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Written by Jessica Leigh
“Men and women rarely admit their fear of freedom openly, however, tending rather to camouflage it – sometimes unconsciously – by presenting themselves as defenders of freedom. They give their doubts and misgivings an air of profound sobriety, as befitting custodians of freedom. But they confuse freedom with the maintenance of the status quo, so that if conscientizacao [consciousness] threatens to place that status quo in question, it thereby seems to constitute a threat to freedom itself.”
People who have been socialized within structures of inequity and oppression think they want freedom, but actually what they want is comfort, safety, and stability. This is particularly true for those in power, or those who are favored by social structures, norms, and institutions. When these dominant members of society perceive that their power is at stake, they will fight to protect the status quo. Oppressed peoples also tend to favor the status quo. This is because challenging the status quo is inherently dangerous. Oppressed or marginalized people will have to risk their lives and their safety for the chance at freedom. Oppressed peoples will also have to release the stories and beliefs that they may carry about themselves. Thus, in order to move the struggle for freedom forward, marginalized or oppressed people will have to reckon with the ways in which they have internalized, bought into, and helped to maintain their own oppression.
“True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the “rejects of life,” to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands – whether of individuals or entire peoples – need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they becomes human hands which work, and, working, transform the world.”
Generosity is not to keep someone dependent on you. Rather, generosity is to give up the privilege that you have by putting yourself in someone's shoes. Generosity is an act of love. It is an existential act that requires putting oneself at risk. For those within positions of power, generosity means to relinquish power over others in order to recover one's full humanity. This means actively working to dismantle structures that facilitate exploitation. In order for dominant members of society to engage in true generosity and solidarity with their marginalized counterparts, these members of society must undergo a fundamental psychological transformation. They must come to recognize how the benefit from the status quo, and how they are complicit in maintaining it. Only through understanding their own position and role within the larger social structure can dominant members of society engage in true solidarity through informed acts of political resistance.
“To affirm that men and women are persons and as persons should be free, and yet do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce.”
A person who believes in human freedom, justice, and equality must act on that belief in the world. This means challenging and resisting structures of oppression. Resistance can be small-scale or large-scale. It can be organized or individualistic. Resistance means taking responsibility for one's role in perpetuating and maintaining structures of oppression. For those who are marginalized by the social structures of the status quo, resistance may be a matter of mere survival. For those in privileged positions, or positions of power, political resistance in solidarity with others is the mechanism by which one can reclaim and recover one's full humanity. People in positions of power reclaim their authentic humanity by actively refusing to comply with social machinery that exploits and dehumanizes others.
“Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.”
Education must do away with the notion that the student is the passive recipient and the teacher the active transmitter of knowledge. This model of education reinforces the status quo and leaves students with little to no tools for radically transforming their environment and world. Instead, teacher and student must come together in a mutual learning process. The teacher must be willing to adapt, yield, change, and grow with the student. In this way, the teacher and student can work together in order to actualize their human values. The world is not transformed by the teacher transmitting static knowledge to the student as receptacle. . Rather, it is the total relationship between student and teacher that has the power to transform the world.
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