Sovereignty and Shame
Updated: Nov 28
Photo Cred: Dorothy Attakora-Gyan
At this point, it’s more of a rhetorical question, I have no clue; thinking out loud here, don’t judge, or do, who cares- here’s another unconventional blog post; sharing the first draft; streams of consciousness; processing Achille Mbembe’s work-not well-formed yet-I had initially tried to connect Mbembe’s necropolitics, and Lauren Berlant’s slow death with shame, because it (shame) does contribute to ill health and dying bodies, and we don’t even know it or account for it, instead, if we do account for emotions and death, we focus on trauma and what it does to the body, but even then, the medical field is slow to understand just how powerful and destructive affective circuits are in managing our wellness or lack thereof-
so if we were to reverse engineer-go back and turn things around-what would that look like-that requires conversations of sovereignty, self-sustainability, self-determination, justice, themes Octavia Butler and Lauren Olamina’s Earthseed point to, it makes sense to me, how all of it is connected, how brilliant Butler’s work is in relation to shame, life, death, etc. but I’m not making it make sense to them in a way that they understand, and they want to understand, or so they say, so how to make it make sense-
so-boom-if shame can be weaponized and used to control others, to harm them, to discipline and punish them, all of which is the same thing, the same line of flight, but each sets off on its own line of articulation actually, to territorialize us, if not, terrorize us, shame is no joke, the physical pain has to be accounted for in our health, it actually hurts, we wouldn’t ask people to walk around with broken arms, legs, bleeding organs, bodies without organs (D&G; Braidotti), etc. but shame is doing so much damage to the mind-body, and we all think it’s totally normal, nope nope, won’t face it, too shameful, cover, hide, avoid, but if you knew what it was actually doing to your life, not just interpersonally, but health-wise, we’d all be cautious of how much shame we avoid and or project onto others.
to shoot an actual bullet at someone that causes them damage and or death is tangible. But shame is an invisible bullet. I tried to make sense of it as marbles before, and they laughed at me; or Legos and transformers too; I think I made sense of it like that; though I don’t like to villainize emotions or make them the enemy; at some point, they are destructive too, just watched a Transformers movie recently, bumblebee? The small yellow car, expands into a massive machine, assemblage, Deleuze and Guattari, affect, only, emotions are the affective objects being interrogated, imagine a transformer beating the shit out of you, tangible, shame is just invisible, maybe even chemical, substance, or not, who knows, we can’t see it, so, therefore, we can’t know for sure, science says if it can’t be proven, then, therefore, it’s not real, and not having any real damage,
well, we see that trauma is actually quite invisible and yet genetically, they are starting to make connections between trauma and disease, shame is like trauma, if not trauma, because it’s the painful elements of trauma that feel most shameful; if the painful elements of shame tear at our mind-bodies (thinking here about the Star Trek episode where the trauma, or rather, not facing the trauma, manifests as a virus that hides in the body, taking over covertly-if shame is similar, and does similar damage to the mind-body, be it depression, anxiety, suicide, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, insert co-morbidities, health challenges, illnesses, etc. that have roots in emotional distress somehow, or an excess accumulation of emotions that put pressure and stress on the body-lost my train of thought; went off on a tangent; return; regroup; sovereignty.
For me, working with shame energetically is a way to attain some semblance of sovereignty and autonomy and control; I don’t like the idea of controlling our emotions, because it’s a misnomer, we can’t actually, it only controls us more, which is why energetic readings of emotions are important, you teleport to the world of affect, the invisible, that which is outside of the 3-D; which is why it’s really sci-fi- and fictional, and futuristic, which is why I really love Star Trek and Octavia Butler together;
you have to step outside of everything you know and have been taught to really grapple with shame; yes, do as Brené Brown says and speak it, blah blah blah, I tried that, and it didn’t work the best for me as a Black woman, because people only use your shame stories against you, I couldn’t control the types of people I shared my shame stories with, that shit spreads like wildfire when you are a Black woman; so, yes, speak it, expose shame, don’t give it life, but also, shame isn’t the enemy here;
like fear, its actually really nurturing and comes to teach us lessons; which is why the literature says that shame is good as a moral compass, as consciousness-raising, as self-reflection, it's best when you work with shame as an ally, not an enemy; but that meditation, that self-reflection, the mindfulness, it takes us into other worlds, and if you know where to go, how to ask for access, how to get Spirit and the ancestors to permit, the knowledge there is wild, and not even words, or thoughts, or any of what we know here that contributes to discourse, it’s all embodied knowledge, which is what I'm contributing to; Brené Brown says shame moves us in 3 ways: away, against. toward; in mapping out telepathic solidarity, I add a 4th. shame that moves us across; but that's a different chapter
this article I read; the intro chapter to Necropower in North America: The Legal Spatialization of Disposability and Lucrative Death uses Donna Haraway’s work, embodied knowledge, something about epistemology; academics ruin everything with the jargon; but I sort of get what she’s getting at, nothing Indigenous communities haven’t said before, just wordier, more theoretical, more academic; its embodied; situated knowledge; specific; attentive to something you only learn when you go into it; ontology; so then what;
reaching into the affective circuits, learning to shape shame, learning to redirect shame energetically, away from self to others; just read recently that someone else has the same idea that I was working with, about redirecting shame to its rightful owners, I don’t remember the author; I think it was in Clara Fischer’s article I read yesterday on Gender and the Politics of Shame: A 21st Century something or other; I think it might have been Alexandra Kokoli; yes, it was Kokoli who said; “re-weaponize[ing] shame against those who first inflict it” (Fischer; 2018: 376); that’s exactly the argument I’m making with energetic shame; you have to learn how to identify shame as an object circulating in the environment, first step; then you have to learn how to grab hold of that energy; good luck with that; shame does not want to be seen; felt; held on to; grabbed; it’s like fear; sneaky; tricky; sticky; will avoid you; not sure how else to communicate that because I’m an energy worker; but it took me years to learn how to grab on, which isn’t a grabbing on at all, but rather, a merging, a meld, becoming one with shame, which, good luck, that shit is painful, you have to go into shame, like fear, facing this shit isn’t just metaphorical, its energetic, its why shame hurts so much, my body is getting crushed out here, I need a literal massage right now to get support on facing this shit head on, it need lots of salt bathes, soothing energy, to regulate the nervous system; the brain reads all of it as threat; as pain; but I digress;
Kokoli is hitting the nail on exactly my conclusion; redirect shame back; shame them; dem haffi feel; those who don’t learn or listen must feel; I’m feeling and getting my ass kicked out here, which is why most of us don’t feel; so, sovereignty and justice also lie in the affective; in learning to redirect shame; returning it; in working with it as ally; we get something back; a sense of freedom; in my body. Something literally gives way; a release; it jerks me around; I sense something lifting, letting go; shame no longer mine; not sure where it goes; or how it got in my body; but it’s no longer mine; that is also sovereignty; that is also reverse engineering; that is also taking my health into my own hands; I worked at WHIWH so the idea of women taking our health into our own hands has stuck with me for over a decade;
I am a healer that has to go into my body and heal certain things; no one believes my pain; my illnesses; their technology can’t even detect the illness yet; they have no clue the damage all of this has done to mine and our bodies; intergenerational; it shows up for me as addiction; as depression; as anxiety; maybe ASD; ADHD; neurodiversity; chronic pain etc.; but if I were to leave my body as is; if I were to let the emotions run rampant; guaranteed something more physical will manifest; I already have fibroids; pretty sure I have sciatica which I was told; I'm anemic too; then they said it was ticcs disorder; they have no clue; I have no clue; all I know is that something invisible is happening inside that is influenced by outside and beyond; it's contributing to a slow death as Berlant would say; I avoided using Berlant cause something about them was rubbing me the wrong way, but I rub me the wrong way so;
which bodies are inundated with fear, shame, and trauma; why stays in anger, rage, toxicity, drama; so much fear going around right now; that shit is physical; so much shame as people are getting exposed; Lynn and I talked about accountability today; how change is happening; slowly but surely; that is all causing people shame; what are they doing with that shame; likely projecting it onto others; avoiding it; denying it; lying about it; I was lied to just today; shame;
I just want us to talk about shame in real ways that save more of our lives; shame ain’t nothing to play with; it’s the big boys of emotions; that shit will fuck you up, more than fear, both are painful, but the literature shows over and over, scholar after scholar says the same thing, shame is painful; shame is painful; physically painful; meaning, its material; we feel it; it’s not just an emotion we feel as warm and fuzzy; this shit will kill you; will limit your capacity; restrict your mobility; relinquish your self-determination; watch out; be careful; mind you shame; learn to release it; it might just save your life; or at the very least; free you; give you some sovereignty; which Mbembe defines as, “to exercise sovereignty is to exercise control over mortality and to define life as the deployment and manifestation of power.” (12); I have no clue what the 2nd part means; more time, the academics go right over my head, even if I seem to go over people’s heads; wait til you get to the dense literature like Necropolitics which I’m trying to tackle today, in preparation for some meetings, as I get clearer about exactly what I’m saying, and learning how to best communicate it so it makes sense;
because this stuff should not be hoarded in the ivory towers; working with shame needs to be accessible; its literally killing us; the state dictates so much of what it means to live; tells us who is deserving of life; gonna end it here;
but first here’s a little something that is clear and concise that I wrote and will find where to put it in my chapter called, Parable of the Talents Unraveling Shame. It’s as clear as you’re getting from me today; I might just be posting more of these brain dumps and calling it a blog; it’s still Aquarius season yes; it’s my season and I’ll not formulate sentences if I don’t want to; keep up or don’t; I’m hoping you stopped reading long time anyway. As I said, talking out loud, processing as I go, trying to make sense of the data myself. Welcome to the research life of a mad scientist. Here’s to learning how to effectively communicate like “normal” humans do. Until then, first drafts be like…
Conclusion of Talents: Connect the dots and address the why’s of why the politics of shame needs to be taken seriously.
Knowing how deadly shame is- be it through death by suicide, or a slow wear and tear of the mind-body, what Lauren Berlant identifies as a “slow death,” or outright fatality as a result of violence, murder, and other such crimes, this chapter asks us to consider the weaponization of emotions like shame by governments, state officials, and other such powerful players and stakeholders like multinational corporations, organized religions, and big pharma, who all in many ways dictate which civilians get to live, and who is marked as disposable and therefore, deserving of death, themes that Achille Mbembe’s work addresses extensively.
Drawing from Achille Mbembe’s work, in the introduction chapter of Necropower in North
America: The Legal Spatialization of Disposability and Lucrative Death, Ariadna Estévez (2021) argues that, unlike the Mexican government which collaborates with organizations like the drug cartels, hitmen, and assassins for hire, American and Canadian governments collude with multinational corporations that profit from what Estévez calls, “legal death management industries: weapons, mining, prisons, and the tourism industry,” taking organized crime to new albeit covert and subtle levels (1). As such, Estévez posits that necropower in North America works through the law, not above or below it, commodifying death through policies and corporative profit which is quite lucrative for American and Canadian governments (1). Estévez points to some examples like the spread of neoconservatism, white supremacy ideology, corporative devastation of habitats, organized crime, human smuggling, sexual, human, and organ trafficking, and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic (1). In all of these cases, mortality is profitable insofar as the deaths of migrants, immigrants, Indigenous people, Black Americans, drug users, disabled people, etc. function as profit for the state and market reproduction (1).
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Until next time, in solidarity.