We live in a culture of oppression. It's all around us. It is something that we can all too easily take for granted - unless we make conscious and concerted effort to make it plain.
It's all around us. Since we were born. This culture has been around for thousands of years. We have the oppressors and the oppressed.
No one is left unscathed or unharmed. No one is left undamaged by this cultural oppression. Neither the oppressed, nor the oppressor.
In some ways the oppressed can be seen as having the luxury of awareness. The ability to see the reality of the situation—this ability is not nearly as available to the oppressor as it is to the oppressed. It's because the oppressor oftentimes must look away, the oppressor must avoid the brutal truth of the situation, the truth that it is they whom are the propagators of such vicious assaults against the oppressed. The oppressed must be maligned, cursed, castigated, made to seem unworthy, weak, insufficient, or somehow the source of the problem. In order to oppress, the oppressor often times must delude themself about the true nature of the situation, and the reason for the oppressive behavior. For example, the oppressed are labeled as terrorists so that the justification of protection or self-defense is used. (This often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.)
Look at the situation in Israel and Palestine.
Many Israelis have brainwashed themselves into believing that they are the ones whom are actually oppressed. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Israelis live in a hyper-vigilant, hyper-sensitive, culture. Jews have been subjected to anti-semitism, and discriminated against, and treated with prejudice and hate for centuries. Yes this is true. Do Jews deserve a refuge state? I think so. —But that does not make it right for Israelis, Jewish or not, to subjugate and to discriminate, to disrespect, and to treat others (primarily speaking of Palestinians here) as if they're inferior.
All human beings deserve to live dignified, happy and prosperous lives. This includes Palestinians and Israelis. This includes all of us. All of us deserve to be treated equally.
The roots of this conflict exist in the systematic oppression of Palestinians that occurred surrounding, and in regard to the formal establishment of the State of Israel.
It is a very common attitude amongst Palestinians that a peaceful coexistence would be possible if only Israel would respect the 1967 borders.
So why won't Israel pull back? Why the ongoing intensive settlement building in traditionally Palestinians Territories? What's the deal? If Israelis truly want peace, then why do they refuse to meet with Palestinians? Why do they insist on labeling their opponents as terrorists, rather than making an effort to acknowledge their common humanity?
The answers exist in the problems associated with a culture of oppression. This is a cultural problem. It's deeply ingrained within our collective and individual psyches. And the hurts caused by this culture cause deep and lasting psychological wounds. The hurts caused by this culture cause disease.
There is so much need for healing. Not only the oppressed, but the oppressors too, are victims of this culture of oppression.
Finally, my suggestion to all of humanity is to work toward the creation of a culture of consent. Abandon this culture of oppression. Do away with it immediately! Leave it behind, and let its desiccated dusts dissolve away, the crystalline structure of social and environmental degradation to be abolished.
Just imagine: a culture of consent and cooperation. Imagine kindness, reciprocity and sharing as some of the guiding principles.
(p.s. This reminds of a topic I want to be sure to pursue, i.e.: What does it mean to be "Pro-Israel?"
So, what does it mean to be "Pro-Israel?"
I argue that to be for militarism and violence towards, and oppression of, Palestinians is in no way truly "Pro-Israel." What would truly be Pro-Israel, and pro-Jewish, would be to call for a breakdown of settlements in the West Bank, and a strong initiative for reconciliation and amends toward Palestinians and all Arabs (and Persians, et al.) To be truly Pro-Israel is to call for a cessation of violent conflict. To be truly Pro-Israel is not to feed the destruction inherent in the military machine. To be truly Pro-Israel we will call to abolish the military-industrial complex.
Israelis and Israel have a right to exist. And so do Palestinians and Palestine. So do Iranians, and Iran. And Iraqis and Iraq. And Americans and America.
All people have a right to exist. All people have a right to organize themselves peacefully and not be subjugated, assaulted and/or oppressed.
We are each sufficient, individually and collectively, in and of our own beings.
So instead of distrust, violence, militarism and war - how about practicing tolerance, truthfulness, peace and compassion, etc...)
(update 3/17/2009: I also want to add a few words about the right of indigenous peoples and traditional cultures to exist without interference and intervention. In the above postscript I wrote that "Americans and America [have a right to exist.]"
While I feel this is true, I also do not want to ignore the horrible history of oppression in America, the decimation of Native Peoples and Cultures, the enslavement of Africans and Asians. This horrible history of oppression is not limited to America, nor even to the West, but has existed in various cultures and societies throughout world history.
So when I write that all people have a right to exist, I mean all people - and all cultures. All people ought to be able to participate in cultures - so long as they are not harmful to others.
The problem we have now is that it is our culture, our people, and our government that are the principle proponents of violence, harm and destruction throughout the world.
Therefore, we are right to resist the destructive tendencies of our gov't.)