Anityāśuci-duhkhānātmasu nitya-śuci-sukhātma-khyātir avidyā (Yoga Sutra 2.5)
Ignorance is misperceiving permanence in transience, purity in impurity, pleasure in suffering, an essential self where there is no self (trans. Stoller-Miller, 1998:45).
I’ve again butted my head against position (location) – position in the sense of political or ideological position, which in the context in which I live and work, always exists. One is in the ‘advocacy’ camp (read Indigenous peoples’ rights) or in the government camp. There is no in between. No shades of grey.
Clearly, this is ridiculous. The world is all colours and shades. And labels are just that: there is no us versus them. No advocacy camp vs the government camp. It’s a fictional right-left bullshit position that is now irrelevant.
I find this positioning most disturbing in social situations, where an ideology is inferred from one’s agency of employment, and acts to poison all conversation and interactions. It’s like a wall going up. I see the whirring of gears in those who work for certain organizations when they find out for which organization I work for: oh… you work for Them. The Enemy. The organization that protects sacred sites, but in our view, has no right to exist…
Then I observe my own reaction, a mirror of the Other’s: oh, you work for Them. You work for a corrupt and bullying organisation who pretends to be the defacto government of Central Australia …
I find myself stewing in interactions. I observe my emotions and thoughts and cannot easily detach from them – I am in binary opposition to myself. As if there is permanence in the transience of the moment, of the flow of emotions and the Pavlovian reactions that employees of a certain organisation invoke in me.
I hate this. I dislike the feelings and suppositions that arise in me.
They are not all stuck in 1976, fighting the good fight (mind you, some of them are). And the government has long since moved on (although, not far enough). The town I live in still has too many born and bred racist red-necks – and a shameful ignorance of the history which has brought us to this Now. There are still too many people who automatically see Aboriginal people walking along the street as a drunken, dirty crime wave… not a dignified old couple in town to do their shopping, elders in their community and respected by all who know them, both Black and White. Isn’t that the ignorance, the pleasure in suffering that the Sutra speaks of?
And now that I come to the end of this, having worked through the poison and ignorance within, returning to the point that there is no essential self. There is the Now of the moment, the observation of the flow of emotion and feeling and thought and belief and the realisation that these are not the essential self, just transient clouds which the discipline of self inquiry, all the yogas of this world, encourages us to practice.
Our location, our position, is ever shifting.
Amanda, this is a great post. A lot of truth in it. I’ve come up against this mind-set before, which is so frustrating. It’s like George W Bush said: You’re either for us or against us.
When I was in Australia I was startled by the casual racism displayed by what were otherwise decent rural people. They regularly talked about “Australians” and “Aborigines” … WTF? I had never met an Aboriginal person before, but I met quite a few when I was in South Australia. There are the broken, desperate people – homeless, alcoholic, mentally ill. But I also met families, kids, and a lovely group of elderly ladies from the Pitjantjatjara region. As you say … just ordinary people.
Oops, I forgot to say in my first comment, how much I appreciated your offer to come and stay with you. If I’d been closer to Alice I might have taken you up on that, but as it turned out I was fine and had a wonderful time in South Australia. I would love to come and stay with you some time. I just loved Australia and will definitely go back there. And of course if you’re in New Zealand you must come and stay with us 🙂