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Reversing the damage? Part 1

July 13, 2009

One subject–or huge, radiating tangle of interconnected subjects–has been on my mind a lot lately. A rambling comment I felt compelled to leave over at Reclusive Leftist last night really got me thinking about it again. To wit: the increasing hold the wétiko psychosis seems to be gaining on my folks back home, and how it’s crushing women.

The snowballing acceptability of “domestic violence”, rape, and child abuse–basically, of men in particular thinking that it’s somehow OK to impose their will over other people by force–warrants its own post, but I have to mention it again (endnotes of that post) in this context. Just a couple hundred years ago, and definitely at the time of European contact, none of this behavior was tolerated. At all. Hitting other people in an attempt to exert control over them was only expected out of children before they learned better ways of dealing with a situation; the same went for jealous behavior, and other harmful ways of acting based on wanting to control others. Controlling and violent behavior in men was actively discouraged in particular, based on prior experience of (a) how much more likely men are to cause serious physical harm, even in a society which did not exaggerate any physical size and strength differences like modern Western society does, and (b) where this is likely to lead, if left unchecked.

AFAICT, this held true throughout the Eastern Woodlands, and seems to have been the case over most of North America. People learned from earlier mistakes, and corrected the situation. Some of us are trying to do it again. Sacred Circle is doing some good work in South Dakota; their site has info on the wider problem of violence against Native women, including some stats from further West. (It’s much harder to come up with figures for Eastern holdouts.)

There’s no need to repeat what I covered in last night’s comment, but I have been repeatedly smacked in the face (literally, on occasion) by evidence that attitudes have been a-changin’, particularly since an increasingly obnoxious mass media has been bombarding all of us. Recent backlash against women, over my lifetime, has not helped. This set of influences has not been good for the dominant culture, either, but it’s been a pernicious element in continued forced assimilation (Genocide of the Mind covers it well, as a title) for us indigenous types. Having lived on the wrong end of that stick (can there really be a right end?), I am particularly concerned about how it’s affected gender relations.

I have experienced emotional and physical abuse as a child; been groped by somewhat distant relatives who should have known better; been subjected to racist and misogynist abuse in the public schools (including outright physical abuse and sexual assault/harassment); been raped more than once (through coercion, and also by physical force), and then stalked by one nutjob; had more than one man–again, who should have known better–try to physically assault me; creepily hypersexualized as both NDN and Hillbilly, and offensively “squawed” by a couple of gropy assholes; inappropriately confined and heavily drugged because of the resulting PTSD and depression (yep, I’m the crazy one here); and been programmed to take on some degree of blame and shame for all of the above.

For years, I blamed myself for a lot of these assaults on my being. Anybody reading this probably knows more than they want to about the dominant culture’s tired old blame scripts, where assaults against girls and women are involved. Some people in my own culture, including my mother, blamed me for not handling situations properly, and letting men mistreat me. I grew up hearing this particularly pernicious twist on victim blaming coming from a good number of older women: it’s somehow our fault for not making it clear enough that we will not tolerate that crap. It took me a while to get it through my head that it is not somehow my responsibility to teach Bubba to keep his hands to himself–through a kneecapping or the old iron skillet treatment, if that’s what’s required–if the people responsible for his raising failed to get this crucial point across. Or, if he’s caught the wétiko and chosen to disregard the “inferior, backward” code of conduct he learned growing up. I also finally recognized how much crappy treatment my mom felt like she needed to tolerate from her husbands, which is yet another story, but that certainly adds a depressing and schizoid twist.

I do not mention these experiences because I want other people to feel sorry for me; I’ve mostly gotten over feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I am angry and disappointed that my experiences are not at all unusual, especially for those of us who are perceived as uppity and just don’t do Western femininity well. I am scared for other young women, particularly the ones caught between worlds.

This was not so much the case among my mom’s generation, much less my great-grandmothers’. Nasty attitudes abounded in the name of assimilation, as my Papaw’s mother or Carrie Buck could tell you. However, people had not yet been convinced to quite literally buy into the bombardment of harmful memes now brought into our homes by the mass media. Not as many people, male and female alike, had been convinced that they should “get ahead” by going wétiko themselves, and crushing anyone and anything in their paths.

The cognitive dissonance of conflicting cultural messages about how to be a good human being (not to mention woman or man) was not quite yet to the point of ripping people’s minds apart. I barely escaped that one, and seriously fear for younger women. My generation was subjected to enough poison. Another thing that scares the crap out of me, based on personal experience, is the thought of how much of these young women’s discontent and anger is increasingly liable to be attributed to personal mental illness. Cultural differences in ways of thinking and looking at the world are also liable to get pathologized (good thing Oppositional Defiant Disorder was not a popular diagnosis when I was growing up). If you’re stuck in an untenable position, the only reason you could possibly be unhappy is if you’ve got some sort of biochemical imbalance, which can be Abilified. This aspect is even scarier to me, since I’ve learned that a lot of my continuing difficulties are most likely long-lasting effects of some of the meds I was coerced into taking for almost half my life–including the diabetes.*

Right down on the personal level, these are some of the effects of patriarchal, wétiko programming getting imposed. We’re getting the stick pretty hard right now, back home, particularly women. It’s not hard to see how this would effect a whole society, or network of societies, on a nesting set of larger scales.

This has run long enough that I think I’ll split off the rest of what I’d intended to write–the main thrust, in many ways–into a separate post. This would involve the glimmers of light just barely visible past the cannibalistic programming, if I squint the right way. As hinted at in my last post, we’ve overturned wétiko systems before. Maybe enough people will wake up, so that we can do it again.

* Also another post I’ve been postponing because I’m still very angry and grieving about it, but this is most likely also why I have trouble writing now, when writing was always one of my major talents. I didn’t used to have so much difficulty translating thoughts into words, then retrieving them to put them on the screen/page. The result used to be less stilted. I’m hoping that the language-related cognitive abilities will improve, if only thanks to plasticity and rerouting. Yep, brain damage will really Abilify you.**

** My experiences were before this particular Orwellian-named drug came out, but there’s no reason to think that it behaves differently from other atypical neuroleptics. No matter what Big Pharma wants us to believe.

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