Saturday, January 28, 2017

Project(s) Update: We Must Fight Divide and Conquer, We Must Unify (at least The Left Does)


I’ll keep this one short because my emotions and patience feel short.

Transcribed for the novel a couple mornings. Added a few points to an outline for the project essay I’m working on.

Otherwise, oversleeping, work, injury, and the whirlwind of the political climate (both the dumb assery and the truly horrible).

I planned to ruminate on the gaslighting and “divide and conquer” that has occurred since before the primary election, continues to this day, and will only end when we, the people, make it end. The “dividing and conquering” has been source from the Right and Left, radicals, liberals, conservatives, and reactionaries.

My main take away of this is that the Left needs to unify, the people on the side of economic justice need to realize that social justice IS important (or to some people, “Identity Politics”), that everyone on the economic outside want the economic justice battle won (be they white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, First Nation, no matter their ethnicity or race), allowing the “divide and conquer” to continue its reign will make the economic and social state remain horrible and probably get much much worse (as it is in the here and now), and that the Left needs candidates and people in office that will embody this unity to put a stop to today’s fascism and injustice.

That being said, I posted this Tweet earlier today:

Yes, people have to fight for justice. When possible, that fight must not relent.

Nonetheless, for some, the fight starts with themselves and their body. It doesn’t help that for some people, the state of history and society (small as personal to large as world) has created their self-opponent. Being physically injured sometimes does not help with cognition. Combining the two doesn’t help.

In the end, do the innocent and injured need to defend themselves? Do the fatigued need to push themselves past the point of irreparable harm? Must they push themselves to the point of not being able to help in the future? Do they deserve being shamed for their demons that hold them back, or should they receive support to become a stronger activist in the future? Is it worth the risk of pushing them further deeper into themselves and turn them off? Can they help anyone if they hurt themselves?

No. They need support, propping, and building up. They need kindness, compassion, and appreciation. Honestly, if someone doesn’t have the patience to wait for someone else injured, depressed, anxious, shy, or any other innocent but weak position, they should just move on and work to mobilize people who have the strength to act.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Project(s) Update: Exploring Nuances of Kindness and Appreciation within Our Power Dynamics


I had minimal concrete progress in my projects this week:

The end of my week got a little unproductive, though, as a I had a small bike accident. Thursday and Global Warming gifted Chicago with a beautiful warm and little wind day. As I turned off the bike path on way to work, I didn’t pay the best attention as the beautiful weather had it all. The lack of wind also didn’t slow me down.

I hit a patch of ice, back wheel slipped away, then I found myself trying to roll into a defensive ball to avoid hitting my head against a stone wall. Didn’t get close to the wall, thank goodness. Instead, I hit my knee cap and the elbow from the arm I used to break my fall rammed into a rib, two, or three and now feel bruised and a little embarrassed internally. Overall, though, it happens, time to rest a little then move on with life. Thank goodness for OTC painkillers like Ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

My internal debating has had an active time, though. Riding the bike, commuting, and doing some fairly repetitive health insurance service and analytical work allows the ruminating mind some time to think. Same with ironing, laundry, eating, and plenty of life reproductive maintenance activities.

This week, I’ve done some analysis of the language I’ve used in last week’s update and some of my social media updates. I specifically refer to my statements about being kind and compassionate to each other. As a white cis-male who identifies with a heterosexual lifestyle, I fear these words may come off as condescending.

It’s one thing to encourage people that they need to engage in self-care and show themselves kindness and compassion. Many of us feel disappointment in ourselves, frustrated with ourselves, and may see ourselves as failures, mainly because we have the imagination to see where we would like to be, what we would like to do, and even how to get there. Often times, however, we have yet to accomplish our goals, for whatever reason.

I have no problem supporting people by encouraging them to show themselves kindness and not beat themselves up. Life has difficulties and puts barriers in our way. Most of us have had pasts that have beaten us up. Many of us probably go through things everyday where we get beaten up. We want to do everything, but if we keep beating ourselves up for not accomplishing anything and thinking we can’t do anything more, we’ll likely never accomplish anything because we won’t have faith in ourselves. We are our worst critic and enemy.

So, please be kind and compassionate to yourself. Do more than just care for yourself. Let yourself know that it’s OK to have these thoughts, acknowledge them as a part of our automatic mind routines, let them flit and and process through our mind. The more we fight them, the more they will fight back and stronger they will get. Research techniques for working with them, if you don’t have any. In the end, though, we all have the strength and ability to accomplish the things we need and want to do. Acknowledging our urges to beat ourselves up is the first step to letting go of it then learning how to let it pass will help a lot to moving onward onto the things we want to do.

However, I feel my urgings to everyone to “be kind and compassionate” to each other comes off as problematic. First off, many people, whether as individuals or as a group/community, exist in a problematic state where showing kindness and compassion to their abuser or oppressive force will only enable and encourage such horrible behavior. Such behavior and actions might be required for survival, depending on the status of the individual or group, but that behavior and actions should not have the intention of kindness and compassion.

The oppressed and marginalized must remember they only act in these ways for their survival, so one day they may find an opportunity to get out, to fight, and reach a point of independence and health. No one should have to accept their oppression as natural, whether they oppress themselves or someone else does it.

And for those who have broken free of their oppression and marginalization or fight the good fight, they need not show kindness and compassion to those who seek to minimize them for the first time or again, whether consciously or not. No one should have to deal with that shit. At this point, maintaining integrity and dignity is a point of survival, much like maintaining life and health by passive aggressively fighting oppression and marginalization when under another person’s or group’s heel. When coming from below, those on high must be held accountable to human dignity and must earn any kindness and compassion from those below.

I need to use the Explanatory Comma more to clarify with whom I’m directing my words. I direct these words to the people and community with power, privilege, and representation. More specifically, I need to make apparent that I aim my words at other cis-white straight males and those who align with them for the privilege and representation, even the hard-working white people of Middle America and Coal Country.

It comes down to the fact that we hurt ourselves and prevent ourselves from growing happiness and joy in the world and for ourselves. I have no problem making a selfish argument for kindness, compassion, and happiness. I don’t mean just a show of it, either. I mean genuine, sincere kindness, compassion, and appreciation for those unlike ourselves. Such expressions and behavior can even mean learning to shut up, sit back, listen and watch. You can learn a lot by just observing. Heck, even among our own privileged community, we can stand to be quiet and observe each other.

And while sitting back, watching/listening, showing kindness, compassion, and appreciation, doing so in a genuine and sincere fashion means not patronizing, not fetishizing, not putting people unlike yourself on a pedestal, and other ways of making others The Other and/or a Thing, an object. These are people, like yourself. Even saying treating people with “kindness and compassion” feels like patronizing them.

At the same time, care, dignity, respect, integrity, rights, and other words we use everyday feel too status quo, just another way we can sweep things under the rug. . .especially since we can then feel like putting things into a perspective of tit-for-tat. Those with privilege feel attacked when they don’t feel like they’re being treated with dignity, respect, and integrity when they’re being treated that way because they’ve treated marginalized people this way for centuries.

They (we) are receiving a quid pro quo treatment. We treat people like shit, those people will treat us like shit back. And hey, I may even get treated like shit. I may receive it collaterally or, even in this essay, I may say something stupid. If that’s the case, I hope to listen, take the reaction seriously, and adjust my thoughts and behavior.

Honestly, I like seeing happy people, I like seeing all people happy, healthy, receptive, kind, and compassionate. If those with power, privilege, and interact from on high, can gather more enjoyment from propping others up and supporting each other, especially those who need it most, they can get it back, whether it be in kind or by seeing that real power comes from helping, encouraging, seeing the growth of others, and learning from them.

Heck, who knows? Maybe if we all pitch into appreciating each other, we don’t have to work so hard to convince ourselves that we’re worth being appreciated, too.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Grieving the Obama's Leaving the White House

Ever since President Obama’s farewell speech about a week ago, I tear up anytime I think about or hear/see something about him or his family. This state of mine specifically started when the President took a moment to thank Michelle and his girls: the moment he took out that cloth to wipe away his tear(s) and the camera focused on Michelle and one of the girls trying to hold themselves together: I think I’m grieving Barack stepping down as President and the Obama family leaving the White House.

By Lawrence Jackson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ll mention some of the realistic side of things before pouring praise onto the President. Barack was not a perfect President.

  • He caused a lot of harm in his orders to use drones. Even using drones perfectly still has an unsettling feeling, considering how much discomfort I felt about GWB using shock and awe air strikes to defeat Iraq rather than send ground troops in.
  • Barack has the title of “Deporter in Chief”, even though Trump will take on the title with more gusto.
  • He never seemed to have a good way to address police violence against black people and other people of color. Arguably, though, this problem may have come more from his idealism and general goodness in all people that have passed the line of irredeemable evil.
  • And I bet given more time, more people, and/or more research, a list of many disappointments and features worth censure could be made.
Despite such a list, though, the balance of his accomplishments and failures lean more toward one of the best Presidents of the United States I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Just some amazing things he accomplished that make me really happy:
I’m sure at least a few people will feel justified to protest against a couple, a few, or all of the above accomplishments I’ve listed. This list provides, to me though, his most unequivocal accomplishments that have bettered this country and have increased the acceptance of more humans into the circle of deserving kind, respectable, and considerate treatment because they are a unique combination of matter, time, events, and consciousness worthy of appreciation.

These policies and appointments just touch the surface of President Obama and his family entering my heart in a way that no Presidential family has. Despite criticism that Michelle received for saying, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country, because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback”, I felt what she said when I first heard those words. I feel them even moreso now as I feel that pride fall away into despairing fear because in less than 48 hours, President-elect Trump will take office.

The Obama’s didn’t just give hope lip service. They embodied it and projected it out into the world. Just re-read the accomplishments that I listed above, the expansion of humanity in law and government that they created and the acceptance created. Just some of her initiatives and actions to improve the health and state of being of the American people:
And that’s how much I could find with minimal research. I can only imagine how much more I could find if I looked longer and harder.

I feel like it comes down to this, though: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Robinson Obama feel very much like loving Parents of the United States more than President and First Lady. They sincerely care about the United States and the world, and they did (will do) everything in their power to make it better. They want to boost us up, help us become better, inspire the hope and courage in ourselves, and when things go south, they want to comfort us. Even during times of frustration and disbelief about horrible things, the President showed more disbelief and disappointment than blind anger that would seek to engage in violence or tirades (unlike a soon-to-be-President that many in our country fear).

Along with their inspiration and creating hope, the Presidential had a level of sincerity and a genuine disposition. They let their guard down and showed themselves as real people. President Obama acted as a role model as President seeking to do the best he could, but Barack, Michelle, and their girls provided a role model for family. Barack and Michelle fist bumping, their public displays of affection, their dancing together, their verbal expressions of love and faith in each other. I can’t remember any other Presidential couple showing such public effusiveness and comfort in front of the American people, in a wholesome and supportive, not indecent, way.

I always gave a side eye to people who showed emotion during political campaigns or for the candidates they supported. Fascination with the royalty in England always puzzled me. Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha, however, have contributed to me feeling the kind of emotion and inspiration that role models can give people.

I’m even grateful to feel this sadness about them leaving the White House, even though I expect we’ll see them plenty after this Friday (maybe not right away. . .they can use a vacation!). Maybe they won’t hold any political office, but I have a hard time seeing them stay in the background when the country and world still has far to go for improvement and to be engorged in hope.

Thank you, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. You have provided us a bright star of hope from the top of the world. I hope won’t need the remembrance of your time at the head too much to carry us through the next four to eight years. Even if we don’t, though, I will look back fondly on the years between January 2009 and January 2017 as a time of hope, pride, positivity, and inspiration to more everyday to make the world a better place and spread kindness, compassion, and the broadening of our definition of humanity.

Enjoy your much-deserved vacation. I look forward to seeing you again as a model to aspire toward.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Project(s) Update: Learning About Appreciation and Kindness


I like the idea of a weekly update for my project(s) on The Lextopia.

I put parenthesis around the the ‘s’ because my “bachelor project” has played the part of an organizing principle for my behavior, beliefs, and action in the world. Many in my life probably think that approach to the “bachelor project” doesn’t help me. Not finishing the project gets in the way of me getting my bachelors degree, which gets in the way of my progressing career-wise and in societal symbols of maturity.

To that, I say that I actually have a fair amount of personal growth to do for maturity, which includes learning who I am, the details of my beliefs (I have this ingrained issue with ‘doing good for the sake of doing good’), accepting them, then figuring out how to execute them in the world. I’ll admit, I could choose a more luxurious way to progress through the world. Also, I have a privileged history and background that allows me this approach.

Taking everything into account, though, my current path has more benefit than cost overall. Also, my internal error checker, conscience, ruminating dialogue, obsessive sense of integrity won’t leave me alone about THIS topic and doing so on a level of perfectionism. Adopting verbiage from Design Thinking, I’m accepting that the drive to resolve my project(s) on these terms as fact, not a problem.

Strangely enough, my current branching stream of consciousness and research hopefully has a twin benefit:

  • Providing a major premise for my project, one that has been bothering me for the last 16+ years, as in, I’ve believed it but didn’t know how to discuss it
  • Understanding this premise should me calm down my perfectionist tendencies
Before getting deeper into that, though, quick concrete update (from a Facebook post): 4 months of writing semi-regularly 10-20 minutes before work yields "21" pages of handwritten 4th chapter. Working on 4th 1st draft rewrite [of novel]. Add on for now: I’ve transcribed a couple pages during the same morning 10-20 minutes. Enjoying this re-read. I like handwriting on super rough draft then transcribing onto the computer. It provides an enjoyable experience, allows me to note to self ideas to integrate and take, and gives me the chance to do mini-tweaks as I do a run through.

Also, I’ve re-visited the idea of releasing the novel as some type of income creating serial. I don’t think I have enough confidence in myself to release it in parts, though. I’ve done so many changes based on what to expect down the road after reaching that point, world building could get weird as I change things after learning more about the world, and I’m just uncomfortable setting things into stone earlier in the story then blocking going where I had originally planned later in the story (instead of weighing the issues on both ends).

Another way to put it: I don’t have my techniques and tricks down enough to plan ahead for details. I figure completing a novel or more and getting them published will help me get the down while also building confidence.

And some progress on the essay/intellectual basis of the project on utopianism, which brings us back to my current stream of consciousness and research this week. The last few months, I moved from trying to understand how shame contributes a lot to antisocial behavior to how compassion contributes to pro-social behavior and psychological health. Apparently, per Paul Gilbert Ph.D’s introduction in The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life’s Challenges, researchers often take this path from shame to compassion.

This book has provided me a great resource for both my project and personal development. It has done a lot for helping me understand the phrase “Be kind [or compassionate] to yourself.” I don’t treat myself bad as in insulting myself, saying that I’m worthless, or anything like that. Rather, I’m hard on myself for not accomplishing the things I want to do or feeling satisfied with my “progress” in my life. Seeing the mounds to do on my task lists doesn’t help, either (both personal, household, and professionally). Thrown on knowing that I need connection and a social life, too! And also feeling the compulsion for social and political activism. . .Being a perfectionist is hard and tiring!

Installing ruminations of “Be kind to yourself” into the brain helps. Seeing it bout it out and infect perfectionism has its comedy value, too. Perfectionism goes into so many loops when it tries to perfect taking it easy and chilling out.

Seeing the personal benefits of compassion, both pointed inward and outward, has made me more comfortable with my argument that compassion/kindness should make for an indisputable argument for a rational person. How to properly apply that compassion outwardly, however, tripped me up. Another Facebook post of mine this week sent me down this road:
Couple years ago, read article with gay man saying that he didn't want just tolerance, he wanted [appreciation]. [Inspiring] sentiment.
These words fall into line with a conclusion from one of my project essays that gives me a lot of pride compared to the other essays I’ve written so far. It also falls in with psychological theory from Rollo May and a lot of discussion out there about “hard working rural white voters” and radicalization of people.

The quote and my conclusion in that essay doesn’t feel complete. They feel problematic, actually. For one, the actions taken by radicalized people because they aren’t receiving appreciation goes to far. Then, sourced in my universal acceptance/belief that appreciation is every human’s need, it’s hard to argue against privileged people fighting to keep their privilege and marginalized people fighting to get appreciation, too. Does the drive to receive a pro-social action need to lead to antisocialness, anger, violence, and other horrible things, both for those receiving an abundance of it and those with a dearth of it? Based on that, we’re in a Hobbesian State of Nature.

Then throw on there the sincerity aspect of throwing appreciation and kindness everywhere. I’ve discovered that I have a hangup about receiving personal benefit of showing kindness to the world. I have something of a martyr complex about it. It kind of goes along with the age old criticism I have with believing in God and accepting Jesus because you will go to Heaven. Is someone believing and accepting because they want to get into Heaven or do they REALLY believe and accept God and Jesus because of what they stand for?

So I’m in the middle of the sincerity of appreciation stream of consciousness. Is someone just engaging in appreciating things for their own benefit or because they REALLY appreciate something. Should someone fake until they make it? What if it’s something that really shouldn’t be appreciated, like killing and other horrible things? What if it’s something that doesn’t spark interest? What if someone doesn’t have an interest in appreciating something other than to make the world a better place, whether for themselves or some martyr reason? Can appreciation become disrespectful and fetishizing? What if someone has been taught that a perfectly harmless thing is horrible? Or what if something really does have conflicting good and bad values one way or the other? What if being kind and appreciative sacrifices your identity, integrity, and body? When is that OK? And is it OK to enjoy being kind and appreciative? Can someone lose the privilege of receiving appreciation and kindness or does being a unique combination of space, time, and biology enough to receive kindness and appreciation?

So yeah, that’s where I am with my internal dialogue, views on social justice, and my project(s).

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Saturday, January 07, 2017

We're Embedded in a Cycle of Horrible Humanity & Need to Work to Get Out

In the studies for my project/book, the big thing I learned but always knew is how the problems in our come from individuals being embedded in the flow & momentum of life. Individuals just react rather than examine the situations occurring. In this embeddedness, it's easier in the moment to strike out to survive or to gain an upper hand.

We all have notions & talk the talk that we believe peace, compassion & other good things will make the world better. More often than not, though, our instinct & first thoughts are to look out for number 1, our family, our race, our gender, our country, etc.

This survival/ambition instinct only furthers the cycles we're embedded. To rise above it, we need to stop, examine, learn develop wisdom, develop insight, develop empathy, develop compassion, develop forethought. Otherwise we will destroy the world, the environment, each other & ourselves. Break out of cycles, we can develop joy & real appreciation.

I'm not religious, but I think St Francis of Assissi & others knew the importance of this.

I have privilege, but I have instincts & thoughts of survival that get in my way of taking real risks to improve the world. Some people & populations need to focus on survival & compassion for self before acting outward or a mixed approach.

I need to act where & when I can to pull out of the cycle & encourage others to do the same. That often means those I need to act where & when I can to pull out of the cycle & encourage others to do the same. That often means those like me who will listen to me but not to those not like me. It's hard work on myself first then outward.

But the first step is to pull myself & ourselves out of this cycle of angry despair & fear to see its absurdity & destructiveness.

That has probably been my biggest holdup with finishing my novel/project. . .finding out convincing confirmation & argument that this cycle sucks & another approach will benefit us with more joy & appreciation. More work to do.