Those without a voice – discrimination

I am kind of working on the more subtle variations of discrimination. One of my next stories in the sequence, “To sing my song” will focus on discrimination as a important background-item. (The protagonist will not fight or address that discrimination, but encounters and expresses it in many different forms, from everyone and anyone and to all around him and it will shape and has shaped his beliefs)

I intend to be harsh in this story. Meaning that my main character is like a: “dark-grey magician”. He will make awful mistakes himself, will make you crinch and think: “maybe I do not like him that much anymore”. He will be a complete asshole from time to time as his drive and ignorance will make him waltz over others without the awareness of his own deeds.

He will not intentionally hurt people. It is not his intention to be an asshole. Quite the opposite. It is more the collateral damage of his (cultivated) ignorance. That difference is slight but relevant for the development of both the story and the character.

It will probably one of the easiest to write (I simply switch of my: “nice” circuit and bash into other characters) and one of the hardest to make readable and balanced and good as watching someone constantly beating up his/her environment gets boring at a certain point.]

I correct this: “easiest to write”. To do it properly, this story might break my own heart while I am writing it. If done properly it will require me to tap into a darker and more/very unpleasant part of my that I rather avoid. And I realized this night (15-11-2012) advising someone else to “get to the core as much as possible” that if I follow my own advice and if done properly it might also give some more insight in (hurt) parts of myself I have not been looking at for a long time. (Awesome! How many bonuses can you get from writing one story? I am not scared yet.)

“To sing my song” will try to touch most of the elements written down below.

Warning: This is an exploring post. Mostly written to get some ideas more clear to myself. The ideas are just that. My research – if any – is at most shallow. I stereotype a lot to keep it short and simple.

Short version

  1. Stereotypes are not facts – We – in general – are lazy. We use stereotypes as a shortcut to fact-checking. If not aware, we confuse stereotypes with facts.
  2. The role of authority – We assume “authority” did all our homework (fact checking) for us. If someone feels “authoritive” enough, we tend to believe the stereotypes communicated to us to be “true”
  3. Broader than -ism – Discrimination is broader than the known -isms. Take any school-class anywhere (in Holland) and you will find one group discriminating another on an incridible broad range of subjects, from clothing (related to “how rich the parents are) to how cute or ugly you are to behavior to your abilities to do sports or study.
  4. Bullying – Any form of discrimination is considered by me to be – in the very basis – a form of bullying
  5. Individuals versus the group – Discrimination can happen on individual levels and done by groups.
  6. Subtle versus explicit – The discrimination can be subtle and completely unnoticed and unwanted by the person doing it (reminding him or her leading to correction of behavior) or explicit and wanted: from a deep conviction that specific stereotypes about specific groups of people represent all and are true to believe in
  7. Cultivated discrimination – Cultivated discrimination takes these (and other) principles to make a personal statement into something a group of people (start to) believe in.
  8. Strategies related to discrimination – You can resist or join. Joining is easy. You re-direct the beating by applying it yourself, taking yourself mostly out of that equation. Resisting is harder.
  9. Repeated agony = persistent pain – Regardless what the discrimination is and how subtle, if it is repeated over and over again it will create a persistent pain. This pain can lead in some situations to expressions of violence  either aimed at the self or to others and can include murder and suicide.
  10. No voice = unnoticed – Exmaple: European society at large was not aware of sexism until people started speaking up. This did not eradicate discrimination but at least made it discutable and – in some cases – punishable. The same goes for other forms
  11. Revolting – Revolt, the revolution, is an outspoken action by many suffering from the same- or similar abuse. It has a mind and a thought behind it that is shared by many. It is like a riot but with a vision.
  12. Trauma – Someone else once posed this aspect of society. When a society is hurt and people ripped from their homes or violated by history society itself can become traumatized. One aspect is the repetition and transfer of the systems of hurt received so many generation before.

Most obvious forms of discrimination

The most obvious that come to my mind (thanks to countless people who spoke up) are racism, sexism and ageism.

  • Racism assumes that your genetic heritage (usually linked to a physical place) defines “who you are” and “what you are capable of”.
  • Sexism assumes that your gender defines “who you are” and “what you are capable of”.
  • Ageism assumes that your age defines “who you are” and “what you are capable of”.

Then we have

  • Wealth – How much money do you have / do your parents have? Can you afford X/Y/Z?
  • Belief – What do you believe in? Do we support that here? Includes but not exclusive to religion.
  • Knowledge/smartness – Are you below average? Above average?
  • Looks – Are you good looking? Average? Ugly?
  • Body type – Are you slender, obese, normal? Muscular, thin?
  • General appearance – Related to clothing and clothing style. How do you look?  What do you look like? Underdressed? Overdressed? Normal?
  • Personal care – How much effort do you make? What is “normal”, below average, too much?

The list goes on. I think you can find and add at least thirty other factors that play a role and can be used to bully people.

Bullying and suicide – “things will get better”

Bullying has several shapes and forms. It can be subtle. It can be harsh and outspoken. What is there is persistency. Bullying that stops after one single event is not bullying. It is simply bad behavior. When the bad behavior continues and when it is only aimed at a specific set of targets (people or groups of people) it becomes bullying.

Bullying is usually attributed to one person. But it can also be a social thing and non-personal. If you are treated badly by several people because of a specific trait (skin color, speech impairment, whatever) the “bullying” transcends itself to the environment itself.

A bully is in most cases a bigot. A bigot is someone who is “intolerant to others who differ”. Specific types of bigotry are grouped under the aforementioned racism, sexism and age-ism.

When you are the target of constant bullying, several things happen to the mind. I simplify:

  1. Self doubt – Am I indeed less / horrid / untrustworthy / unfit / handicapped / not allowed to speak
  2. Decrease in self-value – I am indeed less / should be quiet / should erase myself from the equasion

Based on several factors, including the will to survive, the response can be:

  1. Resistence / defiance – Basically: “Fuck you”.
  2. Acceptance – Which can be silent, can be outspoken. Basically: “I do not give a shit”.
  3. Submission – Which can be translated as: “I am everything you say I am and maybe even worse. Punish me when I done wrong to your beliefs.”
  4. Anger/rage – “Fuck you” translated into physical (re)action

The result of long-term bullying is damaging. In either way.

In some cases, people will become depressed, suicidal, aggressive and (as indicated) can even commit either suicide or murder.

Having a voice / having your voice being taken away

One aspect in cultivated discrimination is “taking away the voice”. If and when you speak up to address a specific form of discrimination, you are muted. Four ways (out of probably more) to do this:

  1. Ridicule – Whatever you say is ridiculed. Even if and when the facts are there and hard and evident. Your opinions and ideas are made into jokes. You yourself are a joke.
  2. Intimidation – Whatever you have to say can better remain unspoken. If and when you speak up, this is met with some sort of punishment. From direct punisment (beatings, emprisonment, exclusion) to indirect (vandalism to your properties by unknown people, threats from anonymous people, exclusion from groups)
  3. Falsification – Whatever facts you have and whatever ideas you bring forward are countered by other “proof” showing that you are wrong and even showing the world you are “lying”. You yourself are made into a liar and a fraud. If it is not through your work then through yourself.
  4. Misdirection – Whatever facts you have are overpowered by other “proof” that is made mainstream. Whomever is looking for the real data ends up in falsified data instead, learning all the things you are fighting against are “true” instead.

In reality, online, this leads – for instance – in online harassment. Trolling. People attacking people fighting for a good cause with threats and hate-campaigns. Threats like “Shut the fuck up [some horrible label] or I will [something involving rape or murder or more general physical violence] to [you or your dog or your kids]” and “I know where you live” with your address and telephone number displayed in public.

To have a voice about something that really matters can be harsh. It can require a lot of stamina and a very clear reason why to continue even if it draws the attentions of some really crazy sociopaths who seem to function mainly when they can make other people’s live miserable.

Vision: riots versus revolution

Simply put: A revolution is a riot with a vision. A riot is a revolution without a vision. Both stem from a long-term abuse applied to a greater group and a moment in time where all factors combined create a tipping point where the silent masses suddenly come into (violent) motion.

The riot usually is aimed at anything and everything. Whatever is there that makes one or more people angry will be attacked and attempted to be destroyed.

The revolution is aimed at one or a few specific items. It is aimed at overthrowing a specific force in power, to remove the cause of pain. The anger and the frustration are focused and that focal point has a clear definition. It can be a government, a specific idea or a specific object. It has a (group) mind, a brain that actually contemplated the reasoning behind the actions before coming into action.

Stereotypes – from simplified idea to assumed reality

One of the very common denominators that supports any -ism are stereotypes. Stereotypes simplify a specific set of observations (by leaving out a lot of subtleness and exceptions) and is – in most cases – much more efficient and effective than detailed studies.

The disadvantage of these aspects (leaving out, more effective in communication) is usually that the stereotype becomes the assumed reality.

“Truth”, magic and truth-seeking

In general, people have an issue with the “truth”. We have learned that the “truth” is very important. For instance in lying. “Do not lie, speak the truth”. We have also learned that made-up stories can be “true”. As long as nobody protests or investigates, whatever someone claims to be true could be true.

“Truth” itself has been hijacked by bullies for a long time. Where one version of “truth” is: “a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like” another more popular version is: “anything we say or write down as ‘truth’. And if you still insist on proof, we will [fill in your punishment] you”. This way, magical things can become true and truth as well. Unicorns, magical healings, whatever: because my proof of my truth to you can simply be intimidation.

“Truth” and “authority”

As “the truth” no longer has to be based on facts, on things in reality, we can claim anything to be true. As long as we have enough backup and are insane (psychoses, hallucinations) or ruthless enough (for instance because we are sociopaths).

Both “1984” and “Animal Farm” are wonderful — and still readable — examples of this bendability of “truth”.

An important factor, to make our “truth”, Truth” and even “THE TRUTH”, are other people repeating our “truths” and truisms and attacking others who dare to withstand or defy that “truth”.

Any form of discrimination is based on “truths”. Things we think we know and we  assume to be true. Unfortunately, we — in general — are not really trained to distinguish a cleverly packaged fantasy from reproducible facts. We simply assume in most cases that when a person of authority is speaking this “truth” he or she will have done all the fact-checking and homework for us: reflecting the “true state of the subject/object”.

In most cases we are too naive to assume this person might have his or her own agenda, from simply getting his/her hands on our money to the death and murder of entire populations.

As I wrote in an earlier post: we discriminate. It prevents us from eating rotting food, mate with genetically flawed partners and simply following any idiot who claims to hold some kind of “truth”. It helps us develop a specific form of individuality. We observe, we value/weight and choose if we like or dislike what we perceive.

Cultivated discrimination and propaganda

Cultivated discrimination takes this specific aspect of out wiring and feeds it consistently with a specific and one-sided “truth”. It creates “proof” after “proof” of a specific “reality” and by this repetition, combined with some kind of “authority” (written books, diploma’s, a “credible” background)  we suspend our disbelief and assume whatever is told might be true until we believe and even defend it.

Propaganda is one way to cultivate this discrimination. One-sided reporting (in newspapers and other media) is another. As long as we are consistent in our message (denouncing/endorsing specific people, groups of people, products, ideas) we will succeed. As indicated: this works (at least) two ways: endorsing and denouncing.

Cultivated discrimination and -isms

When is something “racist” or “sexist” or “age-ist”?

If you ask me a stupid question, but that stupid question is hurtful because others have asked it before and sometimes with the intent to hurt, are you “-isming” me or just ignorant? Should I speak up and correct you? Inform to which side you are swinging (“-isming” or being ignorant)?

Also: when does ignorance and stereotype-based thinking become hurtful and harmful?

As stated in an earlier post, I decided to start using the two word “cultivated discrimination”. Where non-cultivated discrimination is usually simply individual ignorance (you can not know everything and most people — including you and me — live and make decisions based on very crude assumptions) cultivated discrimination is a specific ignorance shared by a group.

Avoidance, avoidable? – one of the keys

When I am the only one judging you in a specific way, you can avoid that judgement by simply avoiding me.

When my judgement is shared by large groups, you can no longer avoid that judgement by avoiding me. You are dealing with — in some cases — everyone around you.

Can you avoid people judging you for your skin-color, accent in speaking, behavior in specific situations, age, looks, color of your eyes, sex? Can you find neutral spaces? Can you find places where you do not have to brace yourself against that judgement?

Rub it until it hurts

Take a piece of sandpaper. Gently rub it on your skin. Stop.

Does it hurt? Maybe a bit. Usually the “raw-skin” feeling fades after a few minutes.

Now continue rubbing. Ever so slightly. For 10 minutes.

At a certain point the skin will reach that point where the hurt subsides for a longer time. It simply does not fade out. And if the rubbing continues from day to day to day, the pain becomes permanent.

Regardless of how “innocent” or subtle discrimination is, it is kind of like that. When that discrimination is not just individually (and avoidable) but cultivated and done by many people in your surroundings, the pain can become persistent as well.

Join or suffer

There are several strategies with cultivated discrimination. I will try to summarize in six simplified strategies:

  1. Join: Become a bully – Become a bully yourself. Be worse than the one around you. Show that you are even more [whatever it is] than the peers who discriminate you.
  2. Join: Become the (tragic) clown – If you are not strong enough, become the tragic clown. Make the same jokes, but with yourself and your discriminated peers as the target. Laugh about the jokes, make them even worse and so heavy that you supersede the ones others even dare to make.
  3. Exclude: withdraw – Isolate yourself. Stay away from the places you are discriminated
  4. Resist: become an activist – Activists are — especially when the issue is not recognized yet — reversed bullies. Instead of joining the people who discriminate, they attack.
  5. Resist: join the activist – Most people do not have that hardcore “fight, crash and burn” mentality what makes an activist. There are simply too many other things important as well. Too many things to lose. Instead, by joining the activist you repeat the words and vision of that activist without taking the full blow. It is not you who came up with those ideas to begin with.
  6. Resist: Ignore – The one who ignores is in some senses the (tragic) clown without feeding or allowing the discriminators.
  7. Accept – This is basically only possible when you have shifted to new states of awareness where everything is awesome. Also called enlightenment. Or when you had a stroke and that part that does self-reflection no longer functions.

“Join or suffer” seem like a simple strategy at first, but it is not. Discrimination hurts. You can avoid most of that hurt, but the moment you drop your guard or loosen up on your strategy, the reality of that discrimination is there. And you are there as well.

Knee jerk-counter response

In some cases calling someone a “racist” or “sexist” is completely justified. Repeated behavior shows that a specific person indeed thinks you are less of a person because your [fill in whatever] looks/sounds/smells awkward or different and is [fill in whatever]. And within the cultivated and limited perception of that person that internal reality is “real” for anyone and everyone with that specific and discriminated trait.

In other cases, it is either a knee-jerk reaction to repeated pain and a repeated mistreatment.

I have seen situations in which people respond incredibly violent against specific behavior or specific expressions which — when you take them completely out of the surrounding context — can be seen as sexist or racist, but are not. It is like being fed-up wit a specific treatment and — at a certain point — simply burst out any time you encounter anything that resembles it.

In most European countries, including the Netherlands (Amsterdam) and Italy (Florence) discrimination is based on ignorance. There is no real cultivated vision on people with specific traits. Sure there is stupidity and a one-sided stereotyped image on certain groups of people, but this does not have to be (deliberate) racism or sexism. It is something to keep in mind when addressing both sides of discrimination (intentionally and due to ignorance/not being aware).

Reversed -ism

In the worst case scenario, the people who are subject to any kind of cultivated discrimination become the counter-players or mirrors of the systems of that discrimination: treating anyone even resembling (the behavior of) the people who discriminate them as the very same.

Reversed -ism in this context is where the person becomes very similar in mind and mind-set as the people they fight against.

Civilization versus wealth and education

Being wealthy and educated does not mean you are civilized. The Greece upper-class were wealthy and educated, but according to somewhat more modern standards, might not be very civilized with all their slaves and the idea that all people from lower classes were basically worse than animals.

The same goes for the now. Any society that still allows bullies to be in power and spread one-sided ideas that discriminate others is — in my eyes — not civilized.

On my scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is “hardly civilized” and 10 is “very civilized”, Europe scores something like a 4.5.

Sure we have education. Sure most people can read and write. Sure we understand after 30 years of immigration that our specific ways of thinking are not the only one and surely not always the best ways to deal with things. Sure we start to understand that the children of the people who work as street-cleaners can gain university degrees. Sure we start to learn that some of those people in “lower” jobs had university degrees in their own countries and the bad luck that our system did not acknowledge those degrees and that political and financial factors did not leave many other choices.

Sure we start to understand since 1951 that women are more than walking wombs we need to assure male heritors for our civilization, to fill the churches and keep our economy running. Sure we start to learn that women even have a voice and can be rational. Hell! since 1981 we even understand that they can companies and countries without crashing either down into disaster.

Sure we have some religious and conservative freaks who think we should turn back the clock and re-establish the high values of pre-1951 times. Where — in those enlightened minds — rape can still happen with silent consent as long as the rapist continues to be vocal enough in his/her denial. (I am using rape continuously as the many double standards in current society reflect the lack of common sense) and the victim stays silent.

We seem to assume wealth and education automatically includes a package deal with civilization. Like: “Congratulations! You passed the exam for math and history and as a bonus you also get a degree as a medical doctor. Happy surgery!”

Civilization is a construct

Civilization is a social construct. It is mainly based on a set of checkpoints like: “What is enough of a reason to kill someone?”

The bill of human rights is one such a list of checkpoints. If we score 100% we can call ourselves civilized. If we score 50% or less we suck. If we score 70% or more, it starts to look like something.

90% is a nice thing to strive for.

Trauma

As stated: posed by someone else (and hopefully finished as thesis) and based on her observations in the post-slavery society of the Dutch Antillen where her parents were born: that it seemed as if society itself behaved like a traumatized entity. That the events that led to these trauma’s are passed generation by generation: inflicted on themselves and the children.

My assumption is that any culture that has been subjugated by violence (both psychological and physical) has such trauma’s and follows that specific path of repetition: continuing to inflict that same damage upon itself and new generations.

Speaking up – it will not get better otherwise

To remind the population at large that we still are not there, that regardless of it’s relative wealth (most people in Europe live in a house that protects against the seasons, have access to at least 1500 calories of food and can reach an age of 75 in relative health) we are still a long way from an ideal situation where everyone is treated with equal rights it is important that people continue to speak out.

It is easy to let the things pass that nobody speaks about. What is not brought into the attention of the many simply does not exist and easy to deny.

This goes for all kinds of discrimination in all layers of the population. From age to genetic and cultural heritage to the way you look and the kind of clothing you wear and can/want to/will afford to wear.

Discrimination is completely indiscriminate. It is a state of mind more than anything else. If it is not the skin color it is your face or your hair.

Bullies are bullies. Opinions are opinions. “Weak targets” are “weak targets”. Repeated mistreatment is repeated mistreatment.

“Things will get better” which was a “successful” campaign a few years ago is simply bullshit. They will not, unless some start to speak up and who share that pain others join.

The target: education – systems of inclusion

It is good to address the issues. It is more important to address education. But what is the message?

“Do not discriminate?”

Or “cooperate?”

I believe one of the most important and most  hardest nuts to crack is to reach a system of inclusion.

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