Reflection on Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed

In chapter three of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire introduces the concept of culture at the personal, group, community, region, and national levels and cultural revolution as a progression of the individuals in each group coming together to understand their reality and take the steps needed to fully realize their humanity – to liberate themselves. 

My question revolves around the members of the community who feel such a strong connection to the past (or some glorified mythology of the past) that they see any questioning (or “problem-posing”) as an attack on their identity. People who have been oppressed for generations may take refuge in “cultural identity”, even though it serves only to continue their oppression. They refuse to question their position and take pride in it. Freire may consider this to be the “fear of freedom” combined with “labor insecurity” (144, 145) but I wonder if there is something deeper, more profoundly biological about the need to maintain blind faith in the value of the tribe as a differentiating unit. We can see some form of this in every level of every culture around the world and it is clear how easily it can be manipulated by those in power. 

With that question in mind, I wonder how entire communities can be convinced through dialogical action. For if some members of the community are opposed even to discussion, how can they become part of it? If their views can be manipulated and reinforced by the oppressors to “stand their ground” through divisive rhetoric, how can they be approached? When speaking of oppressors, Freire states that “[a]ny situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence.” (65, 66) Does this also apply to members within the community who are preventing the process of inquiry? 

Revolution is never achieved by consensus. Freire states many times that the dialogical process is not instantaneous. It is ongoing and perpetual. But in the case of a revolution, there must be some point at which action takes place. At what point are some people dragged along, left behind, or in the worst case – violently attacked? If any of these occur, will the people who have not felt heard, been convinced, or willingly joined in work to undermine the revolution? Even if they do not actively join the oppressors (which they might, especially if there is some kind of concrete reward for doing so), the negative effects of one person who is passionate about destruction can completely undermine a community. 

So my question is how to approach the members of a community with extreme beliefs in the historical boundaries (and perceived superiority) of their culture, even as they undermine their own liberation. In Freirian terms, how do we pose the right problems to engage them in dialogical examination of their lives with the ultimate goal of humanization?

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