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By Edxie Betts
I preface this writing with a few questions and statements about knowledge in relation to how I feel about copyrights. I believe knowledge is a gift that can never or should never truly be owned. I’m pushing back against a Civil World of commodified knowledge, bodies and land that has paved the way for the logics and complex social hierarchies of colonization.
Globalized Slavery or its afterlife, Anti-Blackness(Policing), are staunchly dependent on the authorship of western Master Narrative, the “commodity” and it’s canon. So if we’re using the valuations and Socio Symbolic order set forth, often unconsciously by the same westernization, wouldn’t that then trap us in said colonizer’s Dystopia? A Dystopia written by the supremacist fictions of Law, Order and hegemonic power of The West.
Civil society’s capitalism does all it can to arrest these ideas, but what happens when our collective aim is to liberate them by decentering & delegitimizing the means of which attempts to capture them? What is a copyright if not an acquired thirst to own a piece of someone elses Dystopia?
In discussing trans multitudes I hope to be able to critique the stagnancy of written word. As well as unpack the curious margins within margins( if I may be so redundant) as to express the redundancy of our “mass” subjugations in conjunction to genocide as caused by Organized Authority. While centering Blackness/anti-Blackness, Indigeneity, and Transness as they relate to the Dystopia of Colonization.
Authority to Indigeneity is…
Nothing reifies colonial dystopia more than the dogma and doctrines of written word and authorship. He who writes the rules has sustained the Power. So I am most distrusting of Organized Authority as key tool that can establish liberation or autonomy. Language is an important aspect of domination because it imposes the reasoning and “truth” of the conqueror. Every Nation State sustains hegemonic Power so pervasively that it is unseen(invisible). Liberal reforms become vehicles for the language that is indebted to the very reasoning of Power itself. This is why many Indigenous Philosophies have described the institution of the school as ‘Indoctrination Mills’. The boarding school has often been the driving force behind assimilationist narrative. Indigenous Resistance Movement participant Wanbli Ohitika(Russel Means) of the Oglala Lakota discusses the pitfalls at length in his famous “controversial” speech given at the Black Hills International Survival Gathering on the Pine Ridge Reservation in July 1980:
“The only possible opening for a statement like this is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of “legitimate thinking”: what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.”
He discusses the pitfalls of falling into the trap of the western tool of authorship. In his speech he theorizes that eurocentric Law and Order no matter how radical, whether marxism, communisim or even anarchism doesn’t take into account its own tendency to dominate with the values of Europe no matter how “decolonized”. I would be remiss to not agree wholeheartedly that a solution to Globalization wouldn’t be then to replace one western political economy with another. These changes of who’s enforcing power does absolutely nothing to challenge the scope of the Libidinal Economy or immaterial conditions.
I’d like to shed light on the inherent dystopic quality of pointing out the embedded flaws and traps of using writing and authorship to combat colonization by using writing and authorship to do so. Coercions like these make the civil world go ‘round. Indigenous Councils throughout have had to opt into the logics of propriety to have self recognition by a larger Mass and the Civil World that shapes the thinking of the Masses. There is a tyranny of the Majority that willfully attacks autonomy, individual and collective, when social control is the goal for any central power whether it’s one persn or group of people attempting to wield the authoritative pen. The written word need not be the only legitimate form of knowledge production.
The Living Dystopia of Colonization…
When you think of Dystopias you often think of written fictions. The works of writers and themes like Octavia Butler, George Orwell and even The Walking Dead comes to mind. Stories of mass surveillance, expanding militarization or resourceless intrigue created with an apocalyptic narrative far more terrible than any “material” reality. But what if material realities were actually worse than fictions we read? What if fictional analogies pale in comparison to what it was made to critique? What if we already livin in a dystopia?
What qualifies for a classically disturbing dystopian fiction is written authorship that starts out with the introduction of an unbalanced world due to an insidious cause, continuing to a pivotal unbalanced climax, often ending in a less unbalanced closure that may or may not disrupt the cause. The story of colonization takes the same premise of qualifications. However, reifying its world through violence of western Law and Order. Those who do not follow civil suite and script are “justifiably” jailed or killed by the purveyors of said Authorship, The Nation State. Coerced to conform by threat of jail or varying means of violent law enforcement. The real terror starts at home.
To partly borrow from b. hooks and L. Cox, naming the Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Ableist Cis Normative Hetero Patriarchy(aka Colonization) directly counter names whom all authored the law and order that crafted the conditions that not only violently forms norms, its reason, and oppression, but also whom then institutionalizes the positions that work as a social currency for Citizenship, Race, Class, Ability, Gender and Sexuality. Top-down, vertical and tiered as social hierarchies that create the material/immaterial, civilized, binaried world. Subsequently, every socially constructed identity is established by these multitudes of Power. Socializing us all into the scripture.
For myself being a mixed race Black, Trans, Feminine, Neuro Divergent persn I am often confronted with varying forms of domination all at once, which shapes my narrative and being without my consent. My gender expression for example is something that has consistently been acknowledged by Indigenous societies throughout the globe pre-colonization. Yet the colonial Nation State, has done all it can to actually search and destroy OUR-stories and cultures of gender to spiritual to sexual connectivities. It HIS-storically has underscored “gender anomalies” that would otherwise pose as significant threats to the nuclear monogamian familiy structure, capitalist modes of production, stagnant binaried nomenclature and positions granted by the State.
In the eyes of the Nation State is it even possible for such threats to be “invisible”? I don’t believe the intention of the State was to render what we know as queer and trans bodies unseen. I think that because our ancestral communities have had a place for us(those whom deviate or transcend colonial gender/sexual roles and understanding) pre-colonization we served as integral components to them, often revered or held as sacred. In a way that unhinging that ancestral necessity would have de-stablized past communities, demonized these traits and these already existing identifiers within Indigenous relations.
So the real argument around the politics of recognition and law making shouldn’t be ones for or against visibility, it’s should be framed in how we are already targeted and made hyper-visible by our differences past and present. And how every law that is passed to co-opt such an identity comes at the expense of Black Liberation and Indigenous Autonomy. Right giving and right taking becomes an insidious form of social control that legitimizes a foreign State atop stolen land, financed by stolen bodies, well designed by the authorship of western dystopic narrative. The lasting OUR-storical brutality and criminalization of queer, transgender and gender non conforming, two spirit people(IDs limited by language), isn’t some “non recognition” of our Identity. The HIS-storical violent unconsensual surgical procedures that assigns Intersex people into a single sex at birth for centuries wasn’t a “misrepresentantion”, it does the work of normalizing what sex and gender ought to be according to the colonizer’s sciences. All while demonizing or Otherizing difference.
To dismiss the actions of the Nation State’s targeting of poor Black, Brown, Indigenous, Trans communities, as merely invisible would dismiss the controlling intention from the HIS-storically sustained institutional White Power. Inclusion into the State by virtue becomes more control. The underpinning logics of the politics of Power remains static and unchallenged when the focal point is recognition.
Afropessimist thought would argue that the apocalypse has already occurred long ago for Afro Indigenous peoples enslaved after the point of colonial contact. Utilizing Black bodies and flesh for the project of Slavery within the colonial narrative. Similar world ending assessments can be made about Native or Indigenous peoples globally. However, the ongoing predicament of that which is exclusive for the Slave and especially the living descendants of Indigenous Afrikan Slaves is that today and yesterday and civilization’s tomorrow, Blackness, according to colonization, is always scheduled for commodification.
A commodity discovered, named, positioned and owned by civility. Produced by a gendered sexual economy conducted by White/anti-Black Entitlement. In the opinion of the western imagination of the colonized and colonizer, with similar proprietary sentiments about the Earth, what connotes Blackness is always just a dead, unknown, depraved, evil, slave thing to claim and Master. And the Slave through time by virtue of this commodification, de-culturalization and denigrated as “Black” from the “Dark Continent” establishes a recurring “sub-non” role in such an authored dystopia. Becomes a “Beast of No Nation”. Transfixed into the collective unconsciousness as something far off and too Othered from it’s origins to ever even be considered Indigenous or WoMAN or MAN or huMAN.
This lens helps me explain the widespread lack of any “sacredness” of Black culture according to civil society. Even according to non Black Indigeneity’s impression of Blackness. Unlike Indigena peoples of this land, Black peoples may share similar commonalities of struggle with the non Black Indigenous of the so called Americas, but there isn’t a known land region, tribe, sacrosanct relic or culture to reclaim and restore relations with within the context of the Slave so stripped of their selfhood and far removed from their motherlands. Arguments to return to land and culture become anti-black arguments when not taking into account the gratuitous degradation of the Slave. Slaves were never meant to be guests in any place. This has helped me grasp with the understanding of the unnerving witnessed constant cultural appropriations that pick from Black culture. It unpacks the entitlement to Black bodies and culture. While continuously inundated with arguments that say black music, like hip hop or jazz, like its people, is destroying the values of AmeriKKKa(one can actually only hope).
In closing though I cannot conflate what is needed for liberation of all oppressed categories. Especially when other categories are dependent on anti-blackness to thrive. Sustaining western eurocentrism(White Man)’s institutions and ways of organizing life so detached from the earth and intradependence, hellbent on Propriety & The Commodity wont free us from the prison of his reason[ing]. But I can draw a conclusion that assesses long lived relational power. And say that there is no solidarity with Indigenous or Black or Trans people throughout the World if the end goal isn’t to destroy or end the Nation State and the Colonial Dystopia each one has authored. The effect of this would likely unhinge and un-script the world, but could restore the earth to balance in the process. I’d like to think the end goal isn’t to necessarily bring us to a point of “Anarchy”, or overthrow of government, but to prepare us all for the coming of the State’s system’s collapse. Whether due to mass withdraw from its legitimacy or Insurrectionary Mutual Aid or by the guided hands of our enraged Earth Mother herself. The demand for autonomy would compel you to act and revolt.
Edxie Betts is a multi whateva whateva liberation artist, anti-authoritarian and cultural worker. Much of their work is centered around advocating for queer and trans communities, bringing support and attention to political prisoners, restorative-mediation work, anti-colonial struggle and emphasizing art as cultural production for the sake of inspiring healing, bringing awareness, counter narrative, oppositional alternatives, collective liberation through self-organizing and direct action. Follow their creative work and art on Instagram @bettsurevolt