Displacement is a condition of being out-of-sorts, dissociated, gnawingly empty in some portion of something or some place or as Self. Displacement, from a cultural studies, anthropology, sociology point-of-reference, can seem “normal” and “everyday” precisely because we live in the post-colonial condition. Decades and decades of colonialism, globalizing white heterosexist patriarchies.
Social justice workers, change workers, cultural workers, and others working toward social change, must understand that our opinions and views, always partial anyway, may be dislocated. The term displacement has many definitions according to what career path, discipline and subject matter we are coming from. In western psychology, it is a form of negative living, where some behavior is misplaced and becomes inappropriate and out-of-context. This definition has some validity, which I address not as a negative trait, but as a way that is often not recognized in the present-day everyday lives of interactions with people and institutions, with our families and our loved ones and strangers, and therefore, being normal, not negative. In fact, what is often considered negative, is not at all, in the present-day displaced world.
Because our lives have been born because of countless violent interactions and horrific events, and called “good,” we sometimes cannot recognize displacement. Geographically, for instance, and politically, it is much easier to recognize displaced realities, and perhaps “feel sorry” or enraged. And this is also a reality in a transnational and neo-colonial world. People in the global north, often do not understand why a person from the global south, a poorer country, or even in their own countries, living in rural areas “don’t just move” when they repeatedly encounter some natural or man-made disaster, war conditions, or starvation. Because rich and privileged people are often (not always) displaced through their caste and class movement away from suffering and the honoring of local spaces besides the elitist and bourgeois ways of making lives comfortable or wealthier or more entertaining, there is no accountability or care toward those who do not have that value of displacement. The wealthier will often think of the poorer areas or persons, as being displaced and “not quite with the times” for not wanting to move to a city or a wealthier place and “get a job.” So this is how displacement will work along moral and capitalist lines.
Furthermore, in being dislocated, we cannot think that there is some magical space/place/being-ness that is *not* dislocated. That space, as a geographical location, as a suspended home, as a place of safety, as a reference point for a grand theory, is no longer there, except as fantasy. And that’s the trouble: many theories and opinions and ways to change and to resist and to create a new world for ourselves, as community or nation or globe, are just that–Fantasies. This is not depressing. It’s only depressing for those who thought their fantasies pure and real and good, i.e. – for people who are arrogant, sure of themselves, and on top of some imagined hierarchy. And now in the world, we find ourselves at war with each other. Since the beginning of organized war. It’s one thing to rape and pillage in the name of dominating. It’s another to build a world-owning mentality and systematize it. What are the consequences for us as citizens of the world? I know some readers will think themselves outside. That is the displacement.
This is a very hopeful essay. Displacement is not anything to think negatively about. “Displaced” is how we are already. Living. But then how are we effecting others? What kinds of systems are we tearing down/creating. As things and streets and memories are misplaced, forgotten, forced underground, what is growing in the gardens?
Who controls what and how? For what purpose? My questions point to the fact that in social justice and social change work, there needs to be an acknowledgement of displaced and misplaced. The silent is not disappeared. Even when gone, they traverse our worlds and talk for us as ghosts that perhaps we do not recognize or hear. For many, the dry and horrific world is just the way it is, with no hope. Or perhaps the hope is that fantasy I began this essay with. For the privileged, they will ask: So what’s wrong with a fantasy of world peace and love and doing things “right” and “good.” Please. One must realize by now, as adults in the world, with eyes and ears open, that what is “right” over here, is “wrong” over there. What is “good” over here, is “bad” over there. Then there is the so-called “universally good” and “universally bad.” It’s all morally segregated and easy. That’s what bourgeois mentalities do: BLUNT consciousness and make it think in these ways. Or perhaps it’s just internalized Christian secular cultural dominance?
Since these critiques I lay out are globalizing, it is not only about white people or white supremacy anymore. All over the world, nations begin to think alike and act alike. Even Beyonce’s video in 2015, causing an uproar, mentions the Illuminati – one of hundreds of elite secret groups that are more advanced and thought-controlling than people think. Because the wish to control our lives which are usually wretched and full of things we don’t like, making us cringe and feel qweeeeeeeezy and enRAAAAAAGED, depresssssssssed and MALignant — of course we would want more control. And if we’re born or moved into the privileged global north, from Japan to Sweden, to France and Germany, to the United States, Canada, or some other supremacist nation, we’ll numb ourselves with all the shopping and video games and vacations and gambling and dreams of disappearing in pleasure or to kill others on a rampage, or the blurry solitudes of a drug. “But we live in the best country in the world” we say. Hmmmm.
For nations like Japan, you won’t catch them boasting of being Japanese. They’ll say “we’re unique, no one can understand us.” But no matter what rational path we take, it will lead to what Max Weber used to say about the discursive foundations of western globalization: Disenchantment.
Spiritual teachers will lament that we have forgotten the spirit. And so many spiritual seekers will turn to either a so-called tradition of their ethnic heritage, or to go with the more sparkly and dominant kinds of spiritualisms and religions. People should know that all of these places of refuge, are displaced.
My efforts here, are not to continually negate. But I’m sure that many readers are thinking that this is what this is. In fact, many people have thought what I thought and trailed into despair or an unending rage and destroyed themselves and/or others, or are in the process. I’m afraid that this is so much inside of an oevure of original sin, globalized in the internal systemic Christianity embedded in nation-state systems (globalized through colonization into the present). If one is to get our heads out of the butts of dominant, culturally-produced Christianity (that has nothing to do with Christ), or ignorant and detached fantasies of world peace and a loving Aquarian Age that is coming, we should know that I am admonishing us to LEARN, THINK, GROW ourselves. To REALIZE certain things and that Difference is being stolen in the name of an globalizing hegemony. This HEGEMONY is the ACT of DISPLACING.
If we stop thinking of ourselves as ONE thing, a bottom-line identity of thing of some kind, and to stop thinking of others in the same way; If we stop thinking in moral binaries, or tricking ourselves into excusing or rationalizing; If we stop reacting and on automatic behavior all the time–especially about differences in the world; If we stop considering a certain mode or technique or way that we are using as “the only way” and to learn to make links between certain things in time; If we stop the monumental ignorances to think of marginalized histories and contexts of ancestors, forgetting or refusing how people are created and how things have longer histories than we know and that complex things have happened to create our realities; and FINALLY for NOW: If we are to stop hiding and disempowering ourselves and leaving things to politicians and the elite and the professionals — then I think that addressing our lives in the reality of Displacement is definitely possible. Indeed many people have already started that path of confronting what many call “self-colonization.”
Displacement is the condition of our identities, minds, and realities. What we consider “real.” I’m not saying that it’s all false (stop the binaries!). It is Displaced. Therefore, we must consider how and what we honor, and what we must do together, linked together all, in a sort of “world framing” that makes us continually separate. In some ways, it is the state-of-the-world right now, a sort of Zeitgeist, that we must dissociate from certain traditions so that we can see clearer. But for many people, it’s not that. They don’t want to see. I consider this “seeing” to be the biggest value in the universe right now, for us humans on this planet, if we are to survive the coming ecological and social upheavals and also the ways of control that are increasing. This seeing is for those of us who care about liberatory paths, to lessen suffering in a connected world, a historical world. For others, I know, seeing will lead to more ways to control, dominate, create suffering. Their own violence may be more important to those people. We have to take care of them. For those of us who want to lessen the automatic-violence, seeing will improve the tactics and processes of the path, and to be able to account for the violence better and better. It is not a place to arrive or a goal. It will be the identity of anti-displacements.
Let us play a part in this world in empowered ways. Placing ourselves in our Displaced worlds. Let us be ACCOUNTABLE to ourselves and loss and forgetting. Let us be ACCOUNTABLE to the possibilities we have refused because we ignorantly seek a single truth of life, self, thing, thought.
The Hegemonic times we are living in now, is a way for the earth-organism to realign. But realignment is not necessarily positive or good. Remember that hegemony is a form of displacement. Thus, an act of making you align yourself with disempowering and displacing techniques and thoughts, often called “freedom,” can move us away from liberation and lessening suffering, and continue toward the dominating and more comforting and familiar forms we know that homogenize and corral us into domination-identities. Forgetting about the past, changing history, re-creating ourselves, is sometimes necessary to survive. But in many ways it can cripple us if we do not honor or understand what we have lost or left behind. Then there are the forces that force us to forget. What, then, do we call “human nature” when we excuse.
Let us live in resistance to automatic displacement and live empowered in finding healing possible and to begin acknowledging histories of the silent and the displaced, to take power back, to displace displacement.