In this world, oppression and exploitation of people by people is a long-standing, hard to cure illness. It is part of humanity’s eternal fate. Why do people oppress and exploit others? Sociologists have produced lots of analyses which I will not repeat here. What I would like to talk about here is four possible attitudes we should take in regards to oppression when we encounter it in our daily lives.
Those who hold this attitude are generally people who suffer from oppression – they have a shy attitude, flexible mind and are good at adapting to their environment. When they’re subject to oppression, they are not without anger, but they know anger is useless. So they choose, as a kind of wisdom, to serve and please those who oppress them, and dream that some day, they’ll be among the ranks of the oppressors, and vent out their bile by oppressing others. They’re the kind of people we say ‘make the tiger bolder’. They’re essentially victims. Like ‘the second wife who boiled the first’, they will make efforts to shift all the suffering they endured onto others, and vent off the hatred that accumulated in their hearts. They usually do not believe in religion. They rather hope that there is no heaven and hell, no God and no karma. If there was any of these, they would fear, fear that what they imposed on others would one day get back to themselves. If they have any belief in life, that is: “you have to get ahead, even unscrupulously.” They’re actually very miserable, because they’ve got no real happiness or peace of mind, they are not nourished by culture, and their greatest pleasure is to become masters after being slaves, to have a chance to stand up, and get pleasure from revenge. There’s actually too many people like that around, and in fact, such people constitute the biggest part of the familiar social landscape we’re directly exposed to.
This characterises people who suffer persecution, but are stubborn and unsophisticated, simple minded, without much culture. If they are subjected to oppression, without thinking further, they choose to struggle. Of course, their struggle is not so much like a confrontation, but more like a petition. They’re like the actress in ‘The Story of Qiu Jiu’, fighting for the cause with every breath, they won’t hesitate to go up to the courts, and they stubbornly believe that there is always a fair judge in this world, and that they themselves will find a fair judge. Of course, there is usually a great distance between their hopes and the cruel reality. What their petition brings is more persecution. But this added persecution not only does not scare them, it becomes like an addictive stimulant. All the humiliation that comes with oppression feeds their desire and obsession to find a fair judge, and they experience their humiliation as a form of good fortune. Because they believe that added humiliation will allow them to receive more rewards when justice is finally given to them. Of course, they understand that their petition may never end up finding its fair judge, and to they ultimately end up sacrificing their own lives. But that does not make them back down. When too much humiliation condenses into deep-seated hatred, they naturally find a way to deal with extreme strength through their extreme weakness. This approach consists in considering their own life as completely worthless, and then use this worthless life in a kind of bet, playing a game of soul and humanity with their extremely strong persecutors. They cling to the idea of death, and threaten their persecutors with their own death. If the persecutor softens and backs down, they win. And if they die, their worthless blood can ‘taint’ the persecutors forever, and let them carry a curse forever. And in this way, they can consider themselves avenged. For people like this, the oppressors are the ones who cause trouble. Just get rid of them? The reason may be unclear. No get rid of them? Then they’ll cause more trouble. If an arbiter was indeed to come by, then there would be great trouble with oppressors. Oppressors, why can they not change their habits and behaviour, and show a little kindness? If they are indeed the same people I described as formerly suffering form oppression, who then managed to change their fate, and step onto the other side, changing habits and expectations will be very difficult. Because transferring whatever was imposed upon them to someone else, this is their reason to live. This is human nature, sinful human nature!
Oppressed People who hold this attitude are of the kind that like to think, received education, and have a strong capacity to fight, and lots of energy. In fact, they belong to the social elite, but fate did not give them a better situation because of that. The contrast between their high expectations of themselves and a situation where they see no hope stimulates their nerves. Because they are the elite, they disdain to serve their oppressors and change their fate; because they are the elite, they believe they can rewrite the rules of the game through their own uphill struggle. For that reason, when they suffer oppression themselves, they will study the nature and rules of the social system that oppresses people. Of course, they will naturally come to hold a certain point of view about the essence of the world that surround them (and it is the same view held by all people of the left). They no longer consider that what they suffer is fate or the persecution of one individual by another. They rise up to the level of ‘contradiction between productive forces and production relationships’ or ‘class struggle’. Based on this understanding, they will proactively join the revolutionary cause, set up their own ‘vanguard of the proletariat’, and through power struggles, they will try to completely change the ‘production relationships’ that prevail in their world, and thereby completely transform their own fate and that of their class. In a relatively mature society, these people are social democrats, and their struggle will give rise to a mature bourgeoisie which will give up some of its privileges in order to survive as a class. They will combine struggle and compromise to build a constructive alliance with the mature bourgeoisie, as we see today in Northern European countries. In a less mature society, they will evolve into Bolsheviks. Their prerequisite for victory is the destruction of the bourgeoisie and landlords. They do not only want to ‘eliminate lack’, but to completely transform human nature, and attempt to artificially manufacture an entirely new being, the ‘new socialist person’, and to reinvent the world. However, the elimination of the old man does not mean that the new man will spontaneously appear, and the ‘citizens’ of the ‘new world’ are still unfortunately affected by the same ‘original sin’. The sad thing is: the oppressed people they bring together will most often be the kind I described as holding the first attitude. They do not support the revolution in order to become ‘the new socialist man’ themselves, but just want to quickly take the opportunity to leave the place of slaves and become masters themselves. Therefore, in the vacant spaces left by the eliminated bourgeoisie, nouveaux riches grow, still exploiting people, and exerting the same acts of oppression. Here, a loophole emerges in radical Marxist theory: people who are submitted to oppression and revolt do not necessarily ‘develop consciousness’, they do not necessarily become ‘the new man of socialism’, they won’t necessarily feel natural empathy for the oppressed class, and they won’t necessarily be no worse than their predecessors! It is said that when Chairman Mao thought of his life devoted to revolution, and realised it was still business as usual, people exploiting people, people oppressing other, he simply wept. I don’t know if the story is true or not, but it reveals the most profound form of revolutionary despair.
The social elite desperate for a revolution can easily come up with the following way of thinking: in this world bound to be corrupt, how can I achieve absolute justice? Absolute justice only exists in the kingdom of God. And that is how, from revolution, they turn to God and become mystics. (This kind of people is Luther in Germany, Berdyaev and Solyonov in Russia, Simone Weil in France). They reach an idea which appears odd in the eyes of ordinary people – that oppressed people are exactly the point of encounter between the human and the divine, and only by suffering oppression can people understand the mysteries of salvation, and the mystery of Jesus crucified and resurrected. Therefore, when suffering oppression from the world, not only should they not try to defeat the world, but see this as a grace for them to accept, and a mission to accomplish, like Jesus’ ‘bitter cup’. In their view, injustice and corruption are essential characteristics of the world, the world has always been Satan’s territory, and all the people who attempt to defeat or transform the world are falling precisely into Satan’s trap. But there is only one real secret weapon to defeat Satan: it is to remain weak and be killed by Satan. Because for Satan, goodness and justice is a poison, and when eating up the body of a just and good person, Satan will be poisoned to death. And people who cherish the good and justice may be reborn in their soul while their flesh is dying. For people like Luther, this is the ultimate mystery, and the ultimate answer to the problem of the opressed and oppressor. Interestingly, in one of his books, Karl Marx says he’s the same kind of man as Luther, but adds that the difference between him and a Christian is that he “pulled the Heaven into the world”. He says they’re both the same kind of person, because they’re both elite individuals that cannot bear oppression and rise up in revolution. But when they consider the problem offered by the world, they part ways, and offer like mirror images of each other — people like Marx will defeat the world by defeated the world, while people like Luther will defeat the world by being defeated by the world. People like Marx are revolutionary optimists, people like Luther are revolutionary pessimists. Perhaps some people can understand and accept Marx’s attitude, but too few people can understand and accept Luther’s attitude. Because this attitude is too mysterious. And so, is a bit of pessimism good, or a bit of optimism good? I really don’t know.
Among the four attitudes to oppression I exposed above, I do not want to point one as better, because they are an expression of human nature. People holding one of these attitudes find it very difficult to understand those who hold a different one. But as far as the oppressed are concerned, it is essential to know that other attitudes are possible – if it doesn’t make the situation better, at least it offers them more choice. On the other hand, for people who intentionally or unintentionally oppress others, understanding the possible diverse reactions of the oppressed is even more necessary. The roles of oppressed and oppressors are not absolute, and the roles are very likely to change depending on the situation. Oppressors can become victim within the batting of an eyelid. And those who like oppressing others, when they see that clearly, might choose to lighten their touch.
Source : My1510 24 November 2012