Oppression – a reframe (2)

As I was reading my first “fly-by” of this topic I saw that what I wrote would give the impression that I misunderstood some points entirely and not address the original topic very much. I thought I’d like to make another pass though I won’t claim to even try to hit the nail on the head precisely. This is in the context of the student-teacher relationship and faith.

I suppose it is also in the context of understanding that even when something does not appear to be moving, there is a flow or dynamic occurring. If I was doing the kuzushi for katate-tori ikkyo, for instance, and I kept the uke down for more than an instant, depending on the context i.e., the situation, our relationship, etc. my holding him down could be oppressive, interactive, receptive, or any number of experiences.

If I were a parent “making” my child stop watching TV one afternoon and instead do something together like make a birdhouse or whatever, depending on the specific context, my demands could be oppressive. In the aikido example, I imagine some people might think, “If the uke is experiencing ubeing held down as unpleasant, then the nage’s behavior is oppressive. Ie whether the nage’s behavior is oppressive depends on the uke’s experience of it.” In the case of the parent and child, we might be tempted to rationalize why it is more acceptable. (Perhaps the most obvious rationale would be the parent-child relationship, consisting of trust and hierarchy.)

We may think to ameliorate the aikido situation by the nage’s explaining to uke the objective of holding uke down. At least that way uke would be able to say, “This is unpleasant, but I’ve been told it’s for my own good by someone in a position of authority.” Obviously the uke, especially in a more unknowing position such as a student, cannot by himself be the judge of whether oppression is occurring regardless of if he “got the memo” saying why.

What is the superior person getting out of it? If I’m the parent and I’m experiencing some sort of pleasure or relief from ordering my child to stop watching TV, and/or getting some entertainment, relief or consolation by having someone to build a birdhouse with, then it’s obvious that something is not right, or healthy. Colloquially speaking, my needs are being met, and my child’s needs are either not being met or being trampled and, just the opposite of being met, being increased. What might be accepted as a good motivation for the parent’s behavior is to not emphasize the parent’s needs being met over the child’s, the child is getting something out of it despite its seeming unpleasant, and the child on some level grasps the first two. Precisely how that is communicated to the child need not be verbal or explicit. In fact, it is essential that it is communicated on more of a heart-to-heart level.

In the case of a parent and child, perhaps the child is likely to be receptive to the heart-to-heart level of communication. In contrast, as we become adults, we often build up a requirement or dependence on facts, justifications, and rationales. Correspondingly, it is harder to make leaps of faith, particularly for people we don’t know well and for reasons that aren’t direly urgent.

An aikido teacher may offer me the rationale for holding me down e.g. to explore and experience the dynamic of up/down, the rationale may not dispel my discomfort. This is probably more the case the more I emotionally depend on getting a rationale or explanation from the teacher. In such cases I may, instead of forming the question, “I wonder what sort of exploration he’s talking about?”, simply swallow the authority figure’s explanation as more of a command or placation of my doubts, and not explore but simply tolerate “hanging out” in the name of exploration. Basically I initially had an unpleasant experience, was told it was not oppression but this other, more positive thing, than adopted the identification of the thing – an identification that was given to me. That is, I accepted a circumstance that may have been identified by me as “oppressive” but I instead conceded the act of labeling to someone else. I accepted the masochistic frame, or standpoint.

Whether there is an explicitly given rationale or not, I think that the crucial point is whether there is a heart-to-heart, sincere connection made. If the teacher pays attention to how the student is grasping their shared situation and how he himself contributes to how that grasp is formed, and if the student pays attention to whether or not the teacher seems to be getting something out of the student’s discomfort or struggle, and what the teacher seems to be seeking, then in this hierarchical situation there might be the opportunity for them to make a sincere connection.

As far as faith, the teacher should not simply and unresponsively expect the student to place his/her faith in the teacher, and the student should recognize how and when faith might be placed in the teacher.


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