Culture is a monumental force. I am not naive enough to believe that culture is completely democratic and that we constitute it at our whims. But I am also not willing to resign any capacity I have—however limited—to refuse, boycott, expose, or subvert the violent cultures that encroach on our hearts, minds, and bodies.
There is a value in recognition, in allowing yourself to enter into a community of consciousness and awareness. Through that we learn to see anew. Reading through the dominant lens offers at best a partial reading of our lives. At worst, it offers a completely distorted reading that does not allow us the knowledge and understanding to flourish and seek better lives, spaces, and worlds.
Why do we concede so much of ourselves—even our vision—to these dominant, violent powers? We already concede enough: the hours of our days, how we are perceived, how our identities and homes are shaped, the destruction of our minds and bodies, the power to act, to feel, to become, to be.
What we cannot afford to resign is our sensitivity. We cannot afford to stop guarding our hearts from the toxicity and pollution that pervades everything. If we feel fully, if we think lucidly, we see what we truly are and what animates our spirits and communities. And if we allow that fullness and lucidity to guide our words, actions, eyes, we can protect the integrity of who we are and cultivate healthy, beautiful communities around us.
Culture looms over us ominously and colors our lives and perceptions, hemming in our possibilities and vantages. But it cannot master us. While the world cheers on male violence and violent masculinities, liberal disaffection leading to inaction, imperialist wars fought in our minds and on our lands, and an insatiable capitalist system which destroys as it accumulates, we can refuse. We can refuse to see, to speak, to act in accordance with those values and refuse to inhabit the worlds they create and put forth as the only possible worlds.
We are accountable for our eyes, ears, tongues, hours, energy, thoughts. We are accountable to God, and we are accountable to the victims of the violent cultures in which we are complicit and which we further by our participation. In as much as we, too, are victims, we are accountable to ourselves.
After all the violence has clouded our visions, we need to learn once again to see. That will require different eyes.
…as there is no such thing as an innocent reading, we must say what reading we are guilty of.