Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Authority is Only Acceptable When it is Turned Against Oppression Itself

The best approach to the application of authority to situations of oppression is a materialist one. Exercises in avoidance and punishment rarely do much to solve the issues of oppression and exploitation. The underlying social relations have to be confronted to resolve oppression, and this can only occur by an open, systematic inquiry into the relations of oppression. Furthermore, the rate at which oppressive authority figures are able to freely express their own bigotry is directly proportional to the depth and accuracy of investigations into the same oppression.

Authority does, in fact, develop legitimacy when turned against oppression (and by extension oppressors). For that reason, leftists frequently correlate bigotry in language with oppression that follows a bigoted division. Leftists internalize a phobia (embodied in a self-restriction) of (from) the language of the oppressor, and this is not to be ashamed of. As the oppression diminishes, so, too, will the sting of the language and the internalization of authority against that language. This is all in keeping with a revolutionary overthrow of the structure of oppression, and fine at that.

What needs to be questioned, however, is the pedantic nature of this phobia when you apply it socially. The fact is that it does nothing to reveal and excise the oppression it seeks to confront. To ban the language of the oppressor is to conceal the identity of the oppressor. It internalizes the sense of oppression on all sides. It fights against the recognition of oppression and in fact insulates oppression.

In fact, just the same kind of thing happens in politics occasionally. The state will step in and demand that the capitalist class dampen some of its most egregious and vulgar offenses against the working class, or foreign indigents under the boot of the international military community. The effect is always the same, and this is why so many industry interests (often in the form of "maverick" board members and similar "activists") will support the state regulation. Since the real transfer of value and the real relations of control are being deliberately obfuscated, the oppression in consideration is never confronted - only its egregious outward manifestations, the "language" of oppression, is confronted. The real violence is never acknowledged. It is, in fact, insulated from criticism.

Many leftists seek a purist kind of rhetoric, and a social purity in the context of pervasive, material oppression. The complex relations of power manifested in social and political bigotry are confronted (by them) only in the most superficial realm. If one wanted to confront them head-on, they might seek a purely open kind of investigation into the causes and actuators of oppression. They might seek a purist excision of the determined causes of oppression. All that would make sense, which would bring us to the thesis:
Authority is only acceptable when it is turned against oppression.

It’s “Occam’s razor” at its best. When applied to a simplified dynamic (i.e. oppressor-oppression-oppressed) you use a simple solution: in this case, eliminating the link that defines the relationship, oppression. Of course, the real-world dynamics aren’t that simple, so this only works in the concept stage.  Any such investigation and solution will be messy at best, and we probably will “step on the toes” of the oppressor, and those that use the language or means of oppression. And so be it: to make a revolution, they say, we must break a few eggs.

But why confine yourself to or emphasize the ‘breaking [of] eggs’? As I previously argued in another medium:
“… the focus of prisons must shift from a pseudo-punitive to a totally rehabilitative one. In a progressive, reasonable society we have no place for punishment, and every need for a positive, intensive rehabilitative system which guarantees reduced sentence time for behavior which has proven correlation with lessened rates of recidivism. In other words, prisoners which display behavior indicative of non-recidivism are given years off their sentences." -Dean
Punishments and indeed all forms of impotent authority are not even directed at the solution of the problems in question. This certainly applies to our attitudes to oppressors. We should treat oppression like any other social problem: engage in a rational scientific approach to its excision.

Obfuscating oppression by banning its lingual manifestation works against any investigation of the same. Perhaps this is why Marx’s criticism of capital carried such weight in an age when early capital reached its most extreme images of privation. The oppressors, in tune with the liberal bourgeois elements of worker movements, deincentivized the most obviously immoral forms of capital. What followed was a far more powerful form of exploitation, free from much of the baggage of self-awareness. Why, then, are self-avowed Marxists calling for the same obfuscation?

(This is largely in response to a string of posts at Angry Marxists and Divide By Zero (dbzer0 #2))

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