|A well-thumbed copy - resting on my dining room table.|
|Sarah Schulman. SOURCE: Wiki - Public Domain photo|
As the saying goes, the hysterical is usually historical. Often, when we experience an intense level of oppositional passion, it can be because we believe that our cause is just and the impediments are huge. At the same time, it can also be because there is a mix of felt truths and unmet needs which are preventing our ability to step back, to think and to analyze. When this happens, and when others share their picture and their evidence of what has actually happened, we can feel threatened - especially when it differs from our own version of events. The 2016 American election could not be a better example of this, on a national level, not that Canadians can afford to be smug. We are just as bad at using Facebook, or other such information-silos, to confirm our own chosen facts and biases, while ignoring anything that might threaten the bunker of our own beliefs.
Schulman insists that if we can’t name something, then we can’t change it. If we can’t tell a credible story about our shared conflict from the point of view of The Other, then we actually don’t understand what our conflict is all about. And we need to. After all, “The Duty of Repair” belongs to us all, but especially to those who claim access to a social conscience.
A second reality, described by Schulman, is likely to be contentious with some, while offering the relief of recognition to others. I had never heard the term mutant feminism before, but it seems to me to be a good way to describe what happens when people who claim to be victims are judged to be always right, and those who are accused as perpetrators are judged to be always wrong - in spite of the fact that no person is ever totally evil or totally saintly. If we truly believe in genuine justice and effective resolution, then nuance matters. So does asking all the right questions.
Schulman feels compassionately towards those who do escalate the experience of a mutual, human-level conflict into a claim of abuse. Research, as well as the experiences of case workers, shows that often the victim has believed - whether consciously or not - that the only way to receive empathy is to claim abuse. This can lead to them, when they don't get the outcome that they seek, to feeling even more certain that they haven’t been heard. From that place of experienced injustice - real or not, it is a short step to turn The Other into a monster or specter to be silenced and isolated and hopefully punished. The moral clarity of having an enemy can be such a relief.
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.