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by Archie Kennedy
Thursday, Jun. 02, 2005 at 4:25 PM
The dynamics of tyranny are the same the world over. People with power over people with none abuse that power through intimidation, violence, and coercion. It doesn’t matter if it is a teacher picking on her student when the door is closed or war. Same shit, different pile.
Racism, sexism, gay bashing, woman abuse are all separate piles of the same old crap. They all have some fundamentals in common. They can all be described as tyranny and their purveyors as tyrants.
To examine the fundamentals of tyranny, let’s examine it on a personal level. Let’s examine the persistent and all too familiar problem of woman bashing. It is a problem that is maintained on government and mass media levels but here we will look at it from a more personal point of view.
If we look at the dynamics between men and women on the issue of woman battering, there are some patterns that are eerily similar from abuser to abuser. Batterers will deny, minimize, rationalize and blame the victim to defend the status quo and to let themselves off the hook psychologically.
The way out of that particular malaise is the acceptance of responsibility for the abuse. For woman abusers to begin the healing process they must first accept responsibility for what they have done. Accepting responsibility fundamentally changes the dynamic between the victim and the abuser.
Accepting responsibility is not the same as self blame. That would simply repeat the punishing approach that the abuser used on the woman he abused. Self flagellation may seem heroic, but it serves no one. The abuser objectified and demeaned his victim and repeating the same habit unto his own psyche may only increase guilt, self loathing, and anger. It is feelings like this that he may have been trying to control in the first place when he took it upon himself to control his partner. As the abuser feels the need to control his emotions, he will control his partner. The trick is to eventually learn to live an emotionally independent life. Control of emotions is also an important aspect to this puzzle. The abuser has the impression that he must control his partner because she has control of his emotions. He may believe that to be the case.
Abuse is always a choice and it is used to secure control and privilege. It is used to maintain an old collective order that the abuser finds beneficial for his particular social position. In this case the status quo is that he is the king of the castle. It is not a matter of ‘losing it’, or, ‘I was drunk’. These are merely excuses and rationalizations to excuse his majesty from guilt.
But here we will focus on the first and most important part of this problem; the acceptance of responsibility.
The acceptance of responsibility means that the tyrant must acknowledge what he has done, that it was his choice, and he must accept his victim’s feelings of betrayal. He must accept his victim’s feelings of hatred for him as a result of the abuse. He must actually see what he has done with what used to be love. He must look inside his victim’s tears and her grief and her loss. And most importantly, he must feel it.
No easy task and any man that completes it is truly a man, in fact, a true hu-man. He will rediscover love and genuine acceptance.
The refusal to take responsibility for woman abuse on a personal level is one thing, but refusing to acknowledge it as a problem (denial), or maintaining that it’s not much of a problem (minimizing), or responding to the discussion with charges that women bring it on themselves, or that women are just as violent as men (blaming), serve to deflect attention away from looking at the beast in the eye. Collectively, this is not about laying guilt at the feet of each individual man. It is accepting the *fact* that we have a problem as a gender. It manifests from sexist jokes to the murder of women because they are women. As men we must confront this reality and do something about it. We must act in solidarity with the women that are in the trenches. We have to look at the power imbalance and the fact that all of us receive favoured treatment and that as a gender we have many privileges.
Collectively, men have to acknowledge woman abuse as a problem that is perpetrated by men and by male cultural norms.
Again, this is not about blame. This is about accepting responsibility as men and that does not mean we have to take on the personal responsibility of singular crimes. There is a system at work and we must acknowledge it.
The tyranny of sexism is one front on the battle for equality. Another is racism. Still another is nationalism. They stem from a perspective, a point of view that favours the privileged – the status quo.
Vertical divisions have their basis in idealism or in this case, idiot idealism. That is, they are notions concocted from arbitrary divisions. The divisions may be race, gender, religion and so on, but they are ultimately arbitrary. There is only one division based on material reality, and that is the division between classes.
If you are a factory worker and you are White, you have a lot more in common with other factory workers, male and female, whether they are Black, Mexican, or Chinese, than you do with the owners of the factory. And it doesn’t matter if they are in Korea, Angola or Canada. And the owners of the factories and the mines and the newspapers have a lot more in common with each other than they have with us, the collective that is the workers of the world. The difference is that they, the owners, recognize that as a fact and live accordingly. We generally don’t and are willing to pick up guns and kill each other because the owners or the owner’s puppets tell us to do it. The Palestinians and the Israelis have no need to kill each other and neither do the Iraqis and the Americans. They have bought the hype of nationalism, racism and hate and it is unmitigated bullshit.
Tyrants of all kinds have to be chased out from behind their homes with the drapes closed shut. They have to be chased out of the classroom and out from the factory floor. Woman abuse is not a private family matter. This is a very public and very political matter. We all must kick those doors down and smash tyranny where it lives. This is an old war and we are all in it. There are not hundreds, not thousands, not millions, but billions of victims of tyrants and we have the power to smash tyranny and reduce it to a nightmare of a collective memory. And at some point, we will be able to forget it.
But before we get there we have to stop bashing women and gays and people with brown skin. We have to stop killing people in nationalistic insanity. And to do that we have to acknowledge our own privilege as White people. We are not followed in stores and we are not discounted by employers because we are White. We have to acknowledge our privilege as men and particularly, heterosexual men. We are not beaten because we are heterosexual and we are not treated like children as a result of our gender; on the contrary.
Donald Rumsfield, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have recently heaped scorn on Amnesty International for NOT keeping within the boundaries of what they consider to be politically correct. They are tyrants and are fundamentally the same as tyrants the world over. They happen to be among the worst.
Most importantly, we have to smash tyranny, not the tyrants. To do so would magically turn us into them.
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