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When An Oppressor (Or Even A Controlling Parent) Says, I’ve Given You Too Much Freedom

Posted: April 11, 2021

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As those oppressed realise their freedom, Savarna men feel a ‘loss of control’ over those they were used to controlling, and the anger they feel for this ‘loss’ comes out in further oppressive behaviour.

Oppression narrows down our awareness of our needs and takes away our capacity to ask for what we want.

The opposite is also true. The more the freedom one gets the more we realise which areas we need freedom in. As an extension of this argument, having a degree of freedom in a scenario of suppression enhances our capacity to ask for more of what we need.

This can feel like rebellion to those who control us, and can be very uncomfortable for oppressors, who concede to minuscule sops – “give small freedoms” – in the hope of quelling rebellion and getting compliance.

When our parents say, ‘I’ve spoilt you with freedom’

My mother used to often tell me in frustration that for all the consideration she had shown me I had turned out to be such an ungrateful, and difficult daughter. That in fact she had ‘spoilt me with freedom’, and maybe should have treated me with the same iron hand that she was given by her parents, to keep me docile and obedient.

Now, I regard my childhood as violent and her as responsible for most of it — both the physical battery and the emotional oppression. At the same time I believe my mother when she says she suffered worse — the violence with which she treated me had to come from somewhere. And I understand where she is coming from.

Conditioned to respond like our parents did

Because when I was in the process of healing with my daughter during which she brought up all that she had suffered at my hands and expressed her anger and hurt, a part of me really wanted to hear her and take responsibility for my actions.

But together with that a response similar to my mother’s kept rising to me throat which said that I had tried to give her much more kindness and freedom than I had ever received, but all I was getting ‘in return’ was her anger. And maybe it was my kindness which had caused this.

And only ‘real’ communication of our feelings helped

One day we talked about it. I confided to her my thoughts that despite the fact that I truly regret my actions and would have given anything to have been wiser and kinder, these other thoughts were also there.

My daughter in turn confirmed that it was my receptiveness that helped her to express her anger — that she would not have dared to start such a process with her father or her step-mom or former step-dad for fear of more violence.

I wondered sadly if her anger was all I would ever get for my efforts to right the wrongs, she saw my side but had no solution to offer because the anger was real too.

Perceived as loss of entitlement in relationships based on control

I think this might be true of all spaces where control and oppression are a reality. In the case of women, oppressed and marginalized communities (like Dalits and Muslims in India) in subjugated people.

This is seen so clearly in case of Savarna men feeling a ‘loss of control’ over those they were used to controlling in earlier times, and them feeling the anger for this ‘loss’, coming out in further oppressive behaviour.

I have heard the patriarchs of orthodox Hindu upper caste families, going through modernisation and losing some of the entitlements they took for granted earlier, say of Dalits, Muslims and women, say things like, “We have given you so much freedom. Your parents and grandparents never saw such freedom. What more do you want? You want to sit on our heads now? (Typical idiomatic language) Maybe we should bring out the whip after all.”

I guess oppressors in all parts of the world might have similar things to say.

No you have not ‘given’ these freedoms, we have a right to them

And it is also inevitable in my seeing that the more freedom these sections earn for themselves (and we need to realise that this freedom has been earned after generations of struggle at a huge and unfair cost, not ‘given’ like the oppressor groups want to believe) the more they are going to come in touch with their genuine needs and ask for more.

And that will inevitably threaten the oppressors who still clinging to privilege at this point in our evolution are not showing an intention to look within.

Is this the reason for the global rise of the right wing?

I guess this helps me understand the global rise of the right wing — it might be a reaction to the spread of democracy, freedom and awareness, driven by the oppressors’ perception that the oppressed have ‘too much’ freedom and the perceived threat to their own existence (the entitled often mistake loss of entitlement as loss of existence). And I see this happening again and again in our history as awareness deepens and the majority’s cry for a more meaningful life grows louder.

Maybe this rise does not indicate that all that we achieved as a collective was false — maybe it just indicates it is working.

Image source: a still from the film Secret Superstar

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Aparna Pallavi's current callings are as a therapist, contemplative writer and researcher of indigenous

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