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Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Paulofreire Paulo Freire, from The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970:

Any attempt to "soften" the power of the oppressor in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this. In order to have the continued opportunity to express their "generosity," the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well. An unjust social order is the permanent fount of this "generosity," which is nourished by death, despair, and poverty. That is why dispensers of false generosity become desperate at the slightest threat to its source.

In the Oppressor/oppressed or Master/slave or Donor/recipient relationship, the subordinate party generally identifies with the superordinate party, and hopes to please, placate, cajole, win over. The subordinate may aspire to someday be the superior, and this urge to replicate the system is encouraged by the superior as showing a good attitude. (In our nonprofit world this urge to be like the oppressor may take the form of getting an MBA. In politics it may take the form of a call to bipartisan comity, above the fray, in charge as moderator.)

Freire makes the deep point that the oppressor, or the whole system that we call good corporate governance, or wealthbondage, is thoroughly introjected into the oppressed, or menial, or cubicle denizen. He goes on to suggest that to liberate both oppressed and oppressor from this game of mirrors is the work of the oppressed, for the oppressor is too heavily invested in the dysfunctional/functional dyad to change it. Bringing Freire  home to "our business and our bosoms," as Dr. Johnson used to say, can only mean that the worker must liberate the boss, the consumer liberate the producer, the disenfranchised liberate the owner. The prisoner liberate the jailer, the condemned man the judge. Such was the work of Jesus as depicted in liberation theology, now much reviled by the oppressor and eschewed by the oppressor's mild apologist. In America a black man can be President. What oppression can there be? What injustice? Why raise our voices? Why check our pay stub, or the rising cost of food?

In a weak moment, I asked my generous patron and long-time boss, Candidia, if I might liberate her from her oppression of me, that she might be more humane, less monstrous, more fulfilled, happier and more virtuous. Her boisterous response was not something I can print on this blog within our Style Guidelines. We maintain a high tone here in keeping with our subject matter and our highly educated, upper class audience, as well as out of respect to our Advertiser, Wealth Bondage, and their distinguished patrons. But when you are as rich as Candidia, you can say what you want, I guess. Hope I can have her corner office some day. Better mind my p's and q's in the meantime. Whatever she wants, she gets. I am sure she knows best or she wouldn't be where she is. "Be like Ombama," she said, "and someday, Sweetie, maybe you can maybe be my #1 Butt Boy."  That part I can quote, I think, because while a bit salty it is clearly good advice.

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