The Oppression of Regional or National Groups

Societies keep people divided by installing beliefs that some people are superior to others and by installing distress recordings that pull people to act oppressively toward others.

We have the opportunity and responsibility to discharge oppressive recordings. We can correct the misinformation we have about other people. We can help everyone in the world understand that every human being is precious, no human being is better than another, and every child deserves equal access to the resources of humanity.

I will focus here on oppressions based on regional or national groups—especially the oppression of Eastern Europeans by people of Western European heritage. Other regional and national oppressions also deserve our attention and can be counseled on similarly.

Regional and national oppressions

I imagine that regional and national oppressions could have started off innocently, with people trying to answer the questions “Who am I?” “Why are we here?” “How did we get here?” It would be natural for people to try to answer these questions by telling stories about the origins of their tribe or group. Such stories were important for the survival of different groups of people. But as societies became more complex, these stories of origins were used to justify oppression and exploitation. The groups that gained power often claimed that their group was superior, favored by God, more intelligent, more cultured. This was used to justify conquest, slavery, economic exploitation, rape, and genocide. Jokes and insults rooted in national, ethnic, and class differences became common and helped spread ethnic stereotypes. If people were from the same group as the ruler, they could get important privileges: land, serfs, titles, and money. All this took place over centuries, in many parts of the world.

Some animosities have been resolved, at least partly, but many still exist, and the oppressive society uses them to exploit people and keep them fearful. For example, in England the Angles and Saxons, once in conflict with each other, are no longer identifiable groups. However, the people who became the English still have a conflict with the Irish, and anti-Irish oppression persists in England, as do distress recordings about different Indigenous ethnic groups (for example, the Cornish, Welsh and Scottish people). Ethnic and national groups all over the world continue to struggle for respect and sometimes independence. Euskal Herria (the Basque country), for example, was conquered by Spain and France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the Euskaldunak (Basques) struggle to this day for their country’s independence. In his article “Nationalism, Patriotism, National Pride, and National Liberation” (on page 33 of A Better World), Harvey Jackins points out that although “nationalism is a great big bunch of patterns, installed semi-deliberately and through distress,” national liberation is an important step on the way to human liberation.

The oppression of Eastern Europeans

The oppression of Eastern Europeans by people of Western European heritage is one of the regional oppressions that has not yet received enough attention in RC.

Those of us of Western European heritage have oppressive beliefs and behavior that can be subtle or blatant, and we can be conscious or unconscious of them. The assumptions we make about desirable places to visit as tourists or who to choose as friends or Co-Counselors may be subtle and unconscious. On the other hand, in the 1930s and ’40s, the Nazis and other Western nations (including the United States) blatantly and consciously acted on the belief that the Slavic people were inferior. Western countries did not welcome Jewish refugees from the East. In some Western countries occupied by the Nazis, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe were given up to the Nazis for deportation before the Jews of that country. Of course, the mistaken belief that Northern and Western Europeans were superior to Southern and Eastern Europeans existed long before the Nazis came to power. We carry the distress recordings installed on our ancestors.

Along with creating biases and personal oppressive behavior, oppression becomes institutionalized in policies and institutions. Immigration policies are an example. Western Europeans get treated much better when they visit or try to immigrate to the United States compared to Eastern Europeans or people from Africa, Asia, or Latin America.

To discharge oppressor distress directed at other people of European heritage will be new for many of us European-heritage Co-Counselors, but it is important that we take it on.* The RC Community is an international community. Any oppressive attitudes will impede our progress toward working together for the world we want and deserve.

If you are of Western European heritage, you could start by counseling with other Westerners on these questions:

  • What are all your memories related to Eastern Europe and Eastern Europeans? Did you hear jokes, slurs, or negative comments about people from Eastern Europe? (For example, Polish jokes were, and possibly still are, common in many Western countries.)
  • How do you feel about people from Eastern Europe? Are your relationships with them close and trusting? Do you respect their thinking?
  • What patterns do they have that annoy you? What distress recordings in you do they restimulate?
  • Have you ever had a negative feeling about a person of Eastern European heritage (how he or she talks, looks, thinks, or acts, for example)?
  • How do class and classism or affluence and poverty (personal or national) affect you in regard to Eastern Europeans?
  • What did you hear growing up about communism, the Soviet Union, the Red Army, Lenin and Stalin, the Warsaw Pact, the Berlin Wall, and so on? How does that affect your feelings about or relationships with Eastern Europeans?

If you are of Eastern European heritage, you could try answering the following questions (and use your judgment about whether to do this with Westerners):

  • What are your memories related to Western Europe and Western Europeans? How have you experienced prejudice, disrespect, and discrimination at the hands of Westerners?
  • How do you feel about people from Western Europe? Are your relationships with them close and trusting? Do they respect your thinking?
  • What patterns do they have that annoy you? What distress recordings in you do they restimulate?
  • How do class and classism or affluence and poverty (personal or national) affect you in regard to Western Europeans?
  • What is your history in regard to communism, the Soviet Union, the Red Army, Lenin and Stalin, the Warsaw Pact, the Berlin Wall, and so on? How does that affect your feelings about or relationships with Western Europeans?

You could also counsel on reclaiming power.

Both groups can ask themselves, How did you experience nationalism growing up—patriotic songs, legends, heroes and heroines, and so on? When do you feel patriotic or nationalistic feelings?

Later

A few people wrote to me saying that what I wrote above applied to different regions in their country. I encourage everyone to also think about regional oppressions in their part of the world. For example, in the United States, Northerners carry oppressive recordings about Southerners and Southwesterners; in the Netherlands, the Dutch carry oppressive recordings about Frisians.

International Commonality Reference Person for Wide World Change

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of wide world change

(Present Time 171, April 2013)


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Last modified: 2017-05-31 15:32:59-07