The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Cycle of persecution

Consider a pattern:

A group of people, often native to the area, is persecuted or otherwise somehow unwelcome within the social group or political identity of which they are currently a part.
The persecution may be externally verifiable or solely internally perceived. It may even be self-engendered. The only thing that matters is that it is felt.


The formerly targeted group creates or solidifies a new and separate social or political identity.
Sometimes the act of targeting itself gradually transforms those targeted into a cohesive group with a common identity (something initiatory societies based on temporal turnover know well). On smaller scales, three or even two, banding together, can become such a group.


Where the targeted group seeks dominance or perception of self-superiority (most commonly manifested as control over its environment), either in its turn (temporal) or in its space (spacial), it will eventually achieve autonomy and/or independence from this greater group:
perhaps by revolution, perhaps by persistant lobbying (uncommon), perhaps by mass exodus to and colonisation of a new social or political (and commonly "geographical", be it of land or of Internet) environment.


A new group of people, often native to the area, will be persecuted in their turn by those escaping persecution.
It makes a curious note that the persecution is rarely a "justice" reversal against the former persecutors; much more often, the new persecution displaces its own aggression to target those who were never involved in the first place. Often that new targeting will be based on some form of justification: either that of what is expected prior to becoming part of the group (initiation); or that of righteousness achieved by dint of having suffered; or even that of natural inferiority against the now dominant group.


And not infrequently (o irony!) the new alliances will be with the former persecutors,
and the new social or political environment will be increasingly amenable to both former persecutors and former persecuted.

Always, to escape torment, we tend, consciously or unconsciously, to become those who tormented us: because that is clearly where the power lies.

I have watched this happen in schoolyards, and in nations, and now, once again, on an Internet board, invariably spearheaded by those who would sharply deny the possibility of themselves ever having the possibility to become what they had abhorred. Given the original factors of perception of persecution and determination to seek power (control) to end it, I have yet to see a true abberation. Although what underlies these changes is sometimes overt and sometimes invisible, its symptoms are readily apparent: the tone of the place changes; those whose heart does not lie in revolution and frequently vicious societal reaction begin to stay away; those who formerly hated and were hated begin to find the place comfortable, drift by, sometimes contribute to the place, sometimes stay.

However, I still think this pattern unique to those social entities built upon fear of or escape from threat or persecution: can an identity built and determinedly retained upon the fear of threat ever escape its roots? By the same token, this pattern may also suggest an avenue escaping the cycle ... although simply to perpetuate the power/independence/control pattern is easier by far!

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