Pedagogy of the Oppressed: All bark, no bite

Did you know there’s another way to use the phrase “all bark and no bite”? You see, dogs have a funny way of thinking about power– and it only involves biting as a last resort. I never thought a human could understand this until I read a book that my master had laying around…

…Pedagogy of the Oppressed was written by a Brazilian man named Paulo Freire. I really think he understood that barking is way more important than biting. It’s the oppressors that bite. Who’d want to be like an oppressor? That’s one of the main questions Freire poses. He’s obviously a critical thinker.

Today’s post is meant to challenge you. If you are involved with a cause, if you call yourself an activist, if you see yourself as submerged in a pseudo-democracy run by global corporations… then perk up your ears:

Freire said that being an activist alone is not enough. Humans function fully when they are reflectionists at the same time. Without reflection coupled with action, humans cannot become fully human. Think about this: if you are caught-up in acting for the sake of acting, the actions become activism. If you get caught-up in the reflection, you become a sophist or a verbalist… just talking and talking while expecting others to act.

The key is to balance both at the same time, so that you know your actions aren’t oppressive, too– even if unintentionally.

And on what can you reflect? Probably the most reflective thing a human can reflect on is this question: “How did I come to know and believe what I have come to know and believe?” When you ask this, you develop rationale for action. Not only that, but you come to know what it means to come to know… and this is the first step in helping others come to know.

Ryan Overly, being non-violent and supporting jobs at the Shale Gas Outrage rally in Philadelphia (Photo: Josh Lopez)

This is stuff is as deep as the Marcellus Shale, and it really does make sense. Do you have a message to share? If you seek to be an activist, then one of your main goals is communicating a message, no?

It is in communication with the oppressor that we can liberate both oppressed and oppressor. Do you expect the oppressors to be the liberating ones? It’s up to the underdogs to lead the entire pack, including oppressive leaders.

So, the audience includes the oppressor (and also any other humans who don’t know the message). We need to communicate with every in a non-oppressive way.

Please use the comment section below to suggest any loving, peaceful, dignified ways to be active-reflective. The picture above, ironically categorized as “phony hysteria” by former PA Gov. Tom Ridge, should serve as an inspiration. Regardless of what Shale Gas Outrage was called by the industry, it served as a clear example of sending a message without using oppressive strategies.

Woof! to Shale Gas Outrage, and much thanks to the organizers and participants!

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About adamaecompton

just a three-legged rescue dog, bloggin about critical citizenship, the environment, and all sorts of literacy.
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11 Responses to Pedagogy of the Oppressed: All bark, no bite

  1. Dory Hippauf says:

    If wanting clean water, clean air, clean land makes me an environmental extremist, then what does that make someone who contaminates water, pollutes the air, rips up land, destroys people’s lives, and refuses to take responsibility.

    Or to look at it from a slightly different angle:
    A TERRORIST destroys in the name of PROPHET
    A CORPORATION destroys in the name of PROFIT

    One is legal, the other is not, but the end result is the same.

  2. Gloria says:

    At the Shale Gas frackers’ conference in Philly, Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake’s CEO, joined Ridge’s belittling of frack protesters, saying “the privilege of unfettered speech can lead to unfettered fear-mongering… if not balanced by rigorous fact-checking, can lead to broad-based distribution of half truths and outright lies”… Hey, isn’t “unfettered (& baseless) fear-mongering” precisely what Tom Ridge did while he was capo di tutti capi @ the Dept. of Homeland Security?? Odd, Aubrey didn’t mention that.

    To me the fact that frackers are acknowledging the growing # people who are actively educating/engaging their neighbors in the frack fight, is a small win on the way to winning the big one. Aubrey made a funny – contrasting fracktivists with factivists. Hoo boy, good one Aubrey, considering how fact based your industry’s propaganda is.

    And, yeah, for me it did start with reflection, when I learned my Pittsburgh neighborhood, which sits on the banks of the Allegheny river, had some 60 signed drilling leases, in June 2010.

    I stopped & thought about what the destruction of the Allegheny river would mean, not only to Pittsburgh, but to the millions of people, across many states, who get their water from it & its tributaries. That’s when I decided to act on behalf of my big back yard that goes from my postage-stamp sized real backyard in the city of Pittsburgh, all the way down to the Gulf.

    I’m grateful to all who’ve taken the leap from pure reflection into a marriage of reflection & action. Aubrey McClendon, Tom Ridge & Kathryn Klaber are not grateful. Woof!

  3. I oppress my City Council at every opportunity to speak. I cite the negative effects of gas drilling news stories I parsed the week before which takes hours each day. They only get positive $$ stories from the drillers. I regularily get interrupted (http://arlingtontx.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=864 see 8 minutes into video) or have my mic turned off and have been escorted out a couple of times. I get on the local news every so often because I do this (inform-the uninformed through emails addresses I collect) non stop without pay. They all are growing weary of me, and in Arlington TX, folks are still patiently waiting for their royalty checks and the build out has only just begun. So I am the Lone Ranger with the exception of the same (few folks) who come to the meetings and speak too (one who was gassed in her own home by a drill site emission event) and another is from a neighboring town.

    When I rapped at my first city council meeting, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHw2SLx3kTY) it got their attention…and when Ben Zene (my manniquin with a respirator and a cowboy hat) was born (“like” Ben Zene on Facebook), that gave us some milage, but because no additional people show up to protest drilling, I feel crushed. That is why I want to thank all those that participated in shale outrage….I enjoyed sending the email to our council that I am not alone.

    • Hi, Kim, citing the negative (especially through the power of rhythm) is not “oppression” unless you are being manipulative and lying, so thanks for sharing! Your example can serve as another inspiration to other humans who need an effective and positive way to express their outrage! The power of song, of dignified outrage, is something I’ve blogged about before… type “song” into the search bar! Woof!

      • On Youtube I changed the lyrics on a Jack Johnson song look under “Can’t You Se It’s Acid Raining” The video in the background features polluted water that our drilling may start fracking with…oh frack a new level of toxicity!!

  4. Kent Bunting says:

    I was interested in this post because I like Freire, although its been a long time since I have read him. I am not an activist in the traditional sense. I’ve never been to a protest or rally in my life. But I have been on the frontline of the pedagogical battles Freire is talking about for most of my adult life.

    I don’t think that Freire’s point is just that we have to convey our messages in a non-oppressive way. Of course, its been a long time since I’ve read him, so maybe this is just me talking.

    When you are conveying a message you are giving knowledge you have to someone else. That person has to basically accept the information passively. The pedagogy of the oppressed is to give up on this kind of education where one party pours out knowledge into the other. Instead it is to allow all parties to participate together as equals in a praxis of knowledge seeking.

    Here’s an example. When Presidents Obama and Bush together go to ground zero on the anniversary of 9/11, it may seem to be “communicating a message in a non-oppressive way.” It is mot immediately clear who is being oppressed by the communication anyway. It doesn’t seem to be targeting any specific segment of our society. And when Budweiser, and State Farm, and Snapple and Exxon have advertisements commemorating 9/11, that again may not seem oppressive.

    All of those “non-oppressive communications” convey the same basic message: Here is how we should think and feel about 9/11. They all say that there is a way we should think and feel about that incident, and, implicitly, that we should accept this as the truth unquestioningly.

    The pedagogy of the oppressed, by contrast, would engage us all in a discussion of how we should think and feel about that incident. Do you see how dangerous that would be? What if people were not only allowed but encouraged to ask whether we should really be more concerned with those deaths than the other millions of deaths that occurred that year? What if it was not only allowed but encouraged for people to think about the purposes behind those strongly emotional communications from bureaucracies such as corporations and the state? Would that be good for profits? To give up control over what people learn is a dangerous thing, whether you are a politician, a professor or an activist.

  5. Dave Waerren says:

    All hail to the pet-a- doggy wisdom of Ada Mae!

  6. Pingback: Oil & Gas Industry’s New Strategy: “The public does not believe us…” | ada.mae.compton

  7. Pingback: Top 10 3-legged Dog Blog Posts of 2011 | ada.mae.compton

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