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When is abusive behavior acceptable?

These questions have been running around my head for a couple of weeks now... I had to put them out there. Just thoughts to ponder....

Is the good that a person does reason enough to accept abuse and disrespect from them?

Does the fact that a person chooses to sacrifice and give so much of his/her time and effort to a people, compensate for that person becoming dictatorial or tyrannical?

Do great strides allow a government the freedom to trample upon rights they claim to defend?

Should we over look the violations committed by leadership because of the "good" that leadership does for the people as a whole?

Should we care about the "few eggs" that get cracked when the group, as a whole, enjoys the omelet?

Do we care about these "eggs" only when they are us, or someone we care about? Where does our responsibility to each other begin and end?

Does presence and effectiveness as a world leader allow said leader to impinge on people's individual rights for their personal understanding of what is good for the "constituency"? Or should this leader ask the constituency, first?

Where does one draw the line between "necessary losses" and "tyranny"? How much "abuse" is acceptable? Criticism? Debasement? Ostracism? Censorship? Exile? When does one say "enough"?

Today most everything we enjoy has been the product of industrialization by western civilization. We travel in trains, planes and automobiles. We shop for our food, which comes attractively prepackaged our clothing ready made and our perfumed toiletries in tubes, boxes and bottles. We live in homes built by construction companies with indoor plumbing, dishwashers, stoves and microwave ovens. We wash and dry our clothes in machines. We are born in hospitals and some of us are alive because of organ transplants, mechanized heart pumps and insulin injections- thanks to the technology of this present society. We work for incorporated companies and get paid by direct deposit. We pay with plastic cards and money we never see. We use cell phones and GPS systems, a/c and plasma tvs... we post our opinions in forums and blogs on the internet from our laptops in wi-fi coffee shops and from our living room couch.

Do all these comforts, conveniences and benefits make the damage colonization has brought about ok? Does it make up for the damage done? Should it be necessary to accept the same from present leadership?

Should a person accept abuse just because the perpetrator fulfills any physical or emotional needs?

Is it ok to expect other folks to put up with abuse so that I can benefit from the good work that the abuser has done for my social group?

Should I accept shame, debasement and exile so that the abuser doesn't feel threatened nor be held accountable for his/her questionable actions? Should I expect this from others?

One can come to an answer instinctively when considering only local social clubs and interactions, but when a whole society can be held at ransom, these questions seem to carry more weight...

Does it?

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Comment by Anita Pagan on May 25, 2009 at 8:34pm
My dear friends, I would like to interject my understanding of what has been shared before this becomes a point of contention. Much is lost in translation from spoken to written word and I encourage you to read what is written with the understanding that it was shared with the best of intentions...

I have heard about the disunity among native people before- it has been a running joke among many of my friends. This disunity is evident in the Lakota Oyate and the issue with the money from the theft of the sacred Black Hills and even in the AIM movement- John Trudell walked away when he disagreed with the path the group was taking...

The fact is that there is not always agreement and unity in groups, even those that get together for a common purpose.

What I understood from Joshua's sharing was that this variety of opinion and focus can provide us with even more options when it comes to interests and who we wish to share them with. I may be part of Group X but because they don't focus enough on a particular topic I am interested in, I may splinter off and create either a sub group or another group all togther. In this sense, I agree with the splintering off being a positive move. I am a pretty varied person when it comes to my interests, however, as an artist, I would much prefer a group focused on art rather than world politics, for example. I can talk politics, but only so far... I can talk art all day.

Personally, I believe that the voice of dissent is both a healthy and necessary part of society. Disagreement need not be disagreeable. A challenging voice can encourage discussion of issues that otherwise remain hidden and are allowed to fester, they can motivate people to action and encourage change. Change is guaranteed, however, without challenge we have nothing to encourage us to rise to the occasion. We become complacent in our opinions and lazy in our thinking and this leaves our future to chance when we actually have the power to channel that change to a desired end. Allowing our boat to drift in the currents of change is not a good thing, the voice of dissent is the one that encourages folks to grab an oar and paddle- hard.

Note that I am referring to respectful disagreement here.

As far as I am aware, although there is disagreement in groups, many of our accomplishments have come from a majority consensus and not necessarily from a collective agreement. Not all Taino who are aware of their ancestry are involved in Taino groups... and many of those who are involved, remain silent when they disagree.

This was the point I was seeking to make with my post. The fact that abuse happens and many times is allowed because there is fear of repercussion. And those who raise their voice in opposition, as respectfully as it may be done, are many times silenced by social exile, ostracism and blackballing.
Comment by Miguel Sague Jr on May 25, 2009 at 7:29pm
Tau My Relatives
With all due respect to the opinion of our brother Joshua here, I think that he is confusing diversity with disunity. The former is indespensable the latter is self-destructive.

I find the terminology used; "A number of localized leaders, spokes persons, or what ever title have become disgruntled when thier little indigenous cultural (and/or political) organization grew and disagreements formed" to be dismissive, disrespectful and frankly surprising from one who is responsible for maintaining a spiritual life.

If there is something that we can learn from the teaching of the ancient Haudenosaunee Confederacy and its history is that in the path of disunity there lay nothing but death for the LongHouse people. Only after the Great Lawgiver Combed out the snakes from the hair of Chief Tatotarho and persuaded the five feuding nations of the New York Iroquis to unite and agree on a system of consensus was he able to plant the Great White Pine Tree of Peace and only then was there born the great Confederacy which eventually became the example of all other peace confederacies since on Turtle Island.

Assuming that our brother Joshua knows something of this history I am surprised with what glib disrespect he refers to those he calls "A number of localized leaders, spokes persons". I am aware that there exists a great deal of disunity in the Native American movement here in North America as there exists in many other good movements but I don't think anyone with any knowledge of how people progress against their enemies and those who would oppress them would believe that disunity is better than unity. I find that kind of logic so irrational it will not really stand the rigorous test of thoughfulness that exists in this network.

My brothers and sisters. There is, in fact. way more unity in all Indigenous movements than is evident at first sight. Our North American brothers and sisters are united, They have leaders. They make things happen because of that unity, and because when they face the oppressor they do it with a united voice. If they were not united there would be no "NATIVE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT". There would be no "Native American Graves and Repatriation Act".
These and all other significant strides in the struggle of Indigenous peoples were accomplished by united and well-organized groups not by individuals with differing opinions all working independently and at odds with each other. If anyone believes that anything is accomplished by disunited individuals, that person needs a serious crash course in human history.

My brother Joshua, again, I respectfully suggest that what you are refering to is diversity, not (I hope) disunity. Diversity and the respect for diversity, is the only way that important ideas can emerge and can be reasonably discussed by intelligent members of a group with a common goal. These differing ideas are then assesed by the group as a whole, the community, and then the community democratically come to a conclusion, an agrement. That agreement, that UNITED agreement, is then used by the group to help it overcome the obstacles placed in its path by its adversaries.

To promote individuals to "splinter off" and shatter the power in unity that allows for true progress is, in my personal opinion, incredibly irresponsible, and hopefully not what you meant to say. Certainly I hope that my Taino brothers and sisters here in this network are not going to consider such a suggestion as it came through here to be a constructive suggestion. Most of us are commited to our unity as a movement and that commitment should never be broken by anyone.
This I say in behalf of the Taino Resurgence Movement which I love and intend to protect. Brother Joshua I suggest that you go back to your own people and ask for the counsel of your elders on this subject of unity and "splintering off".
Taino Ti
Comment by Joshua M Seidl on May 25, 2009 at 6:22pm
A number of localized leaders, spokes persons, or what ever title have become disgruntled when thier little indigenous cultural (and/or political) organization grew and disagreements formed. They say the problem with us NDNs is that we don't all agree, have a singular voice or oppinion. Ah, I think that is the making of a tyrant. One who began for the people, with a good spirit, but doesn't appreciate the many voices of the people. They had something going, they were charasmatic and caring; that is why a group of people formed around them.

I think it is excellent and healthy that we have many voices, not all in agreement. As for the smaller, localized groups, clubs, organizations: It is well if some of the members who were nurished by the founders would splinter off and form other groups to attend to other issues and needs and in particular ways.

I don't see why Indigenous groups must have a singular voice or spokesperson. The USA congress and all the other legislative bodies on state and local level never agree, and they are not expected to agree, they are not paid to agree. There is a subconscious (or overt) tendancy to ignore Indigenous concerns in the major law making bodies because, "Those Natives can't agree on anything." Worse, lots of Natives have come to think that's required also. There is strength in diverse thought and goals. Ideas from opposite or seemingly unrelated agendas are traded, and even if every point and article is not valued the same between the parties, everyone grows.
Comment by Anita Pagan on May 23, 2009 at 12:24pm
My thanks you all for taking the time to read and reply to my post. I appreciate it.

Samuel and Caracoli, you are correct. Abuse should never be acceptable, regardless of the circumstances. It does no one any good. And yes, folks don't like to be called on their own misbehavior. I would add that quite often, folks don't even realize their behavior...

Joshua, I remember my days as a chrisitian where I was taught to “turn the other cheek”. However, I was never instructed on what to do when I ran out of cheeks… lol! Like you said, there is wisdom there, and one needs to determine when and where this course of action applies. Our future generations need not pay for the damage we inflict.

Miguel, you and I have spoken before and we are of an accord in many, many things; including this topic. LoL! Even if it doesn’t look like it.

When I was a little girl in Boriken, my family, especially my mother, was very much involved with the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquena as well as the local artisan community: organizing fairs, creating an artisan organization and doing most, if not all, the required work for this kind of group to succeed and have shows and permits and all that. She did this for years, first for the artisans and later on she did the same for other groups. My mom was always a very dynamic woman so I grew up under what you correctly describe as a “proletariat leader”. We still had to make our artesania to sell and have enough of an income to cover our family expenses, materials for more art as well as the work she was doing as organizer and president of the Artesano group. I know first hand all the sacrifices, expenses, heart aches and exhaustion involved in these kinds of endeavors. Because I was so young and always with my mother, I had no choice but to make many of these same sacrifices along with her. I don't bemoan this, on the contrary, I like to think that I have learned something from those experiences.

I recognize the toll taken upon our leaders in all areas of their lives. I validate their sense of exhaustion and loss. I acknowledge the commitment and dedication our leaders have demonstrated to our cause.

What I decry is that it can seem this is no longer OUR cause.

The school yard claim of “my ball, my rules” cannot apply to our groups- not to all of them, anyway. Depending on the level of political recognition (town, city, county, borough, district, precinct, state, area, region, country and/or continent) organizations are required to recognize a higher authority and follow certain guidelines; i.e. the local Moose lodge doesn’t answer to the same authorities that your local City Hall office answers to and your local Boy Scouts don't follow the same guidelines your local Police Dept or the US Armed Forces do.

This agrees with you, Miguel, when you point out our need to maintain a certain perspective and conscious balance. I offer that this perspective needs to balance out with itself and it's own commitments. Where my family matriarch can make a decision based on her whims and desires leaving me with no recourse if/when I disagree, socio-political organization leadership’s personal opinions need to take backseat to the will of the people and the declarations, missions and agreements they have committed to according to their level of political recognition.

Sad as it may be, friends can quit talking to each other over a disagreement and family members can tell each other to shut up. The “rules/laws” of relationship in these situations are vague and unwritten: don’t talk back, mom’s the last word and I need to respect and obey. A social organization that has no governmental recognition, like the ICN for example, cannot do that. Our guidelines are written and the only censorship is when a certain line of respect is crossed. Even then, much is discussed and perspectives are shared- you have seen how long it can take before a person is banned/removed/exiled.

The ICN, as a social organization, answers to its members, the NING framework that supports it as well as certain real-time state laws. The more political recognition the organization has, the more complicated the Organization’s relationships are, the more extensive are the laws that bind it. So where we may disagree strongly on an issue as friends and choose not to talk to each other, I cannot (nor would I) kick you out of ICN using the excuse of a different opinion as disrespectful behavior.

Disagreement does not imply disrespect although one can disagree disrespectfully.

Miguel, you make a very strong point regarding the use of the word “tyrant”. Historically speaking, tyrants have destroyed lives indiscriminately, shearing over the very people they claim to represent and stand up for. Life and death hung on the whims of a dictator and our organizations and their leaders are small beans compared to our best known historical tyrants. But I offer that a visit to your local Women's shelter will open one's eyes to the different levels of tyranny that exist. One need not have more power than just that of the last word. Abuse comes in many forms.

I also offer that small beans grow into beanstalks and depending on their foundation is how good the plant will be…

Miguel, I know you do not need a Cuban history lesson but I beg your indulgence as I share what others may not have knowledge of. Please know that the following is not meant in any which way, shape or form as disrespect.

In Cuba, Fidel overthrew Batista “for the good of the people” when he was small beans. Before that, Batista overthrew Machado for the “good of the people” when he was small beans and Machado was the youngest general in the Cuban war of Independence, freeing Cuba from Spain for “the good of the people” when they were just small beans! What’s interesting to note is that each one of these men were considered the “tyrants” of their time. Their tyrannous rules began with the support of the people. They led rebellions for the good of the people and once in power, they ignored the will of the very people that got them there. Did the tyranny begin at murder? Ostracism? Exile? When did the title of “tyrant” apply?

Although I feel very strongly that all of us have to make it our business to grow in awareness, not many choose to do so. Not an issue, this is a personal choice. However, I believe that this focus on growth is imperative for those in a position of power and authority. If they really do take their leadership responsibilities seriously, they need to also make it a point to make self awareness and professional detachment a priority as well, each according to their particular social and political commitments. Declarations, laws and agreements are written with this awareness in mind.

I also believe that it is the responsibility of those following and supporting these organizations to find out what commitments bind the group they support. I believe that accountability is not limited to the people who support the group, it includes the leadership as well. But to hold leadership accountable one needs to know the declarations and agreements the group is committed to and what options are open to them as constituents.

The pattern of the Taino Movement has been one of small beans, so we react as small beans. We join a group, disagree, gossip and fuss, we take matters personally and either walk away or get thrown out of the group. We are ignored by the other legumes and are not invited to the next small bean function. Social exile has been the pattern. Like you said, Miguel, an unnecessary pattern of splintering, and it stinks.

I offer that small beans can continue to behave like small beans, but those organizations who are not, cannot. And it is our responsibility to know what kind of organization we join and take a respectful, proactive position in the growth and development of said organizations.
Comment by Anita Pagan on May 23, 2009 at 11:33am
Great song Ray! Thanks!

I enjoyed it, except for the part where he asks "If you don't mind". LOL! I rarely ask permission to be myself :)

But may I ask what you mean by "white medicine"?

Comment by Caracoli on May 22, 2009 at 7:39pm

Comment by Caracoli on May 22, 2009 at 12:03pm
Also what Brother Joshua says resonates

The next seven generations should not pay for the grievances of the pasts

Let the next 7 generations build on the unity that we will try to reach today
Comment by Caracoli on May 22, 2009 at 11:59am
Taino Ti

I think this post should be read by every Taino

Naboria, Nitaino, Bohike, Bojitu and Cacike

A manifesto for the resergence movement

Its our Love for each other and our traditions that will bring us together

May these words resonate among every Taino

ps. can I have your permission to print this on Taino Naboria ?

your guatiao


Comment by Miguel Sague Jr on May 21, 2009 at 6:31pm
Tau My Relatives
I am in agreement with the bulk of the statement made here by our sister Nanu. In a general sense the indiscriminate or nearly indiscriminate use of power is a serious inhibitor of creative thought. Inhibiting creative thought is a sure way to secure the demise of any important movement. Also, still speaking in broad general terms, the misuse of authority can lead to much more serious consequences than just the inhibition of creativity. Just ask anyone who has lived under the weight of a repressive regime.

That said, however, once we go from speaking in general terms of power and authority dynamics to speaking of the specifics of the power and authority dynamics in our resurgence community I think that there has to be a shift in perspective based on the fact that those in authority in our resurgence community simply don't wield enough power (or even authority) for the issues that are mentioned in reference to the general topic to apply. Let's face it, the leaders of our resurgence movement, many of whom have come under considerable criticism already long before Nanu's commentary are not much more than ordinary working men and women with ordinary jobs, ordinary social status and subject to many of the same conditions of life that we are all subject to. The title "kasike" is earned from a community that can just as easily turn its back on that individual and walk away. Just what kind of "tyranical" power is that? We subscribe to the yukayekes, websites and online forums of these people at our own whim and just as easily unsubscribe and abandon them. We criticize them with total impunity to the point of liabel and get away with it. The worst that can happen to someone who crosses one of these so-called "dictators" is to get thrown out of his or her network.

Let's be realistic. These "tyrants" with no real power except that which is allowed them by their constituents are actually just as human and vulnerable as the rest of us. Any perceived "arrogance" on their part might just as well be diagnosed as simple human flaw (don't we all have them?)

Cracked eggs? When a real tyrant speaks of "cracking a few eggs" he is talking about killing people. I have not yet seen any of our resurgence leaders order a hit on a critic.

There is no doubt that the syle of our resurgence leadership can use a lot of cleaning up. Certainly all of us can improve, and especially if we are entrusted with the responsibility of leadership, but as I have made it clear elsewhere. This is a very very proletariat leadership. These leaders work without rest. They sometimes come close to endangering the health of their family relationship because of how much time they spend devoted to the community, time that is "robbed" from their spouses and children. and on top of that they hold one two and sometimes three jobs. This is a very serious responsibility to these men and women and they take it very seriously.

I believe that we who have the luxury of using the forums that these people build to create community with each other, we who simply show up to the events that these men and women devote hours of personal labor and effort to organize and then leave, we who enjoy the fruits of their dedication can cut these people just a little slack in terms of their obvious (sometimes opbnoxious) flaws. We can work with them on improving their style of wielding what little authority they actually have. We can do this in a way that is sensitive to their feelings (no harm in being sensitive to the feelings of our fellow human being even when he or she does not appear to be quite so sensitive to ours). I have found that the old concept of winning someone over to your opinion with honey instead of a heavy club can establish important progress in any endeavor. For those who are aware of my own personal conflicts with certain individuals in our community, I hope that you are also aware that these people have been approached by me on countless ocasions with unsolicited olive branches, with efforts at reconciliation and with attempts to establish meetings (the most recent planned meeting in January of this year was actually scheduled by mutual agreement and at the last minute the other party simply decided not to come and meet, and instead published an "open letter to Miguel Sague" that was certainly far from conciliatory). My invitation to talk and to reconcile with these folks stands and I am willing to forget all of the past antagonism and begin anew, from scratch, as Taino relatives, recognizing the obvious contributions that these folks are capable of offering our resurgence community, and in the spirit of co-operation.

Our resurgence leaders are not powerful enough to merit the title "tyrant" no matter how bull-headed they may appear to be in an antagonistic situation. They are all simply human beings who have spent a little more time than the rest of us creating a structure for the rest of us to use. As I have said elsewhere we owe them the benefit of the doubt no matter how recalcitrant they may appear at times and try to find a point of agreement in their argument that we can enlarge and turn into some level of consensus. We need consensus. We do not need any more splintering and fractionalization.

I defend the opinion of our sister Nanu and actually agree with most of her argument that prompted her post here. There is never enough reason to accept abuse of any kind. My argument is not a comment on what I feel we have to "put up with". We don't have to put up with anything, from anybody. My statement is actually more of a request, a plea. I am begging the Taino community to be more forbearing with people that are really trying very hard. people that, in spite of these titles of "kasike" and "bahari", and "nitainos", etc are just plain folks like the rest of us, with flaws like the rest of us, with responsibilities that sometimes are a bit overwhelming. I know that it is fair and just to hold them to a higher standard because they have accepted the responsibility of "leader". I am not talking about 'fair" and "just", I am just talking about seeing things from the other fellow's point of view, a little sympathy.

Taino Ti
Comment by Joshua M Seidl on May 20, 2009 at 9:49pm
Thank you. I will ponder you "cracked egg" analogy. It is thought provoking and I never heard that before.

I don't think abuse can be condoned or justified. I can certainly see how me or any of us can get caught up in some of those traps as abuser or the abused. sometimes when I speak up about an abusive injustice or biase there are those that think because I am a Brother (like a monk) I should be silent and turn the other cheek. Well, I won't dispute the widom of that teaching. At the same time, I don't want the next seven generations cleaning up what we could have given better attention to. Not speaking up, in many of the situations you listed, affects not only the nearest person being abused, but like a web - it reaches out to others. We did not create the web of life, but what we do to it (or apathetically not do), we do to ourselves and others and to the next generations.

Thanks for posting this subject. I hope to hear more.

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