Monthly Archives: September 2007

Courtney Martin

On How Using Power Means Being Responsible.

In one of my departments I have an administrative role. Nobody understands how I accomplish so much with such little trouble. It is because I inform myself well, assert power in a useful way, look ahead, and keep up with things. I do this because I am working on behalf of others. I would not want to be irresponsible to them. Now I am learning once again to be responsible to myself, as I was much more before Reeducation – at work, but also in life.

Some Instances of Magical Thinking. On Misguided Control.

I was eating disordered in high school. I believed that if I could stay stably at size 5, never bubbling up into my natural 7, the family would be happy. I would feel free, my parents would stop drinking, and everything would be all right. And one my main disagreements with Reeducation was that it believed the same thing: if we could just be more perfect, everything would be all right.

If we succeeded, our associates would follow this path of health. This exertion of influence upon others was the permitted goal. To strike out on our own, to leave leaden shoes behind, would be an attempt to “control reality.” We should become the purest of roses and live in a hill of thorns. That is, of course, exactly wrong, and it is how, in Reeducation, I learned to abandon myself. I would have been wiser to keep control and ownership of my own life.

On Perfection. A Further Instance of Misguided Control.

On woman in patriarchal society as defective by definition, Lakshmi Chaudhry writes on Courtney Martin’s book:

“I feel girls are even more pressured than boys because we have to ‘make’ something of ourselves, whereas for boys it’s natural to become [something].” So no wonder middle school girls are just as worried about achievement (73 percent) as appearance (74 percent). These fears only get worse in high school, but the average elementary school kid is already well on the way to supergirl neuroses: 59 percent are worried about getting good grades; 54 percent are concerned about their appearance. In her book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, Courtney Martin writes, “Our mothers had the luxury of aspiring to be ‘good,’ but we have the ultimate goal of ‘effortless perfection.’ This was the term that young women at Duke University used to describe ‘the expectation that one would be smart, accomplished, fit, beautiful, and popular, and that all this would happen without visible effort.'”

Martin argues that young women from the ages of 9 to 29 have internalized the go-girl rhetoric of feminine achievement as a duty to excel. “[My mother] told me, ‘You can be anything you want to be.’ My translation: ‘I have to be everything.'” Or more accurately, be the very best at everything. Anything less is interpreted as failure: a failure to perform, and therefore a failure to please; ergo, a failure to be worthy. “We have called this insatiable hunger by many different names–ambition, drive, pride–but in truth it is a fundamental distrust that we deserve to be on this earth,” writes Martin.

Martin’s book is about eating disorders, but it appears that structure of eating disorders is also that of many other difficulties. And the message limit yourself and be perfect is, of course, a contradiction. Perfection is a large and tranquil thing, and anguish and repression cannot lead to it.

On Contradictions.

It is impossible to be perfectly obedient/conformist and at the same time perfectly independent/original, but Martin’s analysis suggests that this double attitude, or double way of being is precisely what is demanded of women today. We are to be perfect, in an impressive and yet non-challenging, conformist way, if we are to be here at all.

I note that a similarly double attitude is required of members of alcoholic families – achieve in such a way as to demonstrate that this situation is not in fact chaotic. A contradictory attitude seems also to be required of academics: be passive, quietist and conformist, but produce very original work. 

On Freedom.

And it appears one may exert power and control in the pursuit of perfection, and even of happiness, but not in pursuit of freedom. But it was always freedom which interested me. And freedom without power is alienation, I discern, and I am calling my powers back to me.

Axé.

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Playful, Violent, Dreaming, Waking, Pure, Comical

Playful

I am 52% Geek and 74% Addicted to Blogging. Now you, too, can play these pleasant games.

Violent

I reiterate that the dicta “you have no power,” “it is ‘dysfunctional’ to believe you have any power,” “you must renounce power” and all similar statements are arguably the meanest and most destructive which can be pronounced.

It was what I was told as a child, to make it clear that I was at the mercy of the adults and that there was no exit. It is what torturers say to their victims – indeed, it is the point of torture.

Indeed, it has long been known that if you want to disable someone and rob them of their selfhood, what you must do is tell them they have no power. Slaves rebel and escape when they realize they do in fact have power.

The passivity and hopelessness Reeducation instilled, the self-doubt it sowed and the confidence it siphoned off, were and are an evil spell.

Dreaming

Right now I am killing Reeducation, which I have met on the street, by stabbing it in the stomach with a sharpened stick. I am picking up the corpse by the stick I have run through it and tossing it into the bayou.

As you can see, I am not Gandhi and I think there is such a thing as violence in the public service. If I were a great wind, I would blow every “reeducative” entity off the face of the earth. I do not care if some of them are “exceptions.” I am sure they come from evil and are here to do ill.

If the earth were swept clean of their wicked spell, the ceilings and skies would be clearer and more transparent. The snarling gnomes of Reeducation would not try to hold us down in tiny warrens. One would walk abroad freely.

Reeducation is an agent of the repressive state and I prefer witchcraft.

Waking

Reeducation felt I was too powerful and too realizada, especially given my gender and Reeducation’s view of my background. I really did try to comply with Reeducation and, although I see that this is an error, I carry it in me in ways I still do not always see.

This week I went to see the industrial psychologist we all use because of the permanent state of war which exists in one of my departments. He said I was too accepting of the situation and not exerting enough power. He is perfectly right, although it is still hard for me to believe it when anyone speaks out against the repressive and terribly pessimistic principles of Reeducation.

Pure

It would be very nice if Reeducation would simply wither and die but it appears I must still take it on face to face. And the ravages of Reeducation still most closely lodged in me are that one is powerless and must accept this. One must not ask, seek, expect, attempt, or hope for anything. But I do not think it is possible to live this way except as an inmate in a prison or a hospital. Do you?

Power and control were the things Reeducation felt I had too much of. And Reeducation was invented for people who were locked into relationships with addicts, which I was not – although I would say that being locked into Reeducation was rather like that, and that being locked into the dynamic in the more problematic of my two departments is like that. What I have always found, and what I continue to rediscover, is that the way to escape from such relationships is not to renounce power and control, but to assert them. “Freedom NOW!” “Amnesty NOW!” “Independence NOW!” “Peace NOW!” were the slogans shouted in the streets when I was a child; I resonated with them then and I approve of them today. And no, I am not impatient. I simply do not see the point of holding things back when they are ready to go.

Comical

And the ideal subject of Reeducation, I am told, is one who does not rule the self and attempts instead to rule over others. I had such feelings at five. I thought I could prevent my parents from killing each other by allowing them to kill me. I would have done better to realize that I could not keep them from killing each other, but that I could at least remove myself from danger. Had Reeducation seen this and pointed it out to me then, it would have been useful. But to atone for having had such misconceptions then by renouncing adulthood thirty years later, as Reeducation wished me to do, was ridiculous.

The problems with Reeducation on the questions of power and control were (1) its assumption that one must be an egocentric powermonger and (2) its multiple misconceptions on where it was appropriate to have and to exert power and control and where it was not. I had long arguments with Reeducation on the matter of when such assertiveness was not only appropriate, but also necessary and likely to be productive. In these arguments I claimed I could only control myself, my career and my life. Reeducation said I should abandon this illusion of adulthood, hand control of my life over to alien wills, and reinitiate the attempts to control problematic people and situations I had abandoned in late childhood.

Reeducation also placed a very great value on helplessness, whereas I did not. And I can in fact be very capable. I do not think Reeducation understood that my optimism and confidence in life came from competence, not from imaginary “godlike” powers. According to Reeducation my belief that I could not control entities outside myself was “faithless.” My belief that I could control myself was “grandiose.” And I disagree utterly. And I was much more lucid before Reeducation than afterward. And Reeducation was about repression, about learning to limit oneself. And I am learning to reclaim power now, and I do not care what Reeducation would say.

Axé.

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“Some Things Just Go Together”

…like George Bush and front running Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal, says Democratic candidate Walter Boasso. See his hilarious video on this matter (it’s the one called “Together”).

urmysunshine

I am trying to find out who to vote for. New Orleans councilwoman Shelly Midura supports Boasso, a state senator from St. Bernard. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers supports Foster Campbell, currently the state public service commissioner. He is from Bossier Parish, and says he will eliminate state income tax and charge a user fee on oil and gas processing. This will create an economic boom.

Also running as a Democrat was Vinnie Mendoza. Like Boasso, Mendoza emphasizes opposition to the war. He says he has friends in Japan who will help us with our problems. Now, however, he is only running for insurance commissioner. Then there is an independent candidate, John Georges, who does not seem too bad.

I suppose Boasso is too much of New Orleans to win, but right now he is my favorite. Everyone says we are destined to have Jindal, but I do not like him.

Axé.

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Cinco centavitos

We have not been singing nearly enough lately, and now it is the weekend. This is Julio Jaramillo, the Nightingale of America: “Quiero comprarle a la vida / cinco centavitos de felicidad” – “I would like to buy from life / just five cents’ worth of happiness.”

Axé.

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Sur le pouvoir

That you should not exert power or have control in your life was one of the main themes of Reeducation. I have explained to myself before, in numerous posts on Reeducation and the relevant comments threads, why this is a fallacy. I still have a bad habit of relinquishing power. Relinquishing power means neglecting the self, which causes fear. In Reeducation, legitimate fear is reencoded as lack of faith, and fear without object is anxiety, which causes that dreadest of all dread diseases, back pain. At the center of this labyrinth of Banes, however, is their cause: the renunciation of power. I spent a day reconquering power and in doing so vanquished many Banes. Wednesdays are excellent days. They are dedicated to Iansan, who rules the winds, and Reeducation is a Christian and I am not.

Axé.

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On Discerning Abuse

I

For someone as sophisticated as myself, I can be quite slow on the uptake. I always wondered why, if a certain relative of mine really felt I were as evil as he said I was, he still extended social invitations to me. I always felt quite odd, like the poor cousin in a Victorian novel, as I had been informed I was only barely tolerated. I did not know why I was being contacted at all. But just now as I was opening Venetian blinds, it dawned on me. Abuse is intended, precisely, to destabilize its object, and to place that person in an abject position, to cast them down.

You have always done something wrong, and you do not know quite what it is or how you could avoid it, and must always be making up for it or being careful to head off any new onslaught.

What is so interesting about this last paragraph is, it is also what abusers say about being called on their abuse. “I do not know what I have done.” “You confuse me.” “You are putting me down.” “I do not know how to please you.” I often hear husbands say it about wives, when it is quite clear to the casual observer what they have been up to. A former friend used to say it about me, no matter how clearly I explained my complaint. There are also men who say it about women in general.

My former student’s Olympic-rated domestic violence counselor in Madrid said this is a typical pattern. It is not that you are also being abusive or are the actual abuser, it is that they want you to think so. The main problem with abusers, furthermore, is not what they do to you, but what they can get you to do to yourself. And that, of course, explains my infamous Reeducation.

II

It is worth remembering the general principle that abuse is designed to tie people to the abuser. The abuser’s objective is precisely not to alienate people. It also seems clear to me that that feeling of being in placed by someone else in an abject position in relation to them is indicative of an abusive relationship.

I have at various times successfully stood up to people who have done abusive things. Some people say they did not mean to be like that and will stop – and they do. Others say they want to be like that and will not stop. If they cannot be that way around me then they will find someone else – and they do. They know their game is up. A third type does not take no for an answer.

My Reeducators seemed to believed that abuse was an epiphenomenon of overindulgence in intoxicants. Indeed, some people get high so they can do what they are impelled to do – or in wars, what they are ordered to do. I have noticed, however, that the most skilled abusers need no chemical aids. They do it cold. It would be nice to be able to say that it was a psychological issue. I suspect it is an ideological one.

Axé.

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The Manufacturing of White Victimhood

Clearly, race-based scholarships pegged to people of color are not based on notions of racial superiority or innate difference. They are predicated only on the notion that there have been real differences in opportunity on the basis of race, and that these opportunity gaps should be remedied to the greatest extent possible. Secondly, such efforts also fail the test of institutional racism. Student of color-scholarships do not perpetuate racial inequity–if anything they would have the effect of reducing it–nor do they prevent whites from enjoying equal opportunity. Indeed, without affirmative action efforts, in admissions and scholarships (and for that matter employment and contracting), whites would enjoy extra and unearned opportunity relative to people of color, thanks to pre-existing advantages to which we were never entitled in the first place. As such, to deny whites access to a miniscule percentage of financial aid awards is not to deny us access to anything to which we were morally entitled. We are “losing out,” if you will, only on something to which we have no moral claim: namely, the ability to keep banking our privileges, and receiving the benefits (be they scholarships, college slots or jobs) of a system that has been skewed in our favor.

Read the whole piece.

Axé.

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Deliberate Gentle Love Master (DGLM)

My question is this: if I test so well, why is it that I am not on a beach somewhere right now?

Appreciated for your kindness and envied for all your experience, you are The Maid of Honor. Charismatic, affectionate, and terrific in relationships, you are what many guys would call a “perfect catch”–and you probably have many admirers, each wishing to capture your long-term love. You’re careful, extra careful, because the last thing you want is to hurt anyone. Especially some poor boy whose only crime was liking you.

We’ve deduced you’re fully capable of a dirty fling, but you do feel that post-coital attachment after hooking up. So, conscientious person that you are, you do your best to reserve physical affection for those you respect…so you can respect yourself.

Your biggest negative is the byproduct of your careful nature: indecision. You’re just as slow rejecting someone as you are accepting them.

Your exact female opposite: Half-Cocked Random Brutal Sex Dreamer.

ALWAYS AVOID: The False Messiah (DBLM), The 5-Night Stand (DBSM), The Vapor Trail (RBLM), The Bachelor (DGSM).

CONSIDER: The Gentleman (DGLM), someone just like you.

Link: The Online Dating Persona Test.

Axé.

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Cecilia Bartoli

It is the weekend, and we must sing! As you may know, I am a Voi che sapete aggregator. Cecilia Bartoli’s version is one of the best. She is also very good looking, with excellent earrings.

Axé.

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On “Feeling Unsafe”

I

Does the average person go around looking over their shoulder, feeling “unsafe?” When I left Reeducation, the only explanation it would accept was that I “did not feel safe” in it. I played this card in desperation, for Reeducation was saying but, but, but, how did I expect to live without it, and so on. It refused to have an adult conversation, or allow me to beat a civilized retreat. But I had learned that the phrase “I do not feel safe” was one Reeducation could hear.

I had picked up the phrase from Reeducation itself, which considered “not feeling safe” to be the normal, or at least the expected condition of persons. One of the things Reeducation found suspicious about me was that I did not seem to to feel unsafe unless there was something dangerous actually happening. That meant there was something wrong with me. It meant I was so damaged that I did not have the irrational fears which signal normalcy.

I knew, of course, that I was not safe emotionally with my family. That was, after all, why I was in Reeducation. I wanted to understand and handle the situation better, so as not to feel so unsafe with that group of people. I had no reason in the rest of my life to feel unsafe. What was unsafe, of course, was the set of ideas Reeducation taught. When I remember how vibrant I was before Reeducation, I am in awe.

So I am curious: does the average person, in the absence of clear and present danger, really go around looking over their shoulder, feeling “unsafe?” Reeducation presented this feeling as healthful and self-protective, but it never seemed so to me.

II

Both my Reeducator and the abusive man I got involved with years later told me that I was unreasonably placid about the things that can go wrong in a day, unreasonably confident that things could be improved with some effort, and unreasonably calm and accepting in the face of bad news. They used to tell me it would be more appropriate for me to be more agitated, sadder, angrier.

Willing to consider their point of view, I would try to feel as they wished me to. If I succeeded, they would then ask why I could not take the calmer or more stoic attitude they had criticized before.

I eventually saw that this tactic on the part of my abusive man was a mere technique of emotional manipulation, undertaken for recreational purposes. That is one of the main ways I came to see that my Reeducator, and the discourse of Reeducation itself had been similarly abusive.

III

Today a friend and I went looking for houses in and around smaller towns. If we sold our houses and bought out in the country, we could afford to travel more. In each town we were soon told which areas were “unsafe” and we went straight for them.

Axé.

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