why we banned legos

March 1, 2008 at 12:31 am (aboriginal, anti-oppression, anti-racism, chiapas, women of color) (, , )

http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/21_02/lego212.shtml

http://youcantkillarevolution.blogspot.com/   The Movement

for some reason my ability to create links is disabled…damn you wordpress!!!

We had an initial conversation with the children about our decision. “We’re concerned about what was happening in Legotown, with some kids feeling left out and other kids feeling in charge,” Kendra explained. “We don’t want to rebuild Legotown and go back to how things were. Instead, we want to figure out with you a way to build a Legotown that’s fair to all the kids.”

Naturally the children had big feelings and strong opinions to share. During that first day’s discussion, they laid out the big issues that we would pursue over the months to come.

Several times in the discussion, children made reference to “giving” Lego pieces to other children. Kendra pointed out the understanding behind this language: “When you say that some kids ‘gave’ pieces to other kids, that sounds like there are some kids who have most of the power in Legotown — power to decide what pieces kids can use and where they can build.” Kendra’s comment sparked an outcry by Lukas and Carl, two central figures in Legotown:

Carl: “We didn’t ‘give’ the pieces, we found and shared them.”

Lukas: “It’s like giving to charity.”

Carl: “I don’t agree with using words like ‘gave.’ Because when someone wants to move in, we find them a platform and bricks and we build them a house and find them windows and a door.”

These children seemed to squirm at the implications of privilege, wealth, and power that “giving” holds. The children denied their power, framing it as benign and neutral, not something actively sought out and maintained. This early conversation helped us see more clearly the children’s contradictory thinking about power and authority, laying the groundwork for later exploration.

really interesting article about power privilege ownership authority etc. what i find most interesting is the way that the kids at several points construct their own and others power in much the same way that i hear adults/friends/relatives do even though they are much older…and, thus should know better….for instance the way that one of the powerful kids describes that he gave to the younger kids…’like charity’. in which he understands very clearly what giving to charity is (and why i have a high critique of charity-world in a capitalistic system).

and how even at that young age, the powered children are very defensive and in denial that they had more power than others. or that this power may not have been deserved or may have been yielded unfairly. or that the very act of giving can be so disempowering to those to whom you give..

even more so i am interested right now in how do we own something? what makes us an owner legitimately? and what does that ownership entitle us to do? does the ownership of something mean that you can then make up the rules for its use?

for instance, if i own a lego and you own a house…who in the end determines what i get to do with my lego? how much agency do i have, if you can tell me where to put the lego on your house?

i am thinking of this in terms of andrea smith’s book: conquest. about indigenous women and communities and the anti-violence movement. in which she says that all knowledge is not knowable. in other words, simply because someone knows something and has shared this knowledge with you does not mean that you can do whatever you want with this knowledge. you do not own the knowledge in the sense that you have rights or freedoms that come with this knowledge. instead we can think of this as a series of obligations that this knowledge sets upon you. for instance perhaps you can only use this knowledge and share this knowledge in ways that the person who shared this knowledge with you intended.

so lets think about these ideas of intellectual property and how the very knowledge that is gathered stolen from indigenous communities is then used as a weapon to disempower those same communities by denying access to the communities to that which the communities shared with outsiders.

my partner and i were talking today (about christianity) and i said that i thought that we need to stop imagining that we can be omniscient. that the mistakes and oppressions that we commit are not committed because we do not know the right thing to do or the right thing to say, they are committed because we imagine strive for a place a state of being in which we always know the right thing to do or the right thing to say. a state in which we know the right thing to give at the right time. it is this striving to be omniscient or to be as close to omniscient as possible. and the more omniscient we become, the more omnipotent we can act. that white people (in particular) do not need to cast off the erroneous dominant history and take on (know, own) another more accurate and holistic history and make it the dominant paradigm (this better more accurate history making white people even more omniscient) , white people need to stop trying to ‘know’ what is the ‘correct’ history. all knowledge is not knowable.

instead we can come to a place where we deconstruct the dominant history de-legitimize it and then sit in the uncomfortable place of not-knowing. but i can hear you resisting (ah, white folks i know you…i really know you…) asking yourselves: but what would that accomplish? what would be the point of not-knowing? isnt that just giving up and doing nothing?

well, first you would get a teensy experience of how the rest of us live our lives, those of us who are side notes, blips on the screen of dominant history (sidenote: yesterday i once again spent a few minutes answering the questions of where my people were from. answering: from the u.s. is just me teasing them, because i know they are about to ask where my parents and grandparents are from. so i launch into the memorized speech about the descendants of slaves and then he looks me and says: but what about the rest of your family? where are they from? and i talk about 500 years of history and the intermingling of the indigenous and africans…and then he says: so you dont know where they are from? only from the states? this is a conversation you have constantly when you are a sidenote to history) so that we learn histories that cause cognitive dissonance in and of themselves, histories that we cannot relate to, histories that we know to be wrong and yet do not have an alternative history which is acceptable to mainstream society for no other reason than that it is not the dominant history. (ahh…the tautologies of my private and public school education!) and we sit in that (spiritual?) place of not-knowing, of disconnected realities, of uncertainty of our place in the world and we have to act daily. survival compels us. since we were not meant to survive and have. and that is our history.

second, learning to act when you are no longer striving towards omniscience and omnipotence is well, ashe. and even sometimes helpful. i am not just talking about learning how to blithely shrug off responsibility (the ability to respond) with ‘i dont know’. that is copping out. (and i do it all the time) but acting in such a way as to realize that the knowledge that we have can only be utilized in ways that the giver of that knowledge intended and requested. that our primary obligation is to see that knowledge as an obligation between giver and givee and not a right to share or use this knowledge as we see fit.

andrea smith poses these types of questions in her essay: spiritual appropriation as sexual violence. in which she looks at spiritual appropriation through the lens of ‘to know’ in the biblical sense is to have ‘sexual intimacy with’.

so what does it mean to ‘know’ something is that a way to ‘own’ something? and if we ‘own’ it does it mean that we can do what we want with it. (yes, i am asking even those of you who claim to mean well…i mean everyone intends well, means to do the right thing…which is why the road to hell is paved with good intentions…)

can we act, not because we know the right things, the right histories, the right perspectives, but because we have obligations/responsibilities/relationships/rightness (rather than right knowledge) to those who came before us, to those spiritual practices which sustain our survival, to those peoples and communities who have knowledge that we should never know?

and how do we own what we own? and when is it ours? and where do we keep that knowledge? and what do we plan to do with it?

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