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What Produces Us, Can Produce Change


As a Black man existing within a predominantly white framework here in the west, the last twelve months have ripped through my political, social, professional and emotional identities simultaneously — I live within a continuous state of “what’s next?” and “do I have the energy to deal with this again?”.


Let us briefly pause.


You may have read the above paragraph and felt empathy, warmth and/or understanding towards me. You may have felt annoyance, irritation and perhaps anger… You may be a mixture of warm AND angry! Regardless of how you feel, that is your subjective vantage point influencing how you respond and relate to my personal experience.

It is that very same subjective vantage point that influences your point of view on a range of different ideas and topics. What makes humans special is our ability to frame ourselves as an independent thinking, autonomous subject of experience. We are a product of biological and sociostructural* evolution, and the latter often gets ignored in the pursuit of “human meaning” because it does not conform to the widespread empiricist narrative that has permeated the western zeitgeist since the enlightenment period*.

At a cultural level, we have recently sought to explore and scrutinize the social world and the structures that build it. This is great, but in my eyes we must also remember to look at how this social world is internalized by us as active, thinking subjects. In order to attempt to do this, we must look towards subjectivity itself. If we can ponder how ideas are produced at a structural level in addition to how these ideas maybe internalized and projected at subjective level*, we can then look at ways in which we can reverse engineer generations of deeply problematic thinking that have been used to marginalize and oppress many groups of people across time and space. I suppose this is what I aim to do in future posts; explore the ways that structure impacts self so that self can begin to dismantle structure.


We are living in a Western framework that is built from the rubble of colonial ideology. Racism exists largely because the social and ideological structures that built it are still very much alive today. Whiteness as a way of thinking is still very much the norm. Privilege, power and status are concepts that are almost exclusively white owned.


These ideas of whiteness become internalized by ALL people within the structural space, but the experience of this internalization is different depending on where you are within the socio-political, racialized hierarchy called “The West”, “Great Britain”, or “The USA” to provide some examples.


In my eyes, understanding subjective experience is one component of many that will allow us to understand how structure lives and reinvents itself over time. I am not claiming to approach this from a place of absolute truth and understanding, but instead wish to open up a space for critical reflection to explore how we become “who” we become and why we think and behave in certain ways.


I believe that there is an invisible, insidious omnipresence that impacts our subjective experience. It is the superstructure of cultural ideas that we arguably learn to internalise and project as our own throughout our lifetime. If this were to be the case, the human experience could be framed as a constant interaction between socio-political, economic and subjective spheres with these spheres continually inventing, defining and refining our individual sense of self. But we will get into the implications of that in a future post. For now, I just want to set the scene… Understanding what produces our sense of being is to also understand what produces our collective experience. So, it is time to put our sense of self under the microscope. After all, the world needs it.


Clarifications


*Sociostructural is my way of merging structure and social identities together. In my eyes, social identities cannot exist without a structure to build themselves within, and similarly structure can’t survive unless there are social identities reinforcing its ethos. Humanity has evolved sociostructurally over the years. We have shifted from agriculture into industrial towards digital with these developments largely influencing the ways in which we experience ourselves as an active, thinking subject.


*The Enlightenment period was a time of great change and innovation and occurred during the 18th century. To put it simply, it was a transition from more spiritual, religious ideas towards more scientific ideas as the “driver” of human experience. To add my own personal “subjectivity” into this definition, the enlightenment period also occurred within colonial times, so most of the ideas that built culture and society, and continue to build culture and society today come from mostly white, middle class, heterosexual men. Yikes.


*For those who may be wondering what I mean by “subjective” — this will be talked about in detail in a future post. However, for context, my background is one of social psychology, sociology and consciousness studies, so I tend to gravitate towards the more “experiential” , culturally constructed frameworks.


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