Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What Is Value?

On the internet, distracting myself and I come across a page with this header:

Why Do Africans Scar Themselves: Self Hate?

We will ignore the over-arching term 'Africans', treating the continent as a single nation with a single people and no divergent lands, nations, tribes, clans, religions, etc.. And we will also ignore the fact that I was looking up black skin body art & modification and not anything slanted negative.

I found myself thinking, a few minutes before I saw that page, and that header, that there is something noteworthy that scarification on black and brown bodies is a sign of primitivism - the kind synonymous with deprivation, lack of western education and generally seen as bad. But Scarification on white bodies is a sign of reclaiming the primitive, where primitivism is about listening to one's instincts, being true(er) to oneself, a purposeful rejection of fitting western society's expectations of what is civilized - it's the good kind. It's independent and counter-culture in a way that actually fits, mosaic-like into the over-arching culture.

When it's on white bodies, rejection of western civilization's expectations is empowering, unique and strong. When it's on black and brown bodies, rejection of western civilization's expectations and understandings is misguided, illogical and one of many green lights that it is ok for whites to treat these black and brown bodies, adult bodies, as if they belonged to perpetual children.

This all isn't new though. Grow your own food? It's poverty and lack of infrastructure in one case, and reclaiming the pioneering spirit and being health and environmentally conscious in another.

The intersection of class throbs red and raw here; like the difference between $20 dollar worn jeans with fuzzing cloth rips and $120 dollar jeans, pre-washed, pre-broken, pre-artfully applied rips. Those fashion shows 'inspired' by the homeless. The moment those entrenched in power, controlling the institutions of the land do something, it levels up. Again nothing new, crack vs powdered cocaine and jail time - for example. But it does all make me think of that ' everything up for grabs' attitude and how a thing is suddenly shiny and new because it's been birthed into a higher class, in the eyes of/among an institutionally favoured group.

It kind of explains anti-equal marriage from that perspective too - marriage as a once protected class for those institutionally favoured being downgraded. I realize now when people say 'it devalues my traditional marriage' they aren't at all using the wrong words or making a ridiculous claim, in their minds. And to many of them it was devalued once before, when interracial marriage was legalized.

Femininity as a downgrade from masculinity. I'm just repeating previously stated facts now, aren't I. Homosexuality as somehow, also a downgrade from masculinity. Trans issues going 'Equal Value' blowing up minds.

Micro-brewery, specialty beer bringing the working man's drink up a level.

Teenagers worrying about going up a level with one brand, and hoping not to go down a level with another; brands as class and institutions.

My confusion that Paris Hilton (and other celebutante blonde women) could get famous and richer for being ghetto; tits out, no panty flashing, boyfriend fighting in public, pulling out hair and weave, being drunk in public, needing jail, covered in bling (brand tags & jewelry), sexually compromising images - still a celebutante, not seen as 'just trash'.

Even The Last Airbender's whitewashing becomes people complaining about something they liked being 'bumped up a class' from tv to movies, from Heroes of Colour to White Heroes.

It all takes me right back to that header. Black and brown bodies - self hate? Someone wonders. White body, independence and self love as understood.

NB: No, WS, racism won't disappear if classism disappears. Racism took on a life of its own beyond being a new form of classism, more than 500 years ago. It's not going back in the box.

ETA: edited for typos