The Dialectical Categories Of Domina Tor And Dominated

In liberation theology, then, the first dialectic is that between the established totality and the Other. Within that basic framework lies the dialectic between the dominator and the dominated, between the oppressor and the oppressed. To truly tackle this dialectic, however, we must comprehend the dialectic in terms of our concrete everyday life. Who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed in my concrete situation? If I am one of the oppressed, how exactly does the established order exercise its domination over me and others?

The word "domination" derives from the Latin word dominus, which means "lord" or "master." If someone is master over another human being and treats that other as a slave, it means that he has reified this human being. He has taken a free Other and reduced him to his tool; the Other is merely an instrument which he uses to achieve what he wants. It is this reality which underlies the oppression of the oppressed, and it is the one and only sin. To oppress a free human being is to kill him insofar as he is (or was) free: it is to turn him into a dead, lifeless instrument of one's own plans and designs. "Not to kin" the Other is to allow him to be free. That is precisely what love is-allowing the Other to be free and alive as a human being. And if someone truly loves the Other in this way, then he truly loves God as wen.

When the oppressor slays the Other as a free human being, he stands alone and proclaims his own divinity. He becomes an idolater and an atheist. The overcoming of the oppressor-oppressed dialectic presupposes a conversion in the oppressor. This conversion, however, is qualitatively distinct from the process of liberation itself, and the liberation process is the more important element here. When one party rises up and exerts dominion over another person, forcing that other person to accept his totality, it is he who exercises power. In the actual process of exodus and liberation, however, it is the person who is liberating himself that displays more power and vitality. Thanks to the liberative efforts of the person who had been oppressed, the oppressor can then undergo a conversion without being slain in turn.

This means that our people in Latin America must liberate themselves, or else liberation will never come. Women must liberate themselves, or else they will never be liberated. No one enmeshed in sin can do justice. Only the person who is suffering from injustice can do justice. The process of liberation itself is the only thing which will make it possible for the oppressor to undergo a real conversion. Hence only the underdeveloped nations of the world can enable the affluent nations to discover a new, more human model of human life and existence. Our role in the future is an interesting and important one.

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