Reflections – February 9, 2022

A lifetime lived in the liminal space

between those with petty power

and those whom they would oppress

perhaps without conscious awareness

parents

please believe me when I tell you

it’s not an easy place to be

sometimes a clown or trickster

other times deliberately deferential

with a mousy well-tailored demeaner

soft-spoken and mild-mannered

and a focused observant presence

looking for any possibilities

for building common ground

yet unwilling to compromise integrity

even when it means disregarding

threats and demeaning disrespect

silently healing a bruised ego

because that’s not what is important

when others’ wellbeing is at stake

*

recognizing that one has many choices –

deep sorrow, self-righteous anger,

or patience and compassion for all involved

over lost opportunities to come together

in the exploration of creative, liberating

possibilities based on reason and grace

*

recent events served as a reminder

that my worldview and values

don’t fit well with those of colonial institutions

and those of the gatekeepers and overseers

posted as guards to enforce conformity

often unknowingly – reminding me once again

of the words of Michel Foucault (1979, p. 304).

“The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the ‘social worker’-judge; it is on them that the universal reign of the normative is based; and each individual, wherever he may find himself, subjects to it his body, his gestures, his behavior, his aptitudes, his achievements. This carceral network, in its compact or disseminated forms, with its systems of insertion, distribution, surveillance, observations, has been the greatest support, in modern society, of normalizing power.”

*

normalization 3

Drawing by Carol A. Hand (based on an adaptation of N. Andry (1749), Orthopaedrics or the art of preventing and correcting deformities of the body in children, cited in Foucault, 1979, inset # 10 between pp. 169-170).

*

It may well be as Foucault suggests

that only some of us are fortunate enough

to know that we are not completely socialized

and carry the responsibility to teach

by thinking critically and “walking our talk”

*

Work cited:

Foucault, M. (1979). Discipline & punish: The birth of the prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York: Vintage Books. (Original work published 1975)

14 thoughts on “Reflections – February 9, 2022

  1. Thank you. I needed this. I just saw the title of the book, I was looking for that answer. Your reflection touched me personally. Walking the walk can take many forms. But the requirements are always the same, courage, compassion, patience bottom line. In Buddhism we’ve been in the degenerate age for a few centuries. In Mayan culture we’ve entered the Sixth Sun. So much energy flowing around, it’s a blessing to receive your grounding words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Ronnie. Foucault’s work is interesting, but it wasn’t easy for me to unpack and understand. I am grateful that I took the time to do so, though. It continues to provide a clear foundation for understanding how socialization continues to limit freedom and imagination.

      Recently, I found a wonderful overview. Here’s a link that might be a good place to begin with your exploration of Foucault’s work: https://philosophyindefinitely.wordpress.com/2021/12/03/michel-foucault-epistemes-and-power/. I look forward to hearing about what you think!

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        1. After I read about Foucault using Jeremy Bentham’s 1787 Panopticon as a metaphor to illustrate his
          point, that prison inmates never knew when they were being watched, and therefore always had to act as though they were being watched, which resulted in docility. This reminded me about an article I read online about the increased use of cameras in schools and it used the term “normalization”, which I did not connect to Foucault at the time.

          The article was more focussed on the indoctrination of children in Schools in England, and prohibiting teachers from saying anything about Capitalism. The UK Government is also interfering in English universities. That’s another story though. There are a lot of teachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who are leaving the profession for various reasons, but the root of the problem is always the Government.

          Anyway, coming back to Foucault, I read various articles about his work, and on Academia, I read an interesting article:

          On the Implications of
          Foucault’s Theory of
          Discipline and Punishment in the Educational Setting.

          LINK: https://www.academia.edu/4313458/Foucault_in_the_School_Setting

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Awesome discussion, Ronnie! You have raised important issues in your thoughtful reflections. Thank you for sharing the link to Mark Carbajal’s (2009) article. He made some very relevant and important points about the ways surveillance and normalization are inextricably interwoven into all social institutions, including prisons and schools. He also describes how faculty and students are both dressaged and coerced into complaint normalization. Reading his work made me even more aware of the role I have played in my life and career as someone who stood between the normalizers in power and those they were trying to normalize. And once again, I find myself attracting the normalizing gaze of those in power. It’s often the reason I have had opportunities to move on to other settings to try to raise awareness elsewhere…

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        3. Another thing I find fascinating about Foucault’s work is his message that people at all levels of society and social institutions are subject to the forces of normalization, including the prisoners, guards, administrators, courts, lawyers, onlookers, etc. Most remain unaware of their situation and fail the question the legitimacy of the invisible rules that govern all aspects of their lives.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. When I first read your post Carol, I had an image flash into my mind of me sitting in church when I was a boy. As a result, my further exploration of Foucault included his views on religion. After reading a few articles I came across “authoritarian neoliberalism and the alienation of academic labour” which references normalisation.

          “In a post-crisis world, the university is being repurposed such that it acts as a vector for the extreme tensions between conditions of production and the forces of production. This incorporates technological and organisational changes, which are materially affecting the technical composition of academic capital. Here, the State represents the normalisation of specific forms of administration that rest upon a legacy of domination, and the exploitative nature of capitalist social relations.”

          Richard Hall
          Professor of Education and Technology

          http://www.richard-hall.org/2018/06/26/authoritarian-neoliberalism-and-the-alienation-of-academic-labour/

          Liked by 1 person

    1. The world is indeed a small place, isn’t it, Rob? My grandfather’s farm bordered Smoke Rise, New Jersey. I don’t ever remember my father talking about that, although we visited my grandfather’s farm many times when I was a young child, I only learned about it’s location from someone I met on the commune in Massachusetts where I lived for 4 years in my early 20s.

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