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Becoming an Ally

* I wanted to share some information on oppression from this book. I find it helpful to be reminded of all the ways we can oppress ourselves and others, and be oppressed by ourselves and others. Only with awareness, attention and fearlessness can we begin to break free of the cycles of oppression.

Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression in People

By Anne Bishop

P 52-54


“If people believe that injustice and inequality are right, or at least inevitable, they will not try to change their society. This silence and inaction becomes the ballast that steadies the whole system. It creates an appearance of peace and order;

Specific beliefs that prop up injustice are:

Myth of scarcity: the belief that there is not enough to go around is used to disguise the fact that a large proportion of the world’s resources benefit very few people.

Myth of objective information: the belief that it is possible for one group (particularly white straight males in N. America to stand back and observe humanity without their own biases influencing what they see

Stereotyping: the belief that all members of a group are the same

Blaming the victim; the belief that people are responsible for their own oppression. An example is the strong tendency in N. A. culture to blame women for being raped, beaten, harassed.  Another example is the assumption that poor people are “lazy”. When many people believe that the poor are to blame for their own misfortune, attention is directed away from the real causes of poverty. This attitude is internalized, who then tend to live in shame and hostility towards other members of their own group

The myth of ‘Might is Right’; or ‘majority rule’ in situations where only a small minority are really calling the shots. The majority can be threatened, manipulated bought or given only the appearance of choice

Separation, competition, and hierarchy; the belief that human beings are isolated individuals in competition with one another for positions on a ladder of status

These beliefs are maintained by:

Tokenism: one member of an oppressed group is given a high status position and then used as an example which validates blaming other members of that group for not “making it” like that person did

Assimilation: absorbing marginalized cultures into the dominant one

Private ownership of information

Private ownership of the means to communicate information (those who hold political and economic power also own the radio, tv stations, newspapers, publishing houses and magazines. In Canada, the information media is in the hands of eleven corporations, six of them controlled entirely or almost entirely by one person.

Violence of the threat of violence. Oppression is held in place ultimately by violence in its many fomrs0 visible, such as injury and death, or less visible, like exclusion, denial of access, and denial of needs. Violence prefers not to show its face. Whenever possible, oppression is held in place by the fear of violence.

There is political repression in Canada, although most of it is hidden from sight and excluded from the history texts…One could argue that Canada is a very advanced example of invisible oppression.

We must overcome these methods of control if we are to take the first steps toward unity, equality, justice, and a humane culture- a culture with a future.

The problem, unstated til’ now, is how
to live in a damaged body
in a world where pain is meant to be gagged
uncured     ungrieved-over.     The problem is
to connect, without hysteria, the pain
of any one’s body with the pain of the body’s world

-Adrienne Rich (1986)

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