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 Slow Learner
 Mary M. Johnston, USA
 August 21, 2004

Here is what Iíve learned. There is no truth, no bliss, no peace, itís all been lies, all myth, all service to power, and power, getting it and keeping it, is the game, the main game, the real deal, there is no choice. Choice, mine and yours, went and will always go the way of the native, the first born to all the lands of the world.

I am as the native, powerless. That too is something Iíve learned. First I thought it was the condition of children, being a child explained it. Then, later, the condition of a kind of delayed adult development: just not smart enough yet, not enough education, not enough experience. Quite a while later I thought I understood it was the condition of women, yes, awakening to the story of that particular struggle historically and ongoingly, which is, in fact central to the story of power and who has it and who does not in the patriarchal scheme of things.

But listen, itís much bigger than that and has always been so. Yes, of course, some suffer more than others, much more in certain times and places, but what I did not know all these years is that itís all a matter of when your number comes up, when itís your turn. Sure, being a woman increases the odds against you, or being a native, the first born to all the lands of the world, but whoever you are, grown up, smart enough, male, or historically secure in your chosen place, if you are inhabiting land that becomes the object of desire of the powerful for any reason at all, then it will be your turn, and sooner or later you will be considered expendable and you will be removed from that land, that home, your private and rightful (or so you thought) place.

Those "powerful" who can remove you, I have only recently understood, are not many; power accrues to a very few as it turns out and all the rest of usóallóare vulnerable. I never realized that. My entire life until now has been organized around the belief that if I obeyed the laws of the land, honored the principles basic to a democratic and enlightened social order, I would be safe. What I meant by "safe" was that my life and my home and my land could not be seized nor destroyed at the whim of a powerful few, for instance, at the whim of my own government. All my life I thought I had, if not power, then rights of a certain kind because of a constitution and a legal system set up to protect me as a citizen. Included in those rights, I believed, in addition to my right to safety from incursions into my home and my land by my government, was the right to speak against such abuse if it occurred, whether in this country or in another.

I see that itís not true. That it hasnít happened to me yet is simply a function of it not yet being my turn. As I watch othersí turns come up all over the world, and at the whim of my government, and as I contemplate the history of this phenomenon, unable to look away, unable to not get the greed and arrogance and stupidity which drive it, I am aware that in the matter of whose turn it happens to be, if you follow the trajectory of the thing far enough, there is no safety anywhere on the planet. Some of us are just further down the line than others. All you have to do is wait. If you are a woman thereís a high degree of probability that you will take the first hit, you or your kids. But be assured that the men around you, if they are not in service to those in power, say their soldiers, their enforcers, their hired guns, be assured that they too will be taken out and primarily because they are in the way, are there, have, to their own intense amazement, become expendable, just like you. So much for male privilege.

The War Zone will come to you, to me, to us all. Eventually, of course, those who are in charge of it will be taken out too. Power does change hands. That too is part of the game, which, I have to say, I find reassuring.

Mary M. Johnston is a self-employed psychotherapist, writer, feminist, activist, revolutionist.