on breaking rank

I’ve just started reading a book, which I came across when I was visiting my family in the US last summer – one of several that I crammed into my suitcase and lugged back home with me. The title caught me instantly: Somebodies and Nobodies. I had used those very terms myself, in an email I once wrote, trying to explain why I was upset.

I had used those terms because they described how I felt: invisible, used, and consigned to the role of Nobody among others who were Somebodies. The response to this email was overbearing in its denial of my perspective: I was sowing discord, and I was well out of line. Well out of line. Only now, in hindsight, do I realise that yes, actually, I was out of line. I had stepped out of line and had broken rank and had taken the first step of claiming my own power, which is to use one’s voice and name one’s experience for oneself.

The subtitle of this book is relevant too: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank. Abuse is a verb that Tony has brought to my attention, in past discussions around the issue of power and strength. In the book’s first pages, author Robert Fuller says this:

It is crucial to get one thing straight from the start: power differences, in themselves, are not the culprit… And rank differences merely reflect power differences, so rank differences are not the problem either… Typically, the abuse of the power vested in rank-holders takes the form of disrespect, inequity, discrimination, and exploitation.

So I swing back to feminism, which I have described here as something that happened to me and which I have just now decided I might visualise as a door, leading off a corridor. Remember that long corridor at the start of Yellow Submarine, in which Ringo and Old Fred wander about opening and shutting doors to various psychedelic rooms, in search of the other three Beatles whom they wish to rally to the aid of Pepperland? It’s like that. All those doors. And you’re Ringo and I’m Old Fred, and Pepperland is in danger.

One of those doors is feminism. It’s a way through, to a greater truth in which every living thing has worth and meaning, and should be treated as such.

Fuller’s book elaborates his thesis regarding rankism, which he defines as “rank-based abuse…. [which] insults the dignity of subordinates by treating them as invisibles, as nobodies.” My own question here would be: how do we identify ‘subordinate’, when our relationships and interactions are so complex? Hierarchies are a conceptual and mutable framework in which our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are constantly shaped and reshaped by new information that we gather through interaction with one another.

Allowing for rank but not rank-based abuse – this allows for misleading notions such as noblesse oblige and the redeeming benevolence of charity, which ultimately maintain and service inequality. I’m not sure if his thesis is going to get to the bottom of this – but I’m only on chapter one, so we shall see.

In any case, he calls for a Nobody Revolution and a Dignitarian Society. You can find out more about these ideas at his website, Breaking Ranks. I like the idea of Dignitarianism. It sounds like the sort of word one might find among the pages of the books written by Jeremy Hilary Boob PhD, the Nowhere Man discovered by Ringo in the Sea of Holes. It sounds like the sort of word one might find dropping down in giant vibrant colours onto the heads of Blue Meanies, shooting rainbow sparks of flowers and love into the atmosphere.

So come on, then: Pepperland needs our help. H is for Hurry, E is for Ergent, L is for Love me and P is for p-p-Please!! As Ringo would tell you, “The first time I saw that nobody, I knew he was somebody.”

yellow submarine movie - Pesquisa Google

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