Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

It’s a slight cliche to argue that history is written by the winners, but unfortunately it’s true. Admittedly the phrase does imply somewhat more of a martial perspective, so let’s adjust it; history is written by the dominant.

As marginalised people, we only have to look at our own histories to see the truth in that. We are absent from the historical narrative to a very large extent; sometimes there are obscure glimmers of proof of our previous existence, but most often even those of us who achieved a place in the historical hall of fame have been bleached with the ideals of the dominant groups that did the writing.

I am a historian – still studying, and not yet studying exclusively history, but a historian nevertheless – and it frustrates me. Written primary sources were often written by privileged people whose perspective neglects the marginalised. Secondary sources also tend to reflect academia’s skewing towards the kyriarchal ideal. There are ways of finding out about the marginalised, but we rarely find their uncensored voices ringing down the ages.

What effect does that have? A huge effect. Some groups find themselves cut off from their roots, with much about their past lost irretrievably. Others find themselves entering the record only on the terms of their oppressors, with their personhood denigrated and their voices erased. Others find no reflection of their existence.

The neglect of the history of some groups combined with the elevation of that of others has a profoundly harmful effect. People have always looked to the past, for lessons and for inspiration and guidance, and if they find only certain groups reflected there it is very easy to have the idea, already implanted by the kyriarchy, that only those groups are worthy and important validated. It’s also used to denigrate people in the present, implying that they’re making things up because they only came into existence recently when the only evidence we have for that is a void in the general historical narrative with clues generally so small most people wouldn’t pick them up.

It’s important to factor this in as we write our own histories. How will the English Riots of this summer be remembered? Will the memory of the alienation and disillusionment suffered by those who rioted survive, or will they be painted merely as thugs? And the Occupy movement – when protestors say one thing and police say another, who will be believed by posterity? As for the Arab Spring – how will history perceive that?

The privileged classes have always tried to write their history on a higher level than the rest of the populace. Sometimes, just access to the tools of recording ensures their voices are the only ones heard. Other times, restricting access to academia or to certain media spaces is their preferred method. And quite often, they merely rely on their privilege to amplify their voices, as it so reliably does.

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I’m all right. I’ve been trying to give myself some time out for self-care, but that hasn’t gone too well due to stresses and strains from other areas of my life. I’m going to try to write a decent post now though.

The kyriarchy enforces standards that are very, very rigid, and has produced a culture with Expectations. We are expected to conform to our social roles in the kyriarchy that are dictated by our ascribed statuses, and often that means that the marginalised are expected to be a lot less than they are and treated accordingly. Meanwhile oppressive behaviour is expected of the privileged. This culture also has expectations of people’s life courses and aspirations, and shows a high degree of contempt for those who cannot meet the expectations whether the reasons relate to a lack of privilege, a lack of opportunity or a lack of ability.

All of this creates a high-stress, low-compassion environment that negatively affects all of our lives. The marginalised, due to the fact that they are further away from the Standards because of the oppression they experience, are most affected and end up locked in a cycle of being prevented from reaching those standards and being blamed for that ‘failure.’ Meanwhile, the privileged absolve themselves of responsibility and feel justified in oppressive behaviour by the ‘failure’ of the marginalised and the ‘success’ of themselves as measured against the standards.

It’s one of the many ways that the kyriarchy is enabled. We absorb these standards (standards which have almost become separate entities looming in our culture) and ruthlessly impose them on ourselves and others. They are institutionally enforced, inflexibly and unforgivingly with no regard for the toll taken on the bodies and minds of people, especially marginalised people. And the very inflexibility propagates them, since when one is expending all one’s energy on meeting them one doesn’t question the system in which a privileged person can meet them with very little sweat and a marginalised person can work themselves to a standstill and still not meet them.

(This relates vaguely to the causes of my recent stress, which is almost certainly only going to get worse…)

Newsbag.

Posted: September 21, 2011 in Bodies, Capitalism, Education, Finance, Health, Science, Sexuality
Tags: ,

Okay, I’m going to attempt to be back now even though I’m still having trouble using a computer comfortably.

Really, Government, really? Possible proposals to cut the benefits of terminally ill folks? This is obscene. We always knew that this government was incredibly ableist, but here’s another rock-solid indication. It honestly scares me that the people in charge of the country are so very contemptuous of anyone who doesn’t fit the conventional notion of ‘ability’, and that they are actually enacting this stuff (as with other benefit changes that have gone through).

If the data bears it out, which I think is likely, this is exactly as expected. EMA has proved important for many people, and scrapping it is always going to have an effect.

Aaand from a sciencey point of view, the information that deep-sea squid mate with no regards to sex is fairly interesting.

I’m sorry this is a shite post. I’m still trying to think of a way to make a post out of my recent health issue and how that has been complicated by my lack of gender, which is definitely interesting. I realise, however, that I’m probably saying nothing that other people haven’t said before so… Still need to think some more about that one.

Once, some early human remains were found near where I live. Unfortunately I can’t name them (because that would give away my location and I’m lairy of that on the internet) but they’re relatively well known.

In the local museum, we have casts of them laid carefully in an upstairs room, with all the information and everything. I’ve dusted their case and spent a fairly considerable length of time staring at them – I’m just like that in museums, any museum. Could spend hours there, especially more old-fashioned or more cramped ones. Last week, I found the real ones in a cabinet in an English museum.

Now why are they there? They were found in Wales. Why must they be taken to an English museum? What claim does England have on them? This is just a really small-scale case – it’s the one that’s recently cropped up bang in the middle of my life, which is why I’m using it as a post started – of treasures being taken from their country of origin and sent to places regarded as centres of civilisation.

Look at what happened in Egypt. Westerners raided tombs, showing utter disrespect to the remains stored there, and stole what they found out of Egypt. We still think we have a claim on the remains, and their discoveries tend to be credited to us. It’s another foul face of colonialism, and another manifestation of a Western-supremacist mindset. That mindset holds that as the centre of the empire, we are the sole repository of civilisation and knowledge and so of course we have the right to claim aspects of other countries’ heritages to study in that ‘objective’ way privilege has of conceiving of study.

Don’t get me wrong, I love studying history, seeing things in museums. But I really hate the fact that so much of the richness of the museum experience I have had has come at the expense of the countries that so much I’ve seen was stolen from. While it was awesome in the purest sense of the word to see the mummified remains of a high-class ancient Egyptian, it was not good that the beliefs of that person and those who buried them were disrespected (often in very violent ways by tomb robbers), and that said remains were only in a place where I could see them because my ancestors had stolen them.

And all of this is connected to the European-descended Western sense of entitlement that sees us trying to impose our wills upon countries in the rest of the world, exploit their people and steal from their cultures. We steal treasures, resources, culture, autonomy. We indulge our imperialist mindset through more subtle ways than we did in previous centuries, but we still have that mindset, we still try to gain our empire even if we do it with talk and money and culture and indirect military action rather than the old bunch-of-people-land-and-say-‘I claim this ground for ___’-without-checking-with-inhabitants-at-all.

We’re not the centre of the world. We thought we were, we’re still trying to put ourselves there – but we need to get over ourselves. And we need to stop stealing. We need to recognise that what’s wrong on the individual interpersonal level is wrong on the international level as well. We need to stop trying to advance ourselves by draining the rest of the world dry.

And that applies even on the small level. So if we do finally do the right thing and return what we stole to all our overseas colonies… I’d like England to give Welsh discoveries back, thanks.

One key function of privilege is that the actions of the privileged will not be taken as representative of their group. They will be seen as abhorrences, as lone figures, as individuals. The marginalised, meanwhile, are generalised, the actions of one taken as representative. It is the difference between, say, ‘You can’t play football’ and ‘[group you belong to] can’t play football.’

This is, rather obviously, not good. No group is homogenous, since they are made up of people often grouped together by a particular trait and people are infinitely varied. The kyriarchy’s view of all who are the Other as an amorphous Other, a great beast of one mind with many bodies who are indisinguishable, is inherently oppressive. It’s fairly obvious why. People are individuals, and what one person does should not reflect on others. That particular manifestation of kyriarchy allows people to be dehumanised, reduced and held responsible for other people’s actions.

Why is it that when members of the dominant groups commit crime, it’s seen as an individual problem but when members of less dominant groups do so, it is painted as a cultural problem (with the spectre of terrorism often added, in many cases.)? It’s because of the kyriarchy, generalising groups and demonising them while normalising those it privileges.

It can be hard to fight this, because we are taught to think in words, to label things instinctively, and if the only previous information we can use to process new information is kyriarchal it means that we will tend to think of people in words and ways that are oppressive. However, there’s many ways of getting around that. As always, education is key. Since we tend to think in terms of our previous knowledge and experience, adding to that with more non-oppressive stuff will mean we have more open minds that can process more things in non-oppressive ways. We can also try to stop ourselves categorising so easily, taking people as they come and accepting what they present of themselves without adding our own ideas on.

Again, posting has lapsed to sporadic, and I apologise – I’m in the middle of exams, but it’s not like I’m not having time for anything but revision.

*   *   *

This is a personal post, and is intended to apply to me and only me.

I honestly have no idea how to walk the line between my comfort (being out) and the possible consequences. I’m now in a situation where I don’t have to declare gender – and haven’t declared birth name – but would feel a lot more comfortable declaring who I am. I haven’t done so yet, and am extremely undecided about ever doing so, because I am afraid that bringing my self to the attention of people in positions of authority would put a black mark against my name.

This is the line we have to walk. Until we declare ourselves, we are held not to be our selves, we are held not to exist – but we are allowed to survive, hidden away behind the panels of the kyriarchy. When we declare ourselves, we risk everything – being labelled a freak, being denied, being rejected, hurt, discredited or worse. Until we pull the panels away, we don’t know what the place we will enter is – a room full of soldiers in kyriarchy’s service, or a room of healers, or whatever – unless someone is already there, finding out.

So as more of us come out, more of us will come out because there could be a voice in the room beyond the panel saying, ‘I don’t know if any of us are in there, but I am out here and it is livable,’ and we will come out because we want to see daylight. Don’t write it off as a trend. Just because we were walled in here, too scared to break out, does not mean we never existed. Do not make the mistake of taking the dominant group’s view as fact, when all other groups have hidden in the woodwork.

(more…)

…since I can’t get together a coherent post about evo psych and how much I hate it, hate being taught it, hate its kyriarchist apologism and hate being erased by it, I’ll talk about the news. News. That should make me feel better. Oh wait…

Forcibly retired West Midlands police have been invited back to work… for free. Yeah because that’s not exploitation at all. Discharge them as a cost-cutting measure then get them to work for free. Okay, some people might be financially secure enough to do that – but it’s not a given, and it’s still not a good policy. Some may want to and that’s fine – but it is not good to try to exploit them all like that.

TW: discussion of self-harm in this paragraph. The 2011 Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Monitor for Wales has come out, and reveals, among other things, that hospital admissions for self-harm were in 2006-8 approximately 138% of the levels for 2003-5, that chlamydia levels have risen but that this is thought to be due to increased awareness, that sexual health appears to be improving, that the numbers of 15 year olds drinking and smoking have dropped and that approximately one third of children in Wales are now living in poverty. A mixed bag, really.

It has also been pointed out that there is scope for the abolishing of EMA to be discriminatory. Now, in theory the individual schools might be able to target resources better – but in practice this is not going to work because of a little thing called KYRIARCHY, which is in teachers’ heads just like everyone else’s and will influence their decisions. It’s also problematic because seriously? Schools and colleges do not know as much about their pupils as this seems to assume they do.

Ooh! This seems somewhat better news! Leaked documents suggest that the Government is having second thoughts about outsourcing public services. Now, I can see what the supporters of outsourcing say, but 1. I don’t trust the private sector because of its capitalist values and lack of accountability and 2. just ask the MOD how outsourcing worked for them. With extensive outsourcing to private companies – not talking about cooperatives or other models, mainly private companies here – could come a massive opportunity for worker exploitation, irregularities in key services and ‘cost cutting’ measures that could easily lead to degradation of services. So I’d rather the Government kept services under their wing, even when the Government is less than ideal.

There’s a lot more that I could comment on, but… I’m still feeling terrible after being taught that bit of evo psych (luckily we don’t do much). Sexism, cissexism, binarism, heterosexism… urgh. Urgh. And scientific wooliness, to say the least.