Sunday, May 21, 2017

Touching The Oppressor's Wound

A person who believes in a world created and ruled by an all-powerful, utterly moral Being must, sooner or later, also recognize that the world which this Being has created is moral on a very deep level.  This means that the actions - the choices - of us creatures have consequences.  The consequences are not just moral consequences, but social, relational and even physical, as declared in such succinct Scriptures as, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap," and, "The wages of sin is death."

But when a person makes such an assertion in open company, he is likely to be accused of easy, careless, useless moralizing, especially by people who argue that moral concerns are irrelevant, and that only might makes right.  "Look," they say, "we see people getting away with robbery and murder all the time, and nothing bad happens to them!  The only thing that matters in life is who has the most strength, who can wield the most force, who is cleverest."

Which side is correct?  The answer depends on the evidence a person uses to answer the question.  Over very short time scales, it often appears that those who say that might makes right are correct, for over very short time scales it appears that rich and powerful people really are able to get away with robbery and murder without suffering any penalty.  However, the picture changes in interesting ways as the time scale of study gets longer.  So we find, in books like Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, that there is a large body of evidence that confirms that people who struggle against oppression by nonviolent, non-destructive means have a much greater chance of neutralizing their oppressor than people who adopt the destructive means of their oppressors to wage conflict.  On a certain level, this is a vindication of all of the New Testament teaching of nonviolence as the means of confronting a violent society.  Let the data speak.

But what about the morality of the oppressor - and specifically, what about the morality of the oppressive actions of the oppressor?  Is it true that oppression is an evil act?  Is it also true that oppressors are evil?  That depends, I guess, on who you ask.  However, based on the Source I consult, oppression and oppressors are both evil.  (See, for instance, Isaiah 58, Ezekiel 22, Luke 16, and James 5:1-6.  You might also check out this excellent poem by Dave Barnhart.  Look at the Scripture references at the bottom.)

So if the Good Book is correct in condemning both oppressors and their oppression, I guess that means that the Scripture which says "The wages of sin is death" is being fulfilled in their case, isn't it?  I mean, we should be able to see evidence that they are reaping damaging consequences, shouldn't we?  There is indeed compelling evidence to confirm these assertions.  But you have to know where to look.  A good initial proposition or hypothesis helps in the search, and such a hypothesis can be found in Paolo Freire's book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, where he describes the dehumanization that occurs in the oppressor as a result of his actions of dehumanizing those he seeks to oppress.  (You can read the first chapter of his book here.)  In other words, a person who chooses to be an oppressor damages both his victim and himself by his oppression.

What evidence do we have that this assertion is true?  The evidence can be found anecdotally concerning slave-owners in the antebellum South, of whom historian Albert Murray is reported to have said that their per capita suicide rate was much higher than that of the slaves they owned.  It can also be found in the suicide rate of soldiers and others in Nazi Germany during World War Two.

However, there is abundant modern statistical evidence to document the self-destructiveness which characterizes many classes of wielders of power in the present-day industrial world.  This is seen in the recent high suicide rates among the military personnel of certain countries.  (For instance, see this and this.)  But it is also seen in the high suicide rates among other wielders of power, such as middle managers in business.  By far, the most noticeable example of suicide among those who wield power is the suicide rate among police and corrections officers.  (One study found that most corrections officers do not live to see their 59th birthday.)  The case of corrections officers is especially interesting, given the large number of prisoner abuse cases which have been in the news over the last several years.  (See this for instance.)

But the risk of suicide is not the only damage done to those who wield power - especially physically violent, destructive power - as agents of oppression.  There is also the slow damage wrought by substance abuse and the difficulties in family relationships caused by a job which requires a person to act violently or inhumanely toward some of his fellow human beings for 40 hours a week.  People who work such jobs all too frequently find that they cannot just switch off their aggression when they come home from work.  When that aggression is released outside of its intended environment, it has consequences, as I described in an earlier post.

We see then that wielding dehumanizing power or violence against powerless people really does damage the oppressor.  How then does the oppressor become damaged by the oppression he commits against the oppressed?  What is the exact mechanism of this damage?  For, as Paolo Freire says, "As the oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized."  How does this process work itself out?  For if we can create a model of the process of dehumanization, we can track the process of dehumanization as it works itself out in individual members of an oppressor occupational class.  Armed with this knowledge, we who are among the oppressed can begin to describe the process of dehumanization to our oppressors, providing the oppressors with the warning signs that show that process working itself out in our oppressors.  We now know something of the processes which disciplined nonviolent resisters activate in the agents of oppression who oppose them.  We should also work on developing a strong theoretical model of the self-destructive processes activated by the act of oppression in those who choose to oppress others.

This theoretical framework would form the basis for warning the oppressor that his oppression is killing him as well as hurting those whom he seeks to oppress.  It would be rather like the empirical observations of deaths in heavy smokers which led to the theoretical development and research which formed the foundation for the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General's report on smoking as a cause of death.  Such theory, backed up by research, would also be the foundation of a powerful appeal to the oppressor to give up his oppression - just as the Surgeon General's report was the basis of powerful appeals to Americans to give up smoking.  And such theory and research would serve as a foundation for making a personal connection with the secondary victims of the oppressor - such as the spouses and children who suffer domestic violence and the secondary effects of substance abuse resulting from the jobs held by the oppressors to whom they are married.


hoho said...

Your article is very intelligent;but I have found one problem with telling the oppressor that he is also hurt and oppressed.He does not care!He does not care about the abused,and he does not care that it hurts him also.Here is a good example;numerous Main Land Chinese got very rich over the big industries in China that they own,and make others work for.(It is true there is real slavery that make up the Chinese industries.)Now because of the huge pollution of China,black and brown air,strip-mining underground destroying all of China;the Communist dictator govts.--even the good law about "one child per family"is gone against,we find the same thing;those rich industrialist Chinese take their fortunes,immigrate to the US(in huge communities)& immigrate to Austrailia,ditto.THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT THEIR COUNTRY,CHINA,OR THEIR FELLOW CHINESE!!THEY GET RICH,and leave the country!!THAT is my example;human beings do NOT CARE ABOUT OTHER HUMANS!!OPPRESSORS and polluters do not care!!You cannot shame or educate these super-Narcs,cause they don't care if it also ruins or hurts them..---or their families.they just don;t give a f---. ---And you cannot force someone to care.

Five Hundred Pound Peep said...

I agree the oppressors in many cases do not care.The suicidal ones are ones who still have some conscience left, the rest are like "machines" and "terminators" [see Ollie Matthews videos on malignant narcississm "The Narcissistic Resistance on Youtube] Ho ho is right you cannot educated or shame super-narcissists, they have no shame. Most of our global elite are sociopaths, sociopaths and aka malignant narcs do not have consciences, or souls any longer, they are the biblically seared. They do not CARE. The suicide cases are the ones who had some consciences left who could not bear what they became. I won't cry tears for our oppressors, remember even Nazis left the death camps and played with their dogs and kids at home and held parties for their friends. Sociopaths will bestows favors and smiles on some while seeking to destroy others, and "it's just business". Don't waste your tears and pity on oppressors, usually that is a way to get more abused. The churches are utterly failing in this realm seeking excuse making for oppressors and the most seared wicked. Non-violent resistance, is done to avoid turning into them.

TH in SoC said...

Hello hoho and Five Hundred Pound Peep,
Allow me to make a clarification. I am not in any way suggesting that the victims of oppression should remain in an oppressive relationship in order to somehow try to win their oppressors. Nor am I suggesting the response to oppression which Uncle Tom showed toward Simon Legree in the last chapters of Uncle Tom's Cabin. What I am suggesting in a roundabout way is something that writers on nonviolent resistance have pointed out: that if a resistance movement can cause defections and loyalty shifts among the members of a regime's agents of oppression (such as the police and the military), the chances of success for the resisters go up dramatically. I think that showing the relatives of those oppressive agents how they are being affected by the job the oppressive agents do 40 hours a week is one way to begin to drive wedges in the oppressor's forces. Showing the oppressive agents how much their oppression is costing them in actual terms can also do the trick. The goal is to strip the oppressor-in-chief of the loyalty and cooperation of the agents he relies on to do his dirty work.

TH in SoC said...

Five Hundred Pound Peep, One other, I am a he and not a she! Just sayin... ;)

Five Hundred Pound Peep said...

Thanks for telling me you are a "he".Sorry about that. I am glad you do not think people should remain in oppressive relationships, glad to hear it. With the police and military, sure there can be outreach to the ones of conscience among their number, I have read in some cities they are having problems recruiting police, and maybe this is some of occurring. With military and rest, many are indoctrinated into a certain world view, I do still think the sociopaths don't care about other rewards,they enjoy the human suffering they cause. This is one reason wars continue in society even with many know horrible war is, and reading about it, even if they have not yet experienced it themselves in person.

Anonymous said...

You are speaking in broad terms about aggregate populations. You can't do this if it's a parent or close family member. There is not enough room to apply passive resistance and survive if a parent has turned your family and friends against you. You either go along to get along or watch them as they destroy your whole existence.

TH in SoC said...

Hello again, Five Hundred Pound Peep. Your comment is news to me. Do you know of any specific cases of police departments that are having recruiting problems? Thanks!

q1605, Thanks for your readership and your comment. You are right, I am speaking of how oppressed populations on a large scale can deal with a malignantly narcissistic government or corporate regime. The reason why loyalty shifts can occur among the security forces of such a regime is that the regime itself is not monolithic. Many members of such forces haven't fully slid into darkness, although they are in the process of sliding. If a person can present statistics and case studies showing what happens to the lives of people who slide all the way, I think this information has a potential deterrent effect. Of course, this doesn't work in all cases, as there are people who join such security forces because they are psychopaths. Not much can be done for them. As far as malignant close family members, I agree with those who say that the best solution is for victims is to get far away from them.

Ascah said...

Very intelligent article,it is right you cannot educate or shame super-narcissists, they have no shame. Most of our global elite are sociopaths who do not have consciences.