When I was in Seattle, my good friend, doula, and one of our beloved mentors, Carrie Kenner gave me a book she values. And I now value it; I read most of it in two sittings! Some of you have read it; it has sold 750,000 copies since it was first published in 1970 (by Continuum Publishing International).
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
In the Foreword it is noted that initially Freire's thesis was thought of as "a contribution to illiterate adults in the Third World. If we take a close look, we may discover that his methodology and his educational philosophy are as important for us as for the dispossesed in Latin America..."
...and I put forth that we may find his philosophy and approach will help us understand childbirth "education" and guide our paradigm shift. The book Carrie gave me is tagged with twenty stickers of favorite passages that parallel birth education in our culture. I'll share just a few to stir our change-embers this lovely spring morning.
"The oppressed suffer from the duality which has established itself in their innermost being. They discover that without freedom they cannot exist authentically. Yet, although they desire authentic existence, they fear it. They are at one and the same time themselves and the oppressor whose consciousness they have internalized. the conflict lies in the choice between being wholly themselves or being divided; between ejecting the oppressor within or not ejecting them; between human solidarity or alienation; between following prescriptions or having choices; between being spectators or actors; between acting or having the illusion of acting through the action of the oppressors; between speaking out or being silent, castrated in their power to create and re-create, in their power to transform the world. This is the tragic dilemma of the oppressed which their education must take into account."
Friere's next observation describes the dominant method of childbirth preparation which largely orients parents to the medical model! Of course, we have a dilemma here; we must weigh the emotional cost of not orienting them to that model when they are mere weeks away from entering it. Again, I push for year long classes as a model that allows time for the uninitiated to embody the paradigm shift.
"Indeed the interests of the oppressors lie in 'changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them;' for the more the oppressed can be led to adapt to the situation, the more easily they can be dominated. ...
"The truth is, however, that the oppressed are not 'marginals,' and not people living 'outside society. They have always been 'inside'--inside the structure which made them 'beings for others.' The solution is not to 'integrate' them into the structure of oppression, but to transform that structure so that they can become 'beings for themselves.'"
I could excerpt another dozen observations, but perhaps digesting excerpts slowly is better--to allow you to make connections to what you see (or even do) in birth in our culture. Friere refers to Lenin's belief:
"Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement."
Paulo Friere interprets this to mean that "revolution is achieved with neither verbalism nor activism, but rather with praxis, that is, reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed. The revolutionary effort to transform these structures radically cannot designate its leaders as its thinkers and the oppressed as mere doers."
If we, Birth Peeps, are truly committed to changing birth in our culture, everyone must reflect and take part in a new dialogue that includes deep listening--and more reflection. We cannot wait for a spokesperson or leader to bring about this change on our behalf. Change is at once an individual effort (subjective) and a collective effort when change ultimately occurs for the people, by the people. We do not necessarily all need to act together under an organized plan, but as more individuals reflect and act, momentum builds and collective thought changes.
It is absolutely essential that the oppressed participate in the change process with an increasingly critical awareness of their role as Subjects of the transformation. If they are drawn into the process as ambiguous beings, partly themselves and partly the oppressors housed within them... they will merely imagine they have reached power."
Please write your reflections and actions.
cite: Lenin, "What is to be done?" in Essential Works of Lenin by Henry M Christman.