on self betrayal and social power

May 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

(lyrics at the end of the post)

after a few conversations i have had in the past couple of days i wanted to sketch this out.

everyone has some degree of social power/privilege.  privilege is like a drug, it is easy to become addicted to it.  and our addiction to our social power clouds our minds/blinds us to the possibilities and opportunities that exist in the world.

the good work we do in this world is not because of our social power, but in spite of the addiction and blinds of our social power.

an example: when i first started working in the west bank, it was common stated knowledge that ‘we use our white privilege to get in the way of violence’.  of course, i had no ‘white privilege’ and frankly, i had less class privilege than most of the internationals with whom i worked.  does this mean i was a less effective activist?  nope.  if anything, i felt that i was more effective, because i was not seeing the occupation through the lenses of white privilege.  i saw possibilities for action and mobilization that other people missed because they saw palestine through the narrow view of whiteness.  most of their ideas, required white privilege in order to be implemented.

their vision was cloudy. palestine does not need white folks to be free.

this is not to say that those who have less social privilege, are better activists.  this is to say that they have greater possibilities for having a clearer vision of the situation at hand.

when all you have is a hammer, every situation looks like a nail.

how do we counteract the effects of our addiction to our own social power?  through a spiritual discipline, through the hard work of seeing clearly through the murkiness.

one of the lies that privilege whispers to us constantly is that our privilege allows us to be more effective in transforming the world we live in.  but our social power is predicated upon this current abusive society.  privilege does not give us the power to change this society.  it gives us the power to be comfortable in this society.  and as one writer says: comfort is a drug.

how do we betray ourselves?

we betray ourselves when we identify with the stories, dramas, thoughts, beliefs swirling and floating through us, rather than with the one who is witnessing all of these socially-constructed beliefs and feelings.

but if we identify as the witness, then how do we know what to do?  how do we know how to respond the present situation/moment?

as our vision of the situation becomes clearer, and we see our place in the situation as it is, and not simply as we have been told it is or would like it to be or are afraid for it to be.  and in response, we do what the situation requires.

and perhaps that situation requires/calls for us to use our privilege/social power.  when the situation does call for that, if we are doing the necessary (spiritual) work of being present, then we will use our privilege in the least harmful way possible.

but i am seeing that the more present i become to the situation, the less my privilege seems less like a tool and more like a blinder.   yes, it can be a tool.  and it is definitely a drug.  and like any drug i have to be careful how i use it.  not simply because drugs are powerful and potentially dangerous to me and others.  but because through my addiction to the drug, i lose sight of the world in which i live and the people i love.  i stop using the drug. and it starts using me.  and i start believing and identifying with the lies that society tells me about life, about who i am, about the possibilities that exist in the moment.  i am betraying myself.



lauryn hill

social drugs

Afraid to address
The reality before me
Too proud to confess
That im addicted to a lie.
So I seek temporary feeling
To replace reality
Though the truth is telling me Ive died,
sedate it, don’t confront it
I hate when I find out
That I can’t get what I wanted
This emotional tantrum
Has become sort of an anthem playing everytime i need TO TAKE A LITTLE TRIP

To hide this condemnation
I’ll find a combination
Of a man made stimulation
to deny my situation
Now this unreality
is distorting what I see
Reporting back to me
A sense of false security

So in my imagination
I must find a recreation
DESPERATELY and in search of WAYS
To alter my sensations
theres no equilibrium
inebriated till im numb
intoxicated till im dumb
to avoid confrontation

these social drugs
messing with my mind
these social drugs
telling me im fine

these social drugs
messing with my head
these social drugs
telling me im dead

now this chemical analogy
is our emotional reality
these political
and ethical stimulants
and the SOCIAL etiquette
wont let us be too upset
with the way things really are
your taught to camoflage regret
and our religious structures
tell us GOD want us to suffer
to support a situation
we all know is obligation
and if you shun the complication
they’ll just gun your repuation
like mob intimidation
to enforce participation

see they need to keep us fiends
to their lies and broken schemes
and if you find another means
your told your being too extreme
and if you wanted to get clean
theyll just pull those social strings
holding up their social nose
defying noble things

now were all stuck in tradition
unable to state opposition
to afraid to contradict
the expectations of the system
oh and the harsh reality
is they’ve made Grace for you and me
instead of saving you and me
theyre just enslaving you and me

these social drugs x 4

know what i mean? x 2

these social drugs x until fade out…


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