Strength, Service, Vision

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"Your Body, Your Voice:  Human Rights Now" went beautifully!  I have long been interested in (okay:  obsessed with) structural similarities among violence at the macro level (the political space of the nation-state), the mid-level (the realm of the street:  of crime, law enforcement, and prisons), and the micro level (the domestic space of the family home).  How do the dynamics of these three levels of violence differ, and where do they coincide?

Being invited to give a lecture at Indiana State University's tenth annual Human Rights Day conference was a great opportunity to pull my thoughts together into a coherent argument about how illegitimate regimes use traumatizing violence upon the bodies of resisters to shatter the self, thus silencing opposition--and how narrative can function to heal trauma and resist oppression.  It was a great chance to share the insights of these wonderful books, which have long been favorites, and others, like Ari Kohen's In Defense of Human Rights:  A Non-Religious Grounding in a Pluralistic World, with a big, interested audience.

The talk got a huge turnout of students, staff, faculty, and community folks--it was SRO, w/people lined up in the hallway to hear.  Awesome.  Afterwards, a lot of people came up to pick up copies of the little "For Further Reading" handout I'd prepared.  Great!

I was nervous, naturalmente, when I looked out at the crowd, because you know public speaking makes me shake, but I kept thinking of that great Audre Lorde line that always motivates me: 

"When I dare to be powerful--to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." 

I love that.  Notice:  she doesn't say, I become less and less afraid.  No.  You're still afraid.  It just becomes less and less significant that you are.  You're afraid, but you cease to care about that.  You care about others.  You care about justice.

And she doesn't say, When I dare to use my strength in the service of my ego, or my bank account.  No.  When I use it in the service of my vision.  Then fear ceases to matter.

Hats off to ISU for sponsoring such an important conference every year!  Human rights discourse itself is a fragile narrative, one to which we need to give as much attention as possible as often as possible.

I loved getting to read my creative work, too, to a lively and generous audience, and to visit classes in social work and counseling psychology. 

A highlight of the visit was meeting novelist Aaron Morales, who's on the faculty there.  I'm reading his book Drowning Tucson now, and I like this interview that Rigoberto González did with him last summer.

Many thanks to my host Dr. Keith Byerman and everyone else who worked so hard to bring me to ISU.  You spoiled me rotten, and I had an awesome time.  Human rights now!  ¡Órale!



Faye said:

I read a few times, with great interest, the first couple of paragraphs of this post,and especially thought carefully about these words: "...illegitimate regimes use traumatizing violence upon the bodies of resisters to shatter the self, thus silencing opposition--and how narrative can function to heal trauma and resist oppression." And it occurred to me that there might even be a fourth level -- regimes, street, domestic, and the self. I wonder if especially women's attitudes toward their bodies and "selves" can also serve the purpose of shattering those selves, and why it feels necessary for some people to do that. The shattering of the self vs. the voice of the self (creating narrative that can "function to heal trauma and resist oppression"). Or is such "violence" (whether emotional or actual) an extension of violence from the other levels (again either emotional or actual). This gives me a lot to think about. Thanks, Joy.

April 23, 2011 12:51 PM

Ari Kohen Author Profile Page said:


Thanks so much for mentioning my book; I didn't see this until just now, but I'd be very curious to hear about any comments you received when you discussed my arguments!

Thanks again!

November 20, 2011 7:34 PM

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