Monday, February 20, 2012

On finding nexus

One of the things that concerns me as we watch the Republicans revert to their old culture wars against women, people of color, gays & lesbians, poor people, unions, etc. is that we will all divide again into our camps to defend our root causes and forget the bigger picture that binds us. Other than fear, the right's most effective weapon against us is division.

What will keep us united is to always remember the big picture of what's happening. As I've been saying, keeping an eye on the forest means recognizing that the old white male heterosexual patriarchy is dying and the Republican Party is in chaos. What we can expect is that the old beast is going to strike out at anything it perceives as a threat and therefore the cause of its demise.

Along those lines, a few years ago Nezua at The Unapologetic Mexican wrote a series of posts titled Let's Have Nexus which I found to be brilliant. You can feel him striving to find what the dictionary defines as nexus: the core or center that provides the connection. Here he is talking about that in the introduction to the series.

I prefer not to dally too long dissecting the symptoms of manifested underlying ills, but prefer to look directly at those broad reaching paradigms or beliefs that inform them, as regular readers here know. This is why I don't comment extensively on today's political back and forth—unless as it relates to the dialogue on racial dynamics that I explore and engage in on the regular...Because if we all are truly interested in forming an ongoing conversation that cuts away the the husk of empty discourse and scoops out the Essential, we have to look not only at the symptoms of hate, violence, authoritarian rule, and oppression, but at the seeds that inform them and keep them entrenched, as well as socially acceptable. These vines are by now thorny and tangled and hearty, but the seeds were planted long ago, and the nourishment is delivered by all of us, and every day.

Nezua finds that nexus in something David Jensen wrote in his book The Culture of Make Believe.

I have spent the past several hours now thinking about the notion that masters "shall be entitled to their labor," and at the risk of overstating, it seems to me that entitlement is key to nearly all atrocities, and that any threat to perceived entitlement will provoke hatred.

And then Jensen goes on to sound almost prophetic in describing what happens when that sense of entitlement is threatened.

From the perspective of those who are entitled, the problems begin when those they despise do not go along with—and have the power and wherewithal to not go along with—the perceived entitlement. ...

Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, "normal," chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious manifestation. Hate becomes more perceptible when it is no longer normalized.

Another way to say all of this is that if the rhetoric of superiority works to maintain the entitlement, hatred and direct physical force remains underground. But when that rhetoric begins to fail, force and hatred waits in the wings, ready to explode.

I'd suggest that we're witnessing just such an explosion right now as the entitlements associated with being male, white, heterosexual and rich are threatened.

Nezua ends his article in a very Gandhian "be the change you want to see" way. In other words, he challenges each of us to examine our own sense of entitlement.

And after all, what happens when we remove that sense of entitlement?

We grow humility.

What happens when you nurture a sense of humility in place of entitlement? You place your feet on the same ground as I...Entitlement is the antithesis of gratitude. And honestly, you are one lucky human.


  1. I can't see myself reading 'The Culture of Make Believe' anytime soon, SP, but I appreciate the bit you shared. I can always count on you to prod my lazy brain from time to time, or remind me I'm letting it atrophy.



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