My cultural transgression

Posted: 11/07/2018 by zandtao in Freedom, Insight
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In this clip (see below) bell hooks discusses transgression initially in terms of rap music, then white appropriation and so on. As usual she is a walking enquiry (see this blogNowhere to hide“), and I began thinking of my own cultural transgression – involvement with black people. Was it a phase? I am not now living in a black community so in that sense it was a phase, but I am not living in a white community either. So was it a phase, and does that matter?

Ultimately my history with black people ended when I finished work, and decided to retire to Thailand to seek peace, a peace I soon found there – fundamentally in isolation. In a sense this peace is “outside community”, there is limited connection to my personal history, and limited connection to the community I live in because of my limited language. It means that I must find peace in who I am and peace in nature. I question whether there is peace with people – necessary support but peace?

When she spoke of transgression it was not a word I fully understood – when I looked into it I was surprised how little I had considered it given my personal history.

First of all this analysis might fall into the arena of sankhara – over-intellectualising, because I did what I did. But the purpose of any analysis has to be to see whether my actions were conditioned. Is my cultural transgression a conditioned cultural response? That reminds me of my father who claimed I would soon grow out of my socialism. That socialism was based in compassion, and compassion is not something I could grow out of – many do.

In my family’s white middle-class suburbia I knew of only one black person; he was in school, big and he was always fighting. Now in retrospect I am not surprised given what he had to put up with, but it just invoked fear in me. I met only one black person at university. She ended up being the girlfriend of a person in the hall of residence and she wouldn’t speak to me even though her hometown was 5 miles away and that meant I wanted her as a holiday friend because we were “uni”. It didn’t happen, I suspect I said something crass – racist – when drunk. The only other image of her I have is that she was nice and quiet.

When I first started work I met a few black people but they were not in my life. I do remember an incident in which a friend said that this lady would sleep with me. To me this lady was way too powerful and overbearing. She was overbearing, American, loud black and older (early 30s), by comparison I was weak, talked only when drunk, white, shy English, and young for my age at 22. I was also very sexually immature, she obviously wasn’t. I can’t remember what I said but I thought about it and weeks later told my friend I would, and was laughed at by my friend who said this lady had moved on.

My first real encounter with black people came in my first teaching job. Between the above immature experiences and starting this job I had hit bottom – Ch 21, and had spent 30 months resurfacing on the path. In the care home I had a passion for a black houseparent but again I was scared – and she had a boyfriend. I had several passions that year, and what dominated those passions was a complete sexual immaturity; I was scared of the black woman more because she was a woman than because she was black – I think. But she was black and beautiful, which mattered more?

At school I became more familiar with black people both as students and teachers, and as one black friend took the time to educate me I unlearnt a lot of my white supremacist conditioning (in this clip (4.33) see why bell uses this terminology). At the time I was an educationalist, and did not have a full view of education in terms of the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. I saw education as offering the possibility of leading out the true self, and I started teaching to see if I could do that. Because it was so soon after hitting bottom, spirituality was almost singular and the priority.

Once in the school I saw how unjust the treatment of the black kids was, and they became a focus. Because I saw the institution was contributing so much to the disadvantage I began teaching in the evening in a black community education project. This brought me into contact with black educationalists outside school.

Starting on the path I was desperate for experience. Although I was fortunate to have started on the path and therefore had some wisdom, I was socially and sexually very immature. This was not helped by the alcohol-induced view that I could meet people when drinking, anomaly when I thought of myself as spiritual.

After a while that desire for experience turned to women, and I fell in love with a woman (white) – for a number of reasons this didn’t work out after maybe two years. It was then I became interested in black women forming a close non-sexual relationship with a colleague. At the time my social life was also “around” the black community, and I was then continually seeking a black woman – between the drink.

As an after-school activity I began work on a magazine through the youth centre, and being disillusioned with education I took this up full-time producing the Young Journal. In my mind it was a magazine that could present the creative talents of black youth – without being focussed on music and hair. The content however was driven by the young people who came across the magazine so my bias doesn’t show in it.

Towards the end of the 3rd issue I started my tempestuous relationship with a black woman that lasted two and a half years and disrupted my life. This love ended the magazine and I was in Brighton working and trying to survive the relationship. With the magazine I had met people, mainly Africans, who put meat on the bones of my understanding of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy – with limited emphasis on patriarchy. My understanding became far more international in perspective, and was evident in the political life I turned to. My time in Brighton was dominated by my love, the failed relationship and its aftermath, and I left for Africa. One friend gave me a nudge and a wink saying that once I had tasted chocolate … I don’t know but by then I was 40.

This friend might have been correct but in my mind there was experience and reasons for leaving Brighton with its relationship and aftermath. I had experienced black family life. Whilst in the relationship I had made my drinking far worse – because of my weakness, the particular black woman and her family, but in part I had enjoyed living with this black woman; she was the first woman I had lived with – when younger I had fallen in love but I was too independent to live with her.

So this brought me to dabbling in Africa. For half the men on the teaching programme relationships with black women became the focus of living there, for others it was travel; as were many, women and travel became my focus. However by then I was not drinking so women and travel were not enough, I did an M Ed, mid-life review and moved towards Buddhism.

But I dabbled with African women living with me – on and off for nearly 7 years, and because of their cultural upbringing this worked well 90% of the time and the other 10% was tumult. Although one time I was close, I never fell in love in Southern Africa, and moved away from Africa to private schools to try to get a pension. Once I left Southern Africa there were never any further relationships with women, although 5 years later I returned to West Africa to teach. Once I finished with that contract black people have been a rarity in my life.

So was all this transgression? On reflection I have always thought of my gender-type as “white man attracted to black women”; after the time I fell in love near 30, I have never had a relationship with a white woman. This is why it could be a gender-type so I think of it as more than transgression. But is it?

For 12 years I have lived alone in a country of beautiful women. I came here thinking that relationship could occur through religion, but there hasn’t been a glimpse. For 7 years after Southern Africa I wanted only meaningful long-term relationships, and it became clear that could only happen if I lived somewhere. But it hasn’t happened where I live. In my last job I enjoyed working with black people and the students although the school situation was horrendous – and that had some cultural origins.

Am I any nearer answering the transgression question? To begin with I thought no but now I feel I am. At the time of hitting bottom I had rejected conditioning but I was still conditioned. This meant that transgression was still part of my privileged conditioning. I felt that I had the right to go out there and experience. It was never my intention to return to the privileged background that bell refers to, but there was still the privilege that I felt I had the right to go out and experience.

But one can’t ignore the fact that this is also nature’s path – young people going out and experiencing, getting old, reflecting and finding peace. But there is no doubt that I benefitted from privileged conditioning. I should also note that I was so immature that I was 40 before my desire for experience risked the world. In a way this was good because by then I knew enough of myself to be self-reliant instead of seeking solely from the community.

Cultural transgression is a conditioned response. Privilege entitles people to move out and experience the different, and once they have had a few knocks, return home and count the pennies. This is similar to nature’s conditioning. The young person leaves home gets some experience, and then returns to the womb-community recreating the family culture for a new generation. When I consider my early adult life in London, I think of people exploring – the 60s and aftermath, yet these people have turned back to their womb-community, and in Brexit voted with community. Emotionally that feels like a betrayal, but backs up bell’s view of transgression.

Sometimes social conditioning and natural conditioning combine and it is difficult to discern. One can never be absolutely certain where the boundaries lie, but it is good to investigate – learning that includes learning about our conditioning is the purpose. Thank you again, bell, for the spur to enquiry.

Below:- bell hooks gave a talk on Cultural Criticism and Transformation, and there are 8 parts to the talk. Unfortunately part 7 is considered unsuitable by youtube so you can’t find it. Part 8 starts on about rap music, and then about half-way through this clip she discusses the transgression of white people “getting into rap”.

“snowflake confusion” <– Previous Post Next Post –> “MAWPs fake news”

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Mandtao, Matriellez.

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