Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Freedom vs. Oppression

In my heart I believe that slavery never ended. The millions of women kidnapped around the world and sold as slaves in the modern-day sex trade are evidence of that. The children ripped from their parents' homes and thrown into forced labor can testify to that. The prisoners in the United States, the most abundant prison population in the world, can speak of the ongoing existence of slavery.

Several years ago, I began writing a theory of personality that was based on the development of people born into a society with a slave economy. In my theory, the pivotal and critical period in personality development came early in our development, but our personality development continued throughout life. The theory states: As infants, we make a choice (based on our temperments and experiences) to either resist or comply. This initial decision lays the foundation for our interpersonal patterns, our failures and successes, for the rest of our lives. Those who rebel or resist, must endure increased anxiety from the fear of negative consequences. Those who comply face increased anxiety from the constant need to fit-in, to assimilate, and approximate themselves to the standards of the dominant culture. Neither choice assures safety, but compliance increases the liklihood that one can survive.

Freud's Psychoanalytic theory posited a similar critical choice. Psychoanalysts said that infants must resolve their Oedipal and Electra complexes by identifying with the oppressor. In Psychoanalysis, the oppressor is the same-sex parent. If one does not choose to comply and become like their early oppressors, mental illness follows and one may even face castration (literal and figurative).

The United States economy was first and foremost a slave economy, and even with the abolition of slavery in the late 19th century, our economy has continued to be based on oppression of minority groups and maintaining a social structure where wealthy, protestant,White males sat atop the totem and only those that closely approximate the appearance and values of those White men can simulate aspects of their status.

Others, starting with White men and women, are afforded the privileges of simulated status; given the cushiest jobs with the highest pay. That secures the dependence of the majority of White people on the power structure, making them docile servants of the system and reducing the risk of rebellion. It also makes the dirty work of maintaining the remnant slave economy, the work of the privileged class instead of the ruling class. This is not new, but the same as the original slave system where overseers did the dirty work for the slave masters.

So now we have white collar slaves. Corporate robots. Industrial field hands. There is an ongoing battle being waged in all of us and in society. It is freedom vs. oppression. Many rebellions, armed and intellectual, have been held. Each has moved the fight for liberty forward. Each of us has to choose if, how, and when to fight.

The question for the readers of this post are: 1) What are the costs of compliance; rebellion? 2) What are the benefits of compliance; rebellion? 3) What choice did you make, comply or resist?
4) Can you look back on your life and say that your choices throughout life to comply or resist were worth it? 5) If you could go back and change your decision, would you? 6) If you can change your decision from now on, will you?

In the movie 'Matrix' the hero Neo had to make a choice to take a blue pill and remain a slave in an unreal world that was predictable and familiar, or to take the red pill and be free in a world filled with uncertainty and ugly truths about the condition of humanity. If it were as simple as taking a pill, which pill would you choose?


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