Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Transcend Your Own Labels, and Then We'll Talk

These divisions are a major part of what makes us human. And not specifically human -- other social species also divide themselves.  Marge Piercy recently got a new kitten, and she's been writing on Facebook about the delicate process of introducing a new cat into an established household.  I'm not sure you can have inclusion without exclusion of someone else; if I understand the term correctly, the two terms deconstruct each other.  It's not caused by language (or "labels"), since cats don't have labels but they still have boundaries and conflicts.  

The mistake is thinking that human beings are 'naturally' harmonious, touchy-feely, and kissyface huggybear -- or would be if not for the International Space Jews from Iran who bring division among us with their labels. I think this bit from Ben Ehrenreich's fine book, The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine (Penguin, 2016) sums it up nicely. He's talking about a Bedouin town in the Occupied Territories:
Eid and his brothers and cousins and all of the one hundred or so residents of this part of Umm al-Kheir were members of the Hathalin clan. There was another half to the village, with another hundred or so residents who lived about a ten-minute walk closer to the highway. They were also Hathalin, but for reasons no one would discuss, the two sides of the village avoided one another. Humans find ways to disagree [292].
Even worse, the meme above blames "race," "religion," etc. for human divisions, as though those were real entities.  It would be nearer the truth to say that people invented "race," "religion," "politics" and "wealth" as rationales for dividing themselves against one another.  This is something that Karen E. and Barbara J. Fields are adamant about in Racecraft: nothing is "race-based," as many white liberals and many people of color mistakenly claim; "race" is constructed after the fact, to justify the injustices people perpetrate.