This past weekend I had a lovely visit with Wendy Farmer-O’Neil from BC, and in the process of exploring some of my ideas about the “two me’s” I wrote about yesterday, she mentioned the concept of the colonization of our hearts and bodies. It’s a great metaphor about the struggle to be nobody-but-ourselves. If we aren’t nobody-but-ourselves, if we are everybody-else, how did we get that way? What is the process of colonization?
That process is obviously social. It is a process of violence and violation, and it’s essential to the survival of our civilization. We just couldn’t have seven billion humans going around being nobody-but-themselves. That would be anarchy, and it would have collapsed as soon as civilization began 30,000 years ago. I would argue that, just as the indigenous societies of much of the world were invaded, colonized and in the process substantially damaged or destroyed, so too have the forces of civilization, with their codes of acceptable behaviour and their punishments (including the worst — imprisonment and banishment) invaded, colonized and damaged us in order to make us weak, obedient, and conforming to their deemed collective needs, always justified as being for the greater good.
A dramatic over-statement? Perhaps, although I would say that every colonization has been masked by a surface appearance of bargain, or treaty. We were offered something in return for having our hearts and bodies colonized — security, mostly, a place in the hierarchy. But there was never really any choice. These false bargains are always variations on the Hollywood standard — do business with us, pardner, or die. Colonization is perhaps the most insidious form of imprisonment.
So which quadrants of our being are colonized by civilization culture — and by its nasty henchmen, the politicians, the lawyers, the bosses, the religious ‘leaders’, the teachers, the corporatist ‘leaders’, the gang ‘leaders’, the propagandists, the schoolyard bullies, the police, the brutalizing spouses and parents and the whole fascist brainwashing psychopathic mob who proclaim they are acting “for the people”, or on behalf of God? If we look at Jung’s quaternity of our being, pictured above, as a terrain, what starts as four territories that are together nobody-but-ourselves, quickly become four battlegrounds. Some areas are closed to trade and become disconnected, dissociated from the others, or the whole terrain gets blockaded and no one is permitted to enter or leave. Resistance is met by acts of violence by the soldiers, or sometimes the soldiers commit acts of violence anyway, just because they can, and because someone once did it to them. Diseases are introduced, accidentally or deliberately. What had been built is razed. The inhabitants are coopted, imprisoned or killed, after they’re tortured for information and to force compliance. The invaders’ flag is raised, security forces are left behind to “keep peace”, anything of value is stolen or destroyed, and the invaders withdraw, with threats to return if the victims of the conquest are not obedient. It has always been so, since our civilization began.
The consequence is what Wendy describes as an ethos of “relationship as property”. You become a possession. You are John’s child, Joe’s wife, Tom’s homey, America’s chosen, God’s flock, Wal-Mart’s trainee, Happy Valley’s newest resident. You are passed along. If you are not anyone’s property, if you don’t belong, you must be weird, a loner, a loser, not good enough.
The colonization of our minds starts early, and the indoctrination is subtle and relentless. We quickly become, in every sense, branded — by our affiliations, by what we buy, by what we purport, from a limited menu of choices, to believe in. Most of us wear our brands with pride. The propaganda never ends, even when we wear so many brands there is no room for more.
The colonization of our hearts, our emotions, stems, I think, largely from colonization of our minds (the emotions we feel are often automatic consequences of what we believe, of the stories we are told and tell ourselves about our past, our future, ourselves, others and the world), and of course from experiences of trauma. We may be filled with grief, with self-doubt, with self-loathing, with shame, with anger, with hope, with despair. Many of these invasive feelings are not our own, they are imposed on us by the colonizers; we have no choice in the matter. And even when these feelings are the consequence of stories we have come to believe, they are mostly not our stories, we have not written them and we have no control over their scripts.
The colonization of our bodies is, of course, much worse for many women, but men and women both suffer from a subtler form of somatic colonization. That is the restrictions on what we can do with our bodies, which is not what our bodies would, free to be themselves, do. Most diabolically, our bodies are addicted early to substances that we then crave for a lifetime, substances that nature endowed us with a liking for because in nature they’re essential and, in small quantities, good for us. We can’t live without fat. But now we need more and more of increasingly unnatural substitutes that addict us, make us prisoners to the colonists’ highly-priced products. They know we’re hooked. To feed our addictions we drag our tired, unwilling bodies off to do meaningless work, until we’re too tired to do any of the things that nobody-but-ourselves once found joy in, too tired to do what’s important. Too tired to fight. It is not accidental that our jobs are called “occupations”.
The colonization of our instincts is a harder business, which is why the colonizers prefer separation and destruction to coopting of this territory. Our instincts tell us what to do, what a million years of learning has coded in our DNA as being wise for survival and health. The colonizers don’t want us doing these things, which are not in their best interests, so they merely cut us off from this territory, so we can’t hear these messages anymore. Our instincts, in the colonists’ regime, are kept under permanent house arrest. We have no idea even if they’re still alive.
What can be done? Can we free ourselves from the effects of colonization and renaturalize ourselves, become again nobody-but-ourselves? Wendy cites K. Louise Schmidt:
I am talking about a conspiracy of love that cannot be bought, controlled or regulated. With each other, between our closest co-worker or friend this calls for a boundless openess. It is learning by heart the potential of an undivided self. Can we begin again and again by looking for a spaciousness of self wherever we can find it? That spaciousness of heart which dissolves the enemy-based consciousness internalized in our own political movement?
Very subversive language, that. “The enemy-based consciousness internalized in our own political movement” — When we’ve been colonized, we close ourselves off, become suspicious of others and their motives. Our own political movement is how we self-govern, and it is in the colonists’ best interest that we be hesitant to see others as allies in that self-governance process, since that prevents us from organizing against them.
There are stories about how animals imprisoned or restricted long enough will continue to respect the boundary of their imprisonment even after the walls, fences or electronic circuitry of imprisonment have been removed. Is it possible that the gates the colonists put around the terrain of our self-being are unlocked, or perhaps not even there? Have we been “occupied” so long we have forgotten what it is to be free? Can we find other victims of the colonists we can trust enough to “conspire” with to liberate our territories, reunite them, liberate ourselves, and learn to become, again, strangely, paradoxically, with others, nobody-but-ourselves?
This is all very early thinking on this subject for me. I’d welcome your thoughts on this new “conspiracy theory”, and I thank Wendy for seeding it in me.
Category: Our Culture