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Does Representation Even Matter?

As a skeptic and an academic student, I have learnt to challenge some basic assumptions that may seem intuitively desirable. Representation of diverse minority voices in policy making is something which I think is not in their own interest. This may seem a controversial take but let me present my case.

The question I pose to you is: If the system is designed in a way to oppress certain groups, will it help to include some from those group in the power circles? The classic example of this is the dynamic of the house negro vs the field negro. During the slavery era in USA, some African-Americans were promoted from working in the fields to the houses of the slave owners. Their status was relatively raised and they were given greater power and authority. What happened was that the house negroes ended up becoming the oppressors themselves and the situation of the field negroes worsened. A more recent example of this phenomenon is how Barack Obama was celebrated as the first black president and many people of color in America naively thought this could signify the end of racism. However, the systemic racism, inequality and police brutality remained as it was or even worsened during his two terms in office. Similarly, if there exists systemic patriarchy in our system, will having more women end the patriarchy? No, those women will themselves become upholders of that patriarchal system since they have become its beneficiaries.

History has taught us that if a system is designed to perpetuate certain forms of injustice, merely joining the power corridors of that system can never remove those injustices. Real change can only be brought from outside the system through a revolutionary process. It can only happen when the oppressed recognize the source of their oppressor and decide to actively challenge the system rather than participate in it.

In the context of education in Pakistan -specifically the drawing of the Singe National Curriculum- the key is to identify whether the issues are systemic or just poor management and lack of resources. If it truly is systemic injustice, then the minority voices should refuse to be a part of this process and instead work outside this system for their rights.

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While you have made a solid argument for your point, I am afraid challenging the system from the outside does not have a good-looking historical pattern either. We have seen the fall of communism in both Russia and China where the masses were driven to a revolution after making them realize the extent of their oppression and the tools used. I believe it is the context of the society, the mindset of the ones in authority and the morale of the people that has to be considered before any of the two methods or a combination of two is applied to overthrow the oppressive system.

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While I was reading your post, I recalled what Audre Lorde said: "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House." Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educated men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master's concerns.

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Zersh Salman
Zersh Salman
Aug 22, 2021

Very well explained! I think your point about victims becoming oppressors relates very well to pre-colonial Pakistan, when agrarian landlords protested against the economic injustices and exploitative policies of the Mughal emperors only to overthrow their rule and become what they set out to eradicate. The low-level agricultural community still continued to be exploited, but now at the hands of their own affluent community members.

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I agree with your point. It so happens that the oppressed become the oppressors once they become a part of the system. I read it in one of the class readings that once women, who are continuously oppressed and marginalized by the patriarchal system, get into power and become a part of the system, then they start to use those same tools of the system to oppress other women. They do so to stay in the position of power. And from the third point, what I think you are trying to communicate is that one cannot destroy the system by using that system's tools. Therefore, a revolutionary process -some other tool from outside the system - is needed to destroy the…

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unfortunately we have to accept the system the way it is ,often the system is too strong to oppose and changing the system is an uphill task especially considering that there are many influential stakeholders that favour the old system

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