Systemic Subordination

We cannot escape the System. It affects us and arguably effects us on every level from the micro personal to the macro universal (a subjective scale). Though perhaps claustrophobia inducing, our world of systems does not solely enclose, it also frees. It includes and it excludes. And it does so simultaneously. 

If systems are simultaneously inclusive and exclusive in nature, our projected understanding of a system seems to be both disciplined and like a discipline. Joe Moran discusses the nature of Discipline in his work Interdisciplinarity. He initially defines the term as having, “two principal modern usages: it refers to a particular branch of learning or body of knowledge, and to the maintenance of order and control amongst subordinated groups such as soldiers, prison inmates or school pupils, often through the threat of physical or other forms of punishment” (Moran 2). Like a discipline, systems both regard a particular and, I would argue in line with Moran’s definition, in themselves maintain their order and control through an often violent subordination.

To clarify terms: when one hears a derivation of the word subordination, we often think discrimination, however, the definition of subordination is much more expansive; subordination can refer to “the act of being placed in a lower rank or position; the act of subordinating, or of making dependent, secondary, or subservient; the condition of being subordinated, or made dependent, secondary, or subservient.”

In Cane, author Jean Toomer highlights systems in a reality paralleling, inception-like way. On a very basic level, he does this through his use of the system of language: he uses the disciplined system of language in order to freely express and communicate himself. However, though taking full rein of the system’s freedoms, even Toomer cannot escape its limitations. These limitations become clear when he juxtaposes standard English vernacular with a more traditionally Southern vernacular. And through this juxtaposition, we become aware of the limitations of our own language system, our “normal.” However, this limitation is not just indicative of the limitations of language generally but also, as demonstrated by Toomer’s juxtaposition, of vernacular systems within the general system of language.

Yet I would argue that these noted limitations are often not viewed as such. In fact, I would say that people often won’t meet the unfamiliar generally, though foreign language specifically, as our limitation. Rather, I believe that when we are initially confronted with something foreign, we only recognize it as such in relation to our normal. In fact, I’d further argue that we initially abject the “foreign.” Even in just realizing that we are being confronted with something foreign, we not only identify that something as other, but, in doing so, we also simultaneously identify our known as “normal,” thus inherently subordinating the dubbed foreign, if but for a moment.
By juxtaposing our “normal” vernacular against a more unfamiliar vernacular, this inception-like systemic subordination becomes clear: the subordination of a particular vernacular to another, in our case micro words on a page, and I would argue by extension, the macro subordination of its users.

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