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Was talking to a friend this morning about the two-sided tactic of humanizing oppressors, and trying to see oneself as "a good person" while ignoring how one participates in oppression. It was more specific than that, but.

It shouldn't work. "They are oppressing people" shouldn't mean "I don't recognize their humanity". "I am a participant in oppression" doesn't mean "I don't deserve to live" and shouldn't invite useless self-hatred. Similarly, "they are nice people" should not be taken to mean "they are not hurting anybody", and "I am a nice person" does not mean "I am not hurting anybody". (I remember gaudior writing about this too.)

It makes me hate activist communities sometimes, because I see the same self-righteousness cfishy warned me about, and they think of themselves as "better" morally. But that's actually a gross caricature, I just hate it a lot when the grain of truth shows. I think that I too often come across as extremely self-righteous, which I am not trying to be most of the time: I get angry sometimes, but often I just want to talk reasonably about how things could be better, and expect thoughts in return, but find people won't listen or don't have thoughts. Or are tired, that too.

You can understand someone's situation, and limited choices, and maybe their thinking, while also understanding where the wrong is and thinking about how you push them to do better, how can do better yourself and make harder choices. Why is this hard: why is it hard to simultaneously relate to someone's humanity, and criticize their actions? I feel like it isn't, but it has been for me sometimes.

Do we just have that strong an instinct to try to divide things into "good" and "evil"? Is it exacerbated by cultures of individualism that translate to drawing lines between categories, between people? Is that connected to an emphasis on security and safety and sameness and building and 'progress', that translate to violent forms of control? How much is it about the settler colonial legacy of the US, how much does everyone do it through their own frameworks, how much can it be changed?

(In other news, no matter how my thoughts develop, I guess life will always be something of a logic puzzle to me.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-04 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/little_e_/
It seems we have similar thoughts today, though expressed differently.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-05 02:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theevilgenius.livejournal.com
Similarly, "they are nice people" should not be taken to mean "they are not hurting anybody", and "I am a nice person" does not mean "I am not hurting anybody".

Yes, I completely agree. I think this particular sentiment interrupts useful social discourse far, far too often.
Edited Date: 2012-12-05 02:15 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-05 04:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tiamat360.livejournal.com
I'm (perhaps unsurprisingly) reminded of lyrics from "Into the Woods":

Nice is different than good
You're so nice. You're not bad, you're not good, you're just nice.
Edited Date: 2012-12-05 05:00 am (UTC)

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