I feel a responsibility to post a followup to speculations on how it is that Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s “situation” has come about (my 5/16/2011 post – here). For me, it’s possible to ‘see’ much of “all humanity’s 21st century challenge” captured in the drama. This post explores what the drama suggests to me.
It’s not a situation that “belongs to” any single “interest group”. The situation highlights, or brings to sharp notice, concepts of “justice and dignity”, concepts of appropriate and abusive “power” at many levels. A list of highlighted concepts would include: dignity of women, judicial practices that do (or don’t) respect dignity of accused, dignity of ‘ordinary people’ the world over (as supported, or not, by IMF and other global financial institutions).
By arguing for “dignity”, we argue for policy and practice that honors inborn human rights to participate in human community, rights of every individual born to this earth. When we argue for “right to be treated with dignity”, we argue for all that would follow: right to be nurtured (and to nurture), to be supported (and to support) one another. We argue for right of access to quality food, shelter, education, and health care. We argue for right of opportunity of every individual to discover and develop unique interest and talent. We argue for practices and policy by which individuals can both contribute to, and benefit from, human community. We argue that IF “honoring dignity” were a guiding principle in policy and practice, at every level of human relationship, our world would be a better place, more humane, more supportive of promises inherent in life itself.
“Humanity’s disregard for dignity” is displayed throughout the “Strauss-Kahn” story. The story is a “model” of dynamics in social, political, economic policy and practice as it has developed across human history. Different people of the drama fill different roles.
One individual ‘stands for’ individual need to immigrate – a need arising from the dangers and impossibilities of ‘place of origin’. The ‘place of origin’ has it’s own ‘back-story’, which includes subjugation by imperial powers from elsewhere. But “imperial power damage” is not the only ‘unfortunate’ factor at work in the place of origin; all places of origin, anywhere on earth, have histories of ongoing ‘power-over’ internal fighting among the people. IF we examine human history, we find “subjugation by imperial powers from elsewhere”, and/or “subjugation by the group living over the hill”, is common to all humanity.
We also find, everywhere, “subjugation by ‘rule’ of gender”.
A second individual can be said to stand for ‘persecution based on religious/social/political/economic biases (S-K’s Jewish heritage). If we examine human history, we find persecution of this type has been our ‘human practice’ throughout. Like the above generalized forms of ‘subjugation’, we’ve abused one another quite horribly.
At least one of the ‘principal actors’ in this drama ‘stands for’ multiple established practices. S-K stands for “intellectual persuasion” that “leans left” (toward service of core human value, rights, and needs.) But he also stands for practices known to place human value beneath “economic management that sustains for-profit, ‘competitive’, vision” of “how we humans reach our best.”
A third individual (Geithner) ‘stands for’ “right to assert authoritative voice” in the matter of the IMF and global economic needs – despite his link to absurd national economic ‘management’ practices.
A fourth and fifth, (Senator Kirk, and New York’s Mayor Bloomberg), make statements that display astonishing disregard for “justice with dignity” (given their presumed “commitment” to idealized American values, in this case, presumed firm commitment to “innocent until proven guilty”).
The ‘outward flow’ of ripples from this ‘pebble dropped into the pool’, continues. Arguments among those with “presumed authority over global economic issues” (in this case IMF principals), individuals appointed from positions of privilege and power, are a good parallel to “choosing a new pope”!
From start to finish, the “IMF, Strauss-Kahn, Immigrant narrative” drama, and all response – from representatives of institutions to individuals (essayists, bloggers, tweeters, comment-posters, …) display humanity’s miseries, fears, impulse to justice, and hypocrisies.
The full drama of humanity is “pointed-to” by the “S-K, IMF, Immigrant narrative” story, but is much, much, larger. “Hypocrisy” runs throughout. As I type this, BBC world news broadcasts details of President Obama’s statement on the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Obama speaks of “human dignity”, of “rights to self-determination”. He speaks with “authority”. “America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator”. Yet, he, too, at other times demonstrates use of “raw power” (arbitrary rejection of single-payer voice from public discussion on America’s health care reform.) He, at other times, demonstrates commitment to “power by wealth accumulation”, (the power by which the United States presently operates, in large part due to President Obama’s constant consultation with voice of established wealth in matters of national economics). Obama, at yet other times, speaks of “success by competition”, (which in its essence – must be hierarchical and exclusive, cannot be cooperative and inclusive). At still other times, he shows preference for military might, including use of drones, (which truly represent human desire to “remove the killer from any direct responsibility and experience” in an act of killing).
That President Obama demonstrates hypocrisy and ‘betrayal of campaign commitment’ does not make him unusual – now, or in any historical time of any nation. What matters is not to ‘catch’ another at ‘hypocrisy’ but to ask ourselves: “Why does humanity have trouble meeting the standards of its often stated lofty aims?; “Why do we prefer to explain away our hypocrisy (‘it’s human nature’)?”; and “Why do we pretend we‘re not ‘missing the mark’, while pointing out failures of others)?“.
I’m not especially “fearful of consequences” if we don’t “fix our world”. But ‘something in me’ causes me to want to try to nudge/shake more of us into wakefulness. The consequences are pretty clear: we’ll pound away at one another, and at the very non-human life and environment that sustains us, until misery deepens, becomes more wide-spread (surely it’s spread sufficiently!). We’ll eradicate ourselves back to a core population that carries the unaddressed ignorance – and in ignorance will replicate our same failures, or we’ll destroy ourselves all together. OR, we’ll ‘get real’, ‘get honest’, and commit to a genuinely new approach in how we organize our societies.
All our understanding of “complexity” and of “how power-over” happens, and of how “accumulation of wealth” appeals, and of how “hypocrisy is inevitable” becomes “excuse making” if we don’t – in large numbers – “get real” and “get honest” about humanity’s deeply entrenched, centuries old, practices of separation and exclusion of one another by belief and reliance on ‘hierarchy’.
We can’t just suddenly “drop” hierarchy, but our belief in hierarchical structure is at the heart of “imbalances of power”. Nothing short of a commitment to true transparency, true non-vengeful justice, true invitation of all voice, all ingenuity, all sincerity, is likely to “turn this ship around” and put it on a new course. (True invitation to all voice, all ingenuity, all sincerity ‘demands’ a great increase in consulting and collaborating with ‘ordinary people’ when policy is shaped.)
We need ‘structure’, but we need a new vision to ‘how structure serves’. “Democracy”, in its pure, theoretical form, is ‘ideal’, but in its current structural form and outcome, it is quite corrupted by “power-over” and “manipulation by accumulated wealth”. Great changes of power, when caused by wide-spread longing for individual empowerment, shift – quickly or slowly but inevitably – to hierarchical systems and abuse of power . As said above – this ‘inevitable slide back into inequality’ happens because of our ignorance ‘who we are’ – all our innate impulses, those that serve all, and those that are self-serving.
Democracy is an attempt at ‘consensus building’. When models of consensus-building that intentionally involve ‘all voices’ are used, they are extremely “inefficient”. Full-blown consensus building only works when all people are allowed to ask all relevant questions, to access all relevant information, and are ‘charged with’ creating solutions that are inclusive in outcome. If we want solutions that work for entire diverse populations, the people who speak, who help shape policy, through ‘more pure forms’ of consensus building, cannot ‘forget’ those not present. Nor can they treat a segment of any population as “unfortunately unlikely to benefit”.
Justice systems also must change. They must be ‘inclusive’ in their understanding of justice. They must respect dignity of everyone involved, including alleged and/or proven ‘perpetrators’. And they must do this without disregard for victim experience and victim need for reparation. They must re-assert the lurking belief that “justice can heal”, that perpetrators have humanity and promise. Circle and Restorative Justice models must more greatly influence established justice practice. “Me/you”, “us/them” adversarial approaches cannot continue’; practice of justice must intelligently shift to inclusive view of human value.
Both these ‘shifts of practice toward inclusion’ – consensus models that are inclusive in view of humanity, and justice practices that are inclusive in respect for dignity and value, must find their way into our social structures.
I agree with any reader who declares my ‘view’ as utopian. But I see no other ‘viable’ option for humanity but to ‘dream a big inclusive dream’ and ‘go for it’.
This means we have to ‘look for the good’ in every direction, while simultaneously recognizing corruption in every direction. This means Marx’s cautions about capitalism’s ‘creation of alienation of the individual from him/her core self’ must be taken as insightful, alongside horror shown us by Stalinism. This means ‘Corporatocracy’ as demonstrated throughout much of history from the industrial age onwards, must be examined for failure to respect individual dignity and indeed, to knowingly enslave. This means we can’t ‘rule out’ messages of visionaries like Buckminster Fuller on the grounds that ‘here and there, proposals are unworkable’. It means we’ve got to winnow through visionary offerings we’ve been given, and extract that which helps us develop a world that operates by principle of inclusion.
We can’t shift from hierarchy unless we also realize its often very powerful role in our personal, family, and ‘close at hand’, community relationships and practices. If we can’t ‘see’ how hierarchical tradition also rules our personal lives, we’ll not be able to see it in larger social/political structures. It takes us ‘nowhere new’ if we make a big fuss and ‘conquer’ hierarchy as found in institutions, yet don’t work on it in our personal situations. As stated above, our ignorance (our lack of awareness, our ignoring) of our natural inclinations – those that serve inclusive approaches to social structure, and those that serve exclusive structures – are both present. It’s important – vital – that we learn ‘who we are’, or we’ll inevitably re-create the same kinds of societies.
We’ve got to hold ‘vision of inclusion’ as our standard of measure. Regardless of how woefully unprepared, unaware, uneducated we are about ourselves, regardless of how hierarchy and exclusion ‘rule’ us, we’ve got to begin the shift. And, since we’re inter-dependent with ‘mechanisms and dynamics of the whole of nature’, we cannot ‘exclude’ intelligent, aware, stewardship of all that is ‘not-human’.
The “IMF, S-K, Immigrant narrative” story shows us who we are. All of us. It can be instructive if we use it for reflection and greater wisdom.
All I can do here is ‘sketch and hint’ at what the “IMF, S-K, Immigrant narrative” suggests to me. As I consider what it suggests, I return to the sentence I offered above: I see no ‘viable’ option for humanity but to ‘dream a big inclusive dream’ – and ‘go for it‘.
My Best! –MaggieAnn
(1) 5/24/2011: A Guardian UK article introduces an irony that ‘amplifies’ the dynamics internal to the story to broader humanitarian significance. In Dominique S-K (IMF) and the Union Maid, writer Dean Baker points out the alleged victim was a union member, that in the US, hotel workers are typically not represented by unions, and that the IMF and similar global financial institutions push anti-union policies. Any stands pro or anti union possibly made by S-K himself are not mentioned. Nor is the union’s active role (or not) in this case. Baker uses the detail to make an important point, however, about expansionist capitalism’s greed – the need to make an extra profit dollar from any source. In the US, profit can more easily be made due to anti-union policy than is the case in many countries. -MA