Sunday, November 08, 2009

The seeds of a revolution

Or the rough ideas of a manifesto........

While I was in the land of no internet I was thinking about the kyriarchy and trying to create a visual model of it. I drew things that looked liked Wallerstein's World Systems theory and things that looked like funny spider webs and after about half a day I realized it's a pyramid with certain conditions pushing you to the bottom of the pyramid and certain conditions lifting you up the pyramid. But we are all stones in the pyramid, so every every time you move up it's on someone else's back.

Then we got the internet back and I could look up the actual definition of kyriarchy. At least my half a days labor of chicken scratch drawings wasn't in vain.

In the process I realized something. Poverty is not an oppression like sexism or racism, it's the goal of oppression.

Think of it this way- oppression is the means, control of access to resources is the ends. That's why things like having a disability, being a woman, being a single mother, being a POC, not having the ability to marry (for both lesbians and gays and black women who have fewer men to pick from and an (unfair)image of being difficult) all lead to higher rates of poverty.

The labeling, categorizing, othering, is the means of deciding who gets fewer resources.

So if you are looking at the kyriarchy pyramid, it is sectioned off by economic class. The poor make up the base- it's broad and diverse but not very tall, a thin wide band at the bottom. It's kept as diverse as possible so that the people at the bottom can't come together and change the system. The middle is not as broad but much taller and much more homogeneous. For example, you could be a disabled women in the middle class as long as you are married to a TAB white cis man. You have to have fewer points of oppression and more points of privilege to be in the middle. And the middle has multiple layers, the upper middles who act like elites, the middle middles and those middles who are on the verge of poverty (one injury and crappy insurance away from bankruptcy and poverty). With our current economic downturn and healthcare system, the bottom middle is gaining members. So is the poverty class.

Then there's the top- the elites. The most homogeneous group of of them all. For the most part, the only people with any oppression points who get to this level are ones that are willing to forcefully continue the kyriarchy. (See our corporatist, women hating, anti-gay, classist president for example, or Michelle Bachman/Ann Coulter and even not so women or poor people friendly Arriana Huffington). We have a word for that cough*token*cough.

So with a little math and some basic demographics you can tell what class someone is likely to be in. What's really important to remember is that most (though not all) characteristics are going to be things people have no control over, like race, gender, financial status of their parents, and health, and the things that people do have some control over like number of children or married status or access to education are the ones that we fight about all the time (abortion, birth control, gay marriage, private school funding, college grants).

What we should want from our little revolution is to neutralize the conditions, both positive and negative, that lead to poverty and elitism. Being a het cis tab white dude with wealthy parents and a good education should not make one automatically qualified for elite status. Nor should being a single mother of color make you more qualified for poor status.

Okay so that explains our current system. How do topple something as long lasting as a pyramid? And what do we replace it with?

First- a pyramid is held up by it's base, that's us. How do we throw off the upper stones on our backs? There are the standard methods of revolt-violence and martyrdom. But those tools of revolution have only lead to a rotating of the elites and not a complete change of the system in the past.

Instead I like the idea of organization, work stoppages, "liberation" of resources, squatting, etc. We take what we need and refuse to give back to the system unless we are properly compensated for our labor. (If anyone can tell me how to set up pirate internet service- I will give you a big lip smacky kiss). I'm not saying that we should all be shoplifting from Whole Foods (wink wink) but it's not a bad start. I'm not saying that we should be publishing the names of rapists (yes- rape is one of the tools the kyriarchy uses to keep women in place)or dead beat dads, or ableist/racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic businesses but I think I'd probably throw a name or 10 on that list.

What to replace the system with is trickier. We've lived in a hierarchical system for so long, and attempts at replacing it have failed miserably (communism)that even I have a hard time seeing what a new system would look like.

But baby steps, peeps. Baby steps.

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