Reflections on unravelling ourselves with honesty

Painting ©Hani Dallah

آراءٌ حول الكشف عن أفكارنا وبأمانة


تقول إيزابيل لوس لوبيس: “أودّ أن أعكس أهمية الكشف عن أنفسنا من أجل فهم مواقفنا الفردية والمجتمعية فيما لو كنا نعيش تحت ظلّ نظام واحد أو عدّة أنظمة إن كانت وطنية أو استعمارية أو حتى عن تحسين النسل (اليوجنسية). وبهذا أناقش أهمية البحث عن أنفسنا داخل هذه الشبكة العنكبوتية لنفهم كيف اننا اضطُّهدنا من قبلها وكيف كنا اجتماعيين لإدامة اضطهاد الآخرين. وفي النهاية يمكننا الإلتزام بطرح فكرة والالتزام بها بأمانة لنتمكن من إقامة أواصر مع الآخرين بدلاً من أن نكون “الآخر” ولكلّ آخرٍ آخرٌ.” والآخر هنا يمثل مفهوم الجنس الآخر الذي يمثّل المرأة والذي كانت قد طرحته الفيلسوفة الوجودية سيمون دو بوڤوار في القرن الماضي.

Isabel Ros López

I am used to being regarded as other. I am foreign. I have always been a foreigner. I come from a very mixed family of migrants. Over the years, I have developed strategies to deal with xenophobia, to cope, to not let it squash me, to be who I am with dignity and pride, to protect myself from the broad spectrum of hateful behaviours and to refuse to reproduce them. Much as I have done as a woman, as a lesbian and everything else that I am, which I have refused to separate, because I am a whole person and will not allow any aspect of my being to be split from the rest, because my life depends on it. At times it is hard to say which system of oppression is in motion, trying to squash my sense of self. My existence is intersectional, my liberation must be too.

I was also socialised to be racist, sexist and more, from birth, to perpetuate the oppression of those who I was indoctrinated to regard as lesser and other. I am not saying that my parents intended to bring me up that way, in fact, in many ways it was the opposite and both demonstrated, along with much of my family, a strong sense of social justice, which I am grateful for. Nevertheless, I am talking about the wider culture and the less obvious ways in which we were brainwashed and programmed by the dominating culture which was unequivocally authoritarian, patriarchal, colonial and eugenicist.

My own experiences of oppression have influenced my development both in Spain and the UK in fundamental ways. But so has my being a witness to the oppression of others. It was essential to recognise my own socialisation, to be able to have a lifetime commitment to unlearning this.  And this is a work of ongoing consciousness raising, revision, change, resistance and intentional disobedience to a status quo which continues to perpetuate itself by enforcing the values of a so-called neo-liberal system. This is a fudgy term which pretends to hide dominance by patriarchal and neo-colonial values seasoned by camouflaged eugenics.

I am a Spanish Brit with a heavy accent and this last fact alone means that I contend with responses to my communication, daily. The range is broad, from the bothersome pretending I am not there, the patronising and dismissive to the very hostile and aggressive. It does not matter that I have been here for nearly forty years or that I am a citizen. Each day is new and I could have just arrived. Since the EU referendum, hostility and aggression have increased.

I have many friends here, from here and from all over the world. People who are also committed to liberation by unlearning, decolonising our minds, our bodies, learning and creating, growing ourselves and our communities, refusing to tolerate or perpetuate oppression and supporting one another in the process. There have been many casualties. There still are.

Decoloniality is a liberating practice, it is about taking apart and undoing the indoctrination of the colonised and coloniser, both. It is about acting against the pervasive effects of this. The effects are different because the intention of the coloniser cultures is to take control over the colonised and their resources, for their own benefit, whatever the human cost. Both are to be dehumanised. The colonised rendered ‘lesser beings’, exploited and trained to believe and accept this state of affairs —mostly by force, and the coloniser exalted as superior and trained to disregard any sympathy, much less empathy for the colonised. So far, so bad. The Other is created. The system is successful, and we are all distorted and perverted. Except we resist and reject the versions of history emanating from Europe and Western ‘civilisation’. For as long as we are caught in the web of that logic, we remain caught up in colonial patriarchal thought and values.

It gets complicated because othering can be an endless process. You other me and I other others. You pretend you are better than me, there is a system to support you about that. I pretend I am better than someone else, and there is a system to support me about that, but maybe not about other things. And so on, for as long as there is a power imbalance. A way to stop this corrupted logic is through decolonial transnational feminism. Individual and collective, through collaborations, learning from our practices and from those who have been following these liberating paths. A refusal to follow the existing logic and dominant Eurocentric versions of what was and what is. It is important to refuse this logic, because within it there is no way out, only the perpetuation of what is. But guess what? We have a choice to digress. Let’s continue to do so and build honest bonds as we do.

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