“The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed”. Nelson Mandela
Oppressions are not predicated upon the oppressed recognising the oppression as such. In fact the inability of the oppressed to name, speak, understand and unveil the oppression is an integral part of the oppression itself.
A person climbing up out of a pit will pull at the feet of those nearest to him. The person who is also in the pit. With him.
I fear that those who have themselves suffered oppression, welcome the chance to oppress, more than the chance to be free from oppression. I use the past tense here – suffered oppression – not to mean that the oppression no longer continues, but to indicate that oppression has occurred. The oppression has become part of the person’s psyche, part of their lived experience, whether or not the oppression is ended. That is a product of ‘effective oppression’. It started in the mind and now controls the response of the entire being to survival.
We define freedom by what we know. The now. Not the possible. So, if we feel that the person who we think is free is characterised by their ability to oppress us, then it is likely that we aspire to freedom to oppress rather than true freedom.
The quest for freedom should begin with the recognition that most of what we consider natural is social. Social constructions. Breaking free from chains is only possible when you see the chains as oppressions, and not as a continuum of self. We should see them as imposed and not normal. Think gender/race constructs. These include national stereotypes. Third worldness. Descriptions of so-called ‘civilised’ nations and ‘developing’ countries.
The converse applies to those in positions of privilege, the same chains weigh us all down, just to different extents. Why should there be any chains? If your comfort is gained by the oppression of another, then you should be uncomfortable. You should NOT be comfortable.
So we cannot afford to regard as benign, any system that trivialises death, that trivialises human life. Just because the life trivialised is not ours. The value of our humanity is tied to the systems we put in place to protect us. True freedom means we are all free from oppression.
How then are we set free from oppression? Can we be set free by the chastisements that were used to enslave us? We insist on those chastisements and have become so accustomed to them that their oppressive/stifling snares are seen as normal and even necessary in everyday life. A few people will be set free but millions will not because it is ‘not comfortable’ to do so. What is freedom without defiance? Which is why decolonisation is hard. Because it requires us to question the foundations of our reality. The things to which we instinctively ascribe value. Subconsciously.
We often think of freedom as an absolute – We are either free or we are not. I do not agree with this. Which is why I describe freedom as a becoming. In my opinion, freedom is a continuous act of striving, an internal act of defiance that may be helped or hindered by external forces. But I realise more everyday that the essence of this becoming is knowing who we are, and also who we may become. That is not for anyone else to decide. If we are to change the world, we must turn our backs on labels and climb on the upward path of release from whatever bondage humanity tries to bind us with. We are becoming. We are also THE becoming. So that our children may be free. Born free. Forever free.