Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A brief psychological analysis of political oppression in the context of the 2016 US election

On July 3rd, 2016, I published an article to describe the relationship between child abuse and corruption. It was called, "Corruption is the symptom, child abuse is the cause". I believe that my article fairly described the urgency of the problem of child abuse in the political context. Until the entire human race decides to put an end to child abuse in all of its forms, reducing preventable human suffering will remain difficult at best.

As serendipity happened to prevail upon me, I found the following meme (I couldn't save the image, so I took a screenshot):


For me, the meme evokes an almost visceral response. I'm an older white male. I can't even begin to comprehend the kind of life blacks must endure in the face of institutionalized discrimination. I can only empathize and do what I can to help. The meme inspired me to write the following text when I shared it myself for my followers on Google+:
The subjugation of the blacks by the whites who perpetuate the myth of black inferiority can be characterized as the projection of the internalized shame of the whites onto the blacks.
When whites who perpetuate the myth of black inferiority resolve their own shame, they may at last see the the folly of their ways.
Notice how I qualified my statement. I did not castigate all whites. There are some heroic white activists who fight for racial justice that we know of from history. There are legions of white activists that we may never read about in the news, who are working behind the scenes, to do what they can to promote racial justice.

There is simply no such thing as an inferior person. The notion of an inferior person makes about as much sense as the notion of an inferior water molecule, atom or proton. From a genetic perspective, we're all pretty much the same except for a few minor details, like the color of our skin, eyes and hair (if we still have it). We all have brains, hearts and a deep yearning to be a part of something greater than ourselves. To deny that sense of belonging to anybody is the ultimate betrayal of the human spirit.

In the context of the current American political environment, it has become clear to the oppressed that they are indeed, being oppressed. They are making it known that they do not appreciate how they are being treated. All of us feel it, but the Black Lives Matter movement make it apparent who is feeling it the most. Blacks suffer the highest rates of unemployment as a demographic constituent of the United States. They experience far greater casualties and incarceration at the hands of police. They are, as Rosa Parks once was, at the back of the bus.

When one class of people subjugate another class, it must be justified in the minds of the oppressors. Where people get that justification can often be found in the roots of their childhood. Kids are raised to be racist, they are not born that way. Babies and toddlers have no context for racism. But young kids who can begin to see outside of themselves and use language to communicate ideas and feelings can learn racism. If you teach a kid that one person is better than another, absent any other influence, they will believe that notion.

Parents who teach racism are revealing their own shame. Parents who teach that blacks are inferior are attempting to hide their own shame about who they think they are. The shame of a family is passed down through generations of teaching and is reinforced to the point where it becomes "common sense".

Two movies were influential in my thinking about the concept of racism and helped to give rise to this post: Django Unchained and Seven Years A Slave. If you have not seen them, I urge you to do so at your earliest convenience. Both of these movies illustrate well, the violent and institutionalized oppression of American blacks. There are quite a few movies and documentaries that offer an illustration of the experience of a racist culture. But few have really delved into the cause of racism. Most movies of this type highlight the oppression, violence and discrimination against blacks. But few actually venture into the cause of how racism came to be.

I believe that all forms of oppression and violence are a result of child abuse. Teaching kids that racism is "common sense" is child abuse, very much in the same way that hitting a child is child abuse. All child abuse is caused by shame and all child abuse transfers shame from one generation to another. As one Buddhist said somewhere on the internet, "The lesson will be repeated until it is learned." This is a fact universally recognized by those who are aware and want to learn how to relieve themselves of preventable suffering. When we resolve our own shame, we can stop child abuse and therefore, political oppression.

I hope that in a political sense, we are coming to the realization that we no longer need to be oppressed. You might say, "What? No one 'needs' to be oppressed!" Sorry, it takes two to tango. A man only has as much power as others are willing to give to him. We the oppressed, have created the opportunity for the oppressors to act the way they do.

What Bernie Sanders represents to me, is the start of a movement where we begin to recognize that we are just as responsible for the oppression we feel as the people who perpetrate the oppression. Yes, we have been deceived, that is true, and we may even have some anger and resentment about it.

But take a look at the voter turnout results in the last 70 years or so. In the last 6 years, we've seen the lowest voter turnouts since the Second World War. Bernie Sanders has been telling us all along that if we want to stop the oppression, we must participate in politics. He has reminded us more than once that he cannot do it alone and that he needs our help. It is a fact that inequality has a strong correlation with lower voter turnouts and a lack of participation in politics.

We are not healthy as a nation and we are just now allowing ourselves to notice. I think on an intuitive level, we have known this for a long, long time. But it is possible that shame has held us back. We may have shame for letting it happen. Shame for being a victim of it. Shame for not being willing to speak about it sooner. Better late than never.

I want to point out something else. The oppression we feel as a nation is not simply reserved to blacks. This is not just a case of racial oppression. This is economic oppression. If you don't have money, you're out of luck. The millionaires and billionaires who perpetrate this economic oppression feel justified in doing what they are doing, just as much as the people who fight the oppression feel the same. The rest of us only gave them the opportunity by being "apolitical", apathetic or just too busy to vote. I can empathize. Politics is hard to track when working two or more jobs.

The oppressors and the oppressed are expressing anger and under anger is fear. There can be no expression of anger without fear underneath it. When a dog is eating, don't touch his meal, for if you do, you will find yourself face to face with the dog's instinct for self-preservation. The middle class and everyone below them have become that dog. Even the billionaires are feeling it, but won't let on that much. They know the pitchforks could come at any moment. We are looking at the possibility of our own destruction, economically, socially and perhaps physically.

Bernie Sanders is offering us a chance to step back from the precipice and turn around. This not just a metaphorical expression. Hillary Clinton is losing steam. Trump is starting to show leads in some polls. Trump epitomizes racial oppression, the shame underneath it and he has stirred up the passion for racial oppression in the GOP. We could stop him, not with Hillary, but with Bernie.

Now is not the time for regret. Now is the time for action. We must recognize how powerful shame is and that it is a driving force behind the oppressors. Shame may give rise to violence, but we must not go to the dark side. Let us now resolve our differences with compassion and a firm resolve to err on the side of peace. Our fate is in our hands, as it has always been, and it is up to us to do what is right.
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