Decolonization / Personal Is Political

The Crisis Of Objectivity

The many promises of objectivity are perpetually sublimating, revealing more and more that whether you have a particular religious faith in a One True God or a pronounced secular bend in a One True Way (i.e., the scientific method or GTFO), we have all been duped. Furthermore, if we don’t take action now, when it is already far too late, there will be no way to mitigate the damages done. We are facing an environmental crisis of global proportions, steeped in a thick stew of colonialist ideologies and interdependent oppressions. The entire human race needs to get on board with a radical paradigm shift, or we will surely drive ourselves into mass suicide, for no amount of money in the world will quench our thirst when we can no longer safely drink water, breathe, or nourish ourselves with the fish, flora, and fauna that depend upon the same water and air as sustains us.

So how do I know that objectivity is becoming less and less attainable? Where does my cynical idea or even the sense of it come from? How do I validate this claim? Well, readers, I acknowledge first and foremost that whatever our conceptions of what objectivity means or looks like, that idea does not exist in a context-free space. Just as I exist, and my life continues on day to day, and the amount of information (and nature thereof) available on the internet continues expanding faster than any human being could possibly keep up with, and the computer and interface devices I use to communicate with it exist and operate, so too do our ideas—and all of this is embedded in various ways within an over-arching social structure of colonialism. As human beings, this is an inescapable fact. We are fated to be shaped, consciously or unconsciously, voluntarily or involuntarily, by the context(s) in which we exist. Our private thoughts are no more a context-free space than our literature, our education system, our political structures and governing bodies, our justice system, our healthcare and social resources, or our material environment. How did we ever fool ourselves for, say, the past 500 years, into thinking that objectivity was even reasonably within our reach?

Of course, I can’t answer that, except to suggest that something significant started happening a long time ago in Northwestern Europe. Perhaps it was a piece of writing or some other form of art. Maybe it began as the disgruntled mumblings of a disenfranchised farmer. Whatever it was, and where ever exactly it came from, some human beings developed the idea that they had the power to step outside of themselves, look down upon others, and see exactly every thing they are doing wrong. They developed this idea further than anyone else had prior, and it wouldn’t be long before the idea of objectivity became a material reality, against which all human beings could be measured. Perhaps it was the creation of currency. Maybe it was the act of writing religious gospels onto paper in place of paintings and carvings in stones that were too big and too respected to be considered movable. It very well could even have been the very notion of humankind as a species above our carnal brethren, who are in our collective wisdom incapable of objectivity—though we might measure this by teaching a dolphin to read and respond to sign language, for instance, and thus deliberately neglect to consider alternative ways to communicate that might open up the other side of our conversations with them. We somehow developed this idea of stepping outside of ourselves to the point that, many generations later, we are now perpetually outside ourselves, and continually fail to engage with either our own subjectivity or that of our many relations. We are alienated from within, and we are told that not only is this objective, but also more desirable and worth more to our entire species, our future generations, and our planet, than any degree of subjectivity.

Well, let’s see where that’s gotten us as a species.

Apart from our environmental crises, we have groups such as atheists and skeptics, who have manufactured an invisible cage made entirely of their own collective rage, for the express purpose of getting angry about it and blaming devout believers of organized religion for their crises. They literally worship the idea of objectivity, often but not always to the point of engaging in psychological warfare about it. We have devout believers of various organized religions — those religions being direct products of the often violent colonization of various peoples throughout history and the world — huddling terrified (but unable to admit it) in cages made entirely of colonialism so deeply and profoundly internalized, that no matter how small those cages start to feel as activists of all kinds start rattling them in demand of equality of all peoples, they will rabidly defend their right to return to their respective cages, night after night, where they are shielded from the unwanted advances of social change as they pray to an externalized higher power that exists objectively and alienated from the very Earth upon which they kneel. We have a society in which both corporations and corpses possess greater rights to both autonomy and privacy than individual people do (especially pregnant individuals), and this social organization is somehow still described by a faithful majority as a democracy—even when our elections are fraudulent and both our leaders and our media repeatedly and very deliberately refuse to acknowledge people who are so outraged by the violations of their collective rights that they are moved to march in the streets or for several thousand kilometers, where they are again blatantly ignored and avoided.

And more, though briefly, on what types of structures I am referring to when I speak of colonialism. In the greater scheme of society, colonialism is an unavoidable context in which all of these different groups, their individual members, and their ideas are fully steeped, where they are clashing, passing like ships in the night, mutually extinguishing each other, or intersecting in an amplification of their collective voices and concerns. It is also an unavoidable context which we individually absorb, or internalize, through the Eurocentric, assimilative structures of our most prominent social influences, such as our many caregivers, peers, teachers, priests, coaches, employers, community volunteers, police officers, pop culture, school libraries, textbooks, and so on. Colonialism is racism, capitalism, sexism and misogyny, patriarchy, ableism, cultural chauvinism, cultural imperialism, xenophobia, the alienation resulting from the constant pursuit of perfect objectivity, the banality of it all, the systematic erasure of the systemic violence that is both a cause and an effect of the perpetual repetition and renewal of colonialism and all of its associated structures, and the globalization of all of these social inequalities. That last one is particularly important. Colonialism is enormous, wildly complex, both abstract and concrete at the same time, and yet so literally unavoidable once you begin to finally acknowledge it that it is suddenly everywhere at once, all the time, as it has always been since long before your completely improbable existence came into being already fully immersed in all of this.

I’m not saying that there are no objective facts. I’m saying people are not objective, and therefore neither are their ideas. I’m also suggesting that the biggest possible impediment to objectivity that ever could be is the belief itself in the very possibility of human objectivity.

I’m not saying that virtually every product that has ever resulted from colonialism or the continued struggle against it is inherently evil, immoral, bad, wrong, or toxic, either. I’m saying that we are in a global crisis because we only think of our fellow human beings, while we consider the Earth itself and everything else that exists upon it a thing we are entitled to take possession of, extract from (see also: stealing from and raping the Earth itself), and sell. We are in a global crisis because we have lost touch with the reality of how dependent upon the Earth we all are, always have been, and always will be. We are her children and she is our mother. The water we drink is her life blood, and it was once the life blood of many generations previous to us. The air we breathe in, she has breathed out for us, and it too was once breathed by many generations before us. The lands we live on are her organs, and it was once the land upon which many generations lived harmoniously with her when we still accepted that without her, we could not exist. We are in a global crisis because we have forgotten these things, but we once understood these things so well that they are most assuredly written into our very blood.

There was a time when, as human beings, we considered all human beings as part of our democracy, in addition to all the fish, flora, and fauna we rely upon to sustain ourselves. We didn’t dismiss our water, air, or land in our democracy, either. Our radical democracy, in which all life and the planet itself was considered our equal without the need to desperately plea for our strong consideration first, once sustained the entire human species for tens of thousands of years. I’m not saying it was perfect or even relatively ideal, because that would be as close-minded as the worldview and culture I have been writing against for this entire entry. But I am saying that it is possible to reconnect within ourselves, one at a time, and revive our traditional ways in a modern context — that is the ultimate goal of decolonization, and the means to achieve that is to become aware of the waters we have been born into and swimming in for our whole lives.

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