The resentment encampment

I pitched a tent and settled in. I licked my wounds and I lived there so long my flag’s but tattered rags.

I wanted someone to come find me in there. I didn’t need you to save me, but I wanted an invitation elsewhere. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere else though, so I sat in my tent feeling sorry for myself more.

Every time I tried to imagine a place I’d have the right to be, all I could think of is the populace there had already rejected me.

I don’t have enough anything to claim as my own, not even ignorance which could be a nice excuse if only it was mine.

But I don’t get to hide anywhere in this wasteland without borders, because I still don’t belong anywhere except with the hoarders.

So we sit in our corners respecting each other’s spaces while inside and out we still seethe with rage. And since there’s nowhere to put it but on others our brothers, it drips out of us, resentment thick as molasses… it’s been concentrated down to a reduction so dense it’s become a solid, but at least it’s less of a mess now.

Carrying our densely packed resentment packages is tiring at best. I wish I could set more of it down next to me and take some time to figure out where I’m headed. I used to know, and my resentment I’d stow for a rainy day when I had nothing better to do. I’d pack it around waiting for just the right moment to pull it out in a sullen display of grim satisfaction.

Like a cigarette after dinner we can call it satisfaction, but that’s flawed logic at best and I know that.

I’m aware that my resentment is full of radiation, harming me and everything around it. But it’s so hard to let go of the warm cuddly glow and the road well traveled; the devil I know.

It’s too much now to bear yet I can’t seem to tear my eyes from this train wreck of emotional despair. Resentment’s been friends when no one else came around, but I know now its companionship is quite hollow. I wish there was something better to fill up and distract me, but I guess I’ll have to settle for relief from its talons.

I can’t lean on resentment like I once did so often, but maybe that’s alright after all… maybe resentment is getting tired too. It can lay down and rest now. I’m flying on from its cocoon that incubated my younger self when I needed it to help me be strong enough to suffer, before I realized I always was and that I don’t need to add to suffering unless we take it in that older context of meaning my going through something and allowing its existence without resistance.

I am a suffragette now.

 

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Censorship

I recently read an article about how certain websites create and disseminate a large body of inflammatory work – specifically racist and other hatred-based themes. They discussed the nature of growth of this type of material when people are exposed to and share these memes, and likened it to biological growth, which is why the term “viral” is pretty apt in describing how this information is distributed.

For a moment, just a moment, a thought actually surfaced that I wanted to find a way to remove these offensive messages that I do not agree with – because I have decided they are amoral and destructive, not to mention distasteful and clearly not evidence based. For a split second I was willing to censor information to protect people I had deemed in need of my protection from those messages.

I couldn’t believe it, and I immediately stopped myself to re-examine my own thought process. No, I don’t actually want to censor anyone, or keep anyone else from information based on my own judgment of its content. I had a moment, but then remembered that all I want to do is ensure that people have complete, unfettered access to the skill of critical thinking and the freedom to use it, as well as the ability to truly make their own decisions. I need to be satisfied with that, and let people make their life choices because I can’t do it for them, like it or not.

Sure I wish everyone behaved in a compassionate manner and offered each other respect, but I can’t control them all.

But beyond that, I can’t rob others of their experience in coming to understandings that certainly were hard won in my case. Whether they are the creator or the recipient of hateful messages, it’s up to each of them to examine what they’re doing and why. It’s up to each of them to determine what they believe is real, and decide what they want to participate in, promote, or reject.

If they don’t look at this same information and come to the conclusion that hatred is more self destructive than outwardly destructive and ultimately not worth the effort, then nothing I do to keep them from this information will matter anyway.

a lil existential poe-rose

before consciousness, self awareness, and abstract thought

there was no freedom because there was nothing to be free from-
but only in the sense that everything was already free

frighteningly, uncontrollably, inexorably, free

caring about dying is animal still
and building mechanisms to prevent it is instinctual too

freedom from inanimate objects is pointless,
just as much as needing it from the animals around us…

the only thing we need to be free from is control

that, and the things no one can control

I get pissed off! (About rape culture)

George Carlin is a heavy influence in my understanding of humanity and our workings within the universe. Man was brilliantly on top of our interconnections with each other, our own behavior, and our environment. He was also unbelievably, sharply observant of realities and truths that no one else seems to have been able to match in terms of being able to articulate them in a way that the rest of us could appreciate without being steeped in shame or fear of repercussion because he knew we are all subject to the culture and environment we live in. He was on drugs sometimes too, but his astuteness was not terribly diminished by that. At any rate, one time he got so riled up, he just stopped and said “well I get pissed off Goddamnit!” thus the title of this post.

I’ve been salty as all get-out in my life, pissed off beyond belief, or whatever other fun terms you care to apply to fits of rage or aggravation… and like most folks from my general cultural area, I eventually resort to what’s affectionately known as the “F-bomb”. And at least for me as an adult, I wanted an expletive that captures the sentiment I felt, so as not to act out in an even worse way, like starting physical altercations. I’ve screamed the F bomb at the top of my lungs, spat it out in disgust and used it in jokes as part of youthfully excessive vernacular, aside from using it as filler or decoration.

Lots of recent cultural changes have led to a satisfying challenge of cultural norms that have been dubbed “rape culture”. And I’ve got to be honest, even freakishly liberal as I am, I felt like that was an inflammatory choice of words when I first heard it. To me, it seemed over the top, and in my mind I minimized some very prominent cultural factors that led to the creation of the term. It’s partly from my own acculturation into accepting sexism, and partly from a place of wishful thinking that “we” had somehow evolved or developed “beyond” that type of mentality and behavior. I’m not going to speculate too hard on the remaining amount or placement of sexism in society, but I’ll say that it isn’t gone enough to warrant disregarding any amount of this entirely unacceptable behavior.

I despise language policing by and large, because I firmly believe that we can typically determine context and/or the general intention the person has or is attempting to express. I believe that most of us are not using our language in the offensive without making that clear from the outset, which is a different scenario from everyday conversation. I also believe that when we’re not clearly on the offensive, that we should enjoy the benefit of our audience giving us the latitude to express ourselves using language that is familiar to us, and the courtesy of recognizing our underlying message while overlooking minor differences in phrasing. It’s part of effective communication – everyone is different and as long as the person’s intent comes through, let’s not worry about the exact shades of connotation that may differ between us. We can always clarify as needed, and please do so whenever possible! George Carlin remains my example in this case… I saw him eject the word “faggot” during a set once, and saw his face fall for just a moment before continuing, because this was simply a remnant from his past, but he never intended it to be derogatory to gays, it was a reflection of his cultural upbringing: language is firmly established early in our lives and it’s difficult to adjust without essentially learning a new language. We can go on and on about how he should never have said that, but the point is that we should look at his intent and recognize he wasn’t being deliberately hateful; the language pathways of his youth had deep ruts and his wheels went down an old path for a moment.

We who are familiar with the “F” bomb know it is a term referencing a type of sex. It can be used as various parts of speech, but is normally some conjugation of the verb form. We’re not confused as to its meaning – whether someone is the subject or object, the operative function remains. There are plenty of terms that are just plain vulgar, describing or referencing things that are considered inappropriate or distasteful, and the “F” word reigns supreme as the most offensive one, at least here in ‘merica. It’s not because it references sex itself – goodness knows sex is the bee’s knees, and I’m no prude. I’m more than good with sex and talking about it openly. However I came to realize something about the usage of the “F” word, and how consistently the underlying message comes through. It’s never meant to make love, or even rough-but-fun sex. It means rape. It means without consent or comfort. It’s obvious in the way that it’s used that even when a friend of mine recalled their drug-filled youthful past, saying “I used to love to get all coked up and F***” that it wasn’t an endearing, fond look back on days of glory. It was obviously a demoralizing, creepy description of forcing sex upon themselves. When we say the word about someone else’s mom, be it “F” your mama, or “mother F-er” it’s not meant lightheartedly, no matter what put-on people trot out. When we say “F” that, we mean rape it. We mean no lube, no kissing, no love, just rape.

Now, I’m not going to speak for others or ask anyone else to change a thing about their communication, but I’m announcing here a change that I’m making for myself. I’m not going to use the F bomb anymore. Because I don’t “F” things when I’m angry. I don’t even engage in make-up sex after anger, but I digress. I don’t want to “F” that, or you, or this, or my life. I don’t want to wish it upon anyone from another source. I don’t think it’s funny, and I don’t think it’s empty. I believe it’s a level of dehumanizing ourselves or others to a state of emotional disrepair that serves only one purpose; to cut to the core of violation and violence. At the deepest levels it strikes at everything we have come to hold sacred: our physical and emotional security from unwanted transgressions. This term is used purely to highlight one of the deepest fears we have, which is that someone will not just go against our desires, but forever ruin a delicate physical and emotional activity that informs the highest bond between consenting adults: trust. Rape is often seen as worse than death, because we are forever scarred by its very existence, let alone being subject to it. That’s why “F’ed up” means completely wrecked, because that’s what rape does.

I had expected to have more to say after this, but I’ve read through it a couple of times and this is it. I’m not going to perpetuate a cultural norm that says if I’m angry enough I’m willing to be violent at all, but especially not in this way. I won’t do it. Others are welcome to speak as they see fit, and I’ll continue to abide by my general policy of giving people the latitude to express themselves in a way that is familiar to them. And I will look for their intent over taking their casual word choice with too much seriousness, because I do understand and acknowledge that we all have habits, cultural affectations, and socialized norms. I get that other people aren’t examining or analyzing this term every time they use it; to most, it’s just a handy word that’s broadly known and used. I’m not accusing anyone else or calling for a linguistic revolution. But I’m also no longer going to use terminology that comes from and promotes culturally accepted violence, especially in relation to sex.

Good riddance F word, may your usage decline rapidly and your intent be forever buried in the ugly past that we shouldn’t gloss over but certainly never re-enact either.

i’m no shiva

i wanted to destroy the destroyers, tear their empires to the ground
bringing them to their knees wasn’t nearly far enough down
i couldn’t destroy them as fast as they just kept on spawning
still i fought to destroy all the badness in what’s left of good life,
i tried to kill everything that had ever caused strife

but the hurrier i went the behinder i got, til i turned around to look at what i had wrought
i ground down, tore down and wore down some of the worst, but in my hurry
babies looked more and more like the bathwater, lousy with dirt
and in my frantical hectic fright filled dilemma, i was almost

willing to chuck it all and start over

but if there’s anything that being a part of a child’s life has taught me,
it’s that here lies an inherent series of chances
to be a maker of things and protector of value
that’s obviously beyond measure or explanation

the best things in life are free
only ourselves put frames around what we see

we are what we do, so we can be what we dream

growin’old ain’t for sissies or cowards so much though,
it takes courage just to become our true selves out loud

feeling safe would be great if it felt that stable
but most folks still struggle with that one way or another

i’d rather meet challenges and overcome them, but i no longer
feel the need to meet every one with a bludgeon

because sometimes what’s needed isn’t enough force
but enough wisdom or experience or knowledge to think first

i got a plan on a broader level, and that plan involves being
just what i wanted to preserve, and growing what i know to be good

i never thought i WOULDN’T be a destroyer
it feels kinda weird still, to be honest
like, what i do if it’s not breaking down?
oh yeah, now i have something to look forward to inside

i guess i could wait for my fate to come find me,
but i can’t seem to be patient enough for that honey
so if it wants to chase me down, we’ll see how it goes
in the meantime i’m movin’ on to a world i helped build
because my destiny awaits my steady loving hand to do more good work on what my ancestors began

Feeling “Better” than Others

No one is “better” than someone else. But what’s odd, is when someone is super caught up on proving that they are better than someone, or anyone really. I still can’t even find what possible benefit there is from thinking you’re better than someone, but those people don’t rest on the laurels of betterness as they supposedly deserve. I mean, if you’re better… you’re better. That should provide a deep and unending feeling of complete satisfaction and relief. I mean, you’ve overcome the challenge of making yourself better than others, and now you are, shouldn’t you get to bask in that glory? Shouldn’t you sit back and say I did it, I’m great, that feels great, and then feel the greatness?

But they don’t. They don’t walk around quietly fulfilled with their betterness, pride in a job well done, feeling accomplished. They should be all set, they should be smiling a little enigmatic smile that other people wonder about… they should be using their betterness to better the lives of even more people, and the world. Heck, their betterness could save everyone! But instead, they insist on and demand that others openly display appreciation of their betterness. Because it’s about getting attention and it’s never enough because it’s really more about trying to get love because they are unable or unwilling to build healthy relationships to get love through building it, and instead they only focus on forcing others into relationships with them out of obligation or coercion. It’s sad and creepy and certainly doesn’t make them better than anyone else, plus, the desperate bid for attention makes it obvious that they are unwilling to engage in authentic human interaction to ease their loneliness and other mental health disorders.

Healthy people don’t need to feel “better” than others. That behavior pattern is based in a social hierarchy which is the foundation for bullying and general social inequity.

Lecture Circuit

I wish I could go on the lecture circuit speaking my truths to avid listeners. I want to have a podium, an audience, I don’t need a microphone but a master of ceremonies to introduce me wouldn’t be bad. I’d still introduce myself in the traditional way, which would easily take 10 min to name all my ties and lineage, to give honor to those who came before.

The ancestors knew how to lecture. They commanded your attention, held it in suspense and delivered epic, earth shattering lectures that changed the face of humanity as we know it. My grandmother has made a room of hundreds of people hold their breath, thinking about how they connect with the world, and reconsider every action they’ve ever taken or will take.

I wish I could wrestle horse’s heads down and make them drink the water they need, then make them stop when they’ve had too much. I wish I could force people to admit and change when they have been engaging in unhealthy, unethical or otherwise destructive behavior. I wish I could demand that they hold up their end of the social contract by supporting those around them and reducing their burden on others.

I wish I could put the grandmas in charge. Everyone would be happy because they’d be well rested and well fed, they’d be respected or the perpetrator would be lectured into regret and we would all take our turns first come first served, and we’d all feel good because it’s not about winning, it’s about having some fun!

Happy Birthday to me, may I get to see World Peace in my lifetime, or the closest yet.

Ditch the frames

Our worldview is shaped by how we frame our experiences; the narrative we tell ourselves about what we have gone through. The frame is comprised of various cultural values, opinions, priorities, correlations, preferences and expectations. If memory serves, it is transcendentalism that says we operate by the lamp of our own experience, and as such every new experience is colored by those that came before.

It’s hard enough to deal with the fickle feels of biology that make us cranky at the slightest imbalance or discomfort (I think modern sensibilities are more tender as well, but I digress…) let alone the difficulties inherent in meeting deviations from our givens; the things we take for granted. The challenges that come with disturbing our sense of regularity are manifold, and cause cognitive dissonance for the majority of average folk.

Our understandings of reality are built on observational comparisons and contrasting analysis with all previously acquired knowledge. As such, we use all sorts of compartmentalization, categorization, and priority evaluation to determine what we think something is, how it functions, how it can be interact with us, and we assign it an approximate value in relation to our own existence.

Part of the nature of perception is that it uses a limited quantity of data for analysis, since we’re limited by our biological capabilities. What we choose to focus on then becomes a more heavily weighted element in our value calculations. How we quantify and qualify our perceptions and experiences is layered, and includes our own biological responses, and what we perceive of the people around us. Social behavior dictates we observe each other’s cues for group security.

It is up to us to paint the picture of reality in our mind’s eye with some fundamental understandings behind that work. When we look at the famous painting that reads “This is not a pipe” beneath a representation of one – we are encouraged to understand that we are not creating or re-creating the real thing in our own estimation, we need to keep the spirit or essence of the real thing in our handicapped versions though, since that’s the best we can do. It’s up to us to look beyond the paint and implied shadows or textures it represents, to recognize the concept that something is inherently more than we could possibly grasp or regurgitate psychologically. We need to see that our own personal understanding of the world is limited, and that the whole world is very real and ongoing, despite our own limited understanding of, and limited direct experience with these elements of the world we live in.

When we try to use previous experiences, correlations or qualifications in relation to our current situation, we are looking to provide context or some level of overarching or widely connecting concepts to help us understand the situation. But truthfully, past experiences are only helpful in a limited number of instances going forward – in specific, anyway (past experience is generally useful but hardly in specificity). It’s a detriment to us that we look for patterns in a completely unplanned and unfocused reality. Events are rarely linked enough to be worth making connections about, despite our tendency to force them into a limited set of categorical definitions or sections that provide a false sense of cohesion amidst entropy at work.

The truth is, even (or especially) when it comes to human behavior, drawing conclusions based on expectations of regularity is counter productive at best. As much as we wish anything was consistent or predictable, things are largely neither. Even fundamental scientific principles can surprise us in how they play out. This mindset also limits our ability to draw a more complete or accurate view of a given situation. We rule out pertinent data and keep irrelevant data, largely based on our pre-existing frameworks.

The tendency to try to create order has a lot to do with adaptation, and it’s the evolutionary trait that rightly tells us that it doesn’t really matter what value we place on something, in order to survive we need to adapt to what we are currently and most frequently are confronted with. We need to work with what we’ve got to make it. But humans would generally prefer to modify the situation to fit their definitions and understandings. However, too much framework or coloring-in of our experiences only leads us to a false sense of imaginary structure around things that were never truly premeditated or organized to begin with.

What we tell ourselves about what we see changes the reality we live in, and if we only do things we expect and only accept things we can control or compartmentalize, then there’s not as much room for the things we wish or hope or struggle for. Letting the past color the present is about hanging on to pain and suffering and bringing it with us, but we can acknowledge and remember those transgressions without prolonging or worsening the damage from them. We can move on past feeling hurt by things and take comfort in the fact that it’s not a premeditated plan of ultimate punishment that is personal against each of us. We are not in hell and we are not here to suffer for what is only colored as bad, when really it’s shades of self preservation.

We don’t need to spin tales for ourselves to convince us that there’s a reason for things or a pattern among them or deem them targeted, nor are things inherently bad or worsening. Life is just living, one breath at a time, each moment alone in the continuum. Let us find points of reference in existence rather than attempting to paint the universe in frames of reference.

 

Build it and they will come

Like almost every young person I wanted to tear everything down that would seem to stop me, and personally I wanted to break down every last thing that ever got in the way of peace and justice.

I didn’t realize that anything that was ever built was built by people to do some kind of good, be some kind of support.

People who hate and oppress don’t build. So tearing anything down would be the wrong method.

What I have hated and wanted to break down was hatred and prejudice, and those don’t have brick and mortar store fronts.

Turns out that all that I have ever wanted to bring to its knees was nothing but someone’s hard earned dreams.

The ones that cause trouble and strife already do it piggybacked on the good ones. They use the framework lovingly erected by builders like the Amish do it for survival.

That which was built can end up used for evil, like any good tool it can all be turned against goodness.

But I needed to see that things that were built are meant to stand tall and be our support, so we can build more on top of that. And if it was used by badness we can still reclaim it.

So I haven’t lost my edge I’m as sharp as ever, but I won’t cut down the fabric of society any longer, because good people need good things even if sometimes good things become commodified.

Because it’s not good people’s fault that badness uses good stuff, and I’m done throwing out the bath water and then looking around  for the baby. It’s not the baby’s fault that the tub keeps filling up with mud.

Behavior is not dictated by Affiliation

Social currency is real, and people need enough of it to be accepted by others within cultural groups. Survival largely depends on social recognition for safety, whether it represents stability that decreases volatility of resource accessibility, or is essentially a “protection” racket. Aside from survival though, humans need enough acceptance by others to be able to carry enough self esteem to go on. They want to feel needed, loved or at the least, allowed to be around.

Modern sentiments have begun to apply cultural ownership through affiliation. This affiliation can be offered by the group or assumed by the individual, with the loudest voices in the group generally determining access or eligibility to participate. Credibility within the group is becoming associated most strongly with participation levels – meaning quantity over quality, however there remains a quality threshold to meet with most groups. The participant is also obligated to self-educate if the group does not provide training already, but either way, affiliation requires playing by the rules and meeting the standards of the group that the individual wants to be a part of.

Yet there is still a strong sense of ownership through genetic heritage present in cultural membership – the original determinant in belonging to any group. Genetic heritage bestows automatic, unimpeachable ownership (with few exceptions). It is also unavoidable, unlike affiliation. That’s right, there are some things we simply may not disavow ourselves from, and genetic connection to certain cultural aspects is one of them – whether or not it is deemed just. This conflict of basis for cultural ownership causes cognitive dissonance within the modern person, generally leading to guilt and/or anxiety over the definition and use of “true” cultural ownership. And a sense of belonging is critical to our success in life – again, if we don’t get it, the void that remains is detrimental to the individual, and by extension society.

We cannot rely on genetic heritage alone to define cultural ownership any longer, thus the rise of affiliation based acceptance. Whether it’s due to prevailing heterogeneous heritage, or simply acknowledging the power to include others based on affiliation for mutual benefit, cultural ownership is not simple or straightforward. And I think it’s of note that folks want to allow others the ability to disavow affiliation from cultural groups. But of course, genetic heritage retains a hold that can’t be fully severed in all circumstances. I feel like the affiliation aspect may be historically based in religious behaviors, as these groups are outside of genetics-based cultural heritage and they participate in recruitment/conversion techniques, but, as with everything I say, that’s largely my conjecture.

When there is no central regulatory body governing the ownership of cultural affiliation, mob mentality arises. It latches on to key tenets of a group’s ethos and enforces them via peer pressure, or threat of rejection. The fear of being ostracized is freakishly compelling and most folks will make sure the group sees them as valuable or harmless in order to maintain their affiliation. Most folks won’t give up membership in a group without access to a new group that will accept them either, causing defensive behaviors to arise if they feel their affiliation is threatened.

In the modern aesthetic, participation in the cultural norms of a group now include collaboration in the constant re-evaluation and evolution of the cultural norms themselves. Basically, it’s no longer good enough to be included in a group. Now, if you’re not driving the cultural behavior within the group, you can quickly fall out of favor being seen as not committed enough, or improperly aligned. This constant re-adjustment could be coincidental or superficial, but I suspect it comes from feeling criticized and seeking to avoid that criticism entirely, which necessitates constant change with the tides of fickle public opinion.

The cultural boat is caught in a maelstrom of self-defeating behaviors as it’s sucked into the vacuum caused by the breakdown of moral authority – without absolute control over definitions and priorities, moral values have become fluid and subject to fad patterns. No one is willing to acknowledge any authority as absolute, but unfortunately they miss the part about how much humans prefer a structure they can rely on to feel confident about themselves and how the world works. Without it we’re just seeing incoherent combinations of the remains of what we once trusted.

I don’t have the answer to a conundrum that has none – folks feel that genetic heritage can trump cultural affiliation, but only in some ways. We want to be able to shed trappings of the past and assume what we want to be. But it’s awfully difficult for me to let people do that when they pin cultural ownership on others based on genetic heritage, via visual cues, or assumptions, while wanting to eschew those interpretations for themselves… it’s hypocrisy at its finest (and as mentioned, myself included). It’s hard for humans to let go of historical connection to culture, with good reason; it’s our basis for our worldview.

It seems absurd to me to when I hear someone say they were born in one place, but then name a different place that they’re “from”.  I can’t even wrap my mind around a mentality that allows someone to continually redefine their heritage. Maybe you can change where you are now, or headed next, but how can you change where and what you come from? But more importantly, why would you? How can you shed the old let alone don the new (*in terms of heritage*)?  I mean, I get not being stuck in behavior patterns, but we can’t actually change our origins even if we choose not to live by historical standards set by our originators.

Funniest is I think many folks think that’s what’s being asked of them – I’m referencing the white shame/guilt complex that drives them to disown their connections to any genetic heritage they have. The narrative that indicates this is even a possible solution is misguided at best; culture is how we behave. That narrative and game plan to disown the past attempts to deflect or protect against responsibility for historic injustice. It’s sweet to think there’s a solution by divorcing from the group, but it ignores the fact that injustice does not live in the past (complaints are not just about the past, they are current), and that we cannot actually divorce completely from genetic heritage anyway, even if we try. Separation from the group does not create any goodwill or offer any support to victims either, it’s a symbolic gesture that can’t make up for anything.

Not to say that anyone is responsible for the past transgressions of another, but if we want the benefit of cultural ownership we do need to take some responsibility for ongoing group behavior, especially in light of the current policies obligating each of us to participate in driving the group cultural dynamic as I mentioned above.

I’d love to throw off the shackles of the past entirely, but it seems delusional. People care strongly about being part of a group and accepted, so they should feel a sense of personal responsibility as strongly as they feel their cultural ownership. It’s beyond disingenuous to act like you don’t share any responsibility for a group you are connected with, whether you automatically were a member based on genetics or affiliated by choice. Again, folks may not like it, but some cultural aspects are connected to our heritage, which we did not choose yet remains real. Like siblings or our parents, we don’t get to choose everything about our social connections in life.

Modern folks are notorious for “cherry picking”, and it’s an untenable policy of self serving denial that’s an insult to true commitment. You can’t have your cake and it too, as they say. If you serve yourself up another slice, it comes with calories and unmitigated they will make you fat. If you exercise enough though, you can eat all the cake you want. So go out and do good and it will be like exercising, you’ll be a thin cake eater who has the best of both worlds. You can never say you didn’t come from cake bakers, but you can say you make low-sugar cakes, or that you don’t make cakes even if they did, or choose not to eat cake, etc. You can say, yes I came from this evilly fattening background, but I don’t have to let it make me fat too… anyway I’m sure this metaphor has met it maker. Basically, you can live through ongoing cultural ownership without succumbing to its downfalls or predations. You don’t have to stop eating cake to be thin, you just have to exercise more. You don’t have to stop being/admitting you’re enjoying the benefits of the first world, just make sure you’re not perpetuating bad behavior out of historical habit.

But there it is – what I’ve been searching for in this whole writing – if we can change behaviors yet retain identity (and we can) then there is no reason to ever need to “adjust” identity or even affiliation, because feeling that need is based in the faulty association between a cultural group and certain behaviors. That association says that cultural groups behave a certain way, but culture is not static or regressive, it’s always changing. That faulty belief in a lack of ability to change is used as basis for bigotry, which is unconscionable. Any group or individual has the ability to learn and change, to accept new things or get rid of old.

We are not only what we do, nor are we solely representatives. We can take pride in who we are. I’ve actually never been offended by the concept of “white pride” – I’m offended by REAL miscarriages of justice, regardless of the group the perpetrator hails from, or identifies with.

Our personal behavior can be separated from our identity and our cultural status, thus allowing us to develop and flourish within cultural groupings. What I’m saying is that your cultural citizenship may define your relation to others, but the cultural group does not determine your behavior – you do not have to behave as others do within your group. You are free to have an individual identity within a group, and behave differently than other members do. As part of that policy of driving cultural behavior I mentioned, go ahead and take the reins; you are not just responsible for group behavior, you are a force of change and growth within it simply by choosing to behave as you know to be right and appropriate.

The bonus is that if you retain your membership and help the group overcome biases or bad behaviors, you’re helping the world significantly more than you ever could by separating yourself from the group for the sake of not being associated with people who probably just didn’t know any better anyway. I know, you’re probably thinking, but what if the group is continuing to behave in a way that I disagree with? I’m not saying you can’t do your best to extricate yourself from a hurtful environment if they’re not respectful of your right to make your own choices, but typically people see you making your own decisions and it helps them realize that they don’t have to behave exactly like others just to avoid rejection. And typically there is not as much rejection or backlash as people fear, but I’ll get off the confrontation soapbox and save that for another post.

We can retain core moral/ethical values, priorities, and focus to overcome bigotry and separatism from inside our groups – and more importantly, we need to. Washing our hands of perceived stains by association will never eliminate the bad behavior we disapprove of. It’s critical that we recognize that shunning a person or group will never shut them up or make them disappear. Not only that, but it’s more difficult to help them develop from afar – people who have an intimate acquaintance with them can help people change far more quickly and deeply. The best way to help your group escape criticism or derision is to stand firm in helping that group become the best it can be. Besides, a certain amount of criticism is not just inevitable but healthy. We all need to be able to examine our decisions carefully in avoidance of bias, and to help keep ourselves on track.