Power (with a capital ‘p’) is truth

January 17, 2010 § 3 Comments

susurro wrote a beautiful post a couple of weeks ago that i have read multiple times.  it has me thinking so much about why i have decided to stop blogging for a while.

i am not stopping blogging because of her observations.  but does have me thinking deeper about the ways that differences in our experiences are seen as attacks against one another.

and our self-value must be centered in someplace other than social location and access to power.

Pomo also created the sense that everything was subjective and everyone was in doubt. And while questioning and troubling narratives, identities, and Truths, is essential to critical thinking and social justice work based on a decolonized model, pomo moved us away from the critical interrogations of post-structuralism and back toward the unmarked and potentially all knowing subject. It meant that anyone claiming that subjecthood could “call bullshit” on anyone else without really having to, as other feminists of color have suggested, “walk a mile with” the other people in the discussion……….

What does it mean to say that “truth is in the hands of Power”, capital P?

  1. accountability to each other is replaced by the self – ie the push to decolonize one’s mind and reject the master’s tools – has been removed because everything is true and nothing is true & each of us become the sole measure
  2. self-reflexion and community decon/recon/struction are replaced by silencing and authoritarianism or dogma – because as the sole arbiters of Truth there is no room for multiple and competing truths or for mistakes and accountability
  3. marginalized voices are silenced for fear of losing credibility or having to fight the same old fights leaving only those people who were always centered or who have some centrality within any given margin to speak while the quietest among us continue to lose their right to a voice we all have fought so hard for
  4. communities traditionally built around and across difference give way to infighting and increasing specialization that loses the potential to highlight oppression – ie marginalized organizers walk on eggshells with one another b/c there is no trust across the places where they are different or worse b/c they fear the spectre of difference as much as dominant people used to b/c their constructive criticism is so easily recast as offense because of point one
  5. conflict becomes a place of recrimination instead of potential creativity – where marginalized organizers often took stock of their intellectual differences (ie not identity conflicts but conflicts of thought or idea) and tried to work through them toward new thoughts or synthesis, etc., they are now reduced to discussions of power that claim moral high ground based on nothing more than she said-he said. Example: where we once called white women oppressive for refusing to address their racial/class/cis/etc privilege, we now call each other oppressive for saying getting up at 6 am is an indisputable fact whenever someone else we like better has claimed that 6 am doesn’t exist.

Ultimately all of this serves the old adage of divide and conquer. Truth and honesty have no meaning because they are determined by the person who wields the most power in the interaction and not by the few “facts” available and the failure to be accountable to anyone or to question oneself so often degenerates into dogma and oppression olympics. Where this differs from other conflicts is that rather than being caused by privilege and power the root causes of the conflict hide behind or are amplified by power and privilege; even the most minute differences become exploitable so as to prevent entry points into similarity and productivity let alone actual facts. Worse people who want to keep talking in this environment either use or are implicated in the Master’s Tools so that their critique of them is rendered useless by the so-called “Masters” themselves, who simply point and say “see everyone lies, everyone oppresses, you just want power over me.” So that we, the marginalized reaching for a brighter future, turn on each other in ways that neither challenge the real differences and oppressions amongst us nor the systems that put them in place. We make liars out of ourselves and our movements even as we call “bullshit” on the people who have put us in this position. Where post-colonialism gave us the bright potential of

  1. decolonizing our own minds
  2. holding each other accountable for our privilege, privilege-evasiveness, and the ways we exert power even in the margins
  3. creating new frameworks and organizing principles, ie resisting the Master’s Tools, in order to imagine and enact a better world
  4. and center hope over disappointment all the while being clear about the oppressions behind and in front of us

Postmodernism has given us only the cult of me. Ultimately, that means that by adopting the tools and ideologies of pomo we all work in the service of Power, Power over our own communities. And we truth is in the hands of Power, we mistakenly work toward our own continued marginalization or the marginalization of others all the while believing we are speaking Truth and disavowing dishonesty.

we conflate saying our subjective experience/truth is valuable with it is infallible.

we spend more time calling folks out than we do understanding their lives.

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§ 3 Responses to Power (with a capital ‘p’) is truth

  • prof susurro says:

    the wordy girl in me loves you for being so succinct (You took all that verbage of mine and broke it down into two perfect sentences) & for hopefully making my words a little more readable. I think we all have to come at truth, power, identity, bravery, etc. in our own way but I hope your time off the blogosphere is helpful to you in finding that way for yourself. I hope to see you in the blogosphere again soon, I have always loved your blog.

  • NaksibendiMuslimah says:

    i do think that post by prof susurro is, perhaps, one of the most insightful and important posts ever written in the blogosphere (i certainly saw a lot of my own errors/failings in it, and will be re-reading and reflecting for some time). i am glad that you brought it to my attention, mai’a, and glad that it aided you in making some decisions for yourself.

  • […] Susurro and Mai’a and I don’t know if I have it in me By joankelly6000 I saw this post by Mai’a after clicking on her site from a link at a blog from which much accurate (in my view) […]

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