wlotus: (Fountain Pen)
A review of a book [livejournal.com profile] slave2tehtink and anyone else interested in early American history may find fascinating.

In the decades before the Declaration of Independence, thousands of American colonists visited London. Wealthy Southern plantation owners and New England merchants, husbands and wives, children and slaves all arrived in what was thought to be the most exciting city in the world. Some went shopping for exquisite silver, fashionable furniture and the latest books; others traded their goods and engaged in political arguments in noisy coffee houses. A sojourn in London was part of the education of the sons (and sometimes daughters) of wealthy colonial families because, as one contemporary observed, “more is learnt of mankind here in a month than can be in a year in any other part of the world.”

~ From a NY Times Book Review by Andrea Wulf. When London was Capital of America, by Julie Favell.

Read the rest on the NY Times website.

I particularly like the tale of the slave who got himself arrested (deliberately?) just before his master was set to return to America, served his time, and was released a free man who remained in Britain.
wlotus: (Princess)
I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I felt two emotions as I read Nujood's story: rage and pride. I am disgusted at a world where men are more concerned about how other men regard them than they are concerned about the health, safety, dreams, and desires of their wives and daughters. I am proud of Nujood for standing up to that world and doing what many adult women even in more liberal cultures do not have the courage to do: demand a divorce from an abusive tyrant of a male. She was/is a child and should not have been married in the first place, let alone to a monster who raped and beat her...

Nujood intends to become a lawyer, so she can one day help others. As determined as she was to get a divorce in a culture that does not easily grant divorces to women, I have little doubt she will put that same determination to work to achieve her academic goals.

The royalties from this book allow Nujood and her younger sister to attend school, as well as providing for the family's basic needs. Those reasons are strong enough ones to buy this book. But the autobiography is gripping enough to deserve anyone's attention, even if that wasn't the case.

View all my reviews >>
wlotus: (Princess)
The Problem with Women … is Men: The Evolution of a Man’s Man to a Man of Higher Consciousness The Problem with Women … is Men: The Evolution of a Man’s Man to a Man of Higher Consciousness by Charles J. Orlando


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The book starts out humorous and then settles into a practical guide for men who want to evolve into the type of man a woman of class would want in her life. I even learned more than a few things from that section of the book! There is also guidance for women who want to take back their 50% of control in the relationship, rather than continuing to allow the man to control the relationship according to his own whims.

Most important, the book validates women rather than telling them to change themselves to just accept the way men are socialized into bad relationship behavior. Mr. Orlando admonishes men to step up their game, to evolve, rather than demanding that women tolerate their less-than-enlightened behavior. There should be more books like this one in the relationship self-help section of bookstores.

View all my reviews >>
wlotus: (Eyes Wide Open)
"Exoticizing and sexualizing women of allegedly inferior “races” has a long and continuous history in racial thought; it’s just that today they are usually darker-skinned women."

Books / Sunday Book Review
Who’s White?
By LINDA GORDON
Published: March 28, 2010
Nell Irvin Painter’s accessible study shows that deciding who is white has always been heavily influenced by class and culture.
wlotus: (Introspection)
"...I define lesbianism, not merely by the fact that I sleep with women, but as a sense of a really deeply ingrained self; that I have a right to deal my power, whatever it is, however I can manage to do it. The word lesbian for me has a connotation that's far beyond sexual."

~ Audre Lorde, from a 1977 interview with Ellen Shapiro.



Would Lorde have recognized (or doubted) heterosexual women could have that same awareness and ownership of their power? If so, could she then use the word lesbian to refer to them? How did she use the word heterosexual?

Feel free to discuss.
wlotus: (Atlas Shrugged)
The word that has destroyed you is 'sacrifice'....

'Sacrifice' does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious. 'Sacrifice' does not mean the rejection of the evil for the sake of the good, but of the good for the sake of the evil. 'Sacrifice' is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don't.

If you exchange a penny for a dollar, it is not a sacrifice; if you exchange a dollar for a penny, it is. If you achieve a career you wanted, after years of struggle, it is not a sacrifice; if you then renounce it for the sake of a rival, it is. If you own a bottle of milk and give it to your starving child, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to your neighbor's child and let your own die, it is.

If you give money to help a friend, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to a worthless stranger, it is. If you give your friend a sum you can afford, it is not a sacrifice; if you give him money at the cost of your own discomfort, it is only a partial virtue, according to this sort of moral standard; if you give him money at the cost of disaster to yourself--that is the virtue of sacrifice in full.

From Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged.







Yes, I am slowly working my way through that immense speech; I am 20 pages in, with 30 more to go. I applaud my persistence. I also applaud Rand's examples of "sacrifice". She seemed to believe that while it is fine to help others, it is not fine to help others at the cost of your own needs and the needs of your loved ones. Since I have been on the receiving end of guilt trips which would beg to differ, I completely agree with her.

wlotus: (Deep Thoughts)

I have been reading Caitlin Matthews' book In Search of Woman's Passionate Soul. I began reading the book in search of proof that my daimon is a real being who loves and dwells with me; I wanted to know my soul is not alone. To my surprise, when faced with Matthews' assertion in support of that ideal, I rejected it.

A new incarnation of what I already rejected. )

It's interesting that in my fundamentalist Christian days, I equated daimons with demons. Now, I equate daimons with denial of personal responsibility. Understand, though, that I don't look down on someone for adopting either belief (in a daimon or in a divine presence talking to them). Even if I don't find those ideas useful right now--and who knows how my views may shift in the future...I never saw this shift coming back when I was a fundie--I see how those beliefs can be useful for the people who believe in them.

This rejection of the idea that wisdom, comfort, and guidance come from outside of myself is crucial to my development. One of the things my upbringing took from me and I abdicated as a young adult was respect for my inner voice and trust in my intuition. By rejecting this "somebody bigger than you or I" ideal, I am learning to hear and value my inner voice for the first time. If I later become convinced of the existence of a guiding force outside of myself, I will be able to integrate that belief with self-respect and responsibility for my life.

wlotus: (Atlas Shrugged)

I have never heard anyone use the word "selfishness" in this way, but I understand where Rand is coming from. Instead of using the word "selfishness", though, I would say (and have) that a lot of what we call "selfish" is actually just a person taking a healthy interest in their own well-being and refusing to ignore their own needs just to satisfy someone else's whims. I only use the word "selfish" when referring to people who want to do their own thing while stepping on others, which Rand says is not what she means when she uses the word.

The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind.

In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.

Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own interests.

This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions.

"Introduction", The Virtue of Selfishness, by Ayn Rand







I doubt I could ever call myself an Objectivist, because I believe in helping those who are less fortunate, particularly when it comes to evening the playing field for historically oppressed groups. But there are portions of Rand's philosophy which match my own philosophy of life. This is one of them.

wlotus: (Atlas Shrugged)
Her line of attack, which he had found so baffling, had been constant and clear--it was his self-esteem she had sought to destroy, knowing that a man who surrenders his value is at the mercy of anyone's will; it was his moral purity she had struggled to breach, it was his confident rectitude she had wanted to shatter by means of the poison of guilt--as if, were he to collapse, his depravity would give her a right to hers.

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

wlotus: (Atlas Shrugged)

I am two thirds through Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. While I agree with what Galt and his followers are saying, and while I would love to live in a community such as theirs, I have one complaint against them.

They are damn wordy. :-)

wlotus: (Standing Out)

I am reading Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, and the book is stirring anger and fear in me. I am about 1/4 through the book, and there is an overwhelming theme of mediocrity being rewarded, while those who do not walk in lockstep are pushed down until they surrender. When the person who is shining brighter than the rest does not quietly accept pleas from friends to step back, people in authority step in to create rules to force them to submit. The rules are created in back rooms and under tables, and the jealousy and hatred that fueled their creation are whitewashed...in this case with empty words about social responsibility and the need to even the playing field so everyone can achieve. Furthermore, those who do not fall in line are told they are selfish and wrong to fight the power.

Not only does this remind me of current political events in this country, it reminds me of some of my experiences in corporate America. I know it is just a book, but it is pushing all sorts of buttons.

More Nin

Jun. 9th, 2008 11:28 pm
wlotus: (Fountain Pen)

Today I read Nin's House of Incest. I did not get it. It is a prose poem, and the imagery is beautiful...haunting. I like how she used words to paint pictures. I like how her descriptions of people were far more poetic than practical.

Sabina's face was suspended in the darkness of the garden. From the eyes a simoun wind shrivelled the leaves and turned the earth over; all things which had run a vertical course now turned in circles, round the face, around HER face. She stared with such an ancient stare, heavy luxuriant centuries flickering in deep processions. From her nacreous skin perfumes spiralled like incense. Every gesture she made quickened the rhythm of the blood and aroused a beat chant like the beat of the heart of the desert, a chant which was the sound of her feet treading down into the blood the imprint of her face.

In the 1994 foreward, Gunther Stuhlmann write there are obvious links between the various characters in Incest and the real-life people Nin used as their models. But I don't see those links. My inability to see those links frustrated me and kept me from enjoying the book, until I stopped trying to see them and just enjoyed the flow of the words and feelings they provoked.

Delta of Venus, on the other hand, is very easy to understand. It is erotica written for an unknown patron whose only complaint was, "Less poetry. More sex." I can see why Nin finally wrote to the mysterious patron and let him know she and her fellow writers hated him for divorcing the beauty and emotion of sex from the physical act itself. The writing is poetic in places and abruptly sexual in others, so abrupt, it feels like someone suddenly turned on the lights in a dark, cozy space to reveal the room is empty and uncarpeted, with only a bare lightbulb in the centre of the ceiling. In the 1976 foreward, Nin writes that was her first experience with writing erotica. I wonder if she didn't write more of it in later years. I bet her writing would have far surpassed anything Harlequin ever put out.

Complexity

Jun. 7th, 2008 10:11 pm
wlotus: (Fountain Pen)

One could never say Anaïs Nin was a simple woman. There were many facets to her life, and she seems to have preferred it that way. Most of the time. There are many times in her diary where she writes about being frustrated or afraid or worn out from trying to please so many people so much of the time, of giving so much to others and leaving little or nothing for herself. But then she goes right back to writing how glad she is to be able to be there for them. I have learned, as I have read her diaries, not to think the opinion she expresses is the opinion she will hold by the next day. :-)

I can relate to her hatred of politics and her preference to remain in her own, artistic world. It is an ugly business. But the more I see and learn and the more truths I expose, the more I see I cannot afford to take Nin's stance. She involved herself in some aspects of her lover's communist activities out of love for him, but having no interest or belief in communism itself. I have developed an interest in the democratic process in this country, because I see I have been duped. It is about time I bothered to open my eyes and see what has been right in front of me all along. I was proud to sit with eyes wide open and watch Senator Clinton's strong, gracious speech today. Now I and the other members of the PUMA PAC will take it from here.

[livejournal.com profile] labyrinthnight bought me a copy of "Incest", the unexpurgated diary that covers 1932-1934. I can hardly wait to delve into that one!

We saw the new Indiana Jones movie, this afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Now, though, I am happy to curl back up with "Nearer the Moon".

Also, three glasses of soy milk and a glass of cold water later, I think I was dehydrated. I am still thirsty!

wlotus: (Smile)

I am halfway through Nearer the Moon, Anaïs Nin's unexpurgated diary covering 1937-1939. I have a feeling I'll be very sorry when I finish the book. (I have to finish it by 12 June, though, because that is when it's due back to the library!) She tickles me with her descriptions of people, like this one:

Larry, I don't know why, has diminished. He abandons himself to the flow limply--does not retain his color, form, voice. He looks like driftwood--too long in water.
~ 8 December 1937

Her honesty at how she goes back and forth on various topics tickles me, as well. One day, she is completely against communism. The next, she sees the good in it and declares she believes wholeheartedly in it. On the one hand, her inability to make up her mind annoys me. On the other hand, her honesty with herself about what she is feeling at the moment of writing, even if it is opposite what she wrote just the day before, impresses me. Reading her diaries has inspired me to be freer, more honest in mine.

Strange, these women who terrify men, who devour or efface or destroy them, are the women I can handle. I do not have to disguise myself as I do for man. For man I have to act with hidden strength, indirectly, subtly. Women I face in the open. I have not yet met a man who gives me the feeling that I can stroke him, oppose him, hurl myself against him, without hurting him.
~ 8 December 1937

I feel as though I am discovering a friend.

Fire

May. 23rd, 2008 12:09 am
wlotus: (Fountain Pen)

At one point I had begun to find Anaïs Nin's diary overwrought and melodramatic. I stopped reading Volume 2 of the abridged diary for awhile, because I could not tolerate it. But I picked it up not long ago, and now I want more of her! So when I returned Falling Leaves to the Central Library this afternoon, I checked out Volumes 3 and 4 of Nin's unexpurgated diaries. (I will look for Henry and June (Vol. 1) and Incest (Vol. 2) next time.) Volume 3 is called Fire, and begins with the passionate reunification of her and Otto Rank in New York in 1934.

She was a passionate woman, which is a trait I share with her. And I still find it amusing that we share both a birthday and a practice of daily, hand-written journaling. I didn't know either fact until [livejournal.com profile] red_silk_robe sent me Vols. 1 and 2 of her abridged diaries for my birthday, this year! Unlike her, though, I do not hand my diaries over to others to read. (She would give volumes to her friends to read, and that is when she first began receiving encouragement to publish them.)

She was something else...she left her husband back in Paris in order to join her lover, Otto Rank, in New York City. Later on her other Parisian lover, Henry Miller, joined her in New York City in order to keep her from forgetting him. She lied to all three of them in order to spend time with whomever she most wanted at the time. I am disappointed in that aspect of her behavor. But she wrote so beautifully and honestly of her deceptions and passionate feelings that I enjoy reading of them.

Speaking of diaries, I need to buy another safe, to protect my most recent volumes. I bought two more blank books today: unlined Moleskine Reporter's Notebooks. The unlined Moleskine I have already half-filled with fountain pen ink and art marker doodlings is my third. What on earth did I write in, before I discovered these notebooks? When I am not experiencing a depressive episode, the pages pull words out of my pen. Yesterday and today I filled seven pages each day with my musings. Scribbling in my diary is the best part of my day...when I am not making pictures, that is.

wlotus: (Standing Out)

For my birthday I received The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volumes 1 and 2. I inhaled the first volume in a matter of days, couldn't put it down. But the second, which I began right after the first, has been slow work. Suddenly I find her musings pretentious and wordy. I am 2/3 of the way through the volume and can only read a page or two at a time, separated by a week or more.

Did she change, or did I?

More ramblings... )
wlotus: (Standing Out)
Between Christmas and New Year's I read “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert over the course of two days. At first, the book annoyed the snot out of me. Here was yet another person who “found religion/spirituality” as a way to handle the pains she had suffered in life. Religion had not helped me deal with the pains I had suffered in life. In fact, in many ways religion/spirituality had made my pains worse. But I soon realized I had to stop reading the book as a way to look for answers for my life. The book was Gilbert’s story of what has worked for and happened to her, nothing more and nothing less. Once I took that approach, I was able to read without getting riled up. Much.

It’s interesting that not long after reading Gilbert’s book I read (this week) “Honeymoon with My Brother” by Franz Wisner: another book about people traveling the world in the wake of relationship trauma and in the process of figuring out who they were and what they wanted to do with their lives. How nice to be able to afford that luxury. You need to find yourself? Completely turn your back on your old, painful life and go live somewhere else in the world for a few months at a time while following your whims. I don’t begrudge them their travels; I merely wish I and all of the stressed, overworked, unfulfilled people I know also had the financial backing to be able to do such a thing. We could use a year or two of living by our whims in foreign lands to heal and figure ourselves out, too.

I saw the romance at the end of Gilbert's book coming from a mile away. How typical. This time “Stella” got her groove back with an older, affluent foreigner instead of with a barely legal, poor native.

Both Gilbert’s and Wisner’s books have something in common: privilege. The insights both gained were deep, of course, but the privilege in both people’s tales was so glaring, it tended to overshadow their personal growth. Let’s be real: the average person does not have a book advance (Gilbert) or a $70,000 bonus and hundreds of thousands in savings (Wisner) to propel them on their journeys of healing and self-discovery in foreign lands. The average person must fit in healing and self-discovery in fits and starts while still going to (or trying to change) that soul-numbing job/university, living in that house that reminds them of their ex, and trying to fulfill their obligations. Most of us cannot afford to push all of that aside to solely delve within ourselves for a year or two. More than personal memoirs, through my filters their books are testaments to the options money and privilege give to people who are suffering a personal crisis.

Changed

Jan. 4th, 2008 08:40 am
wlotus: (Aum)
I’m often interested in what leads people to read the books they read. I chose to read Desmond Tutu's "No Future Without Forgiveness" after listening to historian Thomas Cahill discuss Dominique Green’s case on the 28 December podcast of Bill Moyers' Journal. Green was convicted (wrongfully, from what I have gathered listening to Cahill discuss the case) of murder, spent 11 years on death row, and was executed in 2004. During his conversation with Moyers, Cahill described how Green had read Tutu's book and had also influenced the other men on death row to read the book. At the end of the podcast, Moyers played excerpts of an interview with Tutu, and Tutu talked about the importance of forgiveness in the healing process. Since I felt I had been struggling with forgivness, I decided to read his book to see if anything in the book could help me, as it seemed to have help the death row inmates ask for and offer forgiveness.

I expected a heavy-handed sermon on forgiveness and the "sin" of not forgiving. (As sick as I am of that sort of presentation, particularly from Christians, I was willing to wade through it in the hopes I could find a crumb of help amongst the dross; that is how badly I want healing.) What I got, instead, was a bit of a history lesson on the gruesomeness of apartheid in South Africa, a glimpse into the start of the South African reconciliation process, and validation of my own suffering. The book stated the importance of forgiveness, but it was always stated in conjunction with other things, not (as it had always been presented to me at home or at church) as the only thing that needed to happen when injustice occurs. Yes, I need to forgive, but I also need to tell my story (even in the face of opposition), because the storytelling often enhances the ability to forgive and heal. Yes, I need to forgive, but I also need some kind of closure (at least) or reparation (ideally); real suffering deserves real restitution. It was the first time I have read a book which talked about forgiveness in terms of both sides of the coin: what the victim needs to receive as well as what the victim needs to give.

Reading the book has changed me, but not in the ways I expected. I expected to read the book, pick out the things which could help me, and come out of the experience more spiritual, able to more easily forgive, and distanced from my pain. What has happened is I have learned to embrace and validate my pain as a way to move towards healing. I hurt for a reason. I need to acknowledge and respect my pain, not shove it deep inside of me in hatred or embarrassment and never talk about it. I have been reminded of the importance of seeking out safe, victim-friendly spaces to express that pain. Some of those spaces may be private, but some may be public, just like the TRC created a public venue for the victims to talk about what they had suffered, and they did not allow dissenters to interrupt the process. I was reminded those who played a part in the injustices may vehemently oppose public disclosure, but that does not diminish the victim’s right to tell her/his story; the opposition would have ample opportunity in some other venue at some other time to tell their version of the story. (In my case, if I tell my story here in my blog, dissenters will need to find their own venue to tell their story; I am not obligated to create such a venue for them, just like the victims who testified to the TRC were not tasked with then creating a way for the opposition to rebut them.) But the most surprising change is that as I have embraced my pain and pondered these things, my pain has diminished. It may never be eradicated; a person who has lost a physical limb often feels phantom pain from that limb for the rest of their life. But where the pain may have been a 9 or 10 before I read the book, it is now somewhere around a 6 or 7, which is a marked improvement. I guess I was expecting to simply be better able to accept swallowing my pain and living with it gnawing at my insides. Instead I am experiencing real relief.

As it turns out, I had not been struggling with forgiveness as much as struggling to swallow my pain. Now that I've been reminded that is not the way to heal, now that I've seen there are real alternatives, I have a feeling forgiveness isn't going to be as much as a problem for me. I've never wanted revenge as much as I've merely wanted to have my grievances heard.
wlotus: (Deep Thoughts)

I am still reading Desmond's Tutu's No Future Without Forgiveness. I wrote the other day about how evening the playing field usually requires revenge, because otherwise those who have wronged me get off free and I am left dehumanized and demoralized. I also said Tutu's idea of not seeking revenge is idealistic. Today, however, I no longer think his idea is idealistic because of one simple matter: the victims/survivors of apartheid were allowed to publicly tell their story in a victim-friendly environment. They were officially hailed as victims/survivors, then they were referred to a sub-committee which would decide what reparations they would individually receive for the gross injustices they suffered. There would be no one-size-fits-all "solution" in an attempt to push things into the closet as quickly as possible. Reparations would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

In other words, there was no need for revenge, because those who were wronged would have their pain publicly acknowledged and would be given some kind of repayment. The government wanted healing and reconciliation, so rather than pushing things under the rug and pretending they never happened, they brought things out to the light and repayed the victims. Granted, there is no way one can truly repay someone for their lost humanity, but by providing some reparation the victims could at least start on the path to healing.

Back to my experiences: there is no public acknowledgment of my pain by those "in power"--I use that term loosely, for lack of a better one...in theory, no one has power over my life, except for me--and there is no reparation for my suffering. Those who wronged me have no interest in healing, just in them remaining top dog and getting away with what they have done. How, then, can healing come to me?

If I had the answer to that question, I could make millions. :-) Not long ago [livejournal.com profile] labyrinthnight and I discussed the conundrum of needing closure for wrongs suffered but being unable to get it through reconciliation with the ones who wronged us. We realize we have to seek closure/healing through some other means, and those means may not be obvious and may not result in healing as quickly as if those who did wrong were willing to acknowledge our pain and their part in it. I suppose it is a good thing that we desire healing and don't want to hold onto our pain and anger; that would do us no good. But I am frustrated that the healing process seems like little more than a vague wish, since I don't have an obvious roadmap for it.

Perhaps I need to write more in this space, continue to publicly testify of my pain. I stopped doing that a couple of months ago, because I felt I was talking to myself, making myself unnecessarily vulnerable, and laying my heart bare for nothing. After all, the victims/survivors of apartheid were invited to testify, and the atmosphere was deliberately focused on them; they did not merely stand on a street corner shouting their pains and receiving acknowledgment and reparation. Perhaps I should continue what I have been doing: writing in my paper journal and writing privately to those who, despite their own busy lives, acknowledge my pain and offer understanding, even if they cannot offer reparations. In a sense, those people have become my Truth and Reconciliation Committee. They may not be able to offer reconciliation to specific people, but they are helping reconcile me to the rest of the human race; I feel less like giving up on all people, thanks to them.

The healing process is a long and painful one. I have been on this path for 9-1/2 years and still there is no end in sight. (My idea of "the end" is when I finally feel whole, rather than haunted.) I used to think the answer was God; if that was true, I would not have remained rubbed raw and vulnerable throughout my many, many years of faithful activity in various churches. If there is an answer for me, it cannot be found by merely praying more, reading the Bible more, running myself ragged to serve on someone's committees, and sitting on someone's hard pews for more hours. I just hope I am on the right track and can someday (soon, please, thank you) look back over the minefield that has been my life and marvel that I survived long enough to get to the Promised Land.


12:11 PM: It is important to note that the victims who testified before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Committee were allowed to tell their stories in their own language, in their own words. They were not ordered how to tell their stories, nor were they subjected to cross-examination, though the perpetrators lobbied for that to happen. The idea was the victims had already had their voices silenced for so long by those perpetrators; now it was their turn to tell their story freely, just like the perpetrators had their turn to shine in the spotlight and turn events the way they wanted them, back when they were abusing those who were now invited to testify.

I've found perpetrators are notorious for crying foul and accusing victims of misrepresenting facts and not telling the "whole truth", when those same perpetrators had long enjoyed the luxury of retelling or hiding history according to their own agendas. When the victims were given the spotlight and allowed to tell their story in their own words, suddenly the perpetrators cried for balance and the hearing of the other side of the story. That is hypocrisy at it's worst, and I've seen it in action in my own life.

wlotus: (Deep Thoughts)

I am reading No Future Without Forgiveness, by Desmond Tutu. In Chapter 2 he talks about a philosophy known as ubuntu in the Nguni languages. He explains, "It is to say, 'My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours....' What dehumanizes you inexorably dehumanizes me." He introduces this concept as he closes his discussion of the process of reconciliation in South Africa following apartheid's dismantling, and he contrasts it to the idea of seeking revenge.

While that sounds wonderful in theory, my experience in all areas of my life has shown that to not be realistic. Most of my life has been about people telling me I am different from, separate from, and less than them. They treated me accordingly. People have justified their abusive or elitist behaviors by naming and punishing me for my perceived sins. They have made themselves happy at my expense and put my best efforts down as inadequate in order to hide their own inadequacies. Yet they are not dehumanized in any way; their lives continue without shame or downfall. They suffer no consequences for their dehumanization of me, so they have no reason to believe it is for the greater good that they treat me with the respect which I tried so hard to give them.

Experience, not pie-in-the-sky philosophy, has taught me the only way for me to have any hope of even standing is to get revenge or see them pay for their sins. When they do not pay I am dehumanized, while not only do they not suffer, not only do they go free, but their lives are elevated on my back and head. There is no ubuntu in my experience; there are only victors and victims, and I am tired of being the second.

Of course, plenty of people seem to have had exactly the opposite experience as me, or they have remained sure there is some good in suffering indignities without seeking revenge. Indeed, some of them seem to have no desire for revenge at all, no matter how nasty others have been to them and no matter how free the perpetrators go without any form of repentence. How?


It bears noting that not everyone agreed with the South African government's decision to institute a system of truth and amnesty, instead of holding Nuremberg-style trials. There are people who insisted (and who probably still insist) the perpetrators should have been forced to stand trial and then publicly punished for their crimes against humanity. So my feelings are certainly not unique. It's just that the people who had the luxury of being in power during that time of South Africa's history had a different viewpoint. Had a different set of people had that luxury, a different set of events would have happened...some say not as good, but I say just different, for we will never know, now.

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