“Getting off the Hook”

MDIV 515: Power, Privilege, and Difference.

“Getting off the Hook”

By Pisit Maneewong

The reading of this week was related to the topic of “Getting off the Hook” which was the part of the book title “Privilege, Power, Difference,” and it was written by Allan G. Johnson. According to my reading on the Chapter 8: Getting Off the hook: Denial and Resistance.  I like what Allan G. Johnson wrote that “The fact is that we’re all on the hook because there’s no way to avoid being part of the problem. People in subordinate groups are on the hook every day. Dominant groups are, too, but they’re more likely not to know it because they have so many ways to act as though they aren’t, and privilege usually allows them to get away with it. But the more aware we are of all the ways there are to fool ourselves, the easier it is to wake up and make ourselves part of solutions.” [1] Sometimes we do not know that there is no such wall or barrier in front of us. One of the reason is fear of losing our privilege and realm which we used to be the owner and we do not want to share with others. In addition, we are full of selfish without caring other’s privilege or feeling. It seems that we have trouble with this wall day by day, no chance to walk over this barrier.

From the class last week, our class practiced the exercise of power, privilege, and difference regarding the ideas of racism, class, and gender which somehow related to the idea of ‘White Supremacy’.  During the time, I and my male classmate laid down on the floor face up and head closed to each other’s in the different directions and the women sat on the chair above us in four directions. At that moment, I felt overwhelmed in three ways of my thought, by the feeling, time pressure, and overwhelmed by how to do things ‘right’ thing at that moment. At the beginning, my feeling was normal and when the time passed by from 10-20 minutes I felt like how to do the ‘right’ thing at that moment. So, I decided to not do anything just lay down and practice my Pali chanting which I remembered at that moment. I try to use my terrorist mind to not follow the sound when I heard during I was laying down with my male classmate. I knew that I was not a good person at that moment. I did not help or use my voice to speak out when the female asked and even my male friends talked. I still continued to keep quiet and not use any voice until the last minutes of this exercise. I think my action like what Allan G. Johnson writes in his book, “But the truth is that my silence, my inaction, and especially my passive acceptance of everyday privilege that goes along with group membership are all it takes to make me just as much a part of the problem as any member of the Klan.”[2]

Anyway, from this situation, as a man I felt sad and empathy as well about this situation regarding gender. Most of the time women are hurt by men who have more power and privilege without love or compassion or without thought that is gender like their mother. I asked myself how I can help the people who live in trouble, both male and female with trouble and with this question it enriches awareness on me to the situation of difference. So, I need more choice and more chance to learn how to live together happily and harmoniously in the long term of life without any conflict of the power, privilege, and difference especially the different gender between male and female.

I like the idea that the Buddha give an advice to the monks (Bhikkhus, Pali) how to treat the women in the proper way which appeared in the Bharadvaja Sutta. In this sutta, the Buddha once advised to the young monks that, ‘Come now, monks: with regard to women who are old enough to be your mother, establish the attitude you would have toward your mother. With regard to women who are old enough to be your sister, establish the attitude you’d have toward a sister. With regard to women who are young enough to be your daughter, establish the attitude you’d have toward a daughter.’[3] This is one reason that I should bring it and share it here.

[1] Allan G Johnson, Privilege, power, and difference. (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006), p.108.

[2] Allan G Johnson, Privilege, power, and difference. Ibid., p.118.

[3] Thanissaro Bhikkhu, “Bharadvaja Sutta: About Bharadvaja,” accessed May 19, 2017, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn35/sn35.127.than.html.

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