My Mother would often tell me that “children don’t have a choice.” She and I would get into conversations that lasted all day. She would tell me this, because, the reality is that children don’t. They don’t choose who they are born from, they don’t choose their circumstances. She would bring this up because in her line of work she saw a lot of “underprivileged youth.” She brought it up because she was a survivor of residential school. She would bring it up to me, so that I could be aware that children are powerless and need protection. They need guidance. They need to be shown love. For many of us, that seems to go without saying. If you the reader believes that goes without saying, then recognize that you live a privileged life, seemingly from the get go. Your parents probably instilled this same knowledge, or similar within you, if not by being told then by being shown. If you have made it to university, made it through life to get here, then you certainly have a lot of privilege that most never had a chance of seeing. Most of the children of the world live and die from, as Hobbes would say, nasty short and brutish lives. Many starve, many have been bombed, many have been neglected and abused.
Here in Canada, for almost 100 years, which easily encompassed four generations of people was the residential school system. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have made their findings public. They have documented many awful stories of the violent physical, sexual, and emotional abuse that had gone on in these schools, affecting generations of people. You can look into those histories for yourselves.

However; I’d like to tell you the story of my aunt’s experience.

My Aunt was 11, and she with two other girls were called into Mother Superior’s office. Mother Superior, who was a grey nun of the Catholic Church, had told the three little girls that “you three are chosen to be on a holy mission from god.” Being little girls, and coming from the mouth of Mother Superior, this was such a great honour. What a great thing to have happened! Mother Superior said “your holy mission is to take this bag down to the incinerator and burn it. Part of this holy mission, is that you must watch it burn.”
So my aunt, and her two friends, all proudly walked the bag down the hall. Holding their heads high for all the other children to see. They were very proud, to be specially chosen to be on a holy mission from god.

The girls went to the incinerator alone, and they put the bag in, and stayed to complete their mission.

They watched the paper bag burn.

Inside the incinerator, the paper burned away rather quickly.

The contents of the bag, was a freshly aborted fetus.

The priest would get the kids pregnant. So, the clergy, representatives of god, would perform in house abortions in order to cover the priest’s tracks.

The three little girls, each one of them, were good Catholics. So, they stayed and watched it burn.

Something fascinating to me is that my aunt stayed being a Catholic. She was even a devout Catholic. For years she was married to an abusive man, and put up with it because she was a good Catholic and made special vows. She eventually wrote to the Pope about her situation, explaining that she wanted a divorce and that this man was abusive. She waited years and finally the Pope wrote back to her, giving her permission to leave this man to which she promptly did.

For the rest of her life she prayed with her rosary, and recited the Hail Mary and the Our Father.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come…
thy will be done.

I find what was her faith, fascinating.

This is just one of thousands of stories, from one of thousands of days at these schools. She was one member of one generation of four generations to go to these schools. Every single one of the Residential Schools in Canada has a cemetery beside it. Just thinking of that makes me wonder, the longer I think, the more fucked up it is to me.
How many schools, private or otherwise have adjacent cemeteries full of the students who went there?

All that being said, all of my blog postings for this class have had a common thread within them.

The thread is power.

Power, as it is in the present societal iteration, is inherently a social phenomena that pervades our daily lives. What we do with it, how we interact with it. The dynamics of our relationships. How we treat each other. How we navigate our proximate and ultimale experiences are tied very closely to the notion. Power in itself does not exist physically. There is no neuron, or neurotransmitter, no region of the brain, no place where power actually exists within the physicality of human biology. Power, as a concept and interplay between individuals is a seemingly cross cultural concept, if not cross species. However, it does suit well to ask if we are projecting the concept of power upon reality. Is the concept of power so intertwined with human experience, that we see interplays of it within the rest of the animal kingdom? That we see it in varying degrees, stratified, specialized, and diffused throughout most every human society and culture? Is power, as a concept, so integral to the human experience, that we have spent years over powering one another, because there is a higher power who has willed it?

Indeed, whether or not this higher power be named Jesus, Ganesha, The Universe, Consciousness, God, Enlightenment, Allah, Hashem, or Dawkins, is the concept of power so pervasive that we create it externally form ourselves to be something part and parcel of the entirety of reality, or something existing all powerfully outside of it?
Within our social group, as humans, children, the elderly, “minorities,” the disabled, are generally viewed as “the weak.” That is to say, the most powerless of all of our fellow human beings.

We say this, often pejoratively without knowing it, while at the same time rarely stopping to think about what the concept of power is in terms of our daily lives.
We are seemingly conditioned to its existence as a reality, however, power exists within this reality in as much as we allow it to, and seemingly is meaningless without an audience, or at least one other entity.

A sub thread to my blogs is the effect of hierarchies. Western culture is full of different iterations of hierarchical structures, which are not cross cultural. In turn, different cultures have different conceptualizations of power. Does the culture of the actor depend on their conceptualizations of power, or, do the conceptualizations of power depend upon the culture? Are they one and the same?

In the story of my aunt that I shared with you, there definitely was power at play on all levels, from Mother Superior, The Priest, The Abusive Husband, the orgnization of the (one true) Church, The Pope, and the God himself. The powerless, were the three girls. A tool, was the fetus.

This story no doubt had a “powerful” effect on my life. I hope, on yours as well. I never want you to forget it.

I will not cite any literature for this particular blog. I submit the story for itself.

After a story like that, there isn’t much to be said anyway.

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4 thoughts on “The Power of Christ Compels You.

  1. Such a touching story, thank you for sharing that. I love hearing stories like that, not because it happened because it educates myself more each time I hear about what has occurred to the Aboriginals across Canada. It’s truly heartbreaking, and if people were just to be educated more on this topic-I feel as though they would be more understanding and knowledgeable as to why people are the way they are.

    It has been said healing is a detrimental competent that will aid in interventions to improve lives of Aboriginal People and the youth impacted. With this, evidence and science from Aboriginal’s perspective is said to be essential factors that needs to be considered upon these interventions. According to Quin (2007): “Aspects of healing are closely guarded by oral traditions, and specific techniques are received directly from Elder healers, from spirits encountered during vision quests, and as a result of initiation into a secret society” (p. 74). Elders, other cultural leaders, ceremonies and protocols designed for personal development are also elements that aid in this process. Although that is only one way of healing, in one of my classes I remember dissecting Stephen Harpers apology speech in 2008. Bringing my statement into play, I thought it was a wonderful gesture but not a sincere enough action. Even though, I admit it is a good start and it may have been genuine but it does not help the aftermath of the affect- even though he isn’t to blame (personally). I just wanted to know what you thought about that, did you find that helpful for your family that it’s finally acknowledged or were you frustrated it took so long? Thoughts?!

    Quin, A. (2007). Reflections on Intergenerational Trauma: Healing as a Critical Intervention. A Journal on Innovation and Best Practices in Aboriginal Child Welfare Administration, 3(4), 72-82.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your Aunt’s story, i have never been emotional after reading a blog post but this did it for me. I find your topic of power a fascinating one. A part of me wants to jump in and add some thoughts on the religious aspect and the “power” influence but i will restrain myself and instead add to the concept of interaction and possible “power” involved there. Specifically, i came across an article that looked at the behavior of a handshake and cognitively how the brain was impacted. Dolcos et al. (2012) completed a study that used a “business setting” and measured the activity happening when presented a hand for a handshake and without that. The authors concluded that brain areas including the Amygdala and the STS are active for a positive evaluation of the approach combined with a handshake. This is interesting because a person can show avoidance before but if a person approaches and offers a handshake, it increases the likelihood of a positive outlook by the one receiving the gesture.

    I think of recent events in politics concerning President Donald Trump. It can be seen in his body language and gestures how he tries to portray power and rank over those who he considers to be less than himself.

    Reference
    Sanda Dolcos, Keen Sung, Jennifer J. Argo, Sophie Flor-Henry, and Florin Dolcos (2012) The Power of a Handshake: Neural Correlates of Evaluative Judgments in Observed Social Interactions. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24:12, 2292-2305

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  3. Once again, a literary masterpiece cleverly disguised as a class blog. Your style is so smooth and organized that reading these entries has become something of a treat, albeit a sobering one when the topic takes a turn as it did this week. After pondering how I could begin to type up a “scientific” and “evidenced” response to a touching personal anecdote, and the deep thoughts that accompany it, I decided that there isn’t really a way that feels appropriate.

    Instead I’d just like to note as an interested reader that in all of the power structures you described above, I felt there was a similar schema. That is, there are a set of rules to follow, an overseer of behaviour/enforcer, and the enforced. The girls were the enforced, God was the enforcer, and some set of ethics and practices that are a crude amalgamation of bible texts and remnants of the practices of by-gone cultures comprise the rules. Everyone in the catholic system fell somewhere into this. Your aunt the enforced, the silly ‘sanctity of marriage’ were the rules, god was the enforcer, and the pope was the only man capable of saying that “god” excused the rules.

    But this makes me wonder about the priest, where does he fall into this. He breaks the rules (assuming that somewhere in catholic tradition raping children is wrong), and fears no retribution. In a way he holds more power than the pope, as even the pope is governed by a belief in god’s wrath.

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  4. There is not doubt of the Canadian First Nations suffering; not only during the colonisation, with politics of starvation, the loss of their traditional life, but also later with the residential school crimes. That the Canadian government has allowed that this genocidal colonial power, be called ¨Cultural genocide¨, but it does not mean that the wounds are healed.

    Professor Akhavan ot the McGill University proposes another way to read the 1948 Genocide Convention’s ban on “forced transfer of children” as supporting a claim of biological genocide — the elimination of an entire generation, preventing a group’s procreation — provided the specific genocidal intent was in place. A similar argument can be made about forced sterilisations.

    Erique Dussel, (2008) proposed in his Anti-Cartesian Meditations that the way to legitimate the praxis of the colonisation practices, the conquer and domination of the XVI century, was defending the idea that the based Greek – European society was and advanced culture. This eurocentrism looked for him to have the right to ignored, refused, and suppress any other cultures. This was the philosophical foundation that gave the right to conquer, exploit, and dominate others. According to Dussel, this idea preceded and was primed in the Descartes (Amsterdam) and Bacon, Lock, and Smith (England) philosophical propositions. The right to conquer became an identity, Dussel named this identity as ego-conquiro . The ¨I conquer, therefore I am¨ (XVI Century) preceded the Ï think therefore I am.¨ (XVII Century:) Enrique Dussel, (2008). The right to exterminate other forms of knowledge and faiths gave place to the ego-exgterminio, Grosfoguel (2014). The Standford professor and researcher called this extermination epistemicide and he proposed four genocides/epistemicides>
    “1) against Muslims and Jews in the conquest of Al-Andalus in the name of ‘purity of blood’ (during the XV century);
    2) against indigenous peoples first in the Americas and then in Asia;
    3) against African people with the captive trade and their enslavement in the Americas;
    4) against women who practised and transmitted Indo-European knowledge in Europe burned alive accused of being witches.” (Gosfroguel 2013, 77).

    Today, the study of the cultures have trespassed the traditional anthropology view. Now, we can hear about other alternatives such as the philosophy of liberation, or the decolonialism. This change can be observed on individual and academic perspectives (cognitive justice), but also political perspectives such an integrations of knowledges, and a truly symmetrical dialogue, (de Sous Santos, (2012). This concept is resumed in Dussel idea the “trans-modernity and has been also articulated by other critical scholars.

    “The transmodern proposal entails inter-philosophical dialog (Dussel 2009), transdisciplinary generation of knowledge (Gordon 2011), epistemic decolonization of the mind-centered egolatry of colonial modernity (Craun 2013), divers ethic-political projects (Grosfoguel 2012), diverse ethnic and geographical locus of enunciation (Mignolo 2008), and the reassessment of the place as the mean for fighting and promoting a diversity of cultural and economic relations with nature (Escobar 2000), among others.” in Ulises Charles (2016).

    How I relate this with Social cognition? The perception of the self, basic in human cognition, became something else that the basic differentiation of the self and the others. “I” or “Me” became the most important concept in Western societies(individualism). Also, the social categorization called in-groups and out-groups has extended to wider social and geographical latitudes, and the related thought is “the others that are not similar to me, are against me”. Sometimes cultural groups have gone too far and make steps back in what the human evolution thought that have reached, such as Human Rights” and Democracy.

    Akhavan, P, (2016). Cultural Genocide: Legal Label or Mourning Metaphor?McGill Law Journal. URI http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/1038713ar
    DOI 10.7202/1038713aradresse copiéeune erreur s’est produite

    Charles U, (2016). MATP Capstone Integration project “Postcolonial contribution to transpersonal psychology”

    Dussel, Enrique (2008) Anti-cartesian meditations: about the origin of the philosophical antidiscourse of modernity. In Tabula Rasa No.9: 153-197.

    De Sousa Santos, Boaventura (2010) Descolonizar el saber, reinventar el poder [To decolonize
    knowledge, to re-invent power]. Uruguay: Ediciones Trilce.

    Grosfoguel, Ramon (2011) Decolonizing Post-Colonial Studies and Paradigms of Political-Economy: Transmodernity, Decolonial Thinking, and Global Coloniality. TRANSMODERNITY: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, 1(1). Available at:
    http://escholarship.org/uc/item/21k6t3fq

    Mignolo, Walter (2008) Delinking: the rhetoric of modernity, the logic of coloniality and the grammar of the decoloniality. Cultural Studies 21(2).

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