To connect and disconnect: the soul and oppression

I have noticed the disconnectedness of people more strikingly when I moved to England. Mostly among English people. Thankfully, not all.

I believe it is less true about others, for example African, Asian and South American, Arab, Jewish people or Mediterranean Europeans. More typical of men than women. Perhaps it is essentially a West European male problem, which they have exported into those parts of the World they occupied and tried to Europeanize.

What happens in the heart and soul of the person who perceives other humans as inferiors, in need of his (or her) rule? This is my question.

If in any country an individual wants to enjoy – with a clear consciousness – the benefits of belonging to a privileged class they need to justify it to themselves intellectually and politically. In addition they need to distance themselves from those living in poverty who create their riches by types of work they do not know. They need to remove something from their soul in order to achieve that they will not feel the pain of those under them in the hierarchy. The class system has it’s psychological consequences and background for everyone involved. Those on the top created ‘charity’ to calm the pain they may still feel, and to try to convince themselves and others that essentially they are good people.

In order to colonize other countries, the individuals taking part in the process had to cut off some of their natural human feelings towards those human beings they started to rule over with even more cruel methods than practiced at home with the ‘lower classes’.

How could any man oppress, exploit and especially enslave another, if he feels the pain of the person whom he is abusing or enslaving? He must make his victim look essentially different, less of a human as himself. How could anyone force children into factories in their own country, or colonize another country if he perceived those whom he subjugated to be his equals? (I am using the term ‘man’ consciously because women were not creating this situation, although middle and upper-class women in the ‘mother-countries’ would have clearly enjoyed the financial benefit and the prestige of being the wife or daughter of rich people, belonging to the ‘masters’).

I imagine the individual men involved in the process of ruling ‘lesser classes’ at home and enslaving other people abroad, in order to cope with the task psychologically, were forced to alienate that side of their soul altogether which could potentially perceive all humans as his equal. This was perhaps relatively ‘easy for men’, or for the ‘normal’ men, as men have already practiced (all over the world) how to subjugate women. But after colonizing other countries their psyche must have become even more cut off from their heart (if we can assume that everyone is born with a pure human heart). This in turn would have affected their relationships with their own family, with their wives, mothers and children, with other white men, and may have spoiled their relationship with their own selves.

Man in white coat

Through the European worship of rationality white men have developed the art of over-justifying what they are doing, even if they feel it is wrong. They developed racist theories for the justification of the subjugation of people whose skin colour happened to be different. But when economically beneficial, they easily transferred the racist ideas to other ethnic groups, whose skin colour was the same as theirs, for example against Irish people, whom they also sold as slaves for many years. Our history books don’t often talk about this. In the last few decades racist ideas are used against Eastern European immigrants and ‘guest-workers’. However even in this context white West European people find it easier to start a hate-campaign when the skin-colour is different, see the hostile press against East European Romas moving to West Europe.

I always thought that men’s domination over women distorts the male psyche more than it distorts the female psyche. I think it is also true about white men’s domination over other people generally. Frantz Fanon, in his famous book ‘White Skin Black Masks’ was perhaps the first to give a thorough analysis of the psychological damage colonization caused in the psyche of the colonized people. What I am thinking about now, is the psychological damage it has caused in the psyche of the colonizing rulers, and their descendants, among who I am living now in England.

If people try to liberate themselves by copying the distorted psyche of their oppressors, e.g. women copy men, black people try to behave like white people, then the whole world will be as fucked up as the ‘normal’ people are in this part of the world.

I think there is a growing number of beautiful English men and women who are different, who are not described by the above. However normally they make special efforts to distance themselves from the ugly past and the ugly current British colonization efforts in various parts of the World.

As usual, the colonization going on currently is called something else. Hundreds of years ago they were ‘spreading Christianity’ to ‘save the souls’ of people, they were ‘civilizing so called barbarians and primitives’. Now Western and American foreign wars and occupation is carried out in the name of ‘spreading democracy’, ‘humanitarian aid’ ‘development’, even ‘women liberation’ (in Afghanistan apparently). And my lovely English friends who oppose these, may be perceived as ‘mad’, ‘bad’ or ‘odd’ by their neighbors or in some cases even by members of their own family if they don’t hate those people (with brown-skin-colour) who are officially identified as the ‘enemy’ right now.

Most importantly, many English people have re-structured their psyche and became more relaxed, a bit like the African or Latin people who do not distance themselves from others the same way as West European people have been distancing themselves for hundreds of years. They are able to connect with others, hear the perspective of people who come from all over the world, feel their pain and joy and listen to their stories.

Piroska Markus

(P.S. I found the children-photo which appears above this essay on Facebook, unfortunatley I don’t know who took it so I am unable to credit the great photographer. The other photo – of the man crossing the road – was taken by me).

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