If it were true that superior people refuse to be treated as inferiors, it would follow that those low in the social order are truly inferior, since, if they were superior, they’d protest; since they accept an inferior position, they are inferior. This is the comfortably tautological argument of the slave owner, the social reactionary, the racist, and the misogynist.
The shift from denial of injustice to recognition of injustice can’t be unmade. What your eyes have seen they have seen. Once you see the injustice, you can never again in good faith deny the oppression and defend the oppressor. What was loyalty is now betrayal. From now on, if you don’t resist, you collude. But there is a middle ground between defense and attack, a ground of flexible resistance, a space opened for change. It is not an easy place to find or live in.
The exercise of imagination is dangerous to those who profit from the way things are because it has the power to show that the way things are is not permanent, not universal, not necessary. Having that real though limited power to put established institutions into question, imaginative literature has also the responsibility of power. The storyteller is the truthteller.
Ursula K. Le Guin
I am again looking up some of my favourite thinkers as I come to terms with the irony that the only way for me to have voice is by giving up voice. I have agreed to not write about a meeting with Haven. Not exactly what truth to power originally seemed to me. Originally, of course, I had no idea what I was doing. I was so in desperate need of truth that I grabbed it by the horns. Not agreeing to conditions would be nothing but youthful idealism–something I have only ever been good at in its most perverted form.
As usual, my favourite thinkers don’t tell me what to do. If anything they tell me, you can be one of us. Join us. You have the ruby slippers.
And I want to say, can I get a raincheck?
Haven always told me what to do.
I am coming to peace with it. I will have this meeting. Perhaps being pragmatic is not the same as selling out. The message you can only exist under our conditions is not a new one or a surprising one. People have always placed limits on my existence. Finding a peaceful rebellion is an oxymoron because it really is that hard, but peace could’ve never existed without rebellion.
I didn’t need Ursula K Le Guin to tell me that, but it helps to know that someone else thought it too. Someone else was once in this position, and will be in the future. And maybe they will read me and think the same.
Perhaps we are not rebellious or pragmatic or what have you but simply more human than we originally signed up for. That is how this often feels.
There is a saying about a wise old fish swimming past two little fish, asking them how the water is. The little fish asks the other little fish, what’s water?
How do you explain water?
And to the person who said I have nothing of value…
This is water.
The three people with the most power have called me: dangerous, uncaring and offering nothing of benefit. It reminds me of the lion, tinman and scarecrow; looking for courage, a heart and a brain and instead putting it on me.
I think that makes me incredibly valuable, for all the wrong reasons.