Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Truth to Power…as Best We Can*

Behind the Official Story

We all practice some form of subjugation in our day to day lives. Every person is aware (some of us more than others) of the need for impression management. I need to make sure that he, or she or whomever understand who I am…in the way I want. Maybe not full reality, but the reality I wish to create.

    I’m not a Kardashian, but I use her make-up techniques. You’ll see me how I want you to see me…and then you’ll thank me for it.

As the country moves through the current election cycle, we see candidates, men who are rich, white, clearly part of the “1%”; men with great access to the overall power structure.

(This clown car, this shitshow, this obnoxious display of wealth, power and my frustration.)

These men carefully construct the type of perception they would like the American people to have. When their back stage or off stage attitudes come forward; for instance, in Mitt Romney’s gaffe “I can’t have illegals working for me, I’m running for president for Christ’s sake!” it is obviously a break in his personal, elite mentality and the projection he would like to emit to the people. The projection that he is “one of them.”

One of Scott’s points, particularly profound, is the addition of the Jamaican proverb “Play fool, to catch wise.” Things are not always as they seem and the oppressed are, as institutional ethnography says, experts in their own lives. Rarely, if ever, are they as unintelligent as the dominant force purports them to be, but maintain their own impression management as a means of survival and personal dignity. Dorothy Smith** has reminded us in her criticism of patriarchal attitudes and societal pressures that those who are oppressed, those outside the power structure are often those best able to apply critical analysis to that structure.

I’ll invite the Republican elite to remember this about women, our place in a democratic society, and our power as a voting bloc come November.

While reading Scott, I made a note, “The more wide the divide of the power (between subordinates and dominants) the greater the mistrust (particularly of the subjugated by the elites). I wonder if this is because of a hidden (internal/off-stage dialogue) acknowledgement of wrong-doing?” But, just as we cannot make assumptions of authenticity of the subordinate discourse, we can neither make assumptions of the internal attitudes of those in power without talking to those in that class.

The hidden transcript is a pervasive narrative of the subordinates that, while it takes place in the discourse of that which happens off-stage, is the undercurrent of the front-stage activities; the “elephant in the room” that is never acknowledged in that area of discourse. These off-stage narratives are places where the subordinates rehearse their lines, their discourse of revolt, where they practice “speaking truth to power.” (As best they can.)

A thing I believe most of us do.

(We are all, with few exceptions, subordinates to someone or something)

We rehearse our feelings and wait for that specific rightness of timing, as Mrs. Poyser; allowing us the opportunity to speak for others in our situation and giving the “little guy” an opportunity to reject being a leaky barrel. It is the difference between yelling at the pundits on the television and picking up tent to join OccupyWallStreet.

The Public Transcript as a Respectable Performance

The domination of one group over another is work. We don’t acknowledge it. We avoid it. We demonize anyway, but the facts remain the same. It limits the freedom also, of the elites in power, and reduces their own ability to “be themselves.” They must constantly reinforce their power, never flinching, for fear that the “fourth wall” may be breach and the whole illusion of who should or should not be in power will be broken.

In essences, the domination of the subordinate is a shit job. Everything about the power structure sucks, more for the subjugated, but in some sense, for us all.

Many displays of power are necessary to maintain the status of the elites; Scott asks how many? As seen in the dictatorships in the Middle East and North Korea, it can be decade’s worth, and then some. The ways in which subordinates are framed in the public discourse reinforce the rules. In the current discourse, even NPR labels the Syrian resisters as “rebellious pockets” rather than other terms such as revolutionaries or protestors.

Large displays of grandeur and power regurgitate the system to both the subordinates and the dominant classes, as both are consumers of such pageantry. In North Korea, where growth has been stunted as a result of horrible malnutrition, the people are almost completely brainwashed of any independent thought (at least, according the National Geographic’s expose by Lisa Ling “Inside North Korea“) and yet the government has resources to put on a huge display of military might in the front stage. In this instance, it could be posited that many in the subordinate class may no longer have a hidden transcript in their off-stage. The Dear Leader is pictured everywhere, He may always be watching, the perpetual all-seeing eye that denies the people of any off-stage at all.

This Big Brother, Orwellian type of control is noted by the Scott through the story of Owen’s silent monitor. This silent monitor uses a method of judgment that equates work (or allegiance to the Dear Leader, in the case of N. Korea) with strength of character. This one type of assessment, the assessment of work and productivity only, excludes other types, much in the same way that standardized exams in K-12 education judge the knowledge of students to the exclusion of all other types of possible learning assessments.

Lastly, Scott mentions through the example of Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant”*** that this pageantry and front-stage performance is so important, that even the health and well-being of any one member of the elite party come secondary to the maintenance of the status-quo. In the story, it is not the fear of dying and becoming a trampled grinning corpse that worries the narrator, but the fact that the Indians might laugh at him, upsetting the natural order of the hierarchy his class works so hard to protect.

I haven’t subjected to you all to any academic wax-sociologic in a while, so…hey!

*This writing is in response to the work of James Scott on resistance and state formation. I’d encourage any and all to take it up, it’s brilliant, brilliant reading.

Scott, James. (1990). Domination and the Arts of Resistance. New Haven: Yale University Press. (Pp. 1-16, 45 – 70, 136 – 183)

**Dorothy Smith. Get with her.

***Orwell. Shooting an Elephant

Written by thelittlepecan

March 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Posted in atheism

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