Saturday, April 24, 2010

Eliza Gilkyson and Robert Jensen Speak to other White Folks About that Emotional and Intellectual place Beyond Liberalism, and do so Compassionately and Effectively

[image is from here]

Above is a painting of Robert Jensen created by an important--to me--white male portrait artist named Robert Shetterly. He has created a wonderful series of portraits of U.S. progressives and radicals and folks who wouldn't suffer in silence. The whole collection is called "Americans Who Tell The Truth". Please visit here to see one artist's representation of these people who do just that.

From one of those social networking sites, I wrote this to Mr. Jensen:

Julian Real
This is going up on my blog, Bob.

I think this is a great format for getting your perspectives out there. And I love your intro about alienating annoying people. HELL YEAH! Soothing is something that is appropriate, for example, as we comfort the dying and the baby, and the children; also the ill or otherwise physically or emotionally suffering adult. But there are those who have the mental, emotional, and physical health (at least at times)--the life force--enough to move energy outward, to challenge and work to transform. For those of us who can manage it whenever possible, "annoyance" or "irritation" is certainly part of what needs to happen.

The 'powers that be' white het male supremacist and capitalist didn't and don't call us "agitators" for no reason. The pro-status quo privileged masses who do not experience the bulk and brunt of violence churned out through systems of socially organised oppression must, by those who can speak out and write on, have our bodies and psyches systematically shaken, to the depths of our souls. It is, I think, a compassionate argument: why should the most privileged have a false view and experience of suffering and death as unfortunate and sad occurrences that happens only to individuals, as opposed, say, to one's village, town, city, and nation, or to one's race or gender? Thanks for being one of those annoying alienating agitators.

To the blog visitors:
I should have added: "Among our very privileged people, your speaking and writing makes me feel less alien." 

But what was written to him was in response to this:

Robert Jensen: Eliza Gilkyson and I did a combined concert/lecture at The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY. Those folks do high-quality video production, and they’ve posted four segments of the event.

The Sanctuary for Independent Media welcomed Austin, TX-based folk musician Eliza Gilkyson and activist Rob Jensen on November 16, 2008. Gilkyson performed her songs, including some from her most recent album Beautiful World. ...

*          *          *

So now that you've got the links above, here are the videos below. Parts 1 and 3 are primarily Eliza performing her music, first singing with guitar and later at piano. Parts 2 is primarily Bob Jensen speaking about capitalism and sustainability. In Part 2, Eliza's introduction of Bob is particularly interesting to me, in addition to what follows from Bob. She addresses the difference between being "a liberal" and "a radical" in a very succinct and accurate way, I think. Part 4 is both, first Bob, on white supremacy and patriarchy. Watch the audience's reaction to this compared to him speaking about capitalism and sustainability.

Eliza and Bob are communicating to an audience of appreciative, caring, listening white people who appear to me to be creative class and middle class.

I marvel, in a way that is not exactly positive, at how those of us with privilege in the U.S. cannot, really, talk much about white male supremacy: for all our proclaimed and protected freedom of speech, we are largely silent on the matters of systemic injury to classes of people who are not white and class privileged, who are not heterosexual men. Consider, wherever you are, naming, out loud, to other people, the atrocious problem of "white heterosexual male supremacy". It is clear to me Bob would not be able to do in that space, not because he conceptually can't, but because his audience would shut down. One presumes they may have spent money to be there, so they must be entertained, while also challenged to think and feel something they're not accustomed to experiencing. To speak of this problem of WHM dominance would mean sending these white people into reactive privileged guilt and fits of unproductive guilt. As opposed to the unappreciative, close-minded, and overtly bigoted bunch farther to the Right, who would move into an especially dangerous form of privileged denial as well as fits of externalised rage. (Witness the Tea Party.)

If the babies and children and adults around us are dying en masse; if the teenagers and elderly in our neighborhoods and the people of our region are being killed due to institutionalised and State-sponsored violence; if we and many in our family and friends are dying, right now, particularly of diarrhea, malaria, military bombings, radioactive poisoning, lack of basic medical care, HIV/AIDS, and the combination of rape and murder; if all of that or most of that is so, then we're likely Western and white male and class privileged. And in this sense, and others, white het male supremacy is not an evolutionary, primarily natural, or socially inevitable phenomenon. It is a socially preventable one.

I personally find nothing at all alienating or annoying about what Bob Jensen says. I find it deeply humane and compassionate. And that some folks don't, well, means to me that they know too little about the world of humanity and about compassion.

Part 1 of 4:

Part 2 of 4:

Part 3 of 4:

Part 4 of 4:


Owl Eyes said...

Ahh, I love Robert Jensen! I received his book "Pornography & The End of Masculinity" last Christmas. Great work.

Julian Real said...

Hi Owl Eyes!

I respect all of his work, as he is one of the very few white men who takes MANY forms of oppression seriously, including white and male supremacy and capitalism.

For me his work and that of the other non-related Jensen fellow-- Derrick--present the strongest radical political writings by U.S. white men. Bravo to both men. I applaud them.

If white het men (who only can believe what other white non-gay men say) would read Robert's and Derrick's collected bodies of work, I believe that'd do a lot to assist oppressed people in the struggle for liberation, by at the very least educating white men on what the issues are, and what systems of oppression do.

I don't ever foresee a time when white men should lead any feminist revolution--or campaign. And I think Robert, who "gets it" about why it is not radically profeminist for men to be in primary leadership positions in movements fighting for women's liberation, is a very important voice to have in print and in video.