The Suffering Olympics


You can’t live in this society andnot be tainted by both racism and sexism. That goes for women and African Americans as well as privileged white men who imagine themselves free of any such notions. You can try, you can be self-aware, you can learn, but you can’t live in this culture and not carry the taint. And you can’t live in this society and not carry those taints because racism and sexism are both malignant symptoms of the same disease: Patriarchy. In the Patriarchy, Power Over is everything. In order to exercise Power Over, one must consistently create new “others” over whom the privileged members of the Patriarchy can exercise power. African Americans and women have been prime targets, but so have gays, lesbians, immigrants, young people, old people, etc. And the Patriarchy prospers when, for example, women and African Americans fight with each other over the tiny piece of the pie that they perceive is available to maybe one, but not more than one, underprivileged group. Arguments about which group has suffered more at the hands of the Patriarchy strike me as pointless. The goal seems to be to rank groups by who has suffered more so that the most harmed group can get first crack at all of the (again, perceived) few crumbs of power that the patriarchs are willing to toss towards the “others.” Ranking, in and of itself, is almost always a tool of the Patriarchy.

Emphasis in the original.

Hecate’s right in that when we turn our guns on each other, everybody loses, and that I lost this way and you lost that way doesn’t change the fact that neither of us won. The high ground in a swamp is a swamp all the same. And I am more than willing to stipulate to whoever is complaining loudest that yes, in fact, your pain is the most special, you get the gold medal, if I give you a quarter will you just go play in traffic already, in the interests of getting some things done. Hecate’s right, in fighting racism vs. sexism we’re only betraying ourselves, and that becomes blindingly obvious every second I watch Howard Fineman and His Astonishingly Red Toupee on MSNBC.

(I’ve been picking on Fineman a lot lately; it’s because he’s such a fucking kitchen appliance, out there every day talking gravely about how deep the chasms we must all cross now, and how critical it’s going to be, that we all get along and learn to forgive and when will our bruises ever fade? It is not in any way belittling the actual hurt actual supporters of any candidate feel to say that everything out of his mouth about “Democrats in disarray” benefits Republicans and is mostly untrue.)

When the fight becomes about how you hurt me more than I hurt you, or my slights being worse than your slights, I lose sight of your hurt and you lose sight of mine. It becomes a contest, where whoever’s hurt the worst wins. I don’t want to win that contest. I don’t want you to win it either. If that is the contest, I want us both to lose, terribly, badly, so horribly that we will never ever ever think of entering it again.


3 thoughts on “The Suffering Olympics

  1. Let’s do golf scoring on this one, ‘k? And no handicaps (golf-wise, I mean).
    Dang, my horrible competitive streak is showing again, isn’t it? This is why I’m not allowed to play Risk anymore.

  2. Brava Big A!
    I keep going back to the quote by Urvashi Vaid at a Pride rally, seems like almost a decade ago:
    “Their issues are OUR issues.”
    She said this in the context of all Democrats, unifying under one huge tent, with immense potential
    for enacting the kinds of reforms that would raise ALL boats (above the swamp, if you will).
    Vaid’s words are as true now as they were then. Further, from physics/metaphysics crossover authors like Zukav, to recent findings about the expansive nature of the universe, the Change (We can Believe) In paradigm for human relations is to go beyond zero sum thinking. Zero Sum has been the m.o. of BushCo; it has saturated social circles, communities, organizations and businesses over the past 8 years. It’s a game that topples its players like dominoes — unless everyone agrees to (colludes & conspires to!) stop playing it.
    As for the whole issue of almost *requiring* categories in order to know “which script to run” wrt to one another, I can only offer the wisdom of Pat Parker, in her her poem “For The White Person Who Wants to Know How To Be My Friend”:
    “The first thing you do is forget that i’m Black
    Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.”
    Maybe we should spend some time pondering the organics of behaving like people, not computers.
    Take an Improv class, take a course in Co-Active Coaching or some other co-creative experience.
    It’s transformative and challenges people to move beyond the pre-written scripts that computers rely upon, but that stymie and stagnate the real and spontaneous lifeblood of each Individual and our experiences that transcend categories.
    Listening closely to Obama’s & Michelle’s speeches, one hears these themes that elucidate and refocus us towards these wellsprings of untapped possibility, which have probably long been hidden, lest they be drilled and exploited in the current brutish climate. In friendlier, mutually trusting and beneficial sporting milieu,
    may we all remember that we ultimately share the same issues, we’re all responsible for relating to one another spontaneously, and likewise, we are all responsible to remember the uniqueness of each one’s experience. Let us put behind us the frameworks of zero sum, explore multiplicity and synergy, and go forward.

  3. So it’s all Patriarchy’s fault. If we just got rid of Patriarchy, all our problems would be solved.
    I see that all the time on feminist blogs I read (mainly Pandagon) and it just seems like an oddball argument to make. I recognize that Patriarchy-as-a-system-of-oppression is bad; women should not be a priori excluded from any positions of responsibility and authority because they are women. I get that. But to go from there to “in the Patriarchy, Power Over is everything; in order to exercise Power Over, one must consistently create new “others” over whom the privileged members of the Patriarchy can exercise power” as if only Patriarchy has that characteristic just seems daffy. You mean in a Matriarchy where women held all the power, they wouldn’t exercise it over “others?” Really?
    Patriarchy isn’t the problem. Patriarchy is a symptom of the problem. Power Over isn’t the problem either. The problem is misuse of authority. The problem is prejudice. And the problem is ignorance.

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