I love long bus and train rides for reading. I keep flirting with the idea of buying a transcontinental ticket simply to read and write. Let me know if you're interested.
Yesterday I finally read the "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" , Paulo Freire's book that has sold over 1 million copies and has become so famous spellcheck knows his name.
This short book illuminates the challenge of revolution. The oppressed want to rise up but having been raised in oppression rarely have any true notion of freedom.
As a result, they aim for the role they have seen modeled by the oppressor. Oppressed and oppressor, Friere claims, around inextricably bound.
To maintain the status quo the oppressor need only do what he/she has always done. To be truly free, by contrast, requires a form of revolution that restores humanity to both groups.
The book came out in 1970 far before Mandela led the overthrow of South African apartheid in exactly the way Freire (I think) would celebrate.
In this way, his work makes such an outstanding contribution.
I once attended an event where I heard former Secretary of State Madeline Alright lament that she and all interveners have never figured out how to help liberate people without having them turn those same guns on others.
She was pointing out the phenomena observed by Freire. The oppressed, without authentic and humanizing leadership, will likely be no better than their oppressor.
Tough news. This means the underdog isn't necessarily a better guy. He's just under the thumb of someone. Intervention requires, Freier claims, standing in dialogue with one another. Learning together.
The book purports a pedagogy of education based on his work with some of Brazil's illiterate population.
That said, his work applied to conflict interventions. It is not enough to "free someone" we must stand together in the inquiry of "what does true freedom look like?"
True freedom doesn't mean oppressing the former oppressor. Freire also points out the fear of freedom many have. Freedom requires a kind of self-responsiblity foreign to both oppressed and oppressor
My only beef with Freire comes from his discussions about animals. He keeps distinguishing man from animal. Animal has no personal will, he says, and has no say on his environment.
He uses the distinction to highlight what it means to be human and therefore which aspects of humanity revolutionary leaders (and educators) must cultivate.
This distinction left me unsettled because it allows for man's oppression over the animal kingdom and planet. He promotes freedom for humanity.
I hope that by 2015 we understand that humanity's destiny is linked to that of the planet and the animals.
If we are kind to people and liberate each other but torture and incarcerate animals we still are not "humane."
If we treat the planet as our servant we may lack the humility necessary to care for our home.
Yes, the oppressor loses his humanity when he/she subjugates others. I claim we also lose out humanity when we treat animals and the planet as inferior.
Anywhere we draw a line between what's or who is worthy of self expression and who is not, we are in an oppressive mindset.
Even Americas Founding Fathers made faulty discontinctions, excludig Women and Blacks from their full pursuit of happiness.
I think Freire missed the boat too on this one.
Every generation will be seen by future generations as misguided in some way. I believe future generations will shake their heads in shame at how we treat animals (especially those we eat) and how we treat things that grow.
Thanks for reading...I awoke at 6:30am this Saturday having to get this off my heart and into the world.
Like most things, once you start reading or thinking about something, you start to see it everywhere.
I am always on the lookout for words, expressions, or names that reflect the violence embedded in our culture. The subtle references to death or violence... "killing two birds with one stone" or "beating a dead horse."
Because the gun issue is so hot these days, I've been on the watch for expressions related to weapons.
Jumping the Gun
When the elevator doors opened this morning, a handsome gentleman lunged towards me. His lunge, he explained, was not his eagerness to see me, but rather -- as he put it -- "jumping the gun" on the day. He was still four floors away from his destination.
So, I offered him this suggestion, "Maybe you're not jumping the gun, maybe you're just really eager to start your day."
He seemed less enthused by this alternative.
This expression actually comes from running before the starting gun in a race. This just begs the question why we use guns to start running races. Plus, it's hard to even say the word "gun" in the United States right now without reflecting on guns in schools.
Please share any expressions you hear in the comments below...
There seems to be quite a bit of violence in American English...
A few blogs back, I wrote about the U.S. obsession with making everything a "Boot Camp." Boot camp is something new military recruits would endure to prepare them for life as a soldier and in worst cases, battle.
Have we reserved such terms to war? Now, now we have Yoga Boot Camps and Writing Boot Camps. Surely you have seen other kinds as well. There probably are even Flower Pressing Boot Camps.
Scholar Vivian Jabri would say such terms are not just funny and trite little expressions, they represent the deeply embedded violence within our discourse.
It isn't surprising some of our kids and police are so violent...and that we often think of battle first. We are living in violence everyday though much of it is verbal.
This Blog is entitled The Language of Conflict because part of my work is raising awareness to the language we use and how that impacts the way we live and what kinds of policies we produce.
Rethinking "Think Tanks"
I always find new examples. This past week, I was spending time with some Francophones. The conversation was trotting along nicely in French until someone wanted to say "Think Tank" and we could not find the French term for it.
"Group de réflexion"! Someone exclaimed. The French call Think Tanks, "Reflection Groups." I laughed when hearing the expression imagining a group of French folks sitting like Rodin's thinker...reflecting...and reflecting and reflecting.
After I got done laughing at the French, I started to think about our expression, THINK TANK.
Really, even our reflection has to be in preparation for battle? Our think tanks are largely trying to help us get around violent conflict (I hope) not prepare us for battle.
If any of you use a Nutribullet to make your smoothies or hummus take a look at it. Not only have we inserted the word "bullet" into our smoothie makers, it looks like some sort of missile. The words on the box and in the recipe book promise us the machine will pulverize our broccoli to pieces.
Something to think about....If Think Tanks inform strategy and policy and their name positions them to head for battle, then might not their findings advocate for violent, bulldozing solutions?
I may be teaching a course on NARRATIVE & CONFLICT RESOLUTION at George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution