semi-incoherent thoughts on violence and oppression and work and sustainability

17 01 2009

I’ve been really struggling to pull my thoughts and conclusions together on the issues related to my last job and why I left it. I don’t know that I can even pin down a coherent narrative or argument, much less any sort of conclusions, so I’m going to just start writing.

Some issues:

  • straight white-dominated domestic violence movement; how it ignores issues of communities of color, of queers, and more broadly, how it is disconnected from the needs of survivors –> related to how DV strategy reinforces systemic violence based on race, gender, sexuality, class, ability –> relying on police to prevent violence, even as those same police are responsible for committing acts of violence. how to simultaneously address structural and institutionalized violence w/in communities while also adequately serving the needs of survivors. abuse and violence replicates itself in a cyclical fashion, and it is painfully clear to me that institutionalized violence bears responsibility for individual instances of violence and abuse. this isn’t just about racism or police brutality either (although that, obviously, is huge – but let’s not pretend violence is just a problem for communities of color; not only is that trope so tired, it’s not true, and even if we’re talking about it in terms of explanations and larger social issues, it’s not an okay untruth to perpetuate), it is about sexism and homophobia, and how that plays into constructions of masculinity, strength, and violence (perpetrated by all people, not just men or masculine-identified people). however, the process of confronting, challenging, and eradicating systemic and institutionalized violence and oppression is far too slow, if people’s bodies, lives, and safety are on the line. how do we ensure that *all* people are able to live safely and thrive? Because *clearly* police and law enforcement are not the answer. Maybe they have a space in a multi-faceted solution, but the way the prison industrial complex perpetuates violence makes me doubtful that they are useful in an ongoing fight to disrupt cycles of violence.
  • non-profit funding structure; how the non-profit funding structure cripples agencies and encourages mis-direction of efforts and resources away from community-identified needs and toward donor-identified priorities.
  • how unhealthy patterns of engaging with one another and a community are replicated within the agency environment; not understanding self-care (with self as defined as individual and collective) as inherent to the work of building a healthier and more just world – not an after-thought or an addendum to “more important” social justice work – “be the change you wish to see in the world” and all of that; also, hero-mentality in social-justice work
  • the privilege to have left an unsatisfying and unhappy job. I don’t think that staying in a soul-draining job is the answer, and I am still comfortable with having made the decision to leave, but i need to think more about the inherent privilege in having the ability to have left. what it means as part of the larger picture, who has the wherewithal to prioritize their mental health and spiritual well-being, and how do those of us in that position productively direct energy toward changing the larger system so that it isn’t a sacrifice people have to make, and it isn’t a decision dictated (in whole or in part) by class privilege?
  • also related to that last bullet, in going forward, how do I find spaces and work that is responsible and fulfilling. I’m thinking about this recent post on Enough about working in philanthropic circles and in the philanthropic world to bring about change in how donors think about giving away money, even though it’s offensive and disturbing sometimes and other donors/philanthropers often function in really f’ed up and problematic ways, but the value of using privilege-based access and power to bring about change. What does that mean for me? (obviously, nobody else can answer that one…)

this will probably be ongoing, but those are some things that are percolating this morning. i don’t think this blog has all that many readers, but if anyone has any thoughts on those or related issues, please do share.

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