Which side are you on?

A dominant group, inevitably, has the greatest influence in determining a culture’s overall outlook – its philosophy morality, social theory and even its science. The dominant group, thus, legitimizes the unequal relationship and incorporates it into society’s guiding concepts.

Inevitably the dominant group is the model for ‘normal human relationships’. It can become ‘normal’ to treat others destructively and to derogate them, to obscure the truth of what you are doing by creating false explanations and to oppose actions towards equality. In short, if one’s identification is with the dominant group, it is ‘normal’ to continue in this pattern.

It follows from this that dominant groups generally do not like to be told about or even quietly reminded of the existence of inequality. ‘Normally’ they can avoid awareness because their explanation of the relationship becomes so well integrated in other terms; they can even believe that both they and the subordinate group share the same interests and, to some extent, a common experience.

Clearly inequality has created a state of conflict. Yet dominant groups will tend to suppress conflict. They will see any questioning of the ‘normal’ situation as threatening; activities by subordinates in that direction will be perceived with alarm. Dominants are usually convinced that the way things are is right and good, not only for them but especially for the subordinates. All morality confirms this view and all social structures sustain it.

The above are not my words, the text is quoted from Jean Baker Miller, Toward a new psychology of women (1976:6-8). A text about women and equality. Equally the text could directly talk about any social injustice, for example cycling (subordinate system) in relation to automobility (dominant system). I am reminded of (my quick and dirty analysis of) some comments in my local newspaper, in particular the forceful lashing back and (mis-guided) dominant-group assertiveness, here.  Whose side are you on? Where lie your sympathies when reading Jean Baker Miller’s words?

I remembered the quoted text when seeing the publication of Tara Goddard’s thesis report, available here. The psychological inequalities that society has permissibly, to date, grown in our transport system really do need political, spatial practice/design coupled with legal action.

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