Friday, May 18, 2018

Report from Earth - Widespread Infection

When all the plausible answers have been disproved, the answer must be sought outside our understanding of plausibility.

I posit that humanity is suffering from a disease that affects the nervous system and brain function. I've been calling it "Stagnation".

The same way nature has always used diseases to weed out over-populated species, it has infected  susceptible humans with a pathogen that makes changes to the pathways and working functions of the brain, which in turn, distorts perceptions. I've been calling this disease Stagnation because, over time, the brain seems to become very inflexible in how it operates and delivers perception, unable to take in enough new information to support brain plasticity. This appears to cause a stagnation of thinking, a limited pool of thought that is constantly recycled and reused regardless of the situation.

Stagnation appears to be a type of pathogen that dampens or re-programs brain structures in humans, over time, impairing cognitive functioning and Perception. It affects people of all ages, though children often show great resilience in fighting it off. It affects people across genders, races, cultures, and socio-economic positions. It is contagious through exposure.

According to Wikipedia, Perception is the "organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment." 

All signals go through the nervous system, but Perception brings those signals together with learning, memory, expectation and attention. All of this processing happens completely outside of conscious awareness. Perception arrives in our conscious mind, already formed, waiting for us to apply our judgment, understanding, and decision. Perception is our own, personal Reality. To think it might be affected by a dysfunction of any kind feels like the biggest threat to our identity. In fact, it feels like the threat of death. That is one reason people with Stagnation cling so tightly to the reality that feels real for them. They are not able to effectively process anything more, which can itself be terrifying.

Learning, memory, expectation, and attention, are the very functions affected by Stagnation. 

A person affected by Stagnation experiences negative brain effects when the disease progresses, reducing capacity for rational judgment, cooperation, impulse control, and empathy. At the same time, these impairments increase the likelihood of fast judgments, outbursts, impatience, and violent actions. In this diminished state, most people resort to a reliance on rote thinking patterns rather than thinking through every decision and judgment on its own merits, as a coping mechanism. They surround themselves with elements, information, media and people who most closely mirror their view of reality, which, like never using a hurt muscle, results in further atrophy in the areas of learning, expectation and attention.

Humans are more susceptible to Stagnation when they experience extreme and/or long-term trauma. Humans who daily experience pain, anger, fear, disappointment, grief, hunger, discrimination, and other traumas, put their nervous systems under strain. In this condition, they incur a higher risk of contracting Stagnation as a secondary condition. However, many humans succumb to stagnation without a clear cause.

Also susceptible are humans who carry significant Power for long periods of time. People carrying the heavy weight of Power, or engaging the stressful behaviours required to maintain it, over-stress their nervous systems, allowing Stagnation an entry-point. When people with Power get Stagnation, they have more ability to use money and influence to force the world to look and feel the way they perceive reality, to reduce the threats to their perception. Therefore, Stagnation in a person who wields Power is particularly dangerous to other people. The fear people feel around Power makes them susceptible to catch Stagnation themselves. The decisions and use of power are initiated from a position of impaired judgement and perception.

The deterioration in key brain functions experienced by people with Stagnation causes them to focus heavily on self-serving perceptions as real, and threatening perceptions as false. As Stagnation progresses, people may come to see opposing views as an enemy of their truth, evoking primitive emotions of anger, fear, tribalism, and jealousy. Wide-spread, these tendencies in populations lead to war, unstable social situations, unsafe living conditions, random violence, and institutional violence. These mechanisms eventually eliminate large numbers of humans, while creating the conditions for others to die through diseases, malnutrition, starvation, or other deprivation-based causes. Nature employs Stagnation as a strategy to reduce our numbers.

Because so many humans are now infected, it is not clear whether the tide can be turned. It is difficult, but not impossible, to renew the plasticity of the brain through exercise, exposure, attention, learning, and memory techniques. Simply entertaining an opposing view as possible for just three minutes a day will improve the effects. Brains are remarkably resilient when we decide to engage their programming actively. Unfortunately, the very effects of the disease render the victims resistant to both diagnosis and treatment. With so many of the world's most powerful deeply infected, it seems unlikely that the humans can avoid the widespread devastation nature has in store.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Two critical questions for engagement

Now is the place where the crossroads meet

The masters in my mind have distilled it down as such:

when we want to engage someone who disagrees
first we explore two critical questions:

Who is the teacher, and who is the learner?
Who is the host, and who is the guest?

when we can answer both those questions definitively
we know we are not ready to engage.

the more ways we can imagine to answer these questions, the more prepared we will be to share
our open hearts.

Guest and Host

Friday, April 27, 2018

The real human experience

This is an out-loud on my turmoil of feelings hearing more about so-called incels. It's like knowing you have rats, then coming upon a giant nest of them.

I can't remember exactly when I realized that many men don't view women as actual people. Often, even men who know perfectly well we are people have to remind themselves that it's not just the women in their immediate vicinity who are actually humans. It's also that "girl" being posed on a car for your gratification. She is a person with thoughts and feelings about what is happening. She poops on the toilet and got an 87% in grade 12 calculus and thinks about why she's on Earth. Just like you.

For men to view us as a subspecies, they must see themselves as more human than us. Somehow, even though science says otherwise, they believe their feelings are more acute, their thoughts more profound, their bodies more normal, their ways more right. We are a subspecies, not unlike a donkey or cow, with some consciousness but nothing to concern themselves with. We only need to be understood and manipulated to men's needs, like all the other animals. It's not even insulting, because it's so ignorant. It's the thinking of a small child, cemented and rooted without anyone noticing.

I always thought this undercurrent of people with vaginas not being as human as people with penises was unconscious. I felt like, most men, they don't mean to think of things that way, it's just how they've been taught. Most men who take the time can recognize that I am a person, that a biological accident of genitalia doesn't diminish the intensity and importance of my soul's human experience on Earth.  And yet, there are swaths of men, scuttling around under the surface of the internet, encouraging each other to dehumanize me. So it's not unconscious, and I'm willing to bet, most men are not surprised it's there, even if they might be surprised when they find it scuttling around the underbelly of their own unconscious.

I think female people have shielded male people for too long about the importance of sex to us. Maybe we've let you think we see it as casually as you do. I'm sure there are women who do. But please, take a minute to think about it. Sex, to a male body, is sticking your dick into something warm until you feel the ecstasy of orgasm. Sex, for a female body, is allowing a foreign object, attached to a large, hairy body, not just to enter my body, but to pump away at my most vulnerable bodily opening until the penis spews gooey, stinky stuff that will leak out of me for hours and may make me pregnant or sick. But I might like how it feels, and if I'm lucky, that will result in an orgasm. If I'm unlucky, it will hurt or cause my body damage.

Sex isn't very sexy, when you think about the reality of the human experience divorced from the ecstasy of orgasm. The rest of it is quite intrusive for a woman. Sex is a big fucking deal, literally. It's not something small to give you as a reward for a nice night out. Also, a large number of people have been victims of sexual assault. For a person who's been hurt by sexual violence, sex is a giant mountain of trust to climb, not a home run.

Personally, I enjoy heterosexual sex, but I definitely don't want to have it with a man who doesn't care about my experience, with whom I don't feel safe.  I think any man, if he were to think about having sex as having something large inserted and pumped inside his body at the most vulnerable part, could understand those stipulations. Sex isn't something I give to someone, it isn't a party favour or a prize. Sex is something I do with someone with whom I feel intimate. It's a real risk, physically, not just emotionally.

If a man is incapable of seeing me as a human, we can never really be intimate. If I can't be intimate with a man, I don't want to have sex with him. This is a very basic understanding. If you want to have sex on the regular, you have to build trusting, respectful relationships that encourage intimacy. If you don't want to do that, don't blame other people. Maybe some people would want to have sex with you if you were a person capable of intimacy with them. Go work on that, and things might change. But keep jacking off to your imagination and whining when reality doesn't match, and your life will continue to be consumed with hatred that is really directed at yourself. When you hate yourself, of course your ego directs the anger outside of you, like shielding you from bullets. But it's destroying you.

Love feels better. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Sweat Equity (a morning's ramble)

Sweat Equity is a term used in startup land. It means how it sounds - founders and shareholders can bring money, or they can bring expertise and effort to buy into an enterprise - their sweat, so to speak, and sometimes, literally.

What if the enterprise is life?

Each life is a series of hours that are for sale. I can use those hours however I like, sell them or not, but in order to live as a functioning member of the society in which I find myself, I am forced to sell some to people willing to give me money in exchange for my expertise and effort. If I don't use my hours to buy into anything solid that I own a piece of, but rather sell them for money that is used for my daily consumption, that's called a job.

Some of my hours can't be for sale. These are the hours I invest in what matters to me. I invest them in a healthy body by doing things like eating well, sleeping enough, staying fit, spending time in nature, giving and receiving touch. I invest them in building relationships with my spouse, children, friends, family, colleagues, and other people in my life. I invest them in maintaining my household free of pests, in good repair, considerate to neighbours. I invest them in staying alive and pursuing happiness and peace. How many of those hours I have to invest depends entirely on how many are left after I sell the ones I need to sell in order to pay for the shelter, food, transportation, and other costs associated with living life in society.

Often, responsibilities to others erode or eclipse investments in a healthy body, which is the base foundation for being alive. Just like we kill the Earth for the Economy, when the Earth is the base foundation. It's crazy, but our whole society has conditioned us to this crazy as the only possible reality. Questioning it is considered dangerous.

To put our sweat equity back into our lives, we would need to put a bubble around the time required for our healthy bodies, healthy relationships, and healthy communities. Realistically, if a person were to live according to the advice, do the shopping and cooking required for healthy, plant-heavy, organic-based, locally-sourced meals, exercise for heart and lung health, stretch and engage physio for specific injuries and strains or body anomalies, spend time as a family and time one-on-one with each important person in our lives, read and better ourselves professionally, participate in community volunteerism, help our neighbours out, and sleep 8+ hours every night, we wouldn't have enough hours left to work full time. That's the sad reality of the society and work expectations we've built. It is not possible to work full time and take proper care of your body, relationships and society. That's why everyone is so stressed out and angry over stupid things. That's why everyone is limiting themselves to easy answers, quick fixes and flip judgments.

I feel lucky that most of the time, I am now able to structure my paid work time to let me pursue my well-being in a serious way, even if I can't always achieve it. Most people are not so lucky. A full time job owns your time, you are forced to sell those hours even if, this week, you'd rather not. And lacking a full time job is even worse, if you depend on it for your living. It's a root cause of suffering in our society, which leads to costs - policing, courts, mental health intervention, preventable medical expenses associated with stress and other factors. And it's not sustainable. This is a conversation no politicians are having, and it concerns me.

The time is coming when we won't need all these humans in jobs. It's important for us to think about how we will handle that. Will we let swaths of our population languish in shame and boredom, anger and guilt, fear and scarcity? We could start reducing work weeks without reducing salaries now, so that we have a couple of decades to ease people out of relying solely on an employment wage to cover the costs of their lives. A couple of decades for the profiteers to adjust their models to make it worthwhile to do business in a society that demands a higher minimum standard for its citizens. To decide as a society what our healthy minimum well-being standards look like. First, we need to decide that's a goal, to reduce the work week, focus people on self-care and care of each other and this place, and prepare for a future where society sets the minimums rather than allowing profiteers to drive them to ever-new lows.

But before society can even think about setting a goal, we ourselves need to know that we deserve it, so we can ask for it. We need to realize that the only purpose of society, economy, and government, is to enable the well-being of citizens. That's all. That's the only reason for all of this. So if anyone is not able to pursue well-being, the system is not serving its purpose. We can say, I require enough time to pursue the best human knowledge of what creates well-being: eating well, sleeping well, having good sanitation and safe shelter, and taking care of my body, mind, spirit, relationships, community, country and planet. Those responsibilities of citizenship are worth something to everyone in society. Regardless of employment, I need to know I can maintain that minimum. It's not "entitlement" to think that society should strive to provide a minimum dignity in exchange for participation. We know we can. The money is in the system, it's just hoarded at the top. We're brainwashed to want the worst for each other and ourselves, to think that's all that's possible. It's not.

We will have no choice but to change. I'd like to see us choose a direction that remembers why we're doing all this work in the first place. A system that lets people choose to put more sweat equity into well-being and peaceful co-existence. This has not been finalized as the goal of humanity, but I think we would be better off if it were. At least we could start turning the ship.

Friday, March 30, 2018


Swimming with them (2018)
Sometimes people find me interesting. I tend to think, though, it's more that EVERYTHING is interesting, but people don't seem to notice how, until I point it out. Then, they might think it's me who's interesting. I'm actually pretty boring in here. It's the world, that's interesting. 

It seems to be true that there are aspects of reality that only I can see, or at least, only I, in the immediate vicinity.

But just because I'm genius about a few random things doesn't mean I'm not inconveniently stupid about others. I bump against my stupid all the time, like a force field. I get so impatient with it. When I learn a new thing I don't revel in the pride of learning, but squirm with the shame of not having known it already.

Then I shrug and lumber on, until the current picks me up again.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Wise Fool and the Unprovable Premise

Faith always requires a choice to accept an unprovable premise. 

Beneath (CAI 2018)
Fundamental differences of understanding generally trace back to the unprovable premises that people have, knowingly or not knowingly, accepted as true. Each person's understanding of the world rests on a foundation of beliefs about the nature of life. How those beliefs are formed, and what they encompass, differs greatly by person. How strong a foundation they provide also varies wildly.

Our foundation of accepted beliefs lets us build an understanding of the world on top of it. Instead of swimming helplessly in the current, tossed about, trying to catch breath, we feel like we're standing on raft. We can build a shelter, settle in to the ride, figure out how to best navigate.

In my experience, very, very few humans can withstand the discomfort of questioning an unprovable premise that occupies a foundational place on their raft. The better shelter they've built, the more unwilling they are to allow the question at all.

When your logical mind observes a set of data, satisfies itself as to the meaning of the data, and accepts that meaning as your Truth, it becomes physically very difficult for the brain to actually take in any new information that contradicts what you now believe.

But  I can say this for sure: unless everyone alive believes what you believe, then you are missing something they are seeing. 

The shores of my belief (CAI 2018)
Yes, you are also seeing something they are missing. Maybe you're completely right and they are completely wrong, but it doesn't actually matter. They are seeing something different from you. Wouldn't it behoove you to find out what that is? After all, we only have our own small data set from which to make decisions.

Asking is no good. Most people, if they get up the gumption to ask about an opposing opinion, are already ready to defend against the answer. They are listening to educate, not to understand. They are listening so they can put a hole in the argument that the other person holds dear, or provide a proof that will nullify the other person's concerns.

They forget the possibility that the other person's concerns may have validity. 

Most people think that the Truth they've accepted must somehow be universal, and they simply need to teach other people to see the way they see. We see this from individual to institutional and societal systems. If I am right, you must be wrong, so let me show you how I'm right and you're wrong and then you can think rightly, like me.

It always strikes me as so wasteful. all this brandishing of weapons over the idea of Truth.

I like to remind myself, now and again, that no matter how much I might disagree or dislike the idea of what someone else believes, they probably have a point.

Every single person comes by their opinions honestly. 

Everyone's set of Fundamental Beliefs (Heartfelt Beliefs) come from a combination of a million factors, including their nature,  body, childhood situation, access to supports and resources, religion, culture, education, family, and experiences. People earn their opinions through hard-won processing. They earn their right to their beliefs as a life raft on the unknown currents of life.

Because let's be clear.

We don't know why we are here.  

We don't know why life exists, let alone HOW, or even, really, WHERE or WHEN we are in the scope of all possible reality. We don't know how small we are. We don't know how most of the universe works, and the things we've figured out, we've used to advance some pretty evil agendas by some very twisted souls, which mostly started out as just being stupid but quickly devolved into all-out war between the Very Powerful and Everyone Else over the fate of a rare life-breeding planet we are killing.

The Meaning (CAI 2018)
We don't know how we got here, though scientists have a pretty strong story to tell. Then again, we don't know if the scientists are even real, since everything we know we get from third, fourth, fifth-hand sources who repeat what they learned along the way. Maybe they're actors, like the moon landing :) Theologians also have a lot to say, and their sources seem fairly well preserved and researched, carried through history by masses of people. But who were those people, and what biases did they allow in?

We don't go to the moon, or observe experiments ourselves. We don't read all the sacred texts, or review all the documents of an historical period or dig bones and date them. We're told that some other humans, somewhere, know how to do these things, and we're told what they apparently found out by doing them. We decide if we trust these sources or not. We decide if we believe what they say. We form our understanding of Earth, the Universe, Life.  When the things they say seem to hold true, can be experienced first hand, or conveniently support our preferred views, we might accept them as Reality. When a lot of people accept similar versions as Reality, we get the Consensus View, which is then treated as the default reality.

But at the end of the day, we just don't know how it all works. 

We don't know what's real or true. We can't know. We just can't know. If it were knowable, if all the data were in, then we couldn't compute it with our primitive, puny brains. For all the science there is, with all the tools we have, we barely understand anything at all. We can't experiment here with inputs beyond the plane we inhabit. We don't have the tools to measure what we don't know is there because our senses are so few. We are very limited creatures.

No one knows for sure.  If anyone says they know what is true, what is real, what to believe, I feel that person has simply accepted some unprovable premise on which to build their confident knowing. That's okay with me. I think we have to. I think at some point, we have to accept some unprovable premises and build our understanding on them. It's important to acknowledge what they are, and talk about why we've accepted them. It breeds common understanding, a basis for peace.

For some, that is accepting a religion, a tradition of understanding about the world that millions of people have studied and practiced before, based on a set of premises that a person is willing to accept. I understand that choice.

My own raft is not sturdy enough to build a shelter on. My raft is a single strip called "I don't know." I live on the plank of unknowing. I inhabit the space. I ride it like a surfboard through the clutter that tries to take my mindshare.

What happens when I die? I don't know. I have some ideas, and most people don't seem to like them, though they suit me fine. I think my Self is a product of animal body (of the Earth) and energy (of the Ether), so when the body goes back to the Earth and the energy dissipates into the Ether, the Self just sparks out. But maybe, when I die, I will face a wrathful god and eternal hellfire. Millions of people think so. Maybe, when I die, I will be reborn into another body on Earth. Millions of people think so. Maybe, when I die, I will be rewarded in heaven for my life of virtue. Millions of people think so. Maybe they are right. Maybe they are all right. Maybe they are all wrong. Probably, actually.

Probably everyone is wrong.

But if they are right, there's nothing I can do about it. I can't make myself accept an unprovable premise that doesn't spark my willingness, and I haven't found one single thing to believe that doesn't ask for faith at some point along the information chain. So I choose. I deliberately put my FAITH in the ideas that make the most sense to me, line up best with my observations and experience. The ones I like because they match what I value most. I choose what I believe, and act as though those things were true. I behave like they are the truth of reality, and I let them go when they don't stand up or serve me. This makes me curious. I stay open to the likelihood that my beliefs are not correct, so I'm always looking for more information to shift them. At the same time, I honour my choices.

Gems of Perspective (CAI 2018)
I choose ideas that allow for some fun, some random, some magic, some chaos, some justice, some happy ending in sight. Why not? I let them in, play with them, entertain them, and then let them go. It seems to me that the reality I choose has just as much proof to back it up as the consensus view I'm asked to live by, but that consensus reality is increasingly hostile, stressful and unhappy. I don't pick it.

After all, I only live once, maybe. 

But other people see things very differently. They might be right. I'm probably wrong. So it behooves me to understand why they see things the way they do, to decide if I want to sprinkle any portion of their reasoning into my own soup of understanding.

It's not easy to engage ideas that threaten the few bits of life raft under my feet. I understand why people don't. But eventually, someone else's reality bumps up against mine, and we have to figure out how we fit together. When that happens, I hope that they will let go of their need to believe that what they believe is right so what I believe must be wrong, and that I will have the grace to do the same. And so we go in the world, together. Unless we are willing to allow for different realities to exist in the same three dimensional space, honouring the reality of another person when it goes against our very core, we are fools to think we seek peace. What we seek is power, the power to assert our view of reality as the only truth. 

I don't know. I am probably not right. 

So, I try to live as though I seek peace, every stumble a reminder that I am a wise fool.

What Colour is the Ocean? (CAI 2018)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Beauty is a Demanding Task Master

Hanging by a Thread (CAIves 2018)

The thing about beauty is
The instant you see one face, she reveals another
Constantly shifting
Trying to show you everything all at once
Before it’s over, before you’re gone.
You can’t look away, not for a second.
Beauty is a Weeping Angel,
Don’t blink

or you’ll never know what you missed

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Thank you, Grace

Oh, Aziz :(

I always found you a whiny, persistent little guy, so likable and kinda-creepy at the same time that you were well worth watching, and often insightful or funny. I'm not shocked to find out you're one of those kind of guys, the guys who whine and paw and beg and keep trying until they wear you down, like kids when they want tv. And I don't really feel sorry for you that you've become the poster boy for this next ratchet-up in the conversation that women have been avoiding having with men for a very long time. I think you'll weather it just fine, with your friends and career intact, but maybe your ego a bit smarter after some bashing and seasoning. In the end, this will provide you with an incredible amount of fodder. This is nothing but really, really good for you. Actually, man, congratulations on your big test. The Universe must think you're ready. The potential rewards are great. Good luck.

Because it's time for the next conversation.

And because you're so damn little and charming and strange, we're having it.

I heard from one younger male friend who is anguished because he bought into what the men in his life, from friends to mentors to entertainment, told him: that women are taught a false delicacy that makes us reluctant, and we count on you to be the one to push things forward. The story goes, the guy must stay nice but be persistent, one step at a time, one yes at a time, until you have consent. The unspoken understanding is that we women expect it, we want it, and we will appreciate it once our inhibitions are down. He saw it as part of his role as the man. It's only now dawning on him that we are not a different kind of creature with unfathomable ways, we're just other people. It's like the veil has come down and everything is uglier than he thought.

I wonder how many other young men are given this terrible advice on the assumption that every man's goal is sex. The truth is, if the goal is just to get sex, this approach of escalating persistence probably works, sometimes because the woman really does become more interested, and sometimes because she just stops the effort of resisting. So men get reinforced because they used the 'gentle persistence" method, and it worked, they got sex. But what was the woman's goal, and did she get it? Men haven't been encouraged to ask that question.

Many people's first reaction to Grace's story is to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable, but think, it's not that bad, not compared to violence or abusive power. The thing is, on a date, you don't want "not that bad." Shouldn't sex be great? We are inviting you into our body. It's not just a thing we do for you, it's the ultimate act of trust and intimacy.

Sex is a gift, not a party favour.

Sex for women IS a big deal. There is much more risk, and often much less pleasure. Grace's account of Aziz reminds me of my 10 year old begging for candy, and it's sad, it's pathetic, but it's also creepy and wrong because he's not 10, and this is not candy.

My friend says that he is "pretty sure" that the women he had sex with didn't regret it, because the didn't complain and several went out with him again. But he's not 100% sure anymore, and he feels a little betrayed, by the messages he believed, and the potential that women fooled him into thinking they'd changed their minds (his words, which he then apologized for) when they were actually not enthusiastic. He's upset and confused to find that this whole time he's thought he was being a good guy and maybe he was sometimes being coercive, to some extent or another.

That's a hard thing to face. If you're trying to face it, and people are sneering "yeah, well you're a creep and you should have known" I think the instinct is to pull back, and gather whatever your privilege or power allows you to use to reinstate your ego. That would be a waste of this moment, and a waste of the pain that all of us are going through, re-evaluating what we thought were "normal" encounters and not so sure, anymore. We need each other in actual openness, if we're going to talk about this and make it better.

So when men read the big Aziz story and they don't want to see the problem, I feel I need to be kind, not condemning, realizing we are all fools in this patriarchal system that has tricked us into seeing each other as "other" and somehow less human in experience. I need to reach over and say, "well, now we know better, let's see where this takes us from this point" and walk in hope. Some guys will not choose to shift, but I think many will.

This is a chance for the regular people, not the extreme creeps or the extreme apologists, but the folks who bumble around trying to find connection, to talk about how men and women have the same goals for happiness, pleasure and love. To find more respectful ways to ask for what we need without feeling manipulative, and to be allowed to choose what we give without feeling coerced. To teach our kids what those conversations look like and ask our media to reflect respect. We have a chance to take a quantum leap.

Thank you, Grace.

What will happen next?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Indomitable (CAIves 2012)
I used to believe in a world where I will eventually find my place and my people, my belonging.

It was like a dream of a future that made Now all the more pitiable. The story went, these people don't get me fully, they don't value what I value most about myself, but someday I'll find where I fit in. I held out that carrot to myself, that possibility, like my tribe was just something I needed to find, a quest I was on that would bring me home. When I was in grade school, I though my tribe would be waiting at the bigger high school. When I was in high school, I thought my tribe would be waiting at University. When I was at University, I thought my tribe would be out in the work world, and then at a company with a better mission, more values-based leadership, more innovation. Then I thought my tribe must be waiting in Community, among the people doing good, or the people creating art. 

As the gurus like to say, what's the common denominator? Me. No matter where I am, it's me, not feeling like my best ideas are welcome, knowing my observations are threatening to the ideas of people around me. Afraid to show too much of what I really am, how I really am, because people send so many messages, at quite shallow levels of relationship, that make it clear that only a select few parts of me really fit, here. The Venn of "me" and "the group" gives a sliver of overlap, and I am expected to live in that thin oval between thick lines. All that changes is which sliver. 

Challenging the Status Quo (CA Ives 2013)
To continue to believe that I will find my tribe seems a little silly, at this point. I am 46 years old. I have shifted to believing that how I am is exactly how I am needed to be in the world. When I show up somewhere, people will probably start to feel uncomfortable and they may not even know why. I need to expect that, and be ready to meet it with openness and kindness, not the fear of rejection. When I share my observations, no matter how I do it, people will probably start feeling threatened. It's not my delivery, it's the essence of our difference that causes that. I need to expect it, and be ready to meet it with compassion and curiosity. If the people I'm working with don't understand or value what I'm bringing, I need to bring them only what they can understand and value, plus one, and see if we can move the needle. That is my job in the world. It's hard to always be the one taking the burden of translating, but I am a stranger in a strange land. If I ever find people who are speaking my language, I will carouse with them in joy. Until then, I will enjoy what I can. 

Maybe I'm in the right place, and feeling alone and misunderstood is part of my role in the flow of What Is. It may be that my work in the world is holding a place of unbelonging, and finding ways to mirror the sight and voice that comes with being on the outside. My journey is the collective journey. My role is essential.  Unbelonging is not something I am doing wrong, or something I should be changing myself to change. It's also not, necessarily, a temporary state I will grow or find my way out of. It may just be the state of my life here on Earth. 

It may be that I actually am so different from most people that the chances of finding others who "get" me at a deep enough level for my satisfaction are extremely low. I may be one in six billion. But that does not absolve me of doing my work in the world. And it doesn't mean I don't have close relationships, strong friendships. It does mean that my deepest soul is sometimes lonely as I live my work on Earth. Maybe that will change, and maybe I'll win the lottery. Either way I'd feel joyful about the prospects. But I don't expect it, so I put my active hope for wider belonging into my moving meditation practice. I reach into myself and outward to What Is for my sense of belonging, and I don't hold it against the humans when they can't make me feel as welcome as I make myself. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Me? Beautiful?

I find myself very beautiful. I'm happy to find my own face pleasing in the reflection  But I'm always surprised when other people find me beautiful, because I don't expect them to see what I see. I expect them to use the measuring stick that society has provided: long hair (preferably blond), symmetrical features, perfect nose, perfect teeth, pouty mouth, big breasts, small waist, smooth limbs, perfect posture, graceful movement, and many other ideals that I have never seen reflected from my mirror. I'm quite aware that I fall short in every category, that I am not the definition that a random man means when he pictures a "beautiful woman." So I've never considered myself as a beautiful woman, though I, myself, have always taken pleasure in my beauty.  I rarely wear makeup, and never much. I like how I look. I always smile when I meet my own eyes.

When someone else finds me beautiful, I am taken aback, as though they've caught me naked. They've seen me, when I didn't mean to be seen. They've recognized my beauty when I thought the cloaks and filters of social expectation had me shielded. I fear my beauty being recognized.

Humans have a strange relationship with beauty. They crave to set eyes on it, to feel it through senses, as a key component of happiness. Somehow, people start to feel owed the beauty around them as a way of filling other gaping holes, and that includes beautiful women. If I am a beautiful woman, people will want something from me that they otherwise would leave alone, if they found me plain. They will expect me to be ways that I am not, to comply with behaviour that I don't like, to play out the role they envision for me. All that expectation will clang loudly in my ears, drowning out my own voice, and I will become something ugly inside. That is my spin-story of what it means if I am a beautiful woman. That is the root of fear that gets triggered when someone notices what I know, and realizes I am beautiful.

I duck away shyly. I can barely meet their gaze. It's like they've found out my secret and I'm not sure I trust them to keep it.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The test is built to be failed

getting tested past the edges is the only way to know where they are.

it's good it's bad it's up it's down
it's connected
it's repulsed
it's coming through for each other and letting each other down and blaming
ourselves and blaming each other always knowing
neither is fair
neither is true.
It's hating
what's happening but loving
each other
and needing to leave
but having to stay
until pressure breaks the seams
and I run home to lick my wounds
until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Betrayal of Trust

It is not really possible for someone to betray my trust. What do I mean by that? That I don't trust anyone? Sort of, but the opposite.

I trust everyone to be exactly what they are. You can trust anyone to be what they are - in that sense, everyone is trustworthy. The trick is in knowing what they are.

And so, when someone "betrays your trust" what has really happened is that they have revealed something of who they are that you didn't know before. They have challenged what you thought you knew of them. They were never responsible to be the person you thought they were. They were never responsible for the trust you placed in them that they would be different than what they are, would be what you hoped they were. That was always your responsibility.

That was always MY responsibility.

And so, my responsibility becomes knowing people better, learning who they are, so that I know how I can trust them to be, to act, in situations in which we are likely to find ourselves together. In this way, I grow my trust, but it is not trust in the other person, it is trust in my own judgment of what I can reasonably expect from them. I have always trusted them to be exactly what they are - now, I need to trust myself that I know them well enough to guess right, and entwine with them, count on them, appropriately. 

Knowing that, in any case, most of what I see is simply reflection.

And that will do, for now.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

OOPArts and Creative Disruption

Lately the topic of "OOPArts" or "Out of Place Artifacts" has been popping up. 

I liked the name, so silly, like they are an OOPS, a mistake of the Universe, a mistake of our understanding. OOPArts are artifacts that challenge the general assumptions that human Science uses to understand the timelines of Earth's History from origin until now. Items found that are older than they should be for the workmanship or materials used. Fossilized remains and tools that pop out of coal, putting a lie to everything around which we build museums and elementary curriculum. 

Fact plus Art equals an Artifact.

A great deal of effort goes into proving OOPArts hoaxes, or apparently hiding them. Others extol their existence as proof of a larger belief system. Still others highlight them as the underbelly of widespread conspiracy in the scientific community. It's almost impossible to know for sure whether these OOPArts are real, have been dated properly, or even exist. Some have been proven hoaxes while others have not; some proofs have been debunked to leave more questions. 

I find this all strangely comforting. Disruption ensures survival by stirring up entropy :)  If everything we know about our origins doesn't allow for new evidence, then many closed questions require re-opening. Scientists should be very excited about that. Science isn't about closing questions forever proven, amen. Science is about evolving understanding through open inquiry. If OOPArts keep popping up, I can feel assured that some scientists will be forced to open the questions they raise, even against their conventions, and keep us moving forward. It's like a check and balance in the system.

OOPArts appear in our lives, too.  Artifacts show up in our lives out of sequence, out of our understanding of our own timelines, who we are, what we are meant to be doing. When 99% of what we encounter supports the consensus view of reality and the quasi-droned approach of day-to-day, it's easy to forget that maybe, just maybe, there are other ways of being. But over and over, these anomalies pop up, like niggling doubts, to make us question the very foundation of our science of life. 

Memories we can't place. Deja vu that doesn't jibe with our personal stories of what happened when. Someone else's memory that shakes our belief in what we know about our past. A photograph that proves a memory wrong. The reappearance of a lost object where it couldn't be. The lyrics of a song or the power of a tv show not matching our memory. Pathetic fallacies. We chalk all this up to our imperfection of memory or understanding. We assume we've "dated it wrong" and drop it. It's a hoax we're playing on ourselves. 

Maybe so. And, at the same time, these OOPArts in our own lives offer a chance to open questions we may not realize we ever closed. They are triggers we can choose to pull, to open ourselves more fully to the possibilities of this impossible life on this impossible world in this virtual reality of life. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Expectation to Aspiration

Summit Achieved
I've always had pretty high expectations, which means I'm easily disappointed, and sometimes, easily discouraged when it seems that the realistic solution falls short of what I expect. It's not a helpful pattern. The output is disappointment, and the follow-on processes can be destructive to happiness.

I realize that expectations are the root of suffering, and yet, for me, for a long time, they were the sun that beckoned seeds to grow from soil. Meeting and exceeding expectations felt rewarding, providing feelings of worth and accomplishment, pride in measuring up well to standards. I guess it's easy to mistake those feelings for happiness. It's easy to spend so much of one's mindshare on expectations that deeper forms of happiness, like relationships, body-care, and pursuit of purpose, grow shallow roots.

My work is from Expectation to Aspiration. I'm about a dozen years in, and still so far from my Aspirations that I tend to disparage myself, forget how far I've come. Or maybe, I feel embarrassed at how far I've come, and what that means about where I was if this is where I am. You see, still I turn my aspirations into expectations, so they grown thorns instead of flowers.

What is the difference between expectation and aspiration, then? Expectation implies failure if not met in full as defined. Aspiration implies work, experiments, and time to accomplish, allowing some fluidity in definition. A subtle but profound shift of the lens I use to see the world, to judge what's happening, to choose my actions.

Where Expectation demands to be met and judges failure, Aspiration floats above, forgiving us for not meeting her impossible desires while constantly beckoning towards them. Aspiration lets Now be perfect in its imperfection. Aspiration allows What Is to be a starting point, rather than an intolerable state to be corrected. To me, this feels more hopeful, less demanding; more inspiring, less driving. I like to feel hopeful and inspired better than demanded-on and driven. Less adrenaline. More calm curiosity. I choose this way to live. But where does that leave me for earning in the expectation-driven world?

I aspire to shine my light brightly enough that the people who need it, see it. Now, I look for ways to meet and exceed expectations that people are willing to pay for, as a natural consequence of pursuing this aspiration in particular directions. It's a careful balancing act, and I'm fairly clumsy. Also, my imagination has PTSD.

It's not an easy path. Expectations were clearer, especially when other people set them for me, and the rewards were more immediate. The consensus view of reality might say I was happier then. But my view of reality has a whole different understanding of happiness, not as a feeling but a state, and isn't that really the ultimate Aspiration? Happiness as a state?

Focus work this week: detach from expectations about how things should be, by watching for instances where my expectations are causing me suffering

1. notice suffering and remember that it's caused by expectation
2. assess the priority of the expectation in the context of an aspiration
3. remember that everything is exactly as it must be for anything to exist (and that even if that's not true, it doesn't really matter, because reality just IS)
4. decide to allow "what is" to be fine
5. Calmly take action that supports my aspiration

Remember that Aspiration is another word for Breathe. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anti-Hate to Pro-Love

Humans are sensitive machines.

When Power decided to enable commerce through the sale and enslavement of people, the Slaver Race needed to develop a narrative that let them reconcile their natural horror and revulsion with the reality in which they participated. They needed to not believe in the consciousness and pain of the enslaved. They needed to see them as lesser, incapable of true enlightened thought, insensitive to their treatment, in order to stifle the natural impediment of empathy. A reprogramming of brains over generations.

But just believing in the inferiority of the enslaved was not enough. To participate in a system so cruel, people who benefited from slavery didn't just need to cognitively believe that the enslaved were less human, less conscious, less sensitive - they also needed to hate them, to see them as deserving their treatment. Otherwise, the emotional dissonance between decency and slavery would feel unbearable. They needed to stifle, dampen, and if possible, eradicate the empathy that caused them pain and doubt. They needed to believe they were right, and even more, to feel that they were right. It was a primal need, the needs of id, ego and superego colliding, synapses formed and reinforced, primal need for social acceptance engaged and imposed; nurtured bigotry becoming nature, passing in the evolutionary data that defines the starting place for any human being born. Many people born pre-programmed with a tendency to smother empathy, to inhabit a mindset of superiority.

It's not just attitude, it's not a decision to be a hateful person. Racism is bred in the blood, bones and brains through generations of severe and extreme programming that dampened the human responses that might have made slavery impossible.

Reclaiming empathy, reclaiming understanding of the glory and importance in every life, relearning how to see and categorize the world of 7 billion people - it's not just something people can individually decide to do, or not. It's something that must rise among us, between us, within us, called by us, welcomed in us, expressed and shared for all of us, over time. For some, this feels like freedom, like joy. For others, it can be incredibly painful to re-see and re-interpret everything we've ever unconsciously accepted. It can feel like judgment, like tearing down, like violence. No wonder so many people reject any idea that makes them this uncomfortable. Their egos protect them with anger, hurt, outrage, smugness, and a host of other mechanisms that all of us accidentally use to keep us safe from noticing what might hurt to notice.

All of this to say: turning hatred on hate is like putting gasoline in your fire hose.

A person living with an ideology of active racism is like a person with any emotional-cognitive approach that doesn't match the desired consensus view of equality. Where they are coming from feels unacceptable to us, but how they got there isn't just a choice they made, it's the culmination of many factors, manifesting through individuals. Finding our own empathy is a challenge in the face of hatred, but it's our test first, before we can begin to shift anyone else.

Instead of anti-hate, we can focus on pro-love, and face what that means, to love an "enemy."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Rah! Rah! Basic Income!

Our country is a team. We win if we create the highest quality of life for everyone - best place to live in the world. That is the goal. The highest quality of life for the 10% at the top earnings in the population, and also the bottom 10% and the middle 80% where most of us find ourselves. Canada wins when our quality of life is one that provides stability and promotes health, belonging and a sense of purpose in society for everyone.

As a prerequisite, our team should focus on a quality of life that keeps stress reduced, given the increasingly compelling evidence that stress causes the vast majority of our health and social ills, which keep us from winning. A quality of life that encourages each person to contribute to this team because they feel like they have the time and capacity to do so, that doing so is important, and that they want to be a part of making it happen. One where, even if people choose not to participate, they have enough income to maintain physical and emotional stability that reduces their likelihood to commit crimes or be obnoxious.

We are well positioned to win the game of creating systems that allow for a high bar at the lowest levels by encouraging, not stifling, innovation, growth, and reducing our dependence on non-renewable resources. But we seem to have lost sight of the goal. Too many people with money and power have decided they are on a different team than the rest of us. They are on an elite team that controls, one that crosses boundaries of geography and hinges absolutely on levels of power. They control both resources and policies around the world, not on our behalf, but on behalf of winning a different game altogether - one where they compete with each other for control over resources, information and power. The new Generals, sitting in their war rooms, plotting our uses for small movements on their proprietary maps . 

If we were on the same team, no one would be quibbling about whether someone deserves healthcare, justice, food, safe shelter, clean water, social participation, education, sanitation, privacy, security, an ipad, or joy. If we were on the same team, we would use the team's resources to make sure everyone gets a slice of pizza after the game, that everyone has the uniform and has eaten enough to be productive. It's not good for any of us if one kid is stumbling around, hungry, tired and stressed instead of playing her position. It's not good for any of us when people are so overcome by worry, stress and demands to the point that they don't do a good job raising their kids, they don't volunteer or support neighbourhoods, they don't do a very good job at work, they don't bring their creativity to the modern age, and they don't help us WIN! Setting the minimum means every player can play. 

If we're all on the same team, the minimum anyone should ever have to live with is stability, dignity and a chance for participation. That minimum has been well defined by the UN and institutions like the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. 

If we set the minimum at a level that allows full participation, it might seem to cost a lot of money. But with an idea like a Basic Income as a minimum monthly cashflow for every citizen, it's not just a cost but an investment that spurs spending and encourages people to try harder, get on the team, live well instead of struggling to get by. The savings in bureaucracy, health care and justice will more than offset the costs. We can also think of it as a shareholder dividend, collected as we pass GO every month, to keep us able to play the game. We all get better because we are only as good as the weakest player on the field. Building bench strength, if you will. If not for the current batch of lazy bums, at least for their kids, right? Maybe the next genius you exploit will only emerge because the Basic Income let them experiment and innovate instead of working at Walmart. 

We are the only place in the world with this level of peace and this level of diversity existing together. People with money, people with power, I ask you, please get on the team. We have a chance to make things better, and you'll enjoy living here more if people are less stressed. We don't need all these people working long-term, so we can't rely on jobs to feed and house the population. We need to do it through our social systems, by sharing the value creation between private and public interests. If you don't want to pay more taxes, pressure government for a Basic Income instead of the wasteful, tiered, punitive systems in place. It creates a contingent workforce for you, removing your responsibility to keep people fed and housed while making them more likely to be job-ready with good attitudes when you do need them. It's the capitalist solution to the problem that people are not machines. Governments owe you a well-educated, well-raised, healthy and happy pool of workers to choose from - you pay your taxes! You still need to feed the animals in the zoo even when you don't need them to perform to play your games. Otherwise, everything goes to hell, and you have to live here, too.

It's time for us to decide to be one team, Canada, to show the world what's possible when we pay attention to the quality of life of every citizen. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Pragmatist's Support for Basic Income in Canada

No bleeding heart!

I'm no bleeding heart. I cultivate compassion, so people might mistake me for a softy, but my heart is highly pragmatic in nature. I don't want to give people something for nothing, I don't support policies that discourage active participation in the social and economic systems. I believe that the right of life in a human body means we owe our best to making the situation here as good as it can be, across the board. I believe that another person's reality is of equal value to mine, even if I can't understand or even fully accept it. My goal is simple: peaceful coexistence on Earth. (Impossible! the conditioned minds shout, and I think yes, because people say so, the grandest simplification of essential truth.)

It's all about peaceful co-existence

When I say that a Basic Income is the way to go, I am not trying to give people something for nothing, and I am not advocating for something likely to make people lazy and stupid. On the contrary, I am advocating for policy that encourages and supports everyone to actively participate in the social and economic systems for the good of all our peaceful co-existence, which includes the good of the market economy. That's what I'm trying to achieve.

I've looked at other measures - for example, Minimum Wage increases, and Living Wages. In both cases, the assumption is that every adult human is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually capable of working for 40 hours a week, free to do so, and that someone wants to pay them for what they can do. Clearly this assumption does not reflect the lived experience of possibly a majority of Canadians, but certainly a huge representation of people across cultures and backgrounds. People who have dependents, disabled relatives, elderly parents, young children, babies - basically, people living the common and expected life cycle of all people in our society - often cannot rely on themselves to work full time. People get sick, they say a third of us will get cancer - people can't work all the time. We also know that employers shed jobs as quickly as automation becomes cheaper than humans, so even if we don't implement any Living or Minimum wage, jobs will disappear and not be replaced at the mid and lower educational tiers.

Living wage is fair but won't tackle poverty

I still believe a Living Wage as the Minimum Wage represents the actual cost of the resources (human time and effort) and should therefore be set according to the cost for a life that includes meaningful participation in society, in a fair market economy. In that way, the profiteers pay what it costs to maintain their resource, and keep people from otherwise draining the social pools. But, a Living Wage will not tackle poverty. It will just make it feel a little less bad for some people.

The current systems are inefficient and expensive

What about the current system of Disability, Ontario Works (in Ontario) and Employment Insurance? Just thinking about those three sets of bureaucracies makes the Capitalist in me seethe. All to control the behaviour of people who, left to their own devices in a job-shedding economy, would likely contribute more by staying home and taking care of their loved ones and neighbourhoods than by working for some employer and having their government handouts clawed back, or stressing about it. We shame people who are actively looking for jobs and haven't managed to convince anyone to pay them for what they're good at. It's wasteful, counter-productive and stupidly expensive. I won't even talk about the current state as a viable option.

A Basic Income deletes all that. The health benefits, supports and training aspects remain in place, but all the wasteful tracking, determining validity, checking-up and forcing behaviour, all that just disappears. It's been shown time and again that when people have a steady floor of income, they are more willing to try for bigger things, take a risk with innovation, contribute their time as a volunteer, and commit to longer-term projects. Their outlook improves, they become more hopeful and more pleasant, and less likely to cut me off in traffic. When we tear up the floor behind them, they can't be sure of their footing.

A safe place to live, clean water and sanitation, health care, nutritious food and clean air - these are our most basic human needs, and we can choose to make sure that all this resource-transformation-for-profit provides this minimum for all Canadians. I'm still working on getting the numbers (and interesting economists in gathering and crunching them), but my working theory is that it would actually be cheaper to give every adult Canadian $1500 a month than to pay for the punitive, inefficient systems we have.

Not on my dime!

But what about the people who don't need it? At the top tax brackets it's basically taxed back. But on a month-to-month basis, it helps every citizen with cash flow, which helps all that cash flow right through to spending that isn't based on debt.

What about the freeloaders? Based on what we've seen in experiments so far, most people will spend their Basic Income on food and entertainment, fixing cars and housing essentials (like roofs, energy efficient upgrades, etc.), education/training for themselves and their kids, and saving. So, local spending that spurs the economy and improves our neighbourhoods and people's employability. All things we want to encourage.

We also know that hardly anyone will stop working altogether, and the ones who do will be the teens, so they can focus on school, and the moms and others responsible for the care of our most precious and our most vulnerable citizens. Caregivers are, by the way, already working largely for free and in no way compensated for their time or the opportunity costs of not being able to work full time. All of society is built on the free labour of care.

And what about those lazy bums drinking beer and playing nintendo all day? What about them? There aren't many, really, and at least they're not doing crime, or getting angry and disruptive. Let them be lazy. In my experience and studies, I find that most people who are not dealing with significant mental health issues will try to better their position, whatever it is, through some form of effort. If they don't, they either need help or to be left alone. They aren't that expensive, in the grand scheme. We may  not like if someone is "getting by on my dime" but it's better than the alternative.

Shareholder Dividends 

Anyway, governments are our resource stewards. They are supposed to protect as much of our resources as we need to live well, and make sure what they sell and lease pays enough returns to maintain a society where the minimums are met and people have the ability to live in peaceful coexistence. That's their job. The Basic Income is simply shareholder dividends on our shared resources. Good resource stewards would be seeing to the minimums by curtailing the maximums. We need to ask for that.

The Basic Income is the most efficient, the most respectful and the most honest way of accounting for the value of our social good that I've found yet.

I support a Basic Income from my socially minded, fiscally careful, compassionate and pragmatic heart.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Canada 150. Where to start?

My people have been here, creating our bodies on the food and water of this land, for about 400 years. If you are descended from the Indigenous people of what we call Canada, your people have been here much longer, but it's still many generations. Unfortunately, my people came as conquerors, cruely ignorant of any relationship with the land and its people beyond exploitation. I have one early ancestor who set up a farm, a village, and offered medical care to anyone. I like to think that at least he was sympathetic to the Indigenous people; I like to imagine that he honoured and respected them. Perhaps there is some truth to that wish. But he was part of the conquering army of settlers, taking without comprehending what was there, assuming superiority and entitlement to what was yours first.

I am ashamed of the ignorance and cruelty of my ancestors. I feel they are ashamed through me. They recognize what they have done. They realize, through death, through the life in me, that we destroyed a beautiful gift when we discovered this land and its people. We had the chance to bond the lands of the Earth, we had the chance to learn what you knew and begin to remember our own relationship to our own lands, as well as yours. We could have learned to approach the inevitable industrial revolution and all that came from it with the land as our partner, our guide; with our resources generated from a healthy, giving world. We could have brought all the knowing together, and you offered this. You expected that my people were mature enough to engage it. You opened yourselves, and my people arrogantly decided that your wisdom was inferior, that your ways were primitive, that your land was for the taking and your people to be destroyed or assimilated. My people forgot how to value life, and were so blind they lost the chance to remember, to create this land as the place where all the lands of Earth are bonded.

Still, the Land demands this. Still, she calls new people to us, even while you try to recover from the damage my people inflicted and still, to this day, inflict. Daily, more people from all the corners of Earth come here, to what we call Canada, to try to live together in peaceful coexistence that honours our differences and our commonalities. But it is a distorted vision, skewed to the thinking of powerful people who live disconnected from the realities of life as primary value - all life. Our laws, our policies, our very vision, is crafted by powerful men in the spirit of the arrogant enslavement of the Land and its people to the profits of a few.

Despite our failings, the Land calls people here to create the United Nations of Nations. A place for people from all lands to live peacefully with each other and the land. Will the vision be stillborn, or malformed, or just hobble along sickly? If we continue to starve and exploit her, the land will not be able to sustain the bonds we’re forming. I want to work together to figure out what to do about this. I don’t know what’s next.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Police Stop; Stop Police

Another black man shot by a racist cop who got away with it. 

I'm afraid. Every time I'm pulled over by a cop, I'm afraid. I'm not doing anything wrong. I sit in my white-middle-class-mom-mobile, sweating and hoping I don't piss this guy off. That I appear polite and non-threatening enough to avoid any further action on his part than a traffic ticket. That there's no reason for him to use his power to make my life difficult.

The police have power over us. They carry guns. They can force us to comply with their requests with a certain degree of permitted violence. They can take us temporarily out of society without a word to anyone - effectively state-sanctioned kidnapping - if they find a reason to "bring you in." They can mess up our day, our week, our life, if they decide they don't like our attitude. They can manufacture a reason and they will be believed. And ultimately, if they choose to, they can shoot us.

When I'm stopped, police are generally polite and firm, not friendly, taking a stance meant to solidify their position of authority over me. That is what they are trained to do. They expect me to move slowly, be polite, do what I'm told immediately (but not too quickly), and defer to them in every way from body language to tone of voice. If I do these things correctly, I can generally assume that the stop will go smoothly, and I will be on my way. Yet, just that level of interaction shakes me to my core, leaves me afraid and feeling vulnerable. Because these people assume authority over me with a gun at their side, and the threat they will use that power against me remains a constant undercurrent through any interaction between an on-duty officer and me.

That black people are disproportionately stopped by police is clear. But if I'm shaking in my white-lady boots in Canada, with a cop who will probably give me a stern warning and a ticket, what would it feel like if that was not the likely outcome? If I were black, if I were somewhere less tolerant, more racist, and I knew the likely outcome was that I would be removed from my vehicle and subjected to harassment, or worse, that I would be hurt or shot, even when complying with the officer. It's terrifying. In fact, it's state-sanctioned terror.

Policing, done right, is about helping everyone feel safer, not about controlling the behaviour of individuals to make the cop feel safe. Policing, done right, should feel like a helpful and friendly service, not like a threat, not like control in the name of authority. Policing, done right, should not make a routine traffic stop terrifying for anyone, let alone fatal.

Police have a huge power over us, and the means to enforce it. With that comes a responsibility to be better than us at handling interactions, to be more compassionate and more supportive, to be more in control and calm, to recognize and actively work against their own biases. Anyone who's not up to that inner work is not up to the job. When I see cops, I feel fear, because I've seen how power gets abused, and I don't know the person standing in front of me with a badge and a gun. He could be a good one. He could be a bad one.

When I see another black man shot, I don't think that it's not my problem. I don't feel any relief that it's less likely to happen to me because I'm white. It could still happen to me, but more than that, if it can happen to anyone, that means there are cops on our forces who don't have the control, compassion or capability to handle a simple traffic encounter without becoming violent. How many incompetent police are there? How many assholes to be offset by the ones who are truly called to serve? These people have power over us, but as a group they can't be trusted, and they protect each other. So how can any of us trust any of them, while this is the state they train each other into?

I know that if I keep my head down, smile and stay polite, it's unlikely that I will be targeted for violence. A black man does not know that. He has every reason to think the opposite.  As a white person I can hope things go smoothly and expect that my behaviour can help that along. As a black person, no matter how nice and polite and well-behaved, they still can't expect the stop to go smoothly. Nothing they can do in their behaviour can protect them from someone who perceives them as threatening the moment they lay eyes on the colour of their skin. It's an impossible position. It's an intolerable state.

When any officer acts this way, it reflects on the state of policing, and how the ways they use power and authority breed behaviours of power-over and violence. When that's combined with a weak character and racist, sexist or other biased world views, it's a recipe for...well, exactly what we see. I am distressed and disturbed, and I'm afraid for what will happen next.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sending and Receiving (A Tech Philosophy post)

My phone and my bluetooth speaker have trouble getting along. They just fail to connect. The speaker sends out a signal, but the phone isn't receiving. Then the phone sends out a signal, and the speaker doesn't receive it. Or, they both send signals at the same time; both wait for a signal at the same time. Each device reaches out, each device holds space, ready to receive, but the timing is off. It often takes me several minutes and more than a dozen tries before they finally connect.

They're both talking and listening, they're both programmed to allow the connection, they recognize each other, yet when it comes to performing the cooperative project I require using the capabilities each possesses, they fall short. Their goal, as assigned by me, is to play my music so I can hear it, right now. They struggle to achieve this goal, despite having the capacity and conditions for success.

This makes me think about people, at the one-on-one level, and at the organizational, national and global levels. Just the same. We're sending when we should be receiving. We're waiting for a signal when we should be reaching out. We're making multiple failed attempts at communicating and connecting. We are failing to perform the cooperative project we've been assigned, here - to find a way to respect all life and continue exploring with curious devotion. To play life as music, so we can all hear it. 

So I consider:

Where can I hold stillness to allow the message of the other? Where can I reach into an open space, meeting someone where they are with words they can hear? How might I do better at holding space to receive, and listening for the connection points? 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance: Equality and Freedom

Over the past two years I have been seeing more women in my neighbourhood wearing clothing of arab fashions - that is, completely covered in heavy material, heads covered, and, more and more often, faces completely covered except for the eyes peeking out. It's been jarring for me, it's taken adjustment.

Having rejected my own religion initially and primarily on the grounds that it discriminated against me as a woman, I find it hard to find my okay-ness with women having any set of rules applied to them that are not equally applied to men. To me, that fundamental discrimination is simply unacceptable. 

I feel a little lucky that I don't believe in a religion that holds me to uncomfortable standards only because I reside in a woman's body. I think it would be hard to live with cultural expectations that make me hide my smile, never feel the breeze on my cheeks, see every man outside my family as someone from whom to hide my body. 

 I think it would be even harder to hold an honest belief that there is one true god and he wants me to completely cover myself in the heat of day, despite having sent me to the planet naked. Knowing me, I would especially agonize over thought that, in following the will of that god, my visible choice could also symbolize and institutionalize inequality between the sexes for myself and the next generation. If I really believed in that god, and I really believed this is what he wanted from me, I would have no choice but to comply. 

Maybe I wouldn't mind the head cover, the half-mask that creates distance from people who can't see me smile back at them. Maybe I would take pride, even joy, in keeping my modesty intact, saving my body for the appropriate place and time. Maybe I wouldn't feel as hot in there as I imagine; maybe I wouldn't constantly itch to just rip it off.  Maybe it could truly be the most comfortable thing I have to wear. Maybe it would keep me feeling safe. 

As hard as it is for me, I hold those possibilities true, and allow that they, or other positive spins that I didn't think of, could be the experience of the women I see. I will give the respect of assuming that, if people are dressed in a particular way, it's because they want to be, because they like it or choose it. In that way, I can tolerate the choice. That doesn't mean I like it. 

I don't like the message it sends to my children and the other girls and boys of their generation, when females are told through visual cues that their bodies are meant to be hidden, that men can't be trusted to interact with them as humans unless they are covered up, that there is something secret, shameful or unsightly about their natural form. To me, it's just the other side of the sexualization coin. 

I'm a feminist. I don't agree with being held to more stringent rules of anything, including dress, simply because I find myself in a woman's body. I don't have a belief system to honour, I don't believe in a god that cares how I dress more than he cares about how men dress. I don't have a culture to respect -  women in my culture dress in all kinds of ways. I have pressures from media and society, but I have choices, and if I wanted to cover myself totally I would be allowed, just as I'd be allowed to wear a bikini if I wanted. I know my choices have limits, but I have them because of my situation.

I want to give everyone the respect of believing that they also have the same choices I do and are making theirs, but I fear that the structures, social expectations and interpretations of particular leaders through history have affected those choices, infected them with patriarchy, limited them by gender. Even feeling that fear feels wrong to me, because I can't know another woman's experience, but given what I've read and studied, I gather that not every woman who dresses fully covered is choosing it freely, or would choose it without the social prohibitions in place around her. 

Still, it feels condescending to consider freedom of choice, since we're all steeped in our own culture's tea, so I come back to respect. I have a choice how I dress. The covered women I see have a choice how they dress. Their choice honours their beliefs, but symbolizes, for me, institutionalized inequality. As a feminist, I have to accept that. I have to believe in their personhood and their right to choose. 

But I have a hard time moving from tolerance to acceptance. Because I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my laws. I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my schools. I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my workplaces. I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my own inherited religion. I don't accept institutionalized inequality in the world. 

For more than a century, people in Canada and elsewhere have been fighting for equal rights, and equal choices for all. For women, a big part of that has been the right to dress and look how we choose and be treated with respect. We expect/respect that men will take care of themselves, we believe in them and trust that they are capable of interacting with us as equals. Together with our men, women have pressured systems to protect us properly; we have stepped up and asked men to take responsibility for their violence, their sexualization of women, their role in using the patriarchy to hold us as a second class. We have demanded the same rights and freedoms men enjoy, This is an ongoing struggle, far from won. 

When anyone wears symbols of institutionalized inequality in everyday view as something to be celebrated and proud of, it's very hard for those of use who fight those symbols in every other aspect of life to say, hey, I'm proud of your choice, sister. I want to, I really do, but I feel about headscarves and face-covers the way I feel about a guy walking around in a "no fatties" t-shirt. To me, they both symbolize aspects of culture that patriarchy has used to bind and control women, keep them from pursuing their own full personhood outside of gender-based social roles, and ensure that men maintain authority. 

I live with this cognitive and emotional dissonance every day. I don't talk about it - I don't trust people to understand the nuance of my concerns. I also realize that my view is painted with privilege, probably rife with prejudices I haven't learned enough to see or overcome yet. I work hard to see. 

I know that I need to defend the rights of free speech and choice even when I don't agree with what is being said. But I don't like feeling like my philosophical objections to the objectifications of patriarchy can't be addressed because they apply to people coming from other cultures or races, or simply because they are "religious." Religion has been a tool of the patriarchy for all time - both Christians and Muslims are far from exempt in this regard.  How will we ever get to real conversations if I can't assert my belief in equality without being told I'm religiously or culturally intolerant? It seems like just another way to isolate women from each other.

In the end, I support the rights of all people to choose what they wear. There are a lot of people wearing things I don't support - sexist jokes on t-shirts, overly sexualized bathing suits on young kids, people covered head to toe with just their eyes peeking out - to me, it's all the same problem. I don't like to see any of it, because to me these modes of dress all point to a large-scale epidemic of institutionalized gender inequality. But despite that, because of it, fundamentally, I support the right of every person to choose how they express through clothing. That's where I sit, today. That's the best I can do.