Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Convenient Untruth, or, a glimpse into how oppressors manufacture reality

What follows is something of a rambling rant, so stick with it as long as you wish.

"Truth is what you get other people to believe." -- Tommy Smothers, in his acceptance speech at the 2008 Emmy Awards.

It's a cry heard round the world, to which many white men fume, at best, or bash people of color in outrage, at worst: "[The latest report in white male media says some] people of color believe that all whites are racists". Wincing and bashing would be the interpersonal white male reactions. Structurally and institutionally, we whiteboys don't have to do much overt hating or one-to-one bashing: the machine we've created for destroying women, Indigenous people globally, and the Earth and its other inhabitants, as well as something called truth which demands and brings about human rights, only requires our cynicism, superior social status, unchecked entitlements, and apathy to continue grinding human beings into bloody earth, while grinding the Earth into bloody highways; this much just give new meaning to the term "roadkill".

From the menfolk--usually white, usually class-privileged, usually in multi-ethnic, multi-racial countries that are white male dominated--we hear that other rumor, whispered or shouted, bouncing back and forth from non-cyber to cyber-space like the puck in the original videogame, Pong: "[Some feminists have said, decades ago, I think, that] all the men are rapists!". ...Yawn. I'm sorry. I dozed off there for a moment.

These and other convenient untruths are exclaimed in tones both paranoid and delusional: the people who say such awful things about us are telling lies, we are informed by allegedly out-of-touch constituencies, groups... like, um, those feminists. But it's normal, all-Amerkin, homophobic-while-male-god loving white straight boys, not the feminists, not the antiracists, not the Indigenists, not "the queers", who are so out of touch with reality that they don't recognise oppressive activity when they punch it in the face or shoot it in the back.

We must note that these convenient untruths, these claims*, are most often repeated by the very folks who claim them as vicious lies: they want these c.u.s to be sung in rounds, ceaselessly, because, as the once media-censored Tommy Smothers astutely notes: "the truth is what you get others to believe". (*No, really, some of us white men actually say and believe this CRAP--that the oppressed are the most dangerous haters in the world!)

This phenomenon, of oppressors endlessly repeating the things we are most uneasy about some of us doing in social reality, while simultaneously re-stigmatising the oppressed, is clever, if stupid. Whites, straights, and men doing this is, if seen through the fascistic fog, quite a transparent variation of "Methinks Thou Dost Protest Too Much".

For it is men, in reality, who rape women, after all. Why some whiteboys misunderstand this to mean ALL men, is but one convenient untruth in the Great Book of Convenient Untruths (G.B.O.C.U.). If "colorblind" white folks have looked outside at all recently, they'd have noticed it is still us whites who oppress people of color. Not ALL whites. But whites in political relation to people of color.

The insertion of the "ALL" is one of the most strategically power-protecting ploys in self-proclaimed white educated men's G.B.O.C.U. Never mind that we white men incessantly make truth-claims about those whom we oppress; never mind the pornographers, pimps, and johns, and other consumers of women in systems of prostitution who believe "all women in prostitution are whores", "all Black men are rapists", "Islam is a terroristic religion", "all gays and lesbians want is to convert heterosexual children to be queer--gaining the right to marry is just one of their Satanic, sodomitic steps!", "it's those Mexicans who are taking away our jobs".

One might respond, if so inclined, by saying any number of things: no woman is a whore, not even a prostitute; white men are rapists of women of every color; Christian fundamentalism, in various forms, has caused more death and destruction than Westerners wildest projections about Muslim people's fantasies (most of whom do not live in the Middle East); our jobs are being taken away by the corruptions that comprise corporate capitalism and the U.S. land on which some Mexican workers are employed is legally not white land.

Indulge me in a fantasy.

I long for an adjustment, and amendment, perhaps, to the media's image of the "I'm not going to take it anymore!" white man bolting out of his house onto his manicured suburban lawn, in his pajamas, robe half on, loaded rifle poised to blow the brains out of "the intruders" of his gated community. He glares, with more righteous indignation coursing through his body than oxygenated blood, facing those ever-stereotyped gang-banging, burglarizing, robbing, mugging, woman-assaulting, job-stealing, welfare check-scrounging, crack-smoking, little white girl-abducting, white boy-molesting, dog-AND-cat-hating types stating, with Clint Eastwood cool, slow and serious: "Get off my land!" Just then--this is my fantasy moment tacked onto the the standard Hollywood cliché, a couple or three American Indians saunter up to Mr. Whiteman, with their rifles poised, stating: "Don't you mean OUR land, you racist, Earth-killing, illegal alien?"

James Baldwin identified a great deal of truths about the problem of whiteness in the U.S., truths which white Amerikkka still has not found time to hear, let alone comprehend. He also assessed the price we pay for ignorance about ourselves and the world we live in, and, on a related note, he spoke about the danger of possessing the power of truth-telling falling into the wrong hands.

"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have."

"The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world's definitions." [Or, of course, a Black woman.] [Both Baldwin quotes were found here.]

During his lifetime and since, men such as James Baldwin were called many things by whites, and perhaps among the least ugly was "uppity". Women of any race are called many things by white men for behaving in a manner out of sync with the proverbial doormat.

When any oppressed person speaks truth to unjust power, the powers that be--frightened, insecure, savage creatures that we are, benefiting so much from the human horrors we pretend are not branded with our initials--must mobilise at once. Mobilisation has many forms: the government, the military, the police, the husband's fist, the father's grasp. On the linguistic front alone, verbally maintaining myths that contain untruths about the oppressed becomes a less overtly brutal but critically necessary reaction.

This is accomplished by first identifying it as "a truth claim" rather than "a truth". The next step is to show, through a very particular and peculiar methodology called "Western white men's logic", how implausible or impossible such a claim is. White men's mental devices for measuring truth have always been a bit faulty. We're the ones, remember, who thought the Earth was flat, that Black Africans were not human, that Lincoln freed the slaves, that white women existed as the possession of a white father or, when "given away", to a husband.

From the time of the ancient Greek male philosophers, until Freud, we, white men, also had this silly idea there was one sex, not two (or more). The one was the male sex (of course), and girls and women were, according to white men's "truth", a sort of inverted man, a male-gone-wrong. (And the moon is made of cheese, you know?)

How many of us were taught that there were only two sexes, and that they were discreet and distinct, leading us to the ridiculous phrase, "the opposite sex". What, then, do we do with this information:

Among humans, some men have two Xs and a Y ("XXY", see Klinefelter's syndrome), or one X and two Ys (see XYY syndrome), and some women have three Xs or a single X (and no Y, "X0", see Turner syndrome). There are other exceptions in which SRY is damaged (leading to an XY female), or copied to the X (leading to an XX male). For related phenomena see Androgen insensitivity syndrome and Intersex. [Source: here.]

What we do is identify any variations as deviant, or, in polite company, "a syndrome". That such less-than-doctrinaire chromosomal combinations occur just as naturally as the more reified "XY" combo, cannot be said to be "just as natural". That would be heresy. It is "inconsequential", to many white men, that manhood and womanhood, as well as race, have far less to do with chromosomes and physiology, and much more to do with tremendously enforced social meanings.

"Pshaw!", some white men say, especially the Anglophiles. The subtext to "Pshaw!" is: "We cannot be bothered with any investigations that reveal we have superior social standing unjustly. It really bums us out when you speak of such things. We much prefer the methods we have employed in the many places we control, whereby such meanings and values are chiseled into the psyches of vulnerable children before they have a chance to question this matter.

Should white men encounter other nations and civilisations that have more complex understandings of what we Westerners call gender and race, well: "Off with their heads!" Gynocide and genocide are so much more effective at permanently maintaining "the untruth" of one's social standing, after all.

As long as white men have the power to destroy, we will do so, on our holey sinking ship, standing on the backs and necks of those we despise or consider to be lesser than us.

For a slave to call the master a savage and a sadist is to risk one's life. For the master to call someone a slave, the consequences are not so great. White men control the educational, psychiatric, and legal systems which are designed to maintain a white male supremacist status quo. All objections to our "untruths" are regarded as wrong, psychotic, and criminal.

When it is "sane" and "legal" to commit ecocide, genocide, and gynocide, what does white Western sanity and legality really mean?

As should be clear by many of the linked postings here, and at the blogs linked to from A.R.P., short and longer term survival is not a given for those who are actively being destroyed. Indigenous women, for example, are threatened with extinction, while white fairy tales of "the dangerous indian", the holding onto land illegally occupied, and the economic and commercial exploitation of the names, cultural artifacts, and spiritual beliefs of Native Nations remain a fixture in white-dominated, white-majority societies.

It's time we white men wake up and smell the blood in our coffee.

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