Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Redemption v. Restoration + Lime Basil

This is my inaugural vaguely feminist-themed post!  Wheee!  And like most of my most deeply held and profoundly felt beliefs, it is a Super Good Timetm.

Of the many, many unpopular opinions that I hold (ASK ME ABOUT DANCING)1, such a cathartic gifperhaps my most cantankerous is this: redemption is bullshit.  Total, 100%, apologist-style bullshit.  The idea that we can somehow cancel out our bad behavior with good (or neutral) behavior is damaging and pointless, and is the support for a million different and terrible social machinations.  I am over it.  Like, Hulk-smash over it.

Why, you ask?  Well! It's as simple as this: redemption narratives have nothing to do with actual change.  To redeem yourself (if you're a member of a privileged class) you're not required to DO anything - you just have to feel it.  Or say you feel it.  Or have other people like you or need you enough to hope that you feel it. It's the cheap easy sentimentality of the revival tent or the patriotic rally: it's all uplift with nothing underneath it. It's  surface and gloss and empty words and it does nothingIt means nothing.  Be suspicious of both the redeemed and the redeemers, because they are up to no good.

One of the most common ways I've seen the concept used in my own community is this: "Don't be mean to my friend because he/she hasn't assaulted/been racist to/been hateful towards anyone in front of me in at LEAST a couple months."  Redemption narratives allow us to give the benefit of a doubt to abusers who have never publicly or privately atoned for their actions.   (Prison time doesn't count because prisons are punitive, not rehabilitative.)  Redemption means "I value the feelings of the victimizer over those of the victim, so can we please just stop talking about this, now?"2

Restoration, though: that shit is dirty, and painful.  It's humiliating. You have to get your hands in it.  You have to face your darkness, and expose it to your community, and face those you've hurt.  You have to explore the roots of a maladaptive and oppressive system and see how they tangle with your own. It is terrible, and awful, and the only possible way out of the dark.

With that cheery glimpse into my grudge-holding soul, let me tell you about lime basil.  It is good and bright and wonderful and as utterly unlike hegemonic patriarchal structures as a plant could ever be. It tastes like, yes, limes and basil, but also flowers!  I want to roll in a field of it and then bathe in it, and as soon as my dear gentleman associate grows me enough, I'm planning on lime basil jellies and truffles and sorbets.   Right now, I've just been tearing it up as a topping for spicy dishes - the cool bright sweetness contrasts beautifully with cumin-heavy beans and rice, or earthy paprika-scented sweet potatoes.   I don't know where you can buy it - maybe farmer's markets? But if you have a place to grow it, you should. 

1J/K, I love dancing. In most contexts.

2I was going to hyper link to examples of this in popular culture but 1) I think, like, my boyfriend is the only one who reads this and he's really heard all of this before and 2) it's everywhere, always, and I am irritable enough right now. 


  1. Excellent topic and I would love to see the pop-culture examples! Also, I'm thinking some muddled lime basil in a cocktail would be the bee's knees.


  2. Mari, I am clearly terrible at blogging. That said, I love this lime basil cocktail idea! Something with Pimms & gin, I'm thinking?

    Also real life examples of people who are generally considered to be redeemed by the culture at large but didn't have to do much besides be a cool white dude: Roman Polanski, Sean Penn, John Lennon, off the top of my head.



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