If there ever was a dog that loved philosophy, it was me. I’ve blogged about it before, of course, and you can read this or that as examples. Most of my blogging about philosophy has to do with power. What is it, where does it come from, who has it, and are these even the right questions?
I get a lot of answers from this guy named Foucault. He briefly describes something called the emancipatory power. The way I interpret this is that it is a way to live outside of both sovereign and disciplinary power. (Try those links above.) In short, Foucault has something to say to the “victims” of this world.
He says, “Don’t say you’re a victim, just state the facts.” That’s what we call exercising agency. You always have power. Sorta. It really isn’t something anyone has– it’s moreso a question of where you stand. Does the shifting ground on which you stand suck you under or push you over? (Think plate techtonics here.) Power is a force–an energy–not a thing that you hold. You can’t hold gravity, either, for comparison.
So, back to victims… what does it matter? It matters a lot. By accepting the label of victim, one is reinforcing the fact that the other has the upper hand.
Instead, exercise agency.
agency = the facts
It’s not an opinion. It’s not “Hey, this is my opinion: I’m a victim.”
Can you believe that?
If you say, “The Other has beaten me down,” then you are saying, “They victimize me; I’m a victim,” and there’s just no need to encourage that stance… in yourself or in society.
Here’s your metaphor/analogy: This is how we train teachers to evaluate young children’s behavior, is it not? Does not NAEYC (the accrediting board for people who teach young children) have full criteria about assessment of children? (It does.) Well, the whole purpose of that *could be* viewed as in terms of giving the child as much agency as possible in the documented assessment of that child’s behavior.
The moment a teacher says “Johnny was mean,” instead of saying, “Johnny took Sally’s pen,” is the moment when a teacher takes the agency over for the child: labeling the child’s behavior with a word like “mean” or “bad” or what have you. The child, if the child buys into the label, then lives up (down?) to the teacher’s expectation of being a “bad kid.”
So, why on earth would you let the anyone take your agency? Why would you let them label you as anything? No. This you will not do.
The important thing is the epiphany that if you keep your mouth shut–if you do not state the facts–then you have no agency. Here’s the deal: Giving into the self-labeling “I’m a victim” is not wise. it restricts. It is not productive for you and yet very productive for the other.
What is productive for you is for society to say, “Whoa. Hold on. There are victims here.” How do they come to this conclusion? By hearing statements of fact. Then, most powerful, they draw their own conclusions. They enact the more prevelant disciplinary power, which has much potential for being productive in society, and things change.
Sometimes not for the better altogether, but at least they change. More about what exactly disciplinary power is later. For now, just think “disciplines” as in technical disciplines, like lawyers, psychologists, natural scientists, and the like.
For too long have the people not stopped, collaborated, listened. Oh, hear ye the wise wise words of Mr. Ice:
I love your posts on philosophy! I am learning so much about myself. or at least understanding what people keep telling me and why. they say im strong, i don’t see that but i do see where i HATE feeling like a victim and i refuse to be looked at that way. I simply do the best with Gods help. Thank you for introducing me to Foucault and his way of thinking!