In one of my brief forays into twitter yesterday, Corey Alexander tweeted out a link called: A Colonized Ally Meets a Decolonized Ally: This is what they learn.
I found myself reflecting on the word ally and what that word means. As I think on it, I find myself more and more disinclined to use the word ally. I don’t doubt that there are people who will tell me that I just don’t understand because English, but I want to think in terms that are rooted more in my own culture. I want to look deeper and find the words that are more meaningful to me and which I can use to refer to companions in my journey.
In recent work, I have used the word kadkadua, which is the Ilocano word for comrade and while the word comrade is a loaded word for some, I find myself thinking that it is a more human word than ally.
Where allyship is connected to causes, comradeship (in the sense of kadkadua) means companionship. In the literal translations for comrade, we see the words mate and friend connected, and to me this makes a world of difference.
In fact, if I think of what kadkadua means to me, it means someone who I consider to be the same as myself. We are bonded together not just because we share a cause but because there is mutual respect, understanding and love.
In this age where social media often functions like a podium, it’s easy to forget that there are people behind names. It’s true that the digital age has brought us much in terms of advantage, but it has also contributed to a certain mindset that does not allow for mistakes to be made, that does not allow for humanity, that does not allow for weakness.
To be a true comrade means that when you fall, I will lift you up. When you fail, I will still see you as human. When you are weak, I want to be your support.
As I read the works of indigenous writers, as I study the words of the babaylan, I find myself thinking of the harm inflicted not only on the colonized but also on the colonizer.
We damage the self when we rob the other of humanity. When we narrow down our speech to causes and forget the human element, we also wound our inner self. In justifying those wounds, we become callous and hard and bitter and when we do so we lose our ability to trust and to have faith and to hope for a future.
I acknowledge that I too have spoken out in anger, in rage and frustration. That I have also had moments where I forgot that the person on the other end is human. That the other person has a heart that can be wounded. I can only apologize for not being mindful and hope to be more mindful in the future.
2 thoughts on “Thinking things through: kadkadua”
I’m uncomfortable with terms like ally because they too easily devolve into semantics – whether someone is a “good” ally or “bad” ally and what that means. I’m more interested in ideas like kindness and mindfulness, which bring with them on one side an expectation (or a hope), and on the other, intent.
I’ve never been quite comfortable with the term, although I’ll admit that I’ve used it before. But as time passes and the more I reflect on it, the more I find myself dissatisfied with how it tends to flatten people. I am more drawn to the words that express comradeship and a sharing of the burden. The words that acknowledge that to be human means there are times when we will fail. To be allowed to fail, and to know that regardless you will still be welcomed, that is knowledge that builds up the human spirit.
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