Not that it’s usually my habit of taking advantage of a surprise group gathering to air my grievances about anything with which members of that group might be involved, but today, I felt strongly and ear-reddeningly tempted.
An old friend was visiting. Since the birth of her child and departure from the city, it’s been hard to stay in touch. A course nearby has her in the city for the week with her partner and newborn. She invited a handful of friends to chat over lunch. It was a bit last minute for me to find out that our reunion would be a group affair, but it seemed like a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Being that I love this friend, I went, regardless of my instinct to question my comfort levels around other invitees.
After food arrangements were figured out and the baby was happily toddling up and down the hallways, dutifully disturbing meetings and the chaplaincy office, my friend, let’s here call her Galix, spoke up with what felt like a respectably bold question:
So, what’s new? How’s this city feeling lately? — you know, the community and stuff…
Having just days ago reflected on how a handful of survivors, myself included, appear to be at the fulcrum of apparent schism within “the community”, my choice to respond came swift and not unlike a strong and sudden southerly wind as I attempted to assert the notion that it was a topic of contention. I was pleased that, given the context — friends in whom I’d come to feel disappointed and hurt by, a short timeline and what was to otherwise be a friendly lunch — there was some vague back up to my reply.
I really think that it depend on who you ask.
I said. And luckily came
and what kind of week they’re having.
from beside me. Another friend chimed in with a reply that echoed the sentiments of uncertainty and communally-felt disconnect.
Perhaps it’s all projection on my behalf. Over a year ago, I dropped a pretty heavy A-bomb: “Abuser” — an apt description for my ex-partner and one that I made as public as possible given the various restrictions I was under (and still am). For those who’ve had similar experiences, I’m certain it would suffice to say that did not go over all too well. For the handful who have not been through this experience, or sought to resolve it, you may not have noticed the effects.
Here’s one: People Stop Talking To You.
Q: Have you seen So-and-So lately? How’re they doing?
A: I don’t really know… they seem to be keeping to themselves.. I guess they’ve got a lot of shit to work through these days…
Q: Hey, what’s up with WhatsHerName? I haven’t heard much from her!
A: She doesn’t really come out to things anymore, I don’t really know what’s going on with that.
Q: So, how are things going in the community n stuff? Everyone doing okay these days?
A: That’s a good question — I haven’t done much to figure that out or participate in communal issues, so I really can’t answer that with much confidence whatsoever.
As someone who’s become pretty obviously isolated by the lack of practical solidarity within “the community”, I am very confident in how I want to answer these questions:
The community feels disconnected and unreliable.
Disbandments and “Are-We-Still-Not-Over-This-Yet?s” put survivors in at least one very predictable situation — Isolation. We sense there are very few who believe us or validate our experiences, and even fewer who which to support us in coming to a healthy resolve. With this in mind — and if the situations are anything like my own wherein we’ve spent up to years dealing with the aftermath of abuse in our lives — what else are we to do?
“Keep trying,” some may say, “they will never change unless you show them how.” Solid advice for those who have perhaps not being “showing them how” for several years.
There’s a point at which you begin to see it differently.
The amount of energy we put into encouraging people to Wise Tha Fuck Up has gotten some of us: 1) a solid inventory of individuals who need to wise the fuck up; 2) lost friends and a weakened social life; 3) endless hours to list on an activist resume under “feminism” and “support work”; and 4) some nasty backlash from critics of “vigilantism”. Perhaps it’s a contributing factor to being in what appears to my finally being in a relationship with a lover who isn’t abusive. That said I’m not about to neglect my losses and put all my eggs in one basket.
All these facts in mind, many of us in this boat find ourselves rowing faithfully toward a relatively uninhabited shoreline, embracing introversion (in spite of what sometimes feels like excommunication) and, of course, writing until our fingers bleed. We don’t have energy left to put into “the community” after we note the promises of reciprocity so often associated with community have been made with little foresight for reality when situations of magnitude arise.
So, How is the Community? Sadly, it still depends what wrung on the ladder you’re viewing it from.
Part II of a two-part project inspired by a produced by Interval House of Hamilton-Wentworth.
Abuse, much like any form of oppression, is born of the belief that one person (or group) has “the right” to control another person or group. This kind of control is authoritarian and dominating.
We learn, as we are socialised, conditioned and formally educated, that Power and Control are necessary for “success”, often times a concept synonymous with “happiness” or “fortune”. Those who are most quickly able to access Power and Control, and maintain it, usually are also able to access many unearned privileges.
Some people believe it is “normal” or “natural” for one person (or group of people) to be in charge, and for other people (or groups of people) to follow the lead. A connected belief is that this dichotomy — between “naturally” dominant and “naturally” subservient — rationally justifies the ways in which certain people (or groups of people) are “punished” by those with more Power and Control. The prominent example is that of how men are assumed to be more powerful and more in-control than women.
Much of the forms of media we are exposed to throughout our lives, as well as the ways in which we are educated in school or church, and the ways we are socialised in our families and peer-relationships reinforce these beliefs. This is to say that the belief that some people are worthy of more Power and Control, while others are fated to suppression, is ingrained in many aspects of our social structure.
A person may have excuses for abusive behaviour — “they drink too much”; “they take drugs”; “they ‘just’ have a bad temper”; “they are very stressed out”; “they work a lot”; etc. People who abuse their power and who control others will often blame their abusive behaviours on something or someone else — often the person (or people) they are abusing, or acting oppressively toward.
Some abusers might suggest that they … “wouldn’t have to act that way if you would just lay off”, etc. They may suggest the abused/oppressed people are the blame. They might try to say they simply can not control their own behaviour, or that it is not their responsibility.
If you suspect you may be in an abusive relationship, Remember — You Are Not to Blame! Abusive behaviour can be controlled!
What Can You Do??
Notes on Assault
Police (in most areas) are required, by law, to lay charges when they have “reasonable grounds” to believe an assault has occurred. Assault is a crime. Assault is any form of unwanted touching or physical contact — sexual or otherwise. If anyone threatens to kill you, that is also a crime. Laying charges may reduce physical violence. This does not pertain to all the many other forms of abuse.
Children witnessing abuse are being hurt by it — they are suffering and afraid. The effects on their life could mean that they may become violent toward others in the future, suffer low self-esteem and face many other related problems.
Things to Remember
Observing — as a result of becoming more and better aware of the struggles of class, race and gender— a phenomena I absolutely can not help but see constantly recreated, I sat, somewhat impatiently, but intently listening as discussion of prison abolition became heated, boiled, and eventually threatened to spill out of the pot. The venue’s owner, noting this, and involved in the discussion, used some words that brought about applause, implicated “closing time”, and ultimately ceased discussion.
Question period started it off, wherein I had the chance to ask for elaboration: “Can you folks expand a bit more? At the beginning of the play, you referred to intersectionality of oppressions, speaking about abuse and neglect, and how those things exist beyond the context you intended to here present. What do you mean by that?”
Enormously, that is an understatement of what was actually covered, if you consider the discussion that followed, which went on longer than the performance itself. Even folks who strolled into the venue for an evening pint had something to contribute.
Discussions of race within the PIC, and more broadly, within a police state, didn’t only ‘come up’, but were strongly asserted into the dialogue by a PoC member of the audience who works with OCAP, and spoke of personal experiences with incarceration.
it is not ok to agree with me that someone is fucked up and then engage in a non critical relationship with them. because then you are normalizing their fucked up behaviour.
i’ve done it before. i’m not going to. and i’m not going to let it go with the people that are close to me. i don’t care if that makes me unpopular. i don’t care if folks don’t like it. i refuse to us all to keep annoying our privilege and further ostracize people who are critical.
particularly with dudes.
Yep. When folks do this — and here, I’ll spell it out for you…
This lack of acknowledgement and action fully dismisses a survivor’s experiences. Every time.
What these people are symbolising with their neglect is basically “Your experiences and needs are not really worth practically honouring. The autonomous life choices of the oppressor fully trump your needs for accountability, respect and validation.”
And I can’t talk with the friends of mine who have taken up this habit without feeling like their respect for me is a total lie.
A few years ago some friends and I got together and organised to have him speak in our city. I will admit I have not read his books other than the Endgame premises and a bit of Listening to the Land. I went to his presentation and heard him out. My annoyances may be superficial, but still valid:
I understand roughly where he’s going: “Unlearn all that bullshit you got growing up; Empower yourself and embrace autonomy; Bring down the current system — smash the state and blow up bulldozers.” But not a lot of that seems to include “End oppression and fight for equality.” Derrick Jensen happens to be a human who probably makes a pretty good living; who is a middle-aged white male person; who definitely has a lot of power and privilege. Sometimes I think he glosses over that a little bit much.
I just have a different approach than him. I’m sure we could sit down for a lovely cup of tea and likely pleasantly decide we don’t see eye to eye. He seems a little over-entitled to me.
I have a fucktonne to say about this article. This quote is a really good example of how challenging it is to even understand, let alone agree with the article (given the ellipses; the fact that undefined “community” has been taken out of its original context).
One thing I can confidently say here is We need to get better at refusing to allow oppression happen in the first place. We all fuck up — let’s get better at doing it less.
It’s time to stop being afraid of criticism. Accepting it and growing and learning will only make things better.