The “radars” described in this post are meant to support us* in reading contexts that bring together people from communities that have been in historical and systemic dissonance, and in noticing how we could be read in these contexts. Rather than establishing a new standard of moral authority (e.g. “I am holier than thou”), these radars are meant to bring us to a position of humility without humiliation: when we realize that we are just as cute and pathetic as the next person and that we desperately need to figure out other ways of being and of “growing up” in a world where we will need to face unprecedented challenges together.
Therefore, the radars are not about shaming people but rather about identifying – and potentially interrupting – the harmful affective and intellectual economies/patterns that are designed to keep us on the same thinking/feeling neurobiological loop.
These economies harness our (imposed) sense of worthlessness in order to sell us a temporary sense of worth (purpose, meaning or specialness) based on feeling innocent, purer, better, more enlightened, more successful or more deserving than others ( we call this pattern “exceptionalism”). If we get caught in this loop, then we will constantly seek or demand validation, affirmation, and approval for our branded self-image. This is an endless pursuit and a bottomless pit that: 1) restricts our ability to relate to those who are negatively affected by the harmful patterns we are engaged in; 2) makes us extremely fragile to conflict, criticism and antagonism; and 3) infantilizes us in consumptive narcissistic entitlement patterns that prevent us from even wanting to “grow up”.
layering radar of existential and political accountabilities
E.g. realizing that at one layer we are all one, and at many others we are accountable to the visible and invisible violences that are required for us to be who we are and to have the options, opportunities, comforts, and securities that we have
goody-goody radar of desires to feel, look and do “good”
E.g. of moves to exceptionalism, heroism and innocence (triumphalist, self-indulgent, self-celebrating, self-congratulatory, self-promoting, self-serving but posing as serving others)
what do you need to give up about your self-image, and your desire to “look, feel, and be seen as doing good,” in order to arrive at a point of humility without humiliation and surrender without collapse?
eyes-rolling radar of arrogance, entitlements and potential ridiculousness
E.g., thinking about how we are being read by others, particularly by communities of high intensity struggle, in order to consider both the comic absurdity and the harm that is being done by us acting from what we think is “normal”
band aid radar of simplistic (and often harmful) solutions designed to make do-gooders feel good, and to restore a sense of hopefulness in guaranteed outcomes and futures
sausagization radar of mix and match approaches packaged for the supermarket shelves of the feel-good-in-this-system industry, which perpetuates the system and serves as a means to avoid the difficult work of growing up and growing out of the patterns that got us into this mess
(personal) smoke radar/alarm (me me me me me me me) people filling the room and taking collective airspace with personal stories that do not move anything anywhere, but offer the illusion that we are “getting somewhere”, taking responsibility, and “doing the work”
individual self-pity party radar
this happens when fragilities are breached and people don’t know what to do with themselves but to demand a form of care where they deflect responsibility for their “shit” (where they usually say “this is unfixable therefore I give up”)
indulgence as self-care radar**
often happens after the individual self-pity radar goes off and justifies demands for compensations for the fragility breach. E.g. imagine a circle (of white) people holding hands and saying thank you or how amazing they are to each other
Emotional/affective accountability radar through which we observe and take responsibility for our non-cognitive (embodied, psychological, physiological) responses, understanding that these are not individual or inevitable, but emerge out of our conditioning and positioning within a particular set of socio-historical context and relational dynamics, and considering their impacts on the other people present in a space
* We use “us” to refer to those in low intensity struggle (versus those in high intensity struggle whose lives are at risk in the system that gives “us” comforts and securities)
**Again, it is important to remember that we are talking about people in low intensity struggle here. For people in high intensity struggle this works very differently.