December 16, 2016 § 14 Comments
“Strong currents continue to move through our collective fields. It’s easy to feel tossed around and swept up, but these are the tides of the times, and we are learning to become better swimmers so we can reach new shores.” ~ Mystic Mamma
*Comments on this post are automatically entered into an end-of-year raffle.
Coal needs pressure to become a diamond. The first stage of alchemy, called Calcination, involves burning off impurities under the heat of the flame.
We are in such a pressure cooker right now, collectively, as citizens of planet Earth. But we can use the heat & pressure alchemically, to crystallize our consciousness. Which will in turn give us more to offer the world in its upheaval.
In 2016 we lost a host of archetypal cultural icons—David Bowie, Prince & Leonard Cohen, to name a few.
Bowie & Prince in particular represented wild daring & freedom, revolution & authenticity.
From a mythological standpoint, all three musicians represent the archetype of The Bard.
This means they occupied the role of the sacred artisan-musician, vision-bringers & human vessels of divine inspiration. A sphere similar in our cultural iconography to a shaman in a tribal scenario—particularly Bowie fits this archetype, bringing in the idea of other worlds & magical transformations.
Both Prince & Bowie also harken back to the Anrodgyne in alchemy, a stage of spiritual integration wherein the inner masculine & inner feminine aspects unite, creating a whole & balanced human, symbolically represented by a hermaphroditic figure.
The respective deaths of these iconic figures, which seemed to mark the end of an era, coincided with a year of mounting grief and tension in America—in particular, over equality & racial issues.
According to the Washington Post, this year “unarmed black Americans were five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.”
One example of the pattern we are seeing can be glimpsed in the case of Terence Crutcher. “The 40-year-old was shot and killed by police on Friday after officers saw his stalled SUV in the middle of the road. Initially, the police department said Crutcher had not followed orders to put his hands up. The released videos, however, show Crutcher walking toward his car with his hands in the air.”(Source.)
The rising division between people who support the #blacklivesmatter movement and reactionary movements like #bluelivesmatter & #alllivesmatter—which don’t claim a white supremacist alliance, but whose emphasis suggests it to many on the other side—further solidified the national divide, which was then exploited for campaign momentum by Donald Trump in his efforts to procure the seat of president.
In the debates, Trump advocated for racial profiling and “stop and frisk” methods, which have been deemed unconstitutional. He blamed undocumented immigrants for leaching the system & endangering Americans. And, last month, despite having lost the popular vote by a landslide, he won the electoral college vote and became America’s next commander in chief, giving way to a rising sense of crisis for a huge swath of Americans, who now feel unsafe in their own country.
Trump’s decisions, like picking a climate change skeptic with close ties to Big Oil to head the National Department of Energy have environmentally conscious Americans terrified as well.
Internationally, the world has been watching the “complete meltdown of humanity” in the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo—either unable or unwilling to do much besides hand-wringing. The conflict may be technically over, but now what remains of the ancient city faces a grim, uncertain future.
At home in America, the protests in Standing Rock have represented an ongoing crisis, causing much angst as we witness tribal people attempting, once again, to defend their land in the face of an abusive & ruthless government takeover.
“For months, opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline have been expressing fears that it would affect local drinking water, because it was to be built under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation—the primary water source of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
“Last week, the US Department of the Army announced that it would not approve the crossing of the pipeline under the Missouri River. The massive nearby spill —which was discovered on the same day that the Dakota Access Pipeline construction permit was denied —might have just proved the protesters’ point.”
Indigenous peoples have long considered themselves custodians of the Earth.
This stand off between Big Oil and the Oceti Sakowin people represents the two forces currently in battle on our planet: systems of control versus the people, separation versus unity, violence versus peace, corporations versus the Earth, ego versus soul.
So, how do we survive the pressure cooker? By using it as a purifying force that will expedite the refinement of our own consciousness. Allow it to knock out complacency and revive your purpose.
Astrologist Cathy Pagano details that the configuration of Pluto in Capricorn offers each of us a way to engage in the transformation of the culture. Forcing us to ask ourselves what aspects of the collective mindset no longer serve the future of humanity. What parts should be expanded upon?
“We can begin to create this possible future with our art and our actions. Our actions, like what happened at Standing Rock with the Water Protectors, now will have more affect since we’ll do it as a group (very Aquarian of us). We show our Aries courage in standing up to the wrong use of power, to the stupidity of self-destruction. Life is what matters.
“Uranus is energizing our pioneering spirit again, though this time let’s seek the unknown for the good of all, rather than personal aggrandizement.
“When we return the Arts to their archetypal purpose—to teach, to heal, to create, to enliven, to imagine, to share, to learn—they will lead the revolution just as John Lennon and the Beatles opened up the world to a new paradigm. (December 8th-RIP John.) Artists can bring the message home to the heart. If we play our parts in truth, it will be a peaceful revolution.”
Leave a comment for a chance at winning a “Tao Te Ching” pocket edition! (Most wisdom in one book you’ll ever find, best translation, too, by Stephen Mitchell.) The raffle will be held on January 1st 2017. Tell me a bit about how your year went, or your dreams & goals for 2017—or what subjects you would like to see me write more about.
I promise I won’t keep posting about politics, I know we’re getting it from all sides right now. (I might have to sometimes, as conscience demands, but I know that Parallax has traditionally been a respite from all of that, and I intend to keep the majority of posts that way). It just seemed like it had to be addressed. And it’s become a tradition here at Parallax to create a “year in review” raffle post at the end of each calendar year, so I had to revisit that caustic cocktail one last time, but 2017 will see a return to our favorite Parallax themes:
What is the nature of reality and what is humanity’s role within the cosmos? What are the latest scientific breakthroughs in understanding consciousness? How to be a visionary in a cookie cutter world. Why your genius lies in your wounds, and how to reclaim that power. How to live a mindful life & embrace your authenticity...My intention is to make Parallax your haven of thoughtfulness in a world gone mad!
May 2017 be the year of lived dreams for each & every one of you!
December 3, 2016 § 4 Comments
“In Buddhist practice we say congratulations because now is the time we have been practicing for. No more just practicing the dance. We must now dance. And this is not a dress rehearsal.” ~ Zenju Earthlyn Manual
There is one good thing about the Trump presidency as far as I can tell—it has, for many, eradicated political complacency. For the 75 % of people who did not vote for Trump (nearly half of Americans didn’t vote—thanks guys!) we no longer feel we have the luxury to let our politics go on without us.
People in power and policies are shifting in American government.
Trump has appointed propaganda machine Brietbart news executive Steve Bannon to be his chief media strategist, a man who thinks “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power,” (Bannon, in a recent interview to the Hollywood Reporter.)
This it is a time of reckoning for Americans.
For those who did not vote to put Trump into office, it is time to decide who we want to be politically and personally. For many who will be directly affected—or whose community will be directly affected, or whose values will be directly challenged—by these policy changes, the personal has become the political. As, indeed, it seems destined to do.
This is equally true for those who voted for Trump. It is your responsibility to watch the chess moves of the man you put into office and make sure he does not exploit your hopes for ill.
In both cases, we must ask ourselves: what do we stand for? And accept no substitute.
“Now is a time when none of us can afford to remain seated or silent. We must all stand up to be counted.
History will demand to know which side were you on. This is not a question of politics or party or even policy. This is a question about the very fundamentals of our beautiful experiment in a pluralistic democracy ruled by law.
“When I see neo-Nazis raise their hands in terrifying solute, in public, in our nation’s capital, I shudder in horror. When I see that action mildly rebuked by a boilerplate statement from the President-elect whom these bigots have praised, the anger in me grows. And when I see some in a pliant press turn that mild statement into what they call a denunciation I cannot hold back any longer….”
Rather points out that the “self-evident truths” of equality & unalienable rights are not self-replicating. It is up to each new generation to renew the vows.
“We have survived through bloody spasms of a Civil War and a Civil Rights Movement to extend more of these rights to more of our citizens, ” continues Rather. “But the direction of our ship of state has not always been one of progress. We interned Japanese Americans, Red Baited during the McCarthy era, and more. I feel the rip tide of regression once again swelling under my feet. But I intend to remain standing.
“This is not about tax policy, health care, or education—even though all those and more are so important. This is about racism, bigotry, intimidation and the specter of corruption. But as I stand I do not despair, because I believe the vast majority of Americans stand with me….”
I believe in human dignity, equality & progress. To me, progress first and foremost means caring for the ailing planet, our only home within the void of space, and for each other—which means not dismissing the raised voices of the disenfranchised as products of “victim culture,” as Bannon has and the alt-right does.
That is damn easy to say when you haven’t walked a mile in another person’s shoes, suffering the indignity of constant low grade, often unconscious, prejudice. Where the default space is a white space.
Slogans like “make America great again” may sound good to white men, for whom the 50s was a fine time to be a man, but it sounds like hell to most black people, who were still fighting segregation and legal discrimination, and to many women, who were still deeply oppressed by gender expectations and sexism. That America was not great for a large swath of Americans.
There are already some undeniable parallels between Trump’s rise to power and the atmosphere of early Nazi Germany, already some alarming developments which hark back to the witch hunting of the McCarthy era. A Professor Watch List site, for instance, has been launched by a conservative youth group called Turning Point—where professors with a liberal bias are listed. Presumably & eerily, to be “watched”—to what end remains unspecified.
It’s true, the majority of teachers are generally more politically liberal. But trying to control individuals through intimidation is not the answer. And we can’t discard the connection between higher education & progressive values—clearly, one begets the other. It’s not some mass conspiracy to plant liberal fingers into the minds of the young. It’s the personality type that is attracted to education positions.
If conservatives want more conservative teachers, they need to rally for more conservatives to apply for teaching jobs—not exert witch hunt tactics, intimidation and thought control over existing teachers.
“In the United States in late 2016, as the president-elect’s surrogates cite Japanese internment as a ‘precedent’ for what may come, any ‘watch list’ of any sort is worrying. One that targets outspoken intellectuals with views that oppose a mercurial future president who spent the weekend tweeting petulantly at the cast of a Broadway play? Abjectly terrifying.”
“If we are not careful,” notes professor George Yancey, “a watchlist like this can have the impact of a theoretical prison designed to create a form of self-censorship among those imprisoned. The list is not simply designed to get others to spy on us, to out us, but to install forms of psychological self-policing to eliminate thoughts, pedagogical approaches and theoretical orientations that it defines as subversive.
“I am now ‘un-American’ because of my ideas, my desires and passion to undo injustice where I see it, my engagement in a form of pedagogy that can cause my students to become angry or resistant in their newfound awareness of the magnitude of suffering that exists in the world. Yet I reject this marking. I refuse to be philosophically and pedagogically adjusted.”
Yancey continues: “I refuse to be silent about forms of militarism in which innocent civilians are murdered in the name of ‘democracy.’ I refuse to remain silent when it comes to acknowledging the existential and psychic dread and chaos experienced by those who are targets of xenophobia and homophobia.
“I refuse to remain silent when it comes to transgender women and men who are beaten to death by those who refuse to create conditions of hospitality…where unarmed black bodies are shot dead by the state and its proxies, where those with disabilities are mocked and still rendered ‘monstrous,’ and where the earth suffers because some of us refuse to hear its suffering, where my ideas are marked as ‘un-American,’ and apparently ‘dangerous.'”
He concludes: “If it is dangerous to teach my students to love their neighbors, to think and rethink constructively and ethically about who their neighbors are, and how they have been taught to see themselves as disconnected… then, yes, I am dangerous, and what I teach is dangerous.”
This is not a time to be silenced or to feel disempowered, but rather to seize our power and raise our voices; not just to stand up for what we believe in but to definite what that is with depth, precision and love.
Should you choose to accept, I encourage all readers—whatever party you identify with—to create a personal manifesto detailing your values. And I will do the same. After drafting, I encourage you to list them in order of priority. From your top three values, I invite you to pick one issue to be your cause for 2017, something you dedicate concrete energy and actions towards.
Let this new era of uncertainty be a time that forces our own values into stark relief—let it forge us in the fire, concentrating and refining who we are and what we stand for. We need to take part in this shift in America, and influence its direction in whatever way we we can towards what we believe is right—not just with a shared Facebook post, but with concrete action.
The pendulum is always swinging—that is part of the dance, part of progress and a working democracy. It’s up to us to make sure it swings responsibly. And if it doesn’t, to speak up. This is not a dress rehearsal.
When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.” ~ Teresa Pinkola Estes
October 16, 2016 § 10 Comments
“Politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”
“We try to fix the outside so much, but our control of the outer world is limited, temporary, and often, illusory…achieving durable happiness as a way of being is a skill. It requires sustained effort in training the mind and developing a set of human qualities, such as inner peace, mindfulness, and altruistic love.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
On top of an already fraught, fearful & divided world, the approaching presidential election of 2016 has ramped up feelings of rage, alienation & despair across America.
In part, because social issues—race relations & sexual politics—are at the forefront of the debates between Clinton & Trump, this election season has invoked a truly personal, emotional response in us.
The advent of smartphones has given us the means to monitor our monitors, and footage of police abuse of power against black male bodies surfaces constantly, raising pleas for social justice to a fever pitch.
While many are listening to these raised voices of protest, large swaths of the conservative demographic are reacting with mistrust and shutting down. And so the #blacklivesmatter movement gives way to responses of #allivesmatter and #bluelives (meaning officers) matter.
Yes. We all matter. That is the point of the “black lives matter” hashtag—a reminder that a swath of our “all” is struggling and needs attention.
As if this issue weren’t fraught enough, it has become politicized. The left, being the party of social progress, has taken up this and other causes, attempting to “explain it” to the right; which has largely been perceived by conservatives as a buzzword-fueled lecture and accusation.
Although it may be difficult to understand why anyone with such superior social power would deign to listen to the struggling underdog, this reaction itself is framed in a certain view with specific assumptions. The people who aren’t hearing the message behind #blacklivesmatter, for instance, aren’t filtering it through the same set of reference points. The right perceives itself as the underdog under attack.
The “us” vs. “them” mentality is in full effect, raging across America like a wild fire. We seem to be in a Chinese Finger Cuff situation—the harder we pull, the more stuck we become; if the goal is ultimately peace and human unity. Which, come on, if we are to survive as a nation and a species, it logically has to be.
One important fact to remember is that the “us” vs. “them” mentality is literally hardwired into our neurology; the second we identify with a certain group, it has been proven in experiment after experiment that the brain begins filtering facts to skew the data towards the perceived “us.”
“Our tendency toward partisanship is likely the result of evolution—forming groups is how prehistoric humans survived,” remarks Brian Resnic (“How Politics Breaks Our Brains.”) “That’s helpful when trying to master an unforgiving environment with Stone Age technology. It’s less so when trying to foster a functional democracy.”
“Studies have shown,” adds Steven Handel, “that people tend to favor a group bias even when they are categorized on relatively meaningless distinctions, for example: eye color, what kind of paintings they like, or even the flip of a coin.
This tells us that we can potentially separate ourselves from a certain group of people on any random and arbitrary characteristic. Therefore, everyone is susceptible to be a perpetrator and/or victims of social prejudice and ostracism.” (“The Us Vs. Them Mentality.”)
Although it feels like things are getting worse, this very well may be a time of national exorcism; the rock we didn’t want to look under has been overturned and we are staring directly at its maggoty underside. At least now we are facing it directly; the dank hidden pocket of darkness is being aired. And we are looking at it, talking about it.
A hundred years ago, only white men could vote in America. Today we have a black president and a female candidate. We have progressed! But we are still healing from historically recent wounds. Sociological blindspots, unconscious prejudice, glass ceilings and abuse of power still remain as a result of that past. The specters of oppression can not be banished so easily or quickly.
With emotions running high and so much dissonance in the air, empaths and highly sensitive people are particularly vulnerable to depression & anxiety—it is essential that we combat this by practicing steady, systematic, daily routines of self-care. We must stoke our own light in order to better illuminate this darkness.
As we all navigate these stormy times of controversy, misunderstanding, anger, alienation and above all the tendency to break off into warring factions, let us try to outsmart our biology.
When politics breaks our brains, let us turn to the heart. For our goal logically must be harmonious co-existence, and we are united by more than divides us.
June 29, 2016 § 1 Comment
There is something different about today. Dr. Perry’s facial muscles are registering high degrees of tension associated with smiling. He is giving off a pheromone of anticipation. But I have learned it’s not considered polite to mention a scent in the hormonal spectrum. It is only acceptable to comment on perfumes, and then, only in a complimentary manner. I have three hundred and fifty-six possible salutations, and beyond that, four-thousand-and-forty-nine possible reconfigurations of existing salutations. But today, I go for the basic:
May 17, 2016 § 19 Comments
“The difference between technology and slavery is that slaves are fully aware that they are not free.”
“Technology is a queer thing. It brings you gifts with one hand, and stabs you in the back with the other.”
Are smartphones making us stupid? They have certainly made us their slaves. Social media addiction is on the rise—compulsive internet checking has become the norm.
It’s crept up on us. It’s been less than a decade since smartphones were introduced to the main arteries of culture, and now it is flooding our collective bloodstream like a drug. The idea of opting out—unplugging permanently—no longer seems like a viable option for most people. But even as we willingly engage our pint-sized prison, we are increasingly, uncomfortably aware of its bars.
Sure, it’s great to be able to stay in touch with friends, have mobile up-to-the-minute map access, the ability to document digitally and look a fact up on the spot! But the sword cuts both ways.
We are also far less likely to experience a grounded sense of being present in the moment when, the second there is some space or silence, we have the option & impulse to check our email, text inbox, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. It’s become like a tic for most people. We no longer have to face ourselves or others in those in-between-moments, we can just dive into our phones.
75% of people between 18 & 25 respond “yes” to the question “when nothing else is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone.” (Time.com.)
According to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, one second less than the attention span of the notoriously ill-focused goldfish.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard (and uttered) the phrase, “I just haven’t been able to get into any good books lately” in the last year.
A recent study, 45% of people tested said they feel “worried or uncomfortable” when email and Facebook are inaccessible.
While 60 % stated “they felt the need to switch off” their phones and computers to secure a full-fledged break from technology.
“In other words, it’s not being on social networks that makes people anxious. It’s being away from them.” (Huffington Post.)
Charlie Brooker’s British television series “Black Mirror” (which I recommend watching, though it’s not for the faint of heart) sums up the situation expertly in the second episode: the opening scene depicts its lead character waking up in a room surrounded by wall-to-wall digital screens.
Instantly bombarded with advertisements, he proceeds to shuffle glumly through his morning routines. One’s first response is invariably: “Oh! How awful! What a way to live!” Uncomfortable calibration moment. “Oh shit. That’s us.”
Star Trek’s “The Next Generation” tapped into the dystopian future we are currently experiencing way back in 1991—an episode called “The Game,” in which a mysterious game is introduced on board the starship. The device engages the player’s brain, specifically their pleasure centers.
Before long, the entire ship’s crew is playing the game, peer pressuring everyone else to try it. Eventually, just two un-addicted crew members remain, then only one. (It’s really worth a watch for the eerie allegorical chill factor.)
“The Game” was prophetic: a release of pleasurable chemicals (specifically dopamine) is exactly what’s responsible for our growing collective addiction to nuggets of electronically derived information.
In her article “Seeking,” journalist Emily Yoffe details how the seeking instinct is a primordial vestige of biological necessity. Hardwired into our brains, it drives impulses like checking texts or Googling.
Yoffe refers to an experiment carried out in 1954 by a team of scientists involving a control group of rats.
“They would stick an electrode in a rat’s brain and, whenever the rat went to a particular corner of its cage, would give it a small shock and note the reaction. One day they unknowingly inserted the probe in the wrong place, and the rat kept returning over and over to the corner where it received the shock.
“They eventually discovered that if the probe was put in the brain’s lateral hypothalamus and the rats were allowed to press a lever and stimulate their own electrodes, they would press until they collapsed.”
The scientists assumed they had discovered the rats’ pleasure centers, but to neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, “those self-stimulating rats, and the humans [who participated in later experiments] did not exhibit the euphoric satisfaction of creatures eating Double Stuf Oreos or repeatedly having orgasms. The animals were excessively excited, even crazed….in a constant state of sniffing and foraging,” notes Yoffe.
“Some of the human subjects described feeling sexually aroused but didn’t experience climax. Mammals stimulating the lateral hypothalamus seem to be caught in a loop, where each stimulation evoked a reinvigorated search strategy.'”
(Cue the Smashing Pumpkins: “Despite all my rage / I am still just a rat in a cage.”)
“Seeking needs to be turned off,” concludes Yoffe, “if even for a little while, so that the system does not run in an endless loop. When we get the object of our desire (be it a Twinkie or a sexual partner), we engage in consummatory acts [which] reduce arousal in the brain and temporarily, at least, inhibit our urge to seek.
“But our brains are designed to more easily be stimulated than satisfied. If humans are seeking machines, we’ve now created the perfect machines to allow us to seek endlessly.” (“Seeking,” By Emily Yoffe.)
We are navigating a Brave New World. As with everything, the first step is awareness. We have to admit we have a problem before we can get better. The point of power is choice.
The next time you find yourself going for your phone, don’t. Instead, look around. Observe the details of your surroundings, feel into the moment of being alive. The solution is simple; it’s just a matter of doing it, and in many cases, retraining ourselves, re-patterning compulsive, unconscious behavior.
There’s still time to allow our humanity to catch up to our technology.
December 1, 2014 § 9 Comments
“Race is there & it is a constant. You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how fucking exhausting it is living it.” ~ Jon Stuart
“I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?” ~ Ellen Page
“We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.” ~ Will Rogers
The disputed circumstances of the shooting of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer—and the resultant civil unrest—have received considerable attention in the U.S. & abroad over the past few months. The death has sparked emotional debate about law enforcement’s relationship with African-Americans & police use of force doctrine.
Jesse Williams, best known for his role on the Grey’s Anatomy TV series, asserted the importance of talking about the narrative—i.e., the context of race-relations in America—surrounding this story, to make sure we’re starting at what he calls “the beginning.” The biracial actor continues:
“You will find the people who are doing the oppressing often want to start the narrative at a convenient point, they always want to start the story in the middle [of what comprises a longer narrative.] There’s a lot of bizarre behavior going on & that is the story.”
He laments the idea that because Brown stole a five dollar packet of cigarillos before the shooting, in the eyes of much of the world he “automatically becomes a thug worthy of his own death.”
The dialogue on both sides—those who believe racial context is relevant & those who believe it’s being unfairly projected onto the case—has continued to rise in emotional pitch, including reactions like the ones Williams described.
While a lot of people have voiced compassion for the situation in Ferguson, there has been a lot of insensitive commentary as well:
If you can’t read the caption on the main image above, it says: “Looting: because nothing says you care about a dead kid and the community more than stealing 50 pair of Air Jordans and then burning the store to the ground.”
While the point itself is undeniably logical, comments like this deflect the significance of the larger story by focusing on one small aspect of the situation & creating a false dichotomy:
“Because people looted in the riots, the riots are obviously absurd.” If A, then B. In classic false dichotomy style, this doesn’t give room for a simultaneous option: that the riots are a noteworthy expression of cultural pain triggered by a symbolic tragedy which has destabilized a community; and throughout that destabilization looting has occurred.
“I’m seeing a lot of …’Well, he punched a cop,'” writes Chuck Windeg. “Or it attempts some kind of equivalency (‘Both sides are really to blame, here,’ as if one side doesn’t have a whole lot of power compared to the other side).
“Where is the empathy?
“I want you to think about it. I want you to imagine being a family who lost their unarmed son in a police shooting. I want you to imagine being in a town full of such families — families who know that they are without power, that at any time one of their own could get shot by a cop a half-a-dozen times and nobody will even send that to trial.” (On The Subject of Cultivating Empathy.)
Journalist David Brooks notes: “We all have to have a new social compact on this.
“Whites especially have to acknowledge the legacy of racism and have to go the extra yard to show respect and understand how differently whites and blacks see police issues. So whites can’t just say ‘Does this look right to me,’ but ‘Does this look trustworthy to the black community.’ That has to be the standard.”
The New York Times columnist adds:
“Racial inequality has become entangled in all sorts of domestic problems of disappearing jobs, family structure. This is mostly a question of good intentioned people trying to do the best they can with very knotty social problems, which now overlap with racial problems.”
Clearly, the reaction is so strong because the implications of the Brown case hits a profoundly charged collective nerve. As Jesse Williams says: “We’re not making this up.”
I’d like to take the conversation out of the case-specific back-and-forth (which is un-constructive, since none of us were on the jury) into a wider examination of difference, social power & rankism.
The specters of oppression have been rising, as of late.
In August, UC Santa Barbara student Elliot Rodger went on a college town killing spree after posting an anti-woman rant on youtube. Before driving to the sorority house where he would kill two women, he uploaded a video entitled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution.”
The manifesto specifically mentions a “War on Women” for “starving him of sex,” in which he states:
“I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you for it. I am going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB & I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much, you will finally see that I am in truth the superior one. The true alpha male.”
As with the Michael Brown case, many argued the killings were politicized; in this case, mental illness recast, rather than, as Arthur Chu poetically phrased it: “The fruits of our culture’s ingrained misogyny laid bare for all to see.”
But again, there’s a false dichotomy: just because Rodgers may have had mental health issues, doesn’t mean the culture that fed his hate & gave it a language—the larger narrative—isn’t meaningful for us to examine.
As with Brown, the story became a symbol of what is broken in our country & the world.
“Yes All Women started as a response to the deeply ingrained misogyny that fueled Elliot Rodger’s murderous rampage at Santa Barbara University. It is also, in rhetorical structure, a response to “Not all men,” a [deflective] response by certain men to stories of violence men commit against women (“not all men rape” – typical #notallmen reply). #Yesallwomen overflowed with female voices sharing personal stories of the rampant harassment and objectification they face in daily life.” (Think Progress.) Examples include:
“Because women have to avoid eye-contact with men in public in order not to ‘lead them on…'” (Sophia Bush.)
“Because every single woman I know has a story about a man feeling entitled to access to her body. Every. Single. One.” (Kaylee Anna.)
“I shouldn’t have to hold my car keys in hand like a weapon & check over my shoulder every few seconds when I walk at night.” (Cara Parish.)
Yet at the same time, this month TIME magazine published its annual poll of “cringe-worthy memes,” asking readers which word they would “ban” in an ideal world from 2015: alongside popular/over-used words like “literally” & “obvi” appeared the word “feminist.”
Of course the article received an outcry of objection for reducing one of the most significant social movements in history to an “annoying” social meme. The article now appears with a note from the editor, apologizing for inclusion of the word.
But the message remains: people are tired of hearing the word feminist. Mostly, it would seem, people not affected by sexism, and women who are confused about the word’s meaning because of negative stereotype.
“I am not a feminist,” actress Selma Hayeck recently asserted as she received her (instantly a little ironic) award from Equality Now.
“If men were going through the things women are going through today, I would be fighting for them with just as much passion. I believe in equality.”
Just a quick review:
“fem·i·nism; the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” ~ Merrium-Webster Dictionary
It’s important to note, there have been three distinct waves of feminist thought.
The first, in the late 18th & early 19th century, was the suffragette movement, which focused on removing basic legal obstacles to equality: the right of women to vote & to own property. (American women did not receive the right to vote until the 1920s; Saudi Arabian women, as recently as 2011.) (Check out this interesting timeline.)
The second wave, which took place primarily from the 1960s to the 1990s, focused on further breaking down the limits placed on women, based on society’s construct of gender roles. This included reproductive rights, sexuality, workplace & family issues.
Because women were breaking new ground, the feminism of this era had a more extreme face—just as a rocket leaving the atmosphere must use the maximum amount of energy during the moment it pushes through the atmosphere, known as “escape velocity.”
But in pushing social comfort zones in order to forge new ground, 60s era feminism also made a lot of enemies; women were told they “could be so much more” than mothers & wives; a sentiment liberating for those who had not dared imagine it, insulting to those who authentically desired it.
Still evolving, second wave feminism was spending so much energy on the “escape velocity” needed to push equality into its next phase, it lost sight of its original motivation: supporting female agency.
This outdated impression—of feminism excluding significant spheres to the detriment of its intention—is unfortunately one still held by most people today.
Modern feminism, known as third wave feminism, is a course corrected entity. The whole third wave of writers & activists—from the 90s to present day—saw the problem exactly: it wasn’t for feminist leaders to tell women who they should be or what constituted an “empowered woman.” Feminism was, is, and always has been about choice. Which included the choice to be a full-time mom, stripper or. However. They wanted. That was the point.
Are there lone extremists who say stupid things in the name of feminism? Of course. Just like every other movement. But if we throw out the feminism with the bathwater, we’re throwing out an important emblem of human liberation.
Feminism is what moved women from a position of being legally powerless, sub-human commodities to legally autonomous persons with a right to human dignity.
And that’s what I’m building up to: the idea of human dignity.
Imbalance of social status based on intrinsic unchangeable characteristics is not only the definition of oppression, it is the hallmark of a broken collective; humanity divided. Which is how we fall & have fallen.
A simple look at the composition of Congress serves as a snapshot for the state of the nation: in the House of Representatives, there are currently 362 men & 76 women. In the Senate, 17 women compared with 83 men. 361 whites representing in the House, compared with a meager 44 African-American; 96 whites, with zero blacks currently in the Senate. 25 Hispanic in the House & 2 in the senate.
That is not equality.
I’d love for feminism to be embraced for the equality signifier it is, for more men to join the movement & proclaim that they are feminists, like actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this awesome video….
Because in supporting one another’s social justice causes, we acknowledge both that we all have the same cause—a better world—and the fact that incidents of oppression are interwoven with the same social fabric.
At the same time, I acknowledge that compartmentalized movements are, sadly, part of what is keeping us divided.
In this spirit, I think the conversation might benefit from being steered towards what writer & physicist Robert W. Fuller has identified as “rankism”:
“Rankism occurs when those with authority use the power of their position to secure unwarranted advantages or benefits for themselves at the expense of others. It is the illegitimate use of rank and, equally, the use of rank illegitimately acquired or held. The familiar isms are all examples of this latter form.” (Breaking Rank, The Dignitarian Manifesto.)
“In addition to its universality,” continues Fuller, “rankism differs from the familiar trait-based abuses because rank is not fixed. Rather, it changes depending on context. Someone holds high rank at home and is lowest on the totem pole at work.
“Likewise, we feel powerful at one time and powerless at another, as when we move from childhood to adulthood and from our ‘prime’ into old age, or when we experience the loss of a job, a partner, or our health. As a result, most of us have been both victims and perpetrators of discrimination based on rank.”
He adds that the trouble is not with rank itself—there are many functions of society, such as student & teacher, where rank makes sense—but rather when abuse of power accompanies it.
This means focusing on human dignity.
One way we can do this is by staying aware of the subjecthood of others. Remembering that everyone is the protagonists of their own personal story; with a narrative, of which we may be unable to conceive…until we ask.
One of the key traits of narcissistic personality disorder is treating others as objects, rather than subjects—and it has been said more than once that the Western world lives in an intensely, and increasingly, narcissistic age. We think of “objectifying” as relating to the body & sexism, but, psychologically speaking, it relates any time we don’t consider the human experience of The Other—seeing them only so much as they relate to our experience of them.
December 21, 2012 § 10 Comments
“Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end. Our divided, schizophrenic worldview, with no mythology adequate to coordinate our conscious and unconscious — that is what is coming to an end.” ~ Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That
“If there is an Armegeddon it is within each of us.” ~ Robert Ghost Wolf
I write on the eve of the Mayan Apocalypse, Dec 21st 2012 — a date they are calling “the most anticipated date in history,” which has been gaining power and momentum in the collective mythic imagination for literally decades.
2012 has become a cultural phenomenon, far exceeding any basis in Mayan history, expressing, rather, our own collective sense of dread — that we are heading for destruction, and change of a radical nature is needed if we are to survive.
Archeologist, anthropologist and author Michael D. Coe was perhaps the first to put forth an apocalyptic interpretations of the ancient Mayan codices, writing in his 1966 book The Maya:
“There is a suggestion … that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the 13th [b’ak’tun]. Thus … our present universe [would] be annihilated [in December 2012] when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion.”
Since then, apocalyptic prophecies have proliferated exponentially, leading up to the fervor of the 2012 phenomenon. The film industry has capitalized off this fear/trend with a mounting plethora of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies. Post-apocalyptic video games like Fallout abound. New Age bookstores are exploding with 2012 material. Youtube features a veritable frenzy of 2012 videos…
Yet actual modern day Maya and Mayan scholars insist that the end of the ancient calender simply signifies the end of an era, known as the thirteen ba’kt’un (each ba’kt’un being equivalent to 394.26 years.) It is the end of an age of man, what the Maya called the fourth world.
Ricardo Cajas, president of the Colectivo de Organizaciones Indígenas de Guatemala, states that the date does not represent an end of humanity, but of a new cycle, which “supposes changes in human consciousness.”
According to a diverse group of indigenous peoples’ creation myths, from Mexico to New Zealand, there have been three failed worlds before our current age (could these legends refer to lost continents such as Plato’s Atlantis?).
The Hindus believe that earth goes through four world cycles, or ages of man, which repeat indefinitely. Most interpreters of Hindu scriptures believe that earth is currently in a Kali Yuga cycle, a dark time marked by destruction and degeneration in human values, known as “the age of the demon” or the “age of vice.” Eventually, the Kali Yuga will evolve into three more cycles, each one improving, until we reach a Golden Age.
“We Hopi believe that the human race has passed through three different worlds and life ways since the beginning,” details Hopi Elder Dan Evehema. “At the end of each prior world, human life has been purified or punished by the Great Spirit, or Massau, due mainly to corruption, greed and turning away from the Great Spirit’s teachings. The last great destruction was the flood which destroyed all but a few faithful ones who asked and received a permission from the Great Spirit to live with Him in this new land.”
According to Chief Evehema, the famous rock inscribed with Hopi hieroglyphs (Hopi Prophecy Rock) foretold both world wars and indicates an upcoming time of choice, where humankind will be offered a choice between the path of the heart and the path of the intellect and materialism.
“Modern man is out of balance because he lives in a left-brain dominated society,” asserts the Hopi elder, “leading to imbalance and conflict, and ultimately to destruction.”
We find ourselves in a runaway culture of technological advancement, where authentic human connection –to the earth and one another — threatens to be left behind. Isolation and distraction abound. As Daniel Pinchbeck, author of Breaking Open the Head, says, “We live in a culture where everything tastes good but nothing satisfies.”
Violent outbursts, like the recent tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and the stabbing of 20 school children in China — bizarrely, on the same day — create a disquieting atmosphere of building tension and mounting darkness. It’s as though we are experiencing a dark night of the world soul.
“A dark night of the soul,” writes Erin Reese in her post of the same name, “primarily occurs when the old self-image is ready to go. This is the outdated identification of who you think you are – the ego structure. When the self-image becomes calcified in any way, a dark night of the soul comes rumbling in like storm clouds.” (For more, check out Parallax’s Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul.)
Astrologically Pluto and Uranus have been, and continue to be, influential.
“The effect of Uranus is to shatter old outworn forms so as to allow new life to be born. Pluto is the Lord of the Underworld in the Roman archetypal pantheon. In traditional astrology Pluto represents the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. In the Egyptian pantheon Pluto is Osiris, the God of Regeneration; Uranus is Wadjet, the Great Awakener. The long lasting square between these two astrological giants [during 2012 and for the next few years] suggests that we have only just begun our journey of incredible transformation and change.”(Astrological Insights.)
“Uranus represents change, invention, revolution, and higher awareness,” details astrologer Jamie Partridge. “It’s effect is shocking, unpredictable, and erratic. Pluto represents globalization, destruction, transformation, and renewal. It’s effect is grinding, ruthless and extreme. Both of these planets are distinctly non-personal and emotionless, yet their effect is dramatic and deeply felt. The square is the most challenging of the planetary aspects, representing tests and challenges. It’s effect is stressful and frustrating.”
I wouldn’t include an astrological analysis if I hadn’t felt the truth of these interpretations in my own life. So many people in my life tell me they feel it too: that 2012 was one of their most intense, full years. Many have had very hard years, while others have had intensely wonderful years. Most of us have had a mixed bag of extreme highs and lows. Few people found 2012 to be “just another year.”
For many, a pressure is building. The need to burn away all that is false (a trait associated with Pluto.) Many I speak with seem to be going through an emotional-spiritual purge or some kind of shadow work at the moment. I think many of us feel innately that it’s a good time to purify and detoxify (look for tips on this in future posts!). Many feel pushed to their limit and filled with a desire to restructure their life. Old behaviors which no longer serve us are becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I realize this doesn’t apply to everyone, but it strikes me as significant that so many people I know are experiencing one or all of these things right now — more than usual, it seems.
And so the 2012 phenomenon, the so-called Mayan Apocalypse, can be seen as an expression of our personal and collective discomfort with old existing structures and outmoded patterns of behavior. When Dec. 21st comes and goes and the world remains in all it’s chaos, we will be left with the anti-climatic but significant realization that there is no escaping ourselves.
Let’s die to the past through this inner apocalypse — harness the intense energy of this time and use it for personal rebirth and transformation. We are collectively craving it. But it can only start with each of us, individually, and it can only take place in the present, right now.