Archive for October, 2016

Honoring personal space and boundaries

We come into human society as individuals, with unique personalities and attributes. Even when born as twins, we are all still different.

There are reasons for this; and it is for us to respect and honor these differences and boundaries. Even when and where we seek to be ‘one’ in social terms. In terms of community solidarity across different social spaces; our ethnicities, our countries, our continents, and other social groupings of political or other interest to us. Solidarity across any space can only be valid; if as an individual you ‘choose’ voluntarily to be a part of this. For this is the only way, you could possibly care about and then participate truthfully and fully in this respective venture with others.

However, from childhood as we grow, we only come to understand over time that we are indeed separate individuals and that this status is of particular importance regarding how we choose to engage with others around us, and with ourselves, first and foremost. An infant child thinks they are part of their mother or intimate carer in the beginning, because they intuit all of the child’s needs and feelings; whether this is desire to feed, to sleep, to be dry, etcetera. It is only at the age of eighteen months, that a child begins to understand that they are a separate being, from their mother, and others.

At a personal level, we have various ‘spaces’ as well; spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental or psychological.

The ‘external’ or non-personal spaces require some kind of shared kinship, for example, genetic or adopted relationships in order for one to qualify as one’s family member. The same with other social spaces; either the proximity of a shared physical or geographical space – or the sharing of a ‘conceptual’ space, say a students body, a political or professional social grouping. Therefore, allegiance with these ‘external’ groupings has to do with some kind of mutual interest likely to affect you as a member of that social group.

The personal space is very special here in that we voluntarily choose to let others share this space within us; we can choose to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at any one time. We can choose to let people in or out – at any point in time. We have the sovereignty of personal prerogative to do this. Hence, there can never be any genuine relationship or connection with anyone, of a personal nature, where coercion – by any means – is involved. A lot of coercion is employed, overtly or covertly, through unbalanced power relationships with authority figures – at home, in schools, religious, cultural and other social institutions and situations. Where there is threat to one’s personal safety or survival, when it is not possible for someone to safely and comfortably say, ‘no’; then any supposed ‘yes’ in this situation is indeed invalid and consequently untrue. Our ‘yes’ can only be true when we are genuinely free to openly express this. It is important for us to be fully aware of this; even while exposed to these, too often, frequent circumstances.

Therefore it is of specific importance for us as individuals to ‘mind’ our boundaries. To ensure that our personal connection with another is truly desired, at some deep level, within us and that this is reciprocated, honored and respected. For nothing less will do.





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The miasma of domination

Have you ever wondered… what it’s all for? Why bother waking up everyday just to repeat the same old grind, the same old depressing life, day in, day out? You are not alone….

The World Health Organisation estimates 350 million people of all ages, globally, suffer from depression. Depression is the leading cause – the leading cause – of ill health worldwide. More women are affected by depression than men and at its worst depression can lead to suicide.

There are glaring social inequalities explaining why so many people are so unhappy with their lives here on the planet. It is not just by coincidence or chance. We know from our day to day living that when we are unhappy, it is not by chance or accident. There are always reasons, whether these are recent, or have existed for a long time, as far as can we remember. It is just that the reason or reasons for our unhappiness may be circumstances or social situations that are beyond our control. Unless, we are responsible for our own depression by something we said, or did, or even thought! Yes, depression can be temporary, or can last over long periods of time – even years.

But let’s first take a look at our social condition as the human race, and what would contribute to so much misery! I posted an earlier article about the structure of domination in human society. This follow up post looks at how systems of domination create social dysfunction through exclusion of marginalised groups. Social exclusion is the process by which certain groups are systematically disadvantaged because they are discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, caste, descent, gender, age, disability, HIV status, migrant status and along the lines of any other demographic out there. Discrimination occurring in the wider society and its’ institutions both stems from and occurs among families at the level of the household.

Unequal power relations in social interactions between individuals and groups all lead to deficiencies in social participation, social protection, social integration and power for those at the lower end of the power spectrum. These exclusionary processes are seen across the four dimensions:

  • Political exclusion, which includes the denial of citizenship rights such as political participation and the right to organise, and also of personal security, the rule of law, freedom of expression and equality of opportunity.
  • Economic exclusion, which includes lack of access to labour markets, credit and other forms of capital assets.
  • Social exclusion, which takes the form of discrimination along the lines of; gender, ethnicity, age, etcetera, which reduces the opportunity for such groups to gain access to social services and limits their participation in the labour market.
  • Cultural exclusion, which refers to the extent to which diverse values, norms and ways of living are accepted and respected.

The Impact:

Globally, 836 million people still live in extreme poverty (measured as living on less than $1.25 a day). There are about one in five persons who are affected in developing regions, the overwhelming majority of whom are found in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This then translates into poorer levels of health and education, particularly when poverty is combined with remoteness and lack of infrastructure and social services.

The psychological aspects of marginalisation described by Eyben and colleagues (2008):

‘The injury done to people who experience discrimination on the basis of labels they are given by society and entrenched ideas about their inferiority or societal taboos around sex, death and dirt goes well beyond that of economic deprivation and lack of political voice. When people are treated as lesser because of the colour of their skin, their sex, what they do for a living, and where they live, they can come to internalise a sense of lack of worth that profoundly affects their sense of what they can do and what they are due by society’ 

What Next?

Advocating or agitating for social change can be undertaken by excluded groups forming and/or participating in organisations that represent their group interests. And where possible, potential partnerships should be built between the state and civil society to drive transformative agendas.

At individual level, we need to be constantly reminded of and affirm our worth as human beings; who are just as deserving. When our minds, bodies and spirits are constantly beset by adversity; we must seek deep within our spiritual core for groundedness. And by spiritual; I don’t mean religious, as institutional religions are as much to blame as regressive cultures and educational systems in perpetuating systems of domination. It is to remember that there is so much more to us as individuals than just marginalised bodies living in human society. We are essentially spiritual beings having a human experience. And it is in this spiritual centeredness that we must seek refuge.

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