Frienemy

Sometimes it’s hard to be our own best friend when we’re also our own worst enemy. We’ve been taught we need to regulate ourselves, but we haven’t been taught how, so we do it in all the wrong ways. We don’t need to curb our enthusiasm, we need to know when to employ it. We have somehow forgotten that of all the people in this lifetime we will meet and get to know, only one is sure to stay here from head to toe.

We can be our own best friend, and it’s well worth the effort. Not just because we’re stuck with ourselves – since no matter where you go, there you are, but because we’re the best resource for others who want to know us as well. No one can know us like we know ourselves, but we don’t automatically come knowing everything, since we’re inside of our experiences and living them out organically while we discover the world and ourselves within it. It takes time and effort to get to know ourselves, and then project ourselves outward.

Building our identity and growing into it is not just a selfish gesture. We occupy space and time in our communities, our jobs, our relationships – in this world. We absolutely affect those around us with our choices, even when we choose inaction or retreat. Whether or not we’d rather be noticed has no bearing on the fact that we are. Humans aren’t playing blackjack with the world as some authoritarian dealer – they’re playing poker and they trade off being dealer in turns.

As we have no choice but to be part of our surroundings, it’s up to us to define who we are and what we’re doing. It’s up to us to recognize our shortcomings, weaknesses, oversights; our failings and fears. But it’s not just our mistakes we need to learn about, since those tend to linger malignantly picking away out our confidence and self respect anyway. There’s something far more important and often neglected in our sense of self, in who we are.

We need to learn what’s best about ourselves: our strengths, our skills, our abilities, our greatness. If we don’t sufficiently find those out then how are to help them grow and flourish? We’ve got to see them as our keys to making ourselves who want to be, and by extension, remake the world into the better place it could be. It’s up to us to see and share the best parts of ourselves for the greater good, just as much as we need to own our faults in efforts to overcome them.

Loving ourselves has become an onus though, some sort of terrible obligation. Many of us have been taught to hate ourselves, or simply disregard ourselves as irrelevant. Most of that comes from disempowerment through manipulation from outside forces like the marketplace and the media (kissing cousins to say the least). But those pressures are very real and have dire consequences in the form of a highly unstable, emotional populace that is confused and scared about everything.

As much as loving ourselves has become a fad, it’s disingenuous often, or misunderstood. Defensiveness is not the same as pride or respect. It has become commonplace to see people joking about self hatred, even suicide and declaring “don’t judge me!” – both online and in public settings. These are clearly cries for self love in a time when it’s still not being achieved effectively by the masses, despite clichés and platitudes being tossed around extravagantly. It’s understandable and part and parcel of loving ourselves to accept ourselves as we are – but that means actual acceptance, not loudly expressing something we still judge as inadequate.

True self love is very difficult to achieve, I’m not going to minimize or deny that. But recent trends have led to a disturbing mix of defensive self loathing and wretched insecurity that are derived from a number of sources, notably broader societal pressure to seem “well adjusted” when we’re simply not. Or to avoid being burdensome to others, seeing ourselves as damaged or broken. In fact, that narrative of being broken or damaged has been woven into the stories and culture that are passed along to our next generation as well. We see it in in memes online, hear it in songs, and tragically, it’s been wrapped up in our visions of love.

So many feel like they are incomplete, because that’s what they’ve absorbed from messages in their surroundings. When we discount and dishearten ourselves that way, we take the pain handed to us by outside forces and re-victimize ourselves with it regularly. Each one of us may have struggled in our time, and may show scars from trouble along the way. But that’s the best part about being human, we’re malleable – our parts cannot truly break like things mechanical. Our hearts do not break as we’ve been told, they get bruised and battered but each still holds some grain of hope, even in a sea of confusion, no matter how despondent we get.

But there is someone still there in the bottom of that well of doubt and misery we can fall into. It’s the only person who can remind us that messages may about, but it’s what’s inside us that counts in the end. We may drive others away, 0r tell them we’re fine, or they may even leave us behind on purpose. Yet still there remains in the darkest of places, one person we can always count on. Maybe we’ve kicked this one while down, maybe we’ve left ourselves hanging out to dry, maybe sometimes we forget or give up for a little while, but there’s still one person we haven’t yet managed to get rid of, despite it all.

We can and should and desperately need to turn and look at the person inside each of us. We’ve got to hold on tight and never let go, and love that one like we love comfort and fun.

I used to think it was just another pop song, but I’ll turn it into my anthem now.
I couldn’t say it better myself: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.”

 

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My grandma always said “That’s simply your perception.”

I had already begun to write this post a while back, but had wanted to wait until the moment felt right to start drafting specific language for it. I already had the concept, the sentiment in mind. But I needed something succinct to put this in perspective. This morning that inspiration came as I heard a woman tell another about her own experience, and it was perfect. She and the other gal had been talking about changes in our biology over time. As we grow older things change, and for fertile women many changes happen from pregnancy as well. One mentioned that migraines never afflicted her until after she’d given birth. The other responded by telling her about how until her own panic attacks, she had previously believed that health conditions like migraines or panic attacks were not real, that it was “all in their head”, meaning that to her way of thinking, these people were not actually experiencing anything. She specified that she felt that way because she had never personally experienced the condition in question.

What I find so interesting is that although this person did not follow her own logic to its natural conclusion, and she had been living with a huge misconception at the foundation of her reality. As much as she didn’t say it this way, the stark truth is that this woman believed that if she had not already personally experienced something, that it was genuinely not real – that it did not exist at all. She truly did not understand, and may still not understand, that it is possible for someone to experience something that A) she hasn’t yet experienced, but more importantly, B) could not experience. This woman isn’t alone, and across the world countless people only believe what they have personally lived through, while disregarding anything outside of their own experience.

This is at the heart of what we consider reality to be, which shapes what we do, what we tell others, what we promote and what we pass on. When I first alighted on this concept, I knew that anecdotal evidence is the key. People will trot out and polish their own experiences while denying very real evidence that may contradict their conclusions. They assume that their reasoning has led them to an accurate analysis of that situation, and by extension, life in general. They believe strongly in their own abilities to form opinions based on their own experience exclusively. Somehow, it seems to me a grossly overlooked aspect that one’s experience is not equivalent to one’s analysis. We may have our own experience, but that does not prove out any ability to adequately analyze a given scenario. In other words, we can be sure of what has transpired, but that’s fundamentally separate from understanding why or even how it all happened.

Trying to help people see that others also have their own experience that they believe just as fiercely, that might be attainable. But getting people to see the other person’s experience as no less valid than their own, that is a goal that is ultimately very challenging. The biggest challenge there is due to people identifying with their experience or analysis of it (any time people identify with something it is tragically difficult to get them to see it objectively or re-evaluate it at all).

The nature of reality is heavily influenced by participants and their perspectives. I used to be absolutist about reality, but at some point I had to re-evaluate my construction of reality because it was not accounting for how others build and maintain their own perspectives. How they see things drives their decision making, and their reality may seem to be just their own, but they carry it with them and color the things that they have agency over, including the opinions of others.

The nature of reality is an awfully big topic though, so we’ll just let this stand alone as a commentary on perception and perspective, and we’ll leave the deeper discussion of reality construction for another time.

 

Owning our happiness

Good moments are for you! Hold on to them tight, think of them fondly when you remember them at night. They’re yours to cherish and relive every day.

I don’t need to tell you about happiness, or how to be happy. When it happens, you know it and it washes over you in glorious waves of joy and tranquility. You love it and feel it and seek it to be it and live it and love it no matter what I’ve ever said. Your happiness is yours and I couldn’t take it away if I tried.

I wasn’t put here to make you happy, although it’s a nice coincidence when it happens.
At least not anymore than you were put on this earth to please me either – or were you?

I love to live my life and live life next to you, when times get tough that doesn’t diminish for my part.

I’ll tell ya about troubled waters or how to navigate them, not to bring you down man, but to help you set your expectations. I’ll teach you about strife to keep you from fights that no one wants a piece of. I’ll let you know about tough roads and brews gone sour so maybe you could have sweet wine and smooth driving.

I’ll commiserate and struggle with you, because it makes tough times a little bit easier. It may seem crazy not to bother with making merry, but it’s not that I don’t, it’s that I don’t shy from the other. I don’t need good made better, I would like the bad softened but need the contrast to know the difference between them.

I don’t owe anyone my happiness because it’s mine to have and hold. It’s mine to cultivate or shun as I would. I like to let my little shine bright, but without direction it quickly fades in the distance. So I focus my inner light like a laser beam, just exactly where I want. If I withhold it that’s only because it needs to illuminate the right things, be spent in the right measure, be doled out in the best sequence.

 

 

 

 

Art IS Life

Being overly analytical, I had long dismissed the arts as a waste of resources at worst or irrelevant at best… but I had been sorely mistaken. Art is everything. Art is the foundation for our purpose as a species. The perfect expression of consciousness and abstract thought is art, in all forms. Regardless of the medium it is inherently a way to produce and disseminate pure emotion and experience. It is largely unfettered by the trappings of societal constraint, while building cultural material that heavily influences societal trajectory.

I had always wanted to get more done, and had foolishly thought that if we could eliminate all inefficient things that we could accomplish everything that needs doing. I have always listened to my grandma and for us, art was eating dessert before we’ve had our dinner – but it was a mindset that was faulty and shortsighted. It turns out that the things that make our dreams take flight are the things of fancy and frolic, and the things that light a fire in our passion are the things of misery and suffering. To turn away from the nature of how we process experience is to turn away from what we are and how we depart or arrive or move through life’s situations.

When we make the mistake of removing our hearts from the picture, we cannot and will not grow or learn very well. Art is the repository for our collective expression, our aspirations and our shared human identity. Without art, there is no reason for us to do better, no reason to dream or want to improve anything. Without art we are driving somewhere without direction, chasing our tail, spinning our wheels, running a fool’s errand. We need to have things to strive for, and we need inspiration to convince us to strive at all.

Art doesn’t imitate, it creates. We need art to chart our course through celestial white noise. We need it to help us understand the universe.

Art is the magnet that stops our moral compass from spinning out of control. Art is the heartbeat of life as we know it.

Emotional boundaries are a labor of love

It is not endearing to violate others’ boundaries. Yet somehow, American culture has come to a place where violating other people’s boundaries is commonplace, accepted and even encouraged. It’s treated as normal and condoned in public settings as well as in private. It is disguised as exercising free will, instead of the bullying it really is. And as with other bullying the victim is blamed for being hurt, they are ridiculed and demeaned in order to make it clear to all parties that supposedly the perpetrator is only joking. It’s almost always couched in joking terms, as if someone who were actually joking but ended up hurting someone would ever behave that way. Which, they do, but basically just as an extension of this behavior pattern – which is to say they were never joking and only using that as a tool to manipulate the person they just victimized.

Part of violating other people’s boundaries has to do with bullying culture, but part of it also has to do with family dynamics. Plenty of world cultures have very close families that care deeply for each other, be they siblings and immediate family or larger extended families. Plenty of humans feel this closeness and choose to build that closeness through caring for and supporting one another. When reared together the average healthy human feels loyalty to those people closest to them, which entails a desire to protect those people and the relationship with them.

Unfortunately, Americans largely aren’t building healthy relationships with appropriate boundaries, and instead have been emotionally isolated and personally devalued, destroying most American’s ability to build any functional relationships. Most importantly, the family group has been made out in cultural context to be restrictive, prohibitive etc. and as such is avoided. That’s wrapped up in the focus on individualism that divides a person from the group, and that gap is reinforced through lack of trust. This comes from cultural pressure to be independent despite the very real need for social support to function as a healthy human. That dichotomy is emotionally damaging to the individual, and sows the seeds of instability in the community.

Americans have been taught a narrative of competition so complete that it is applied to their own family members as well as the rest of the world. However, American culture demeans work and sacrifice – despite the dogma that’s touted. Americans may proclaim that hard work is the road to success, but they hate having to accomplish anything personally. Americans would much rather force someone or something else to accommodate them so that they may achieve success without extending personal effort. Because, above the satisfaction of accomplishment, achievement is seen as an end to be gotten through any means, and manipulative means are seen as intelligent competitive strategy.

Seeing hard work as a burden they would rather avoid, Americans use tactics to basically force others into emotional commitment in friendships and dating. They use tools to make the person feel vulnerable and inadequate, but then reinforce that this is part of their culture of intimacy. Partly because they all feel insecure and inadequate themselves, they ensure others feel the same way as some sort of bonding or shared experience. But it’s also a handy way to manipulate the person into feeling desperate enough to seek support and/or compromise their own values to be included in the group, or more accurately, to avoid exclusion. When people feel inferior, they try to impress others or otherwise gain their approval, especially when faced with the fear of rejection.

The hard work I’ve been alluding to is emotional work. It is work to come to others and build intimacy, which is inherently from a place of vulnerability. Americans are terrified of that, both because it’s associated with weakness, which is demeaned in the culture, but also because it strikes at their fears of survival, since they’re isolated and can’t seek support when they need it. This all results in a lot of relationships built on social currencies like obligation and status, that are injected with pressure and explode in messy, emotional outbursts as people are only willing to admit their own emotional needs or boundaries when they’ve been pushed well beyond their limits, or when they’ve engaged in self destructive behavior enough to bring themselves to a place of being able to allow closeness at all (e.g. drinking too much alcohol, engaging in sexual or intimate behaviors, etc.).

It’s scary to try to trust someone or let them get close to us (which gives them a level of power over us). When we feel secure in a broad social network, an individual relationship does not garner nearly the same power that it does when we essentially have no network to fall back on (except more people we don’t fully trust or feel accepted by). As much as it is scary to open up to others, it’s scary to stand our ground with them as well. Despite our fears, we can’t have the healthy relationships we all desperately need without risking being hurt by them too much. That’s why it’s so critical that we know how to create and maintain appropriate emotional boundaries with others – to be able to let them in our hearts without letting them destroying us.

Building healthy, functional relationships takes a lifetime of compromise, sacrifice, effort, goodwill, forgiveness, flexibility, vulnerability, trust, respect, responsibility, focus, acceptance, support, encouragement, communication, adjustment, accommodation, collaboration, ingenuity and, hopefully love.

 

Talk about missing the point

In this age of finally being able to gain a small foothold against the tyranny that blames victims for assault, abuse, sexism, hate crime, and more, there has been a disconnect that formed and grew, and is now becoming a fresh problem in American society. Although there are no absolutes, broadly put, the left wing has come to blame some of the victims of the right wing’s efforts as culprits instead of seeing them as they victims they are. If we look at statistics and know that predominantly right wing communities count significantly lower levels of education and resources than the upper classes, and we know that right wing culture discourages using social support while needing it more, and we know that the right wing disempowers wide swaths of the populace through convincing them to infight as well as vote and spend against their own best interests (let alone through discrimination against minorities), and we know that the right wing ethos is that people are only poor if they are dumb or lazy, or somehow exceptionally removed from the data set, and if we know that the right wing insists that hard work is enough to succeed and prosper unconditionally, if we know that they do glorify classism while blaming the victims of the upper classes’ abuse, then we on the left are blaming the victims of the right who have been duped and destroyed by their own “leadership” while being convinced they need to blame other victims in the very same position.

Every time we antagonize and bully these people on the right we are blaming the victims of a very small group of perpetrators. Governmental, community and commercial leadership is not such a large pool, and they are using every method they can to draw attention elsewhere so they can run out in the middle of the night with spoils from both sides of the war they started. The culture war is deep and intense and motivated by the most serious of our concerns as humans: survival. When the upper classes alighted on the ability to drive action through manipulating the lower classes into feeling constant threat to their survival and/or wellbeing, the result has been generations of dysfunction and self sabotage as the victims struggle with their own inability to do what they know to be true, which is cast off the small group of leeches that are sucking us dry. The average American citizen of right wing persuasion as well those one the left know that  banking and loan policies are predatory, as is marketing of all stripes, and that little to no financial education is provided to new consumers before entering the workplace or the marketplace, yet people on both sides choose to participate in processes they don’t understand, including contractually binding themselves to agreements they can’t uphold because they are victims of fraud, misrepresentation, manipulation, coercion or intimidation.

If we know that the right oppresses women, ethnic minorities, those outside of the right’s identity standards, the disabled, the elderly, children, the abused, the poor and the wretched, then why do we blame those poor victims for eating from the only open hand in sight? How can they abandon the limited knowledge they have without even realistically knowing the alternative because they’ve been kept from the truth and we know it? If we know these people aren’t capable of making decisions based on critical thought until they get more education and support, then how can we blame them for that? They didn’t keep themselves from it with intent, they’ve been deprived of resources that are fundamentally necessary to being able to escape their role as victims of manipulation and control. Clinging to the only defense mechanisms they’ve been afforded shouldn’t be punished as a self aware decision when it’s really just uneducated self preservation.

In short: if we don’t blame the average citizens of Germany for what Hitler and the SS did, and we don’t blame shrouded women in the middle east for what Gaddafi or Bin Laden did,  and we can make that distinction in so many other cases, then we need to make that distinction here and stop demanding that victims save themselves or take responsibility for their victimization. They need our help, our support, and access to tools and resources to be able to begin empowerment and self sufficiency.

Because either we’re trying to help those who are suffering or we’re just kicking them while they’re down.

Choose Life

I wanted to get rid of the badness. Eradicate it. I wanted to wipe the earth clean of all traces of cruelty and hatred. I still do, a little bit, to be honest, don’t most of us? It’s not that I don’t want to do that now, but it’s that there’s more to it than that. As I see this life flash before my eyes, the time goes by and I see the task I had set before me was as wide and deep as the sky itself. I discovered I was tilting at windmills sometimes, and others stoking fires I was trying to put out. I realized I was chasing my tail, or shadows, or wild geese, or mirages. I began to see – not that there’s too much bad, but that there’s not enough good, not enough by far.

I had never bought into the idea before, because it felt so defeating to give up on fighting evil. Until I stopped and examined that mindset, and how nonsensical it was to fight for love at all. There’s already enough fight in this world, and there’s no such thing as a “good fight” to be fighting. There’s a slew of people that can’t stop fighting because they can’t or they won’t or they don’t know how. They fight for the right reasons or the wrong, but at the end of the day they’ve been fighting, so long. The goodness isn’t a given, it’s in need of makers.

I wanted to think that if we got rid of the bad, that there would be nothing left but good in the world. It doesn’t follow suit though, that logic I’d built. Because the truth is there’s plenty of middle ground in this territory. It would really be more of a barren wasteland if we got rid of the bad at this point, I fear. Because there’s precious little deeply good, truly great… the stuff we’re really looking for.

And that’s the heart of the matter, we want the sweet goodness that we feel badness covers up. We want that elation and satisfaction that comes from the best things. Removing hindrances is a great step to paving the way for goodness to come through. But we’ve got to do our part to bring the goodness itself in from the cold. We’ve got to be the catalyst or impetus or driving force. We’ve got to bring the goodness to light and bathe it in glory. It’s up to us to build it, maintain it and share it. It’s our place and no one else’s to make the good we want so badly.

I had done quite a lot of good things in my life, but they were largely situational. They were responses to circumstances or local changes made in the moment, or just being “not bad” in general. It had never occurred to me how badly it was needed for every minute, every hour, every day of my life to be striving for this. I couldn’t see before how badly people needed that little bit of goodness kindled and fanned into flames before they could join in. Once it gets going the reaction continues long after we’re gone. It’s like chemistry or physics, it naturally progresses. We don’t need to see it through to the end if we’ve got to move on, it’s ok because it’s got its own life by then.

I had wanted to be a warrior on behalf of goodness and I didn’t realize the only way to do that is to care for that goodness so it may bear fruit for us all.

We want and need goodness to strive for and enjoy, we have got to have something to live for, not just to die for.

Tired

We’re all so tired. So so tired. We’re so tired we wake up tired. We sleep until we’re tired again. And then, we’re tired all day long. We’re tired on Monday, we’re tireder by Friday. On the weekend we’re exhausted and then we talk about how we got no rest then either. We come back and say “I need a vacation from my vacation.” In seriousness.

We get tired seeing each other, we consider it draining. We’re tired of work when we sit in meetings or type endlessly. We are tired year after year after year after year. We’re completely depleted with nothing to spare, forever on our last gasp of polluted air. We can’t seem to catch up on quiet time or rest, we’re forever pushed on to the next task.

My tiredness was relentless and I couldn’t seem to shake it for so long I thought I’d always be tired. Somehow on this journey where the road is the goal, not the end or transition to other worlds, I got so tired as I trudged along I forgot the most important song. Freedom is for all and I don’t have to run. I don’t have to walk, I don’t need to follow a straight line. I can step off the path and relax anytime, but somehow I was waiting for the moment to arrive. A good time in the neverending cycle to break out and sit down and check out for awhile.

It’s silly to think we could be all things, or be part of it all. But even when we try we just wear ourselves thin, wishing we’d saved ourselves something for the end. The road travels on whether we’re there or not, but it will be there when we’re ready to come back. There’s always a chance to get what we want, but it’s better to notice our own human condition. Without water or food we die quickly. Without rest it takes longer, but it’s no less vital.

Truth is, we think it’s work or other people that tire us out. Truth is we’re wrong about that, for the most part. We may be tired from doing, but we’re made for that so it’s more complicated. Truth be told we’re overstimulated and overexcited constantly. We feel obligated to be happy and respond to everything that comes along. We’ve been socialized to answer every look, word, and implication. We are asked to interpret and react correctly to assorted infinitely variable scenarios.

As much as we want to entertain every thought, feeling, or ethical conundrum, we can keep in mind we are each but one person. There is only so much anyone can handle, even on our best day. When we’re tired and frustrated we can’t see the light of day. We don’t have to wear ourselves paper thin. We don’t just don’t have to, we honestly shouldn’t. We’re not getting more done, we’re just spreading around our limited resources in new and different patterns.

It’s easy to lose sight of details, or the big picture, when our spyglass is dirty and needs to be cleaned. If our eyes are bleary from sleep deprivation we can’t really look through the peephole expecting much clarity. It doesn’t make sense and all swirls around because we need to sit down and stop taking it all in. We don’t need to be mindful of everything around us, we need to be mindful of the silence inside us.

 

What do lynchings and internet warfare have in common?

If I had much of a reputation or public image to maintain you’d be rarin’ to tear it down and make me start over again. You want to lynch this post before it’s even begun: because it uses the word lynch, and it says there’s bad people in all corners. Does that make me that other person out there who equates mowing down humans in a car with standing peacefully on a streetcorner? Until I assert anything, I haven’t done so yet – “lynch” me for what I really have said (not just what it seems like, and as an aside who the fuck could actually make that comparison at all?).

The court of public opinion is lynching every relationship and reputation indiscriminately. The new judges, juries, and executioners got no regard for evidence or due process. But now they enjoy a wider audience, and they come from all sides. The new pitchforks are words stabbing livelihoods and relations. The new torches are media purveyors shedding light on microcosms, throwing the rest of truth into further darkness. The new posse riding at night setting churches on fire is urged on by propaganda that’s electronic, not verbal.

There’s no testimony we can give, no answers we can have that are good enough to defend our honor in this court anymore. The dissected remains of twisted information run the trial, and the jury gets half that, if anything – sometimes even less… but justice is blind and deaf anyway. Condemning others in society’s eye has lasting consequences, albeit different than physically harming them – yet people seem more than willing to throw each other under the bus.

The slightest transgressions no longer draw a little heat, they’re engulfed in flames and fried to hard crunchy nuggets. Mitigating circumstances or any context is disregarded, let alone our history or best intentions involved. For some reason we no longer get the benefit of the doubt, we don’t get any leeway or time to sort it out. They want to call out the police for the same shit the public does online; ruin lives without due process or respect for any parties involved. It’s funny how quickly hypocrites turn tail and run, but not before the damage is done.

We could all say “but that’s only them over there”, yet the truth is plain out here – we’re the same as them when we call it like that. The deeper realities may not seem to apply to us, but we’ve all gotten this way more recently, in general. There is a difference in the goodness being put forth by people – not to belittle it, but to be honest, it now has a different flavor.

We’re seeing more action to build an image to be displayed. We’re dealing with more posturing than honest to goodness altruism. And it’s fine to do good from whatever angle, yet it can and often does feed into judgment and further separation. When we talk about how others’ efforts aren’t good enough or not the right kind, what we’re really doing is judging them, and comparing to ourselves at the same time.

We can say we believe that we’re right and they’re wrong, and say it for any number of reasons. But thinking less of others for not agreeing with us is thinking we’re better than they are, plain and simple. When we believe they’re wrong because they differ from us, and we’ve determined that we’re right and cannot be wrong, it’s not just disregarding their ability to come to conclusions independently, but refusing to acknowledge our own ability to learn so we can grow and work out differences with others.

No one really says “I’m better than others” so plainly, but it is obvious from certain behaviors when one of us sees ourself as somehow better – whether they consider it “earned” or “inherent”. Putting ourselves in a position of feeling superior, looking down on others as inferior, is all divisive and hurtful in the end. It’s not like it’s encouraging people to cooperate and work together to build a functional future for the greater good.

And the answer to the not-so rhetorical question in the title is: mob mentality.

Think for yourself, and build goodness if you want it in this world.

Tools of Oppression – Part 2 of All These Ism’s – Classism

The toolkit of oppression contains assorted emotionally manipulative techniques, chiefly those associated with traits we cannot hide or change. Because we cannot change our appearance or our gender with complete control, the result is that how we are treated is still affected by those around us, and that aspect of being human strikes at the heart of many of our insecurities.

Oppressors are master manipulators that take advantage of insecurities just as they play on fears and lack of knowledge. They insinuate, indicate, imply and other words that may or may not start with I, but all these subtle cues are as powerful (if not more) than outright inflammatory tactics. But they’re not above being incendiary, since that works on people too.

People with power and resources understand some underlying social concepts, like rarity drives demand which drives production and, by extension, value in the marketplace. Or they know that vulnerable and hurt people buy more to protect themselves. They know that when people are too tired or overstimulated or distracted they can’t make coherent decisions. They know that controlling your feelings leads to easier control over your decisions.

We know the truth that some people of all colors, genders, attractiveness and background have managed to become wealthy, powerful or influential. These people have risen to enjoy places of privilege be it through their own efforts or others, be they talented or charismatic. Despite, or possibly because of setbacks, those people prevailed and gained what is considered “success”. That’s not to say that these tools of oppression are not used to keep down wide swaths of population, because they are used exactly in that way – and that’s the point of this piece. Basically, the upper classes would use racism against their own if they could, but when they can’t they just use some other tactics to the same end.

Racism, sexism, ableism, and assorted other isms are tools of oppression. These tools are used to affect changes in people that result in emotionally driven decision making that is against our own interests at best. These are highly charged mechanisms that draw attention away from the actual culprit, and lay the blame at the feet of societies that have been deceived into judging each other intensively according to perceived affiliations or shared traits. The upper classes are not part of or representative of society at large. However, it is easy for them to employ tools against societies when the general populace sees the upper classes as part of broader society, allowing them to manipulate the masses relatively unfettered.

These tools of oppression are very real and very powerful and very common. What people are failing to adequately understand is that while the majority of people are fighting each other about the finer points of definitions of types and styles and levels of isms, there is a population who isn’t playing along – because they’re too busy. This population is driven by a different purpose, and that purpose is to get ahead of the rest. While the masses squabble about differences that certainly are differences, those differences don’t affect the totality of our existence or development. The smoldering hatred and discontent that harden the lower classes was not just sparked by, but fed tinder and tended by the upper classes for generations. They fan the flames of their little campfire to draw attention away from the forest fires behind all of us.

The stark reality is that they will let anyone into the upper classes, if they are valuable or ruthless enough to earn a space in what is treated as a limited pool of valuable influence and resources. But the members of upper classes won’t move over to make space, they crowd together like water molecules only parting for something they cannot dissolve and assimilate. Once a part of the upper classes in manner or substance, the member is included only so far as they can command influence or control outcomes. There are no warm welcome hugs into upper echelons, no one is included, they are all begrudgingly accepted at best.

What the lower classes seem to miss is that the upper classes are no less ruthless or cunning with each other than they are with outsiders. Their cultivated demeanor is but a façade that is used as one more layer of interwoven deception induced by self preservation that overrides ethics and respect. The upper classes are willing to do what it takes to secure resources, regardless of costs. Those resources, material and social, are the basis for the power they wield. They only share resources with those more powerful or those emotionally closest to themselves, regardless of genetic ties or any other recognizable traits.

The upper classes don’t actually care about what you look like, where you come from, or where you want to go – unless you’ve got a hand in their pie or a dog in their race. They respect power only because it carries inherent value, and they aim to get as much of it as they can for themselves. Rulers of commercialism, government, mafia, cartels, religions, organizations, and other power groups – the upper classes maintain their status through manipulating power dynamics. In every group of humans there are those on top, working tirelessly to get more from others and the universe.

When we fall prey to parlor tricks and cheap illusions we devalue and disempower ourselves. If they can please you or lull you into submission, all the easier. If they can deceive you or distract you they will. If that doesn’t work they resort to pulling your heartstrings. If that doesn’t work they put you down or destabilize you. If you still stay strong they use systemic methods to keep you busy defending yourself, shadow boxing. If you survive and thrive, they will work to discredit you and bring you back down. They’ll make sure you feel excluded and left out. They are the kids on the playground who make all the rules of all the games, then change them all over again to manufacture desired outcomes.

Be mad that they use your race or gender against you, but recognize that it isn’t genuinely about those specifics – it’s just a handy way to get you down quickly and keep you from standing back up again. They’d as easily needle you about your weight or guilty pleasures as they would about your sex life, or the color of your feathers.

Funniest part is it comes from the fact that they’re terrified of living like the rest of us do all the time. So we’ve got every advantage if we can see it that way. They are the fleas struggling to hold on to the shaking dog. They may suck our blood, but that will never put us down. It’s actually sad that they’re so scared of everything else that they’re on the defense and they can’t trust anyone at all. We don’t have to help them or feel bad for their case, but we can realize how hard they’re trying to keep us down, and why. It’s because we’re actually so powerful; it’s true. The only thing keeping us down is they’ve convinced us that we’re weak and shut out on principle. When we believe constructs that are illusions we’re the fools, thinking there are roadblocks when they’re nothing but hurdles.