What’s Wrong With This Picture From Louisiana?

Sociologist & Researcher, Artie Russell Hochschild, in her book Strangers In Their Own Land, writes the story of her five years interviewing people from Louisiana, people, who for the most part, hold very conservative views; as she writes, she found a Great Paradox in their story: her goal in this project was to “use the wall of empathy,” in understanding the very right-leaning, conservative, along with many Tea Party member’s worldviews\she wanted to set a tangible image of the projections of people who see life from a completely opposite lens than her own.

The Great Paradox that Hochschild writes about is the extreme, but often not so extreme as one might think, diverse views & opinions of many Louisianans; first, the antipathy towards government with its ludicrous fabrications and its meddling in their affairs; they’re adamantly oppositional about regulations to which they know government so often adheres; however, if there were no regulations, how would any entity be curbed in its practices-good or bad?

Many Louisiana residents don’t want the government sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong, at least in their minds; yet, at the same time, they do want the jobs and other ancillary benefits, like ongoing employment, technology, and better lifestyles/higher pay.
Louisiana Governor Jindahl has the reputation of paying oil companies huge amounts of money to set up shop in his state, giving them tax credits, lavish homes for their executives, etc.

The state of Louisiana has been mega-polluted (at least in areas where oil companies have been doing their drilling [and dirty work]); so much so, that one state department disseminated educational information on how to cut up fish contaminated by mercury and other chemicals, and described what the least lethal part of the fish to eat. To this writer, this is a significant piece of evidence, showing how bad the pollution & devastation of land & water is in Louisiana. They all know it’s bad, but solutions seem to be in short supply.

As I’ve been reading through Hochschild’s book (I highly recommend the book to people who would like a peak into just how much collusion & looking the other way, has been done in Louisiana-mainly harming Louisiana’s residents), I’ve noticed one other paradox.
The Christian Church, for many Louisianans who’ve reaped the harsh consequences of the putrefaction & pollution, has been a mainstay in this oil-producing area of Louisiana.
Hochschild writes a great deal about attending one Pentecostal church; her observation was that practically any emotion known to humanity was demonstrated in the church service; this is characteristically true of many charismatic churches.

As I read about her experiences visiting these churches, in order to get another angle on this key social-connection-spiritual & social community, she concluded that the Church may be one effective means of interacting with organizations & services within the community; her goal was to interview parishoners to get their feelings about the community-wide suffering tethered to excavations for gas & oil, oil & gas refineries, dumped & poisoned chemicals, dips in prosperity to economic deprivation, health concerns, and concerns for the water & land in the area.

Many of these church’s ministries are geared to provide needed assistance to their community members, thus, they reiterate that this is what it means to be off the government dole, and seeking effective means to help oneself & others in their communities.

What’s paradoxical, in one sense, is that many folks who express their deep feelings & emotions within their church community, in general, they’re expressed in an environment where people feel safe and feel as though they can trust the church environment. This combo appears to give permission to them, to speak & reflect their own truth, about the feelings of their body-minds.

What actually confuses me the most is why the churches have been so much in bed with, and entered into an unwritten ‘covenant with corporations;’ why don’t they feel like the church can be one of the most proactive elements in Social Justice activism? Why aren’t they more open & active in expressing their anger in the direction of those who’ve hurt them? Why aren’t they more active when it comes to justice?

The way I read it, is that many Louisiana churches, in the heaviest hit areas of destruction, don’t seem engaged to “act on” the society around them, and change society for the better. It seems to me to be a ‘faith of resignation,’ rather than one where the agents of societal change are the changes they’re making.

For groups of people who’ve been burned & hurt by this vitiating partnership between church, government, and private industry, there’s also a concommitant element that usually is noticed as ‘a felt-body-sensation,’ as well as cognitive thoughts of dis-empowerment.

The poor, persons and/or communities of color, and the growing numbers of marginalized persons in our culture are probably the most frequent receivers of this type of dispiriting disempowerment.

This fact usually engenders feelings of fragility, vulnerability, a sense of being very limited, a sense of “overwhelmedness,” demoralization, and, ultimately despair & hopelessness in people’s minds & lives.

If a person is hyper-sensitive to others’ voices, there may be a kind of imaginary diagnosis that acts like a covering mask that conceals the hurt & rejection felt by someone-they feel sad, but they act as if everything’s OK. They “act” like it’s “business as usual.” In the same way, even though folks are expressing many emotions in their church, mosque, or temple-the positive emotions may also act like a covering mask for the pain they feel inside. For the feeling of disempowerment that gnaws at their own, inner dignity as a human being.

Each of us is the discoverer of our own sense of power, and how to use it.

Copy: CBB 11/02/2017


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