On Neutrality to Oppression

Neutrality, or the impartiality to either sides of a discussion, exists only as an ideal. This is especially particular to discussions loaded and having real-world consequence. Many people claim neutrality in various settings, particularly those that can cost them a friend, job, and money. The purpose of this is centered on the preservation of self. In the realm of consequence, and especially in situations of oppressed and oppressor, the neutral party actively chooses the side of the oppressor. This serves him because he chooses the side of the “winning” party, without topically alienating the oppressed party. He believes himself in some sense immune to choosing, even though his indecision is a choice in itself.

There is no person safe from his or her person opinion – no matter how much self-convincing he or she has done to induce a sense of neutrality.

photo by Thomas Marban

The choice to claim neutrality in the face of an oppressor is a moral one. Joanne Ciulla paraphrases philosopher Robert Nozick in the following: “Being moral doesn’t always serve one’s immediate interests, but in the end an immoral person pays the price of having a less valuable existence.” If choice of action is tethered to morality, and the choice is neutrality where neutrality means choosing the side of the oppressor, immorality is in league with neutrality. While a claim of neutrality can, in effect, buy time and temporary sense of non-allegiance, it comes at the cost of making a choice without being declarative.

Whether the choice is declarative or not, the choice has been made, and rests in actuality with the oppressor.

We see an example of this when an individual is clearly aware of immoral actions in a micro-community and towards another individual, yet the viewing party makes pretense that the behaviors are not harmful. Or even more detrimental, those who have positioned themselves in places of power claim moral aptitude, yet neglect to address the oppressing party. It is far more detrimental to ignore moral positioning than it is to lose perceived rewards from an oppressor. Beyond binary thinking, neutrality in itself seeks another option without command of the situation. Rather, another option to neutrality is recognizing action and consequence from a standpoint of fluctuation. Therein, the groups of oppressor and oppressed are seen as the living community organisms that they are, and actions on part or representation of the groups are regarded as such.