Propositions About Human Liberation

  1. All presently existing human beings are very closely related. All are members, not only of the same species, Homo Sapiens, but of the same sub-species, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, an even closer relationship.

  2. The most important physical variations that do exist among humans, e.g., blood types, body structures, and brain sizes, all vary more widely within each ethnic or skin-color group usually described as a race than they do between such groups.

  3. Each human being whose forebrain has not been grossly damaged begins life with a far greater capacity to be intelligent than the best functioning adult has ever been able to demonstrate.

  4. The differences which do exist in the behaviors and functioning of groups of humans are cultural, are learned and acquired characteristics. Any human being, given the opportunity, can acquire and master the same culture and skills which any other human being has been able to do.

  5. There is no human culture which is superior or inferior to any other human culture in any overall human sense, though there may be, and are, particular outstanding richnesses in any culture. Some cultures have developed farther technically in the mastery of the environment than others, enabling them to be misused to oppress members of other cultures as well as their own people. This does not imply any human superiority of such a culture.

  6. All societies which we and our ancestors have experienced and participated in to date have been oppressive societies, in which the results of the work of most of the people was taken from them by the ruling people by a kind of legal robbery. All such societies to date have operated primarily to organize this exploitation of the majority of the people by a ruling minority.

  7. These class societies evolved as tools to master the environment more effectively (using existing distress patterns i --in particular, greed), and functioned to that end through allowing some members of the society time and leisure to think, to accumulate knowledge and to plan the activities of the society. The principal forms of class societies which have existed to date are, in order of their evolution, slave societies, feudal societies, and capitalist societies.

  8. Slave and feudal societies were able to be openly oppressive, using naked force openly against the slaves and less openly against the serfs. Since wage-workers are more independent and better informed, capitalist societies have had to be more subtle in concealing and enforcing the exploitation and oppression.

  9. One of the principal means used by classist societies to maintain their oppression and exploitation of people has been to secure the cooperation of different groups of people in oppressing each other. This has been done by installing and maintaining attitudes of racism, anti-Semitism, prejudice, discrimination, sexism, oppression of young people, oppression of the disabled, etc., among the different sections of the oppressed population.

  10. In this period, racism is the oppression that most widely interferes with human progress. Racism has destroyed many millions of people, it has forced countless others to exist in desperate and miserable conditions, and, for those that have escaped the harshest effects, it has significantly diminished their lives.

  11. Racism confuses and complicates efforts to overcome other oppressions: sexism, economic discrimination, religious intolerance, etc. Because of this, the elimination of racism is the key struggle in this period. Ending racism will release enormous initiative for progress.

  12. The basic mechanism for keeping any person in an oppressed condition is the installation upon the person of a distress pattern or distress recording ii by hurting him or her in an oppressive and invalidating way. This leads to one or both of two results when the distress pattern is, later, restimulated iii.

    The first result is to be forced again into the role the person filled in the original hurt experience. In this case the person is pushed to "accept" or "agree" to be oppressed, to accept the invalidating feelings, to be defeated in his or her attempt to remain human. The slave "agrees" to be a slave, the serf picks up his hoe and bows his head, the wage-worker feels inferior and "lucky to have a job."

    The second result occurs when, in an attempt to escape the role and behavior described in the first result above, the victim of the restimulation seeks relief by "occupying" a different role in the restimulated distress recording, the role of the oppressor. In this case a white victim may turn the abuse and invalidation originally turned on him or her upon a black or other non-white person (the basis of racism) or a male victim may turn it on a woman (the basis of sexism), etc.

  13. An oppressive society actively reinforces both of the results described above with false "theories," propaganda, discriminatory treatment of all kinds, religious pronouncements, secret societies, etc. In this way each group÷s attempts to resist oppression are discouraged and its confidence sapped, and each group is mobilized to cooperate in the invalidation and defeat of every other group.

  14. When any oppressed group begins to awarely organize to achieve its liberation, the members of the group will feel reactively attracted towards blaming and attacking the other oppressed groups who have also been mistreated and as a result have exchanged oppressive attitudes with their group, fighting with them as if they were the source of oppression and leaving the real (and more threatening) oppressor forces unchallenged. (Thus in the United States, African-heritage and Latin-American high school students will be pulled into gang wars against each other, etc.) Needless to say, this tendency will be encouraged by the real oppressor groups and the society in every possible way.

  15. To attain complete liberation two processes are both necessary: one: effective, organized social action and struggle, two: discharge iv and re-evaluation v to free each individual from his or her individual distress patterns.

    The two processes are complementary and each enhances the other. To fight intelligently against social oppression is to contradict one's individual distress patterns and expedite discharge and re-evaluation provided one pursues one's Co-Counseling vi systematically.

    To emerge from one's individual painful emotion enhances one's effectiveness in social struggle and helps avoid mistaken strategy and tactics based on feelings, provided that one really engages in activity and doesn't just settle for talking about it.

  16. To be successful, any oppressed group seeking liberation must move in two directions: one: It must consistently strive for unity within its own group around a clear-cut program of goals and actions; two: It must consistently seek unity and mutual support with every other oppressed group, no matter how difficult this task may seem at first.

  17. Every group of oppressed people can be reached to participate in the struggle for liberation if we make a thoughtful enough approach.

    The first job in uniting people for liberation is to counter the fears, suspicions, antagonisms and resentments that have been installed between us. This means taking a sharp, clear (and patient) stand against racist, sexist, condescending, and invalidating statements and language of all kinds.

    In reaching for unity we all begin in a state of being "afraid of" each other. We have been conditioned to fear or be suspicious of anyone who is "different." We can learn to love and trust each other but we must begin with an attitude of respect, of complete respect for every human being in the world. The love and trust can come (and will come) later.

  18. Every group of people is important to the unity of the liberation forces. Even individuals from the oppressing classes are important and must be made welcome if they really "throw in their lot with the people."

  19. Liberation of any group will only be complete when all oppressed groups are liberated.


i A distress pattern is a rigid set of "thoughts," behaviors, and feelings that is left by an undischarged hurtful experience (or experiences).

ii A distress recording is all the information (sights, smells, voice, tones, gestures, posture, feelings, etc.) that gets bound together in an unusable conglomerate during a distress experience and then is played over and over (like a recording) in an inappropriate response to a new situation.

iii Restimulation is the triggering of the recording of a hurtful experience by a perceived similarity (sometimes insignificant or remote) in the current situation.

iv Discharge is a process of the human mind which converts confusion from a distress incident into clear thinking. The outward signs of this process are several physical processes, among which are non-repetitive interested talking, crying or shedding tears, shaking or shivering, laughter, and yawning.

v Re-evaluation is the process, which occurs spontaneously after discharge, through which the information previously frozen in distress recordings is understood and turned into usable information.

vi Co-Counseling is another name for Re-evaluation Counseling, a well-defined practice of listening, taking turns listening, and allowing and assisting "discharge," which has the effect upon participants of assisting them to think clearly where they had previously been confused.



Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07