perhaps I have not yet mastered well enough the language and presentation of the dominant—thus, I am banished to a continuous spitting in the wind.


jasonstauffacher said...

I really find your writing very good, almost excellent. you should consider writing a book about your journey from Menn. to a free woman.

I think it would be great and this blog is part of that process.

-jason s

espíritu paz said...

Hmm. Thanks for the compliment on the writing.

Except I might see it as a journey from a certain freedom into bondage cloaked in stars and stripes. Personally, I feel much more objectified and unfree as a woman in the likeness of the Western image of beauty than I did in my Menn. presentation--Coming from a woman who's turned heads in grocery stores with a bonnet and dress to one who turns heads in jeans and ponytail but in a different way.
I've started to cross myself when the later happens.

arthur said...

Excellent thoughts, and quite accurate description of the "dominancies" that exist in every culture.
Interesting blog you have here, I'll be checking back. Keep up the good work!

espíritu paz said...

Thanks for stoppin by akauffman.
Havn't put up anything too exciting in a while. Lost some steam this past month. But I'm working on a paper now that has got some good fuel against Jihad in a historical story sort of way.

Peter. said...

Consider the 'dominant culture' a fact of life; like gravity.

Many social experiments, big and small, tried to address the issue; from the small living communities to large countries.

Whether you like it or not, you too are part of the dominant culture; even minorities in USA are part of dominant culture, on a global scale. Even countries that claim to want to bash America, secretly admire much of it. (Coco-Cola, McDonalds, bubble gum, to name a few things :-)

Know any country that doesn't have a flag, national anthem, is not a nation-state, with a president, etc.? Shows dominance of western culture on the rest of the world. Not necessarily a bad thing. Provides for some structure and unity? Look at places that have lost these things, like Ethiopia/Eritrea, or esp. Somalia.

Must stop now before it turns into a rant, but I strongly oppose 'cultural relativism': (typed a long explanation; but this is not the time and the place)

BTW, dominance can be good (almost everyone in the world speaks english?), but diversity has its merits too. Relativity, where would we be without it.

A paper on Yihad eh? Might be interesting. In The Netherlands we have had a few issues with this as well...


On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur, l'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. (Saint-Exupéry)

espíritu paz said...

Consider the 'dominant culture' a fact of life; like gravity.

Yup. I think that is what I've just arrived at. And when one arives at that place of complete defeat--crushed, bleeding, broken and bruised--not an ounce of fight left. One is either reduced to cursing and ranting or anguished prayers.

I too am opposed to cultural relativism.

Peter. said...

When you arrive there your are exhausted?

I think I'm missing something very big here. Am I commenting on the weather while there is an elephant sitting in the room?

Not an ounce of fight left? Why are you fighting. What's the cause? To end dominant culture in general, or just this specific one.

Finally, whether you want it or not, you do realize you're part of dominant culture, when viewed on a global scale?

I thought I understood what you were saying/explaining (though perhaps disagreeing), but apparently I'm on an entirely different road.

Peter. said...

Been doing some more thinking.

Firstly, American dominant culture is different from European/Dutch. I considered them both to be Western, but they differ, esp. qua 'gradation'. I was thinking too much from my own cultural background. USA is probably much more consumption-oriented than over here, generally speaking. But see below.

Secondly. Why feel you have to surrender to mainstream American culture? I think you feel you have to choose between the two. Pick up from American society the things you like (e.g. ability to choose) whilst continuing to live according to rules/ideas from your past, or at least those which still seem fitting. Being non-religious e.g. doesn't mean you have to be promiscuous. Nor that you have to stop doing good deads. Nor that you have to be consumerist. Nor that you can't live to the 10 commandments (I do (to part of), though I'm not religious; they're just 'common sense' written down).

Something I once heard that really struck home: You don't necessarily have to be a good Christian to lead a good/worthy life. Monopolisation of morality by Christians is one of the things I oppose. Implicitly stating that if you're not a believer (pref. the exact same belief as that person) you can't live a worthy life. Or that it would be an empty life you'd lead.

Just another thought on the matter.

Peter. said...

Oh no, it goes on:

You say you're either a piece of the rebellious masses, or part of the silent masses.

Which is the majority in your case, the silent or the rebellious.

You say 'whatever system you create...'. You are ambitious; think you can (should/want) create a system that solves the problems you discuss. I think it is the holy grail of humanity, with an eternal quest for it throughout human history. The communes of 1848 and 1878 failed; the social experiment in USSR failed. Many much more 'local' communes failed. Big intentions, but perhaps human nature is too self-involved/egoistic for it to work. BTW am opposed to socialism, but if true communism could exist, I think nobody could be against it. However, I think I'm already too cynical for it to believe it to work.

Peter. said...

The word I was looking for is Utopia.

espíritu paz said...

I believe you make some assumptions here, that I understand but diverge from…
You seem to have strong confidence in the effectiveness of personal choice. Perhaps not quite to but almost to the point where all “outside influence” (outside one’s person) is reduced to mere peer pressure. Please see my more recent post on “who is the self”.

I am not surprised that you sense you’ve been dumped into another world. Religiousness aside, one of my more foundational beliefs is that the self is very restricted in its ability to “make itself.” Grace (or luck, if you will) or the lack there-of and the defining other” are other self-positing factors. Your definition of the self seems more heavily self-made. How would that change if you suddenly became an invalid? My guess is that one would consider suicide…a physical demonstration of the expiration of personhood based on your ascension to the belief system of those who surround you.

As for making the general statement that the communes failed—who are we looking at? I know of some communes that have existed through generations and show no sign of stopping. What criteria are we using to assess that they have failed? Conversely, what criteria would one use to determine if the free-trade enterprise has failed? Does psychological health and well-being factor in?

Thought: If life is not a struggle against opposing belief systems…then, congratulations, you are at your prime, settled amongst those who are most like you. Yet, be thou careful not to alter your life too radically. Do not read anything too upsetting or different. Do not succumb too wholeheartedly to the thirst for adventure. Nor should one develop too close relationships, even marriage should be at gentle arm’s length.

Good conversation.

Peter said...
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espíritu paz said...

Peter your last comment and my "Thought:" FYI That really wasn't to you personally (I really have no idea who you are)--I hope you are not taking it like that. To me it was more like a extreme statement for shock value upon whomever it lands.

As for your statement
"I argued that most of the decisions we make are made by heart/feel, and subsequently we try to rationalize them."

I'm astounded! I almost can't believe you said it. I've suspected this to be the case for years! but no-one has admitted to it like you just did. This is like a mini revelation.

Peter said...
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Peter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.