Tender

Tender

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. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Why not sleep?

Resting
Why not sleep
if you're done,
let the day have run its course
let the night come on full force
let the doing go
let the thinking flow away
keep fear at bay
sink softly, gently, kindly between sheets
daily feats complete
head nestled sweet and loved and warm
leave all behind until the morn
when all begins again?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Motivation and Clawbacks

I've been thinking about the "Basic Income" experiment in Ontario. The goal feels...off.

What if we aren't trying to lift people out of poverty? What if we are helping all citizens feel motivated to live a full life, and making sure they have what they need to do that? How will things change?

To feel motivated, people need to feel they have the capacity (emotional, time, health, support) and resources (money, credit, support) to handle the challenges they are likely to face in pursuing their lives.

I have observed, over and over, that the intrinsic nature of humans is to try to better their position from wherever they find themselves. Motivation in humans appears to require only two ingredients: a strong desire for something, and the belief that action can result in fulfillment of that desire. When either ingredient is lacking, we see Motivation's opposite: Apathy. Or, worse, we see his evil twin, Anger.

I can't care about whether someone is lazy while I work for the betterment of myself and society - who am I to judge their choices when I don't know their lives? I do care that they don't cause problems in my happy life or the pursuit of my motivation. So, I'd rather some people be lazy than criminal, than obnoxious, than resentful, than desperate, than afraid, than angry, than in despair, than under pressure. All of which, whether we believe it or not, become significantly alleviated when one stops worrying about having something nutritious to eat and somewhere safe and stable to live.

Here's the important crux: I don't think we actually have to worry about the lazy bums getting by on our dime. After much exploration and observation, I have come to the conclusion that they are edge-cases or ill; in the first instance, allowing them to coast costs little, and in the second, effective supports become important. But the vast majority of people would find their way to motivation if they didn't have to worry about rent. It's a real opportunity for community building. Nation building.

And so, to the Government of Ontario, I say:

The beauty of a basic income without clawbacks is that it distributes the dividends from our shared resources in such a way as to cover the very minimum requirements to stay alive and participate in life, at all. Work, after that, is tied directly to motivation, allowing motivation to become an individual choice based on life stage and needs. It does so while eliminating a great deal of bureaucratic tracking and enforcement. 
In Canada, we have an opportunity to try the Basic Income. We have a chance to show that when the basics are met, most people can find their motivation for what's next, will innovate and grow. But instead, we're squandering our chance with clawbacks that turn it into a welfare increase and fail to take advantage of process efficiencies. 
Worse, by calling this a Basic Income pilot, we are ruining the good name of Basic Income by not really doing the experiment we said we would. The point of a Basic Income is not to distribute money to poor people. The point of a Basic Income is to provide hope. It's to say, this is the floor that's holding you up, now you can stand and walk around; don't worry, we won't pull up sections of floor behind you. 
It's wrong to claw back. It distorts the spirit of the experiment. The lack of claw back is the whole point. If you're afraid people won't like it, try using your welfare and disability budgets to give the Basic Income universally. See how many people want it canceled after a year. See how much more money is flowing through the economy. See how many fewer road rage incidents occur. 

For the rest of us...

Rather than prescribing what motivation must look like, allowing each person to find motivation means covering off Maslow's bottom rung. There's a lot we need to adjust to as we realize just how far off course we've allowed things to go, if our goal is to have a relatively happy life that doesn't come at the expense of other people's misery and the destruction of our planet.

Many people say they want happiness for all, but they don't believe we can do it. So many people holding that belief is why we can't. I do believe we can do it, if we set a goal, honestly try, and give it enough time. At least, that's how I choose to try to live. I find it more encouraging than apathy and anger.

(thoughts on the 46th anniversary of the day I joined this planet)



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Speak

Poised

Love, the ultimate four letter word,
so powerful it has been feminized
and thus degraded.

What would Love do
if I loved you
if I let what you see be true
knowing my sight is too, true,
separate and equal
holding in opposition the same three dimensional space?

Whose questions are these to ask?
Not mine, too big for me.
The asking asks too much; it's not my place.
I beg this to be true
all the while knowing
my voice belongs to me
to use.
How I choose
is what makes me.




Thursday, March 9, 2017

Models and Values (some thoughts on business, in two parts)

 Part 1: Models
I was a consumer of models. Tools, diagrams, approaches, instructions, guides. The more I consumed, the more they contradicted and overlapped, repeated and denied, stripped understanding bare of meaning, into just knowing how to do. 
I was a teacher of models. Approaches, combinations, ways to engage, showing proven ways to simplify, problem-solve, get the same results consistently, meet the requirements and goals. The problems always rooted where the desire to solve them lacked depth. 
I was a creator of models. Frameworks, mind-maps, system diagrams and ways to understand. Boundaries tend to limit, definitions to simplify. Crafting the framework distracts and obfuscates the whole. Pieces expand and multiply into a thousand competing details. 
In the end, the master model I navigate sums into one line:
honour my values as I create value




Part 2: Values and Value in Business

Change happens person by person, generation by generation. Models won't solve the root problems, which are truly common at the core, no matter how often and well those models are applied.

Within each of our DNA lies a sequence, a code of possibility to play out over our lifetime. Feeling that code in body, mind and spirit, working with its energy and not against, becomes the work to learn. It's not a set of instructions; it's a story to read, a feeling to experience, a knowing to follow. How do we access our potential into a life that satisfies what matters most?

And what does any of that have to do with business?

Businesses are the framework of activities engaged by humans to transform resources into value.

Currently, most activities of most businesses work against human potential at the individual level. From childhood to old age, people are worked for many hours of most of their days, generally at or exceeding their capacity, until they succumb to illness, exhaustion or lack of will. They are discouraged from feeling or expressing emotions in their workplaces, asked to engage their minds and bodies in activities unrelated to what matters most to them, and to close off the parts of themselves that might rebel against this situation.

Most businesses thus fail to engage the natural potential of the humans in their systems. They treat people like they should mimic machines and expect people to perform at a high level all of the time. At the same time, most humans use most of their time and energy in pursuit of goals that matter to the business more than they matter to them, while ignoring, rejecting or yearning for more of their time and energy for something else.

We like to pretend that kinder, gentler workplaces, or compassion training for managers, or more engagement and teambuilding will change this fundamental disconnect. Perhaps it is possible to run a business where every person cares about business success at a deep level, bringing their highest personal value in a way that honours what truly matters most to them. But it doesn't sound particularly scaleable to most leaders.

The good news is, people don't need to be fully self-actualized at work. They'd never survive if they were, and most people have learned to discipline themselves to the point where they barely notice. Humans are social creatures who naturally have a desire to align their goals, values and selfness to the organization that allows their livelihood. They want to see the meaning in what they do, and feel they are honouring their potential and what matters most to them. They're ready for it.

Businesses have an opportunity to benefit significantly from more of people's creative potential with very little effort. Even one or two legitimate steps towards engagement at a values level will unleash the kind of loyalty and creativity we call true competitive advantage.  There are already lots of models and frameworks that represent important steps forward - enough for years of business transformation.

What interests me most is what comes after that.




Sunday, March 5, 2017

debt (a small poetic cry)

if I let myself acknowledge the extent of gratitude owing if I feel my debt in full for all the ways that others made me those around me and those whose misery feeds my happiness whose labour feeds my tummy whose jeopardy feeds my safety whose oppression made my luck if I let myself see it, for an instant, at a distance how can I possibly go on?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Musings at an end-point

When I rate my relative health and happiness before I started this big experiment, this attempt to allow emergence to emerge, to let my business find its path without forcing it through the meat-grinders I've been taught, I find I'm less healthy and less happy than when I started. Do I know myself better? Much. Have I learned a lot about myself, others, and the Energy of What Is? Definitely. Do I have some great ideas and buds of direction? Sure. But am I happier? Definitely not. Am I healthier? Less healthy. Do I have more time for what matters? Quite the opposite.

I left paid employment when my health forced me - I simply couldn't keep up to the full-time expectations and also take care of myself and my family. I looked for and tried out so many ways to get back to commercial viability - that is, a decent income - without a job, while honouring my gifts and my true nature. Maybe I tried too many ways. Maybe too much trying and not enough completing. Maybe too slowly - but that was why I left full-time work in the first place. It doesn't matter. All the reasons aren't the reason. The reason doesn't hold the answers.

I come to the end, with more debt, more stress and anxiety, more weight and poorer sleep. I come back to ground zero worse off - more tired, more discouraged, and with a deeper sense that what I was fighting against was the reality that I may not have a "tribe" here on Earth - there may  not be people ready to receive what I bring in a way that lets me build up the parts of life most important to me without going bankrupt. And if those people actually were out there, I may not have what it takes to find them and help them understand and act. I fall short. Reality I suspected and ignored, hoped away.

I stand on this side of my big attempts with all I have failed to disprove, proofs I didn't want to find, and few ideas. I wonder if there is any point in any of the directions before me. The ones that seemed most logical have been most elusive, and the ones that seemed like pipedreams - the ones I denied and delayed, withheld myself permission to pursue - they sit, stagnant and resentful, staring at me and wondering if they can forgive me for not believing in them. Even as I still don't, not really.

I don't think I'm so different from everyone else. I see, and I want to be seen and known and appreciated for the wholeness of what I bring. It's not my fault that my wholeness seems to be over-large, that others haven't built their own power enough to stand beside me without feeling overpowered. But it is my problem. A problem I have no interest in solving, right now, even if I have no choice but to try.

What will I owe the Multiverse if I waste what's left of the potential within me? What do I owe for the privilege of my Being? And in the end, how on Earth am I supposed to tie that to an income?

Here I am again and still.







Saturday, January 14, 2017

Reversal (a micro fable)

Reversal
On that day the woman, Reason, birthed her twins in a warm room in a cold land, witnessed only by the Father. In the custom of her people she named them from The Virtues: Logic and Sense. From the start, the children lived up to their names. They fed the heart-fires of their namesake Virtues within themselves, not noticing or caring for the fires that starved out, the ones burning as embers under ash. Logic pursued pure thinking, data-based, unencumbered by the unprovable, or mere feelings. Sense trusted “gut feel,” believing that the body held information of value based on experience. Making opposite choices, the siblings’ natures seemed set at odds. Neither could respect the decisions of the other from their own viewpoint. Reason found herself helpless, seeing the beauty in the ways of each child, torn in the conflicts that inevitably rose between their ways of seeing, their ways of being. But there was something more at the heart of her distress. In truth, Reason felt a nagging sensation, a long-held suspicion, a secret shame; that on the first morning of their birth, she had accidentally reversed their names.