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Lessons from the Power May 31, 2014

anonimusThis comforting feeling when your classmates are too young, stupid or with low self respect to acknowledge whats happening to them (or do something)and then you hear from older respected activist that valeriu nikolae is one patriarchal macho ego tripping person…its about power to define interpretations ….and validation of your common sense….and confirming your subjectivity…

ABOUT PRINCIPLES

This is why it is important to say something, not to sit like an object when powerful Roma man come and start molesting people (with pretext of teaching your something) and you try to act like its non of your business. It about principles. If you think about yourself as a person with principles then you stand behind them even when it is not convenient for you. You stand behind your principles even when it is happening to other people.

This is exactly what you would expect from people if you were attacked by any bigoted person. If you would want it for yourself, it is not morally justified to sit and do nothing when it is happening to other people. So principles demand from you to react. It doesn’t help if you say to yourself “ This person is not relevant, I don’t need his respect” while you stay in situation in which he allows himself to molest you, or other person. You might even have stronger moral burden on you when you see other person being molested. That is because even if you wouldn’t react because you don’t care, you do not know if it is of the same irrelevance to that other person to be treated disrespectfully. Even more so if you see that it is relevant to that other person, that this person demands different treatment. Then it is not about what you think about molester. It is about one person asking for a different treatment and another not stopping with maltreatment. If you see that on the street it would be expected from a moral person to stop and intervene.If you would see one person maltreating another person it would be irrelevant if you don’t know these people or that their respect is not something you need.

It is about principle of respect. It is a principle that you would fight for because you believe in a certain ideal of the  society in which people should live. Are there such things? Do you ever think about for what would you die for (or at least do something that you dont  feel very comfortable with!) ? Can you imagine suffering and risking your own good for something as immaterial as principles? Funny question to pose to, let’s say Roma students, especially when they think about themselves as activists.

ABOUT RESPECT

Respect is not something you will always get. I have to learn that so many times. From majority it is easier to expect this denial of respect. It is easier to expect that you will be in this position that you will not get respect by default, just because you are different, black, poor, or whatever. And I am more in mental condition prepared to defy, to question their perspectives, interpretations, their narratives, their definitions of „sense“ and their definitions of respect, normality, decency and politeness for example.

I am more prepared also to think in this way when it is about man. When I already know I have in front of myself patriarchal, conservative, traditional man, Roma or non Roma. So I learned I have to fight for it. I have to fight for recognition of my interpretations and narratives, my sense of „sense“, to fight for recognition of my knowledge, skills, emotions, my time, my space, my body, my dignity. Because, it  often happens that not your personality, but your personhood is in question, your humanity.

And sometimes these people are not important and you can turn your back, but when they do it in public space in some public role then I find it to be my business, even if they are not relevant for me personally for example. They are in public space. It is then my duty as a citizen to react. And sometimes, this moral duty people feel especially when they are the most educated citizen knowing what they know, being able to deal with this issues in the most effective way presumably, having in their mind these ideals of justice and freedom and just and free societies. And especially I think they can have this feeling if they are activist. That should come by default even I would say in that case to feel civil responsibility!

It is nothing new to be treated as an object. To be treated as an animal. When you feel somebody used you, you feel this. You feel you were instrumentalized, used as an instrument, as an object. By this act you are deprived of your humanity. And people suffer because of this. They cannot help being humans not to suffer when their humanity is negated. It is the attack on humanity and many would say, other humans also do have moral responsibility to defend humanity of other humans when they try to attack your humanity.

ABOUT 1H OF TEACHING METHODS FROM THE POSITION OF POWER

One thing I learned from approximately 1h with this powerful Roma man, respected activist, known for his analytical skills and criticism of powerful members of majority, powerful politicians and also other more or less powerful Roma man, whose critiques I like to read and to whom I admired as a person and activist, eager to hear what he has to say, is that as young, student, Roma and women you have to be aware of these kind of powerful activist. Because they are powerful.

You have to be aware of misuse of power, of manipulation of your respect toward them. This person is a man, powerful man, intelligent, hard working and I would say cruel, trapped in his ego tripping by my opinion. So, in social perception this kind of combination does not produce positive impression. But, it is not about mistakes in perception, the fact that we are all making stereotypical impressions in several seconds, its about things people do and how they make you feel. And he managed to make people feel stupid, ignorant, subordinated, as nobodies, and as rabbits in his experiment that he gave himself a right to conduct over people. All that in his divine godly mission of teaching Roma students critical thinking I guess. By his teaching theory people have to feel rather hurt, to accept that they are stupid and that they worth nothing to learn his lessons. I suppose native people all around the world could have some kind of similar feeling when people from imperial countries came to teach them their superior wisdom with their enlighten missions “for their own good”.

This is very imperial, violent, cruel, patriarchal, macho, medieval theory of learning. It hurts people for no good reason. It inflicts unnecessary pain to people. This is why this theory is immoral. It presumes such a human ontology that makes me deeply sad. It presumes people are born as no good. That they are lazy, not motivated, not curious, not playful, that people only learn by being forced to learn, that suffering is the only teaching method and so that they actually do not want to learn. So, because humans are born somehow corrupted and with “a slow mind”, they have to be broken to learn, that their will has to be broken. That their agency doesn’t exist , or if it is, it has to be, together with their self respect, brutally violated.

Further, this theory is based in the abyss of the dichotomy thinking about ratio and emotions. It is rooted in lets say enlightenment background and in patriarchal believes. Ratio as something strict, clear, logical, strong, desirable, while emotions are something illusive, bad, sign of weakness. If you show your emotions, if you allow yourself to have and show them, then you are week and despised as such. Well, we all know “that boys do not cry”. Well, we do not want to be a pussy and cry, have emotions, show care and get emotionally attach to people. Be a man, be a solder, be perfect. Right, I suppose it was what national-socialist had in mind also.

Why we need to do so? I really do not know. Only thing I can say is that I think this notion is unfortunately developed as defense mechanism, I think especially of people who suffered, who were hurt severely and consistently. When everyone is making you suffer for a long time, you cannot survive if you do not detach from your emotions. I think that kids for example learn this at the age of three, if not before. Otherwise I think people would fall on the streets because of all that pain. And yes, the same brain areas get activated when you are hurt physically and emotionally, and yes, you need to put some effort to suppress your emotions. Then you get psychosomatic sickness or, some theories even claim, cancer for example. Also, you can lose your empathy, and develop psychopathic behavior. Also, you can have very low self-esteem and constant need to prove your value by being better, more ambitious, more dependent on external sources of validation for example…well,all I say here I also learned, there are these theories that we also know…imagine…..And this can also be seen as one way to psychoanalyze people…why not.

ABOUT LEARNING

Learning environment in which it is presumed that you are lazy, not capable, subordinate, incompetent, stupid is off course still learning environment. People learn much better if you try to apply some other theories of learning. For example, if you make them feel comfortable, respected and supported. But hey, you can learn in this environment also. Yes, you learn something. You learn all these bad things about yourself. You learn so many ways in which you are imperfect, but not just that. There is probably nothing humiliating in the awareness that you, as a simple human are not perfect. I suppose it is good to know. But the problem is the way it is presented to you. Very forcefully and in a way that somehow you also learn that you are nothing and you should be ashamed because of that. You learn low self-esteem.

You learn how it is when your teacher somehow present it in a way like he is above it since he suffered so much and learned so much, so now he is a master of emotional control, even master of manipulating other people emotions by violating their trust and respect, using the power of violence. You learn that their knowledge is an instrument of power that is used to make you feel ashamed because you lack it. You learn obedience. You learn subordination. You learn how NOT to think critically. How just to listen this big godlike “very important man”, because he might appear as a divine force and influence and control your life one time in future, as he tries to do 1h in present, by trying to discipline you, ordering you where to look, what to hold in your hands like you are a child, his child, giving himself the right to tell you how you feel, how will you feel, teaching you what he thinks is respect and critical thinking. It is humiliating.

Yes, we all learned lesson of being humiliated. Once again. Thank you. Well, there is nothing new to learn from Valreiu in that sense I think. And no matter what you know and what you did, people will remember how you made them feel. They will learn not about what you wanted them to learn, but what you did to them.

ABOUT VICTIMHOOD

And this is not about me being kind of superficial Roma student who is the only person with BA in her village and who thinks I am the smartest in my village, and suddenly someone told me I am not the smartest person in the world. And it is not about me having thoughts about my greatness and not being able to deal with some “powerful arguments” and “valid criticism” and consequently going berserk. And I think that might be the “enlightment” narrative used to delegitimize my view of this situation, my arguments and my criticism.

Actually the problem might be that I am one of many Roma women, with years of depression and physical illness, I guess, due to many things that happen to Roma women during their lives,due to these kind of lessons. And as many, raised in a poor family, with mother working as a cleaning lady in one big state firm and father who never had a steady job, was alcoholic and molested my mother, me and my sister for years.

And most of the time I lived in non Roma poor suburb of Belgrade, but to “legitimize” my right to this imaginary position from which it is allowed to speak, by this man, I lived for some time in a Roma settlement, in dirt, in the house of mud with rats and cockroaches. Also, many times I didn’t have what to eat. I had to go to my cousins for lunches. We didn’t have money to pay for electricity, so sometimes we got it from neighbors. I learned under the petroleum light. I was sexually harassed, I was molested by my peers during my life so many times, and as I say, all this, as many Roma did.

But I don’t talk about this. I do not like talking about being victim and helpless. This is deeply personal issue and I do not even discuss it with my closest friends. And I do not know how come I feel now  I owe someone my confessions in order to be taken as equal partner in a discussion about Roma issues or to gain someone’s respect. Because, may be in some exceptional cases, but this is not what my arguments are when discussing Roma issues, I do not take this to be necessary to brought up. I do not feel that being a victim is the only thing that should make people listen to you, respect you as a interlocutor, or agree with you for that matter. Or that you have a right to consider yourself arbiter in moral issues. Also, I do not think that other people, who didn’t have experience that I had, cannot talk about and contribute to Roma issues. People suffer in many different ways.

WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT?

I do not know why someone would try to question me or any Roma student about our capability to know about victimhood. This is very rude, deeply humiliating. So, you were not poor enough to allow yourself now to think you know something about being poor and suffering. So, not that it is forcefully pushed on you that you do not know about this world, but you do not know about suffering, you do not know about emotions. And it is explained to you how you are actually feeling. So, your feelings are transparent to this powerful man who can register them clearly and precisely since he knows some theories, but not you. Even if it was the truth it would be highly impolite to say such a thing, not to mention to impose it.

Not that I will ever know how it is like to be another person who is suffering, but why would you, again, put people in the situation to have to defend their right to know something so basic as their emotional states, to know about suffering. And on top of everything you DO NOT KNOW how much they suffered and in which ways, because you are not a God to know everything and sure as hell you cannot read that in their CVs.

I do not know why someone would have to impose people this kind of things to teach them something. Even if it is true, why would you make people feel ashamed about not knowing something? Why wouldn’t you relate this knowledge that you think you have with things these people already know. Because, this is how people learn. They connect new information with the ones they already have. If you present new information, why not try to connect it somehow and make their process of learning easier and pleasant when you are so smart to know that they will have certain barrier accepting it. Because, the point is to make this process of learning possible. It is not the point to make people frustrated and unable to learn due to negative emotions and then delegitimize their arguments on the basis of their emotions. You are then making their process of learning even more difficult. So, I think it is legitimate question to ask why you are really there. What do you really want.

And if you do not think you are making people feel bad, how come they feel a need to defend themselves all the time? In general we can say people do not pay attention to information contradictory to their current concepts, they have tendency to disregard them, and it can be important to present these to them and ask them to reflect on these mechanism of disregarding, but I do not think that Roma students there didn’t want to learn about things he wanted to teach and especially about other Roma suffering.

NAMEING THINGS

Trying desperately to keep my self respect and my positive self image I suppose I become a feminist. Feeling so powerless I tried to understand how power works. I learned about social relations from my life. From feminists I learned about many things, among others about violence. I learned to recognize it, at least more then I used to and to name it. I learned that it is very important to name things. Then they exist. And because of that people fight about different names they want to put on things happening. Because then these events exist in a certain way. I learned also about mechanism of determining character of the reality and devastating effects that they can have on people who have less social power to define it. Calling a women or any other person “crazy, emotional, not- making- any –sense person” after you did something that they see as very wrong and they tried to question your deeds, is a long lasting tradition of delegitimizing less powerful’s demands for respect and for what others owe to them as humans. It is deeply immoral and cruel. No, it is not empowering.

Then people ask why more and more Roma students do not want to be in Roma movement. If there is such a motivation to teach young Roma something more about why they should be activists and feel moral duty as citizens first what you would have to do is to treat them as fellow citizens. Not to speak from the position of power, not to humiliate them. You would have to treat them with dignity and respect, even to cherish them as they are, not perfect, since they are all Roma communities have right now, and they are the most educated among Roma and there are just very few of them, and also they are not blind not to see power games. You need to acknowledge their experience, their opinions, their talents, their capacities. And most of all you need to show them you are willing to share power you have and give them space.

if they , these powerful Roma man , do not do that there is no future for this movement they claim they want. They, older powerful Roma will stay there alone. But I guess this is what these people actually want. And maybe there is a need to clarify political positions then. Maybe there is a need, as we herd, not to expect support but fight for recognition,  respect and our idea of this world and possibilities to influence politics that are tackling our lives also,  again.That sad, i do not imagine we are unified body of students. Sooner or later students will have to position themselves in this political space. We might as well be aware of that also.At least the ones who will not be chased away by these kind of politics….

 

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