Laboring under misapprehensions

Countless occasions have come and passed without getting proper attention. They arise, things transpire, and yet we are missing some things… there are fundamental understandings. Frequently people make basic assumptions about shared knowledge or experience between us. They think they have fully assessed a situation and all of its ramifications. For whatever reason people believe they know how to correctly interpret the motivations of others. Largely things happen and move on because they are fine, and of course technically it all turns out in the end.

The trouble with too many assumptions and heavy conjecture on our part, is an overwhelming lack of evidence that is more than just a few seeds of doubt. Too often by far people take something and run with it, despite the fact that they’re wrong. They’ve miscalculated somewhere, be it people’s intentions, or their plans for the future, someone’s background or what they value.

As much as we all must at some point decide, and move on with our own actions regardless, our initial assessment should not stand alone if we have the opportunity to confirm it. Treating someone as if we know for sure what they mean, or how they feel is pretty presumptuous. Regardless of how much communication you have engaged in before, this time could very well be different. And if you confirm all the suspicions you had built up to now, there’s certainly no harm in gaining some surety of it.

It’s actually quite often we’ve gotten something wrong in the course of a series of happenings. Things move quickly, with lots of moving pieces, and it’s hard to keep track of everything. People forget, misconstrue or jump to conclusions. Perhaps we missed part, heard wrong, or simply didn’t understand one another. Giving others the benefit of the doubt should be our default bare minimum of courtesy.

Asking a few clarifying questions is the best way to go, but sometimes that still leads to strife. People often assume that type of question to mean we don’t agree with their assertion, or that we’re questioning their right to assert it.  The unfortunate part about that is the fact that it tends to come from a little shame around what they’ve been saying or doing. People can’t stand getting caught and would rather get away with everything. Putting a fine point on exactly what they said can be really uncomfortable. But if they said or did it in the first place, shouldn’t it bear repeating so we can all be clear?

Why wouldn’t people clarify before not just assuming the worst, but acting on that feeling as if it were true? A few simple questions or reflective statements to assure we’re on the same page goes quite a long way towards mutual understanding. But I think that’s where I can get caught up sometimes, because I always come into communication wanting to make sure we all understand each other. It seems to me now, less and less a priority for people in conversation. They instead are just waiting for others to finish so they can get on with proclaiming what they feel.

They don’t want to make sure and be thorough or complete, they want to throw caution to the wind at every turn. They think they are understood and that they understand already, they basically think that this entire talk was unnecessary. And I sit back trying to find a way to clue them in to the conversation before them. Because if we already understood each other so well, nobody would be sitting here saying all this stuff.

It’s not just that these little misunderstandings occur, because alone they’re not that terrifying. But laboring under misapprehensions can quickly escalate to affecting more important things. Making decisions like whether or not to stay with a partner, get a pet or have a baby… nothing of real value or consequence should be clouded by misunderstanding. No one should have to go on living with problems that could be resolved with a good dose of honesty.

I’ve watched people live their lives, year after year, going on information that’s incomplete or just plain wrong. It’s like watching Wuthering Heights play out before me, knowing it’s all just a case of someone who misconstrued something or someone, like a child’s game of “telephone”. I can’t fathom why they would continue to suffer and labor without doing anything to ease their discomfort. Especially if you’re unhappy with something someone said or did to you in particular.

We have all seen people feel so much better when what’s bothering them gets worked out and they get resolution. Anyone who would avoid achieving that greatness is being ruled by insecurity or fear, I would bet. I hope folks can find a way to see that feeling hurt for years is way worse than the alternative. An uncomfortable afternoon or even full week it might take to find closure with some direct action is entirely worth it. It’s also fundamentally more respectful of others and ourselves in this process.

 

 

 

 

Ethics – Geek Out on The New Morality

Move over Andy, there’s a new sherriff in town. Right and wrong have been turned upside down in modern culture, and people are using it in different ways than before. When we look at morality in culture, we can first agree that those waters are plenty muddy, whether we’re talking about the definitions of right, wrong, and morality, or their applications in our lives. I may circle back around to it, but I do want to acknowledge at the outset that most people have flexible morals that shift and change, especially when they feel cornered or challenged. Although it’s always been done, lately, it seems more common for people to use morality to back up what they’re doing, or what they’re espousing, rather than guide those things along.

Of the major modern changes in moral trends, there is an overarching theme I believe I’ve found. It’s pervasive in media and is being strongly reinforced there, as well as online. The basic concept is that there is a style of morality that is thought to be “evolved” or “advanced”, and the major feature it sports is deviation from consistency. It has been called “postconventional morality”, although few people are achieving that, so I’ll continue to use my “new morality” term to describe what I believe people are actually doing. The new morality is using personal judgment to override existing moral constraints – largely in the name of eschewing outdated cultural norms that are restrictive or oppressive.

What’s important to realize is that this scenario is full of assumptions. The main ones being that the initial moral code we’re describing is religious in nature, or otherwise equally rooted in cultural practices that were established generations ago. As much as I’d like to separate morality from culture, it’s pretty ingrained. So many folks assume that morality supports social constructs like misogyny and discrimination. The assumptions are too many to number here… but suffice it to say morality is currently seen as a sort social extortion mechanism.

When we realize those connections, it’s easier to understand why folks want to step outside of morality – it’s a concept seen as the backbone of social control. People do use morality to back up what they’re saying or doing, and as such we shouldn’t blame morality for the failings of culture. That said, the moral code we abide by should be altered or reimagined, rather than just avoided or circumvented. That’s because morality has always been the basis for those judgment calls we make so often, and if we don’t have a moral compass, people fall back on physiological desires and fears to guide them instead. More importantly, the concept of having a moral code is to help us collectively drive a conceptual image of how we can improve ourselves and the world around us, it’s our ability to behave beyond instinct.

Much of the stress around morality could be resolved if more people could realize that their problem is not with morality as a concept. Their problem is with it being used as a tool – be it by religions, organizations or individuals. What folks need to realize is that there are various sets of moral and ethical codes worth considering and using in our daily lives to help direct our intentions and actions toward greater good. No one has to reinvent this wheel, they just have to discover that their upbringing had limited their understanding that wheels come in all shapes and sizes, and that there are vehicles we could choose that better suit our needs.

That better vehicle is ethics. Morals and ethics may seem to be overlapping, but the difference lies in the basis or reasoning.

From Kant to Kohlberg, the idea of extending our actions to a universal model is not new. This vision helps us determine if something is appropriate based on whether or not the behavior would be sustainable if all people behaved that way, or if we each behaved that way all the time. It’s a great way to determine if something should be done or not. I see it in opposition to what has been called territorial ethics, which focuses on consequences, and whether or not a consequence impedes on the territory of another. That’s basically the “no harm no foul” idea, which may be great in a pick-up b-ball game… but if no one is in the forest to hear it, the falling tree still does make a sound, and that sound is loud.

To say that consequences should be the only determining factor in morality is a misunderstanding of the foundations of morality as a concept. Focusing on whether or not negative consequences have arisen due to an action at that time is nothing but subjectivity to power games and robs the individual of genuine free will to choose right actions based on their merit. It replaces that genuine morality with a system of external punishment and reward rather than cultivating an internal capability to determine appropriate courses of action. The fact that an action didn’t spur negative consequences at this time does not mean that it could not, or that it will not, or that it makes it right anyway. That mentality is just a defense mechanism to support irresponsible behavior and is used by people who want to do inappropriate things and rely on external forces to moderate their behavior rather than control their own decisions in a respectful way.

Without a strong sense of morality, people are having a harder time achieving compassion and respect for others too, and part of that is because their new moral code is based on the individual experience (dubbed territorial ethics by Celia Green), rather than being based on what’s good for the group (dubbed tribal ethics by the same). And when the new morality so severely deviates away from the greater good, it gets farther from right and wrong and closer to a tool for manipulation – which was the complaint that drove people away from morality, so it shouldn’t be the result of the new morality, or the goal has not been achieved.

The foundations of ethical  systems lie in consistent and logical application of decision making skills that reinforce a framework of morals that have been examined and determined to be beneficial. There are many schools of thought, but most ethical systems focus on benefit and detriment in a way that sidesteps the cultural habit of inequity, as ethics are typically applied to all people equally. No one is obligated to take any of the established systems wholesale, but they are a great way to form a solid foundation based on reasoning rooted in observation and evaluation.

Learning about ethics can be very complicated and is well learned in conjunction with logic to maximize critical thinking and minimize regurgitation of indoctrination language.

If we don’t want to rely on external perspectives to control what we do, then it is up to us to develop an internal system that is not based on our feelings alone, but a broader perspective that seeks to reconcile our actions with their inherent merits in an effort to guide action toward benefit and away from detriment. Ethics are the answer!

Dirty Words – Part 1 of “All these isms”

The propaganda of times past painted socialism in the grimmest colors. We were told it was the antithesis of free will and independence. We were told it was a tool of control over the masses to make them all the same and subjugate them to the will of an ominous and oppressive government. This dim light it has been seen in by Western eyes plays tricks on their fragile minds. The emotional appeal to drive fear and stir panic run deep and have lasted longer than the wars that spawned it. The worst part of it all is this fundamental lack of knowledge about it.

Mechanisms of control are abundant in all forms of government because corruption is not from any school of thought. It strikes anyone and everyone who gets to enjoy power for long enough. It has nothing to do with philosophy or mindset, and everything to do with the individual’s greed and selfishness. It presents itself readily in Capitalism no less than in Socialism. Corruption cannot be blamed on the style or type of ogranization. It’s an entirely human shortcoming that stems from deep-seated fear or resentment.

As with any other form of cooperative living situation, Socialism fills a need for governmental organization. At some point it would be ridiculously cumbersome for each of us to be truly independent. Creating our own roads and schools might seem fun, but it sure would be hard to maintain. There are some things that most people agree should be handled by a central agency. Emergency services, infrastructure and foreign policy are just a few examples of industries best left to experienced professionals.

In that most basic sense, Westerners have Socialist tendencies – because it turns out it’s nice to be able to rely on clean water and consistent energy. Managing the larger and more complex social issues requires a body to tackle things in search of solutions. As great as it is to have a competitive market, it leaves much to be desired in meeting ongoing biological necessities. We all need certain minimums met to survive, and those needs should never be subject to the volatility of the free market if we can help it.

A funny part about it is that Socialism may be a more truly representative form of government than the republic Westerners love to hang their hats on. It’s a broad term to use, as are so many words, but for the sake of this argument we’ll narrow it to mean the widely known idea of “Democratic Socialism”. Shared ownership of the production of the necessities of life does not preclude anyone from participation in their dreams. It acknowledges humanity’s mutual destiny of living together forever. Westerners often don’t realize that they agree with a lot of it, but Socialism just calls for collaborative achievement.

Politics and culture intertwine, they can be difficult to distinguish, and they are quite strongly connected. Leaving a Capitalist mindset is frightening for those who have known nothing different, but that system comes with cultural values that are damaging to humans and the planet. The excessive abundance that Westerners crave is a comfort for those living in a world subject to change without notice. For whatever reason, it doesn’t occur to them that the entirety of the purpose of Socialism is to meet everyone’s basic needs, virtually eliminating that unpredictability factor. The emotional security that comes with market stability can significantly reduce unfulfilling, wasteful excess.

When they are told that commodities could be regulated, they fear heartless mechanization (funny coming from Capitalists, living that way each day right now). They expect to see every label on just a white field, with bold black typeface, plainly unformatted. They are told that if the group controls distribution that it means they have to wait in line for a handout. What people don’t see is a greater possibility that more likely, what it means is a wide seasonal variety. Instead of drab uniforms given out on a regular basis, it’s getting bespoke clothes that have been tailored just for each us (but maybe buttons wouldn’t cost so much).

People coming together to make decisions that benefit the total populace helps balance the inconsistencies we all experience, especially when those people are knowledgable. When we collectively organize by committee to manage industries, it means those in the know help control the flow of wholesale ingredients and materials. A certain amount of public control would be in place in terms of critical functions – like clean water and safe roadways. It enforces the application of skilled or experienced professionals in decision making processes that affect everyone. As admirable as it is for privatized versions to do their best to keep up, certain basic functions need to be consistent more than new and different. Letting everyone reinvent the wheel may honor their independence, but it does no honor to the rest of us who still have basic necessities.

The instability and volatility of modern markets is fine for many traded products. But it is deeply irresponsible to subject society to fragility in availability of necessary basics. People can continue to exercise freedom in a majority of industries. But focusing on infrastructure, human health and wellbeing should be considered vital to everyone. Let’s come together to gain agreements on our prioritites as a society in terms of universal similarities. When we have steady sources of life’s necessities it’s easier to spend time on frivolities.

Aside from assuring stability and security, there’s other reasons to change our minds about how we run things. The Capitalist cultural value of unending economic growth turns out to be in an immense burden on the proletariat, and is completely unsustainable in the long term. The cultural shift needed to accompany a Socialist governmental change is to one of respectfully caring for ourselves and our belongings. When we get to a place where we make things well the first time, and we’re willing to repair items before we replace them, we can move away from frantic overproduction. Convenience, planned obsolescence, and fad buying lead to constant depletion of the little resources people manage to obtain.

They don’t see that they’ve been run into the ground because Capitalist culture tells them that they are only temporarily embarrassed millionaires. The point that’s missed by the whole worldview there is that if we aren’t running away from the specter of poverty then it wouldn’t be so important to hoard every penny in fear for our lives. Instead of wishing and dreaming of being rich so we’re not poor, Socialism dreams of a world without poverty, so we don’t have to fear that worst case scenario. Instead of dangling the carrot of ascension to fortune at others’ expense, it dangles the carrot of relief from oppression at the expense of the perpetrator.

We all know it’s the right thing to do, to ensure that if people want access to society’s benefits, that they contribute their fair share too. It’s distinctly more fair and equal for all since society carries the poor, be the burden divided proportionately or not. Inevitably when I get to this part of the argument, a Capitalist must jump up and shout, “but the world wasn’t fair to begin with!” and I’ll tell you the same thing I told my mother when she wanted to placate me with cliches that explain away the world’s inadequacies. I looked at her, less than 12 years old, and said, “but the pursuit of justice is a worthy cause.”

The Inviter

It’s not just millenials, or young people today. It’s not just technology or politics at large making things this way. Modern culture is moving to a model of personal control in all situations. Because we have come to a place where almost everything can be quantified and organized, people have become comfortable with their ability to decide the exact parameters of their participation in any given event. It’s not that that they aren’t interested in doing things with other people, or even alone. But any activity or choice they make is now put through the filter of control mechanisms. People want to be able to mold and shape their environment and experiences, and that’s not anything new or different. It’s just that now they’re taking it farther and farther, until they are in control of everything or they flatly refuse to participate. They are withdrawing from meeting any challenges that aren’t easily overcome by a wide margin, or have assured outcomes.

At least 3 people in my life have spent the time to tell me to “keep inviting” them. These are people whose company I enjoy, and I will continue to invite them as I can. But what about them and their invitations? Or are others the ones whose responsibility it is to plan, organize, invite and deliver? I would love to have people who are committed enough that I could just look at them and tell them “keep inviting me”. But the invitations don’t exactly roll in, and I sit here and wonder about a few things.

Sure it’s great to receive a request and sit back and decide if we’ll entertain it. We would all rather assess something offered by others and comply or deny as we see fit. With that in mind, it’s quite a haughty position to take. It levels the entire relationship maintenance back on the other person. Are you really so special, unique and worthy of everyone around you catering to your schedule?

Building community is not a one sided thing, and it takes everyone involved to get the desired effect. The funny thing is, no, we don’t actually need each other any more, we can meet all our own needs without help from anyone. But the benefits of community and mutual efforts go far beyond meeting basic wants and desires.

As much as we can each build our own chosen community that never questions or disagrees with us, how boring, stagnant and unhealthy is living in that delusional fantasy? No one actually needs ass-kissing yes men around, it just serves to ruin them, it’s been proven. We could forever ensure that we never have to accommodate anyone, or compromise with other people, but we do need to look at ourselves when we ask for those things without being prepared to do the same in return for others. In short, if you want so much, you should plan on reciprocating at least a little.

Constant fear of being questioned or analyzed is defensive and recalcitrant. It stems from over punishment and publish shaming, which is understandable. It sure makes sense that no one wants to be scrutinized or held accountable. But taking that to the extreme, repudiating others wholesale because of it: that’s entirely too far to protect your ego. Surely there must be some way that you can imagine spending time with others outside of that cycle. Not every meeting or gathering that you didn’t manage will automatically turn out badly. Just because sometimes you’ve been hurt by this world doesn’t mean you can’t go out and try again. The flexibility and strength of the ability to change is at the heart of how we grow, learn, and blossom.

The silly thing is, all your rigid engineering around the wispy feelings that you have, has never and will never alter the chances that you’ll be hurt again. Yet person after person retreats to the safety of controlling their entire environment. But soon enough, they feel hurt because people aren’t paying enough attention to them. We desperately need other people in our lives and when they hurt us it sucks but we need each other no less because of it. Fabricating a world without challenge or hardship sadly does not ensure happiness.

Aside from all your defenses and fears, the truth is you’re levying burdens on the people around you. If you don’t want the pressure of keeping in touch, you’re basically  telling others they have to do it for you. Your cute little memes about how you’re “just bad at keeping in touch with others” is a ridiculously selfish and completely immature cop out that shows you don’t respect the time or efforts of the people who know and love you. If you have time to log into sites, stream video and chill, or scroll through endless social media, you most certainly have the skills, ability and room in your schedule to put effort forth to connect with others now and again.

All the people you txt to when you need advice or an ear are the people you should invite to your life and its events. You too could be the person coordinating a simple lunch or a trip to the movies. No it’s not too much to bear if you want to have friends, and if you don’t then stop telling them to “keep inviting” you. Because either you want to have a relationship with someone, or you’re just letting them spend time with you. If it’s the latter I’ve got a few posts for you, but we can talk about that later.

white people are indigenous

White people didn’t come from some other planet 500 years ago, aliens in a ship sailing the solar winds, or a sub going through wormholes in the time-space continuum. They too were born here on earth, one generation at a time. They have mothers who bear them, communities who care for them, and they are as biologically human as any person of color.

It is a travesty that white people have been told that they do not have any connection to the earth that they live on, and that they’ve been told they use the earth with impunity. It is unconscienable for the rest of the humanity to push them out of their human birthright of connectedness to the only planet they live on. Their ancestors lived off the land, were nomads and gatherers, before they turned into farmers. White people can hear the wind whistling in the trees and feel their connection to the earth just like the rest of us. The fact that they have not steadily practiced or eschewed it is elementary.

Their attempts to cast off their human connections to the earth were theirs to make in the throes of their cultural adolescence. None of us has stronger faith than when it’s tested and proven to remain with us. For white people to stray from the path that pays homage to our ancestral home was only natural. They have come to a place where they can begin to see their mistakes, and want to come home to connectedness. If the rest of us push them away saying “you went astray” then we’re telling them they can’t see the light of day… but it turns out they can now. Because they are not their ancestors, and like it or not, we can’t treat them as if they were. Today they struggle to find themselves anew, and when they can’t, they build replacements.

If we want white people to come around to respecting homelands and working actively to preserve them, we’re going to need to let go of the feeling that says they don’t belong here. They may have conquered, dominated and occupied throughout history, but that won’t change with antagonism or dismissal. We need to envolop them in love and protection so they can see their way clear to a new way of living. White people may not currently have much skills or experience living in the wild all told, but they have in their hearts a great love and respect for the idea and its benefits, in principle. We can help them bridge the gap between their idealized fantasies, and the reality of making the world a better place.

But we must realize that we can’t expect to materialize our ideal earth without them. Asking them to live separately, or banishing them from the earth entirely would be no different than turnabout, which may be fair play, but isn’t going to get anyone anywhere. I don’t believe in the modifier “reverse” as applied to racism, because the term is already inclusive. Exercising racism against oppressors feels like vindication. But all it does is show the damage done to our moral compass and our emotional wellbeing.

It’s true that white people continue to abuse others. I am not going to, and could not if I wanted to, diminish the truth of that severe dysfunction. The very reason we must find a way to make these relationships work, is exactly because it’s not possible to erase that pain nor generations of oppression.To leave them alone would be to let them go, almost like a form of tacit approbation. Instead, we must continue to hold them accountable and involve them in addressing these very real problems. Punishing them alone does not drive them to action, and we need them to stand up and make reparations.

It’s not that we need to cater to them or their desires to get there, but we do need to realize that if we expect them to empathize, they will first need to find a way to relate with us. If we can help them to warm up to us and the idea that they’re responsible for their own behavior, they can begin to extend their great affection of self to other people and the world around them. It may take some work and effort to finesse, but white people want to form lasting connections. The legacy of disproportionate attention they inherited can be corrected with some attitude adjustments.

We can help them refocus their efforts, and they can join us in building a greater future. If the problem has been their lack of commitment, or compassion, or inability to compromise, it’s in everyone’s best interest to engage in appropriate behavior as good examples. It may be stressful or irritating to constantly educate perfectly capable human beings. But white people, for some reason, need personal attention if we want them to learn and retain anything. As much as it requires even more time, white people need to “feel like” doing something. It’s up to us to show them how to connect with other people and the big rock they’re standing on.

Of course there’s no actual obligation on our part, but at the same time we should own some simple truths. Brown people do not own personal connection with the earth, keeping white people in some dirty corner. White people don’t own the entirety of “progress” nor technology or the future in general. It’s up to all of humanity to realize that we don’t allow each other to live on this planet; we all have a right to be here. We may disagree with what other people do, but that’s a component of free will and the human experience.

No matter what decisions anyone makes for better or worse, it doesn’t change their right to exist on this earth, or emotionally connect with it.

 

 

Meeting you in the Middle

I am trying to meet you in the middle, but the problem is that you didn’t know there was a middle because you didn’t think I was far from you at all. You just automatically assumed a whole host of similarities and shared values between us that simply don’t exist.

When people meet someone new, many of them automatically start spewing their values, priorities, and worldviews, looking for similarities to latch on to. In the beginning when I affirm certain shared values the expectation begins to grow that all of our inner feelings match up, which is just not the case.

Every culture has their version of the golden rule, and similarly values charity, hard work etc. However, core values quickly diverge, especially depending on their foundations. Not everyone believes the same things, nor do they place value on the same things in the same way. Most people in the world prefer to build relationships with those of like mind, and separate themselves from those who aren’t.

I was endowed with a strong sense of my identity, and by extension my core values are just as strong. I’m secure enough to share those values, and they’re strong enough to withstand scrutiny as they are.

I’m happy to meet you in the middle, as long as you’re willing to re-assess where that is. When you think the middle is right by your side, it’s time to take a look at how small your world really is. You’re living between 1 and 4 on a scale of 1-10. Thinking 2 is in the middle is the product of a sheltered upbringing, or a refusal to acknowledge where you stand.

Sometimes it’s comical to me how narrow people’s focus can be. I’m not just talking about how I like more taxes, or how I want to apply them to churches. I’m talking about how my preference would be to ban all forms of plastic (except medical needs), cease new land development and regulate urban density. I believe in controlled breeding programs; licensing and certification for childbearing. I’d like to see widespread government subsidized housing and mandatory voting. I want a heavily controlled commodities market, and a complete end to corporate welfare.

When I say I’m meeting you in the middle, it can be pretty far away after all. It’s not that I don’t see where you’re coming from, it’s that there’s still a long way to go.

 

No She Does Not

When my daughter was a toddler, she said to me one day, “Mommy, you should get some make-up.” I looked at her slowly and said “does Mommy wear make-up?” and she answered “no she does not.” I nodded and we moved on with our day, her remembering that it’s not any big news story. Like so many other things in Western culture, I’m aware of it, and yes, I’ve tried it. With that said, I simply don’t engage this industry or market, and I’m sure I never will. Although largely this post is discussing make-up, the broader sense we’re talking about is the “beauty” industry. Similar conclusions can be drawn regarding hair care and other bath products.

Above and beyond the many reasons to follow, top on my list to avoid make-up is our environment. It doesn’t just take ridiculous amounts of mining to collect various ingredients to put in this stuff and market it. It takes huge quantities of hydrocarbon based additives, countless chemicals and natural resources to put in both product and packaging. It takes monstrous amounts of fossil fuels to get the various parts, make the products, then package and distribute them. The packages are tiny containers that hold very little considering how make-up is used so often and replaced so regularly. Many packages do not dispense the entirety of the product they hold, wasting that leftover portion and the efforts of everyone involved in its creation and purchase. The make-up also degrades over time in contact with air and moisture, leaving countless amounts of unused products to fill up landfills on the regular.

Despite the absurdity, many of these products come with more disposable aspects like mirrors attached, guides, and other features that are rarely used. Make-up uses applicators that are almost exclusively disposable, or meant for temporary use. It needs special cleansers to be washed off properly, and those cleansers need to be washed off skin correctly as well. The water use alone connected with these practices should be giving most adults some pause, because it’s that significant. The small size of make-up containers also necessitates various boxes and holders to secure them, like small bags and purse liners. Caddies and organizers for make-up enjoy their very own niche, thanks to the storage industry.

Aside from the immense environmental damage and waste of resources make-up causes, it’s also worth note that this stuff is generally bad for human skin. Oh, it’s been tested on countless little rats and bunnies to ensure you won’t cry or swell up too much. But our skin is an organ that is unique in the way it breathes. Our pores exchange oxygen as well as producing natural emolients which are released, and our skin needs it to maintain appropriate moisture levels and elasticity. When make-up is applied it clogs and blocks all those pores, preventing natural balance and healthiness. Blemishes, rashes and acne develop often; there’s an entire section of the industry dedicated to covering those up too.

It may seem irrelevant, or outside of my purview, but I’m going to touch on the time this all takes in life. If a person shops for these products a few times a month, they’ve probably spent even more time looking at advertisements or sale flyers inbetween. Most of the people who use this stuff have an ongoing relationship with brands and product lines that enjoy fierce loyalty. The time spent researching items and prices is only the beginning. The use of these products is widely varied, and ever changing. Tutorials, lessons, tips and tricks abound now more than ever. Online resources as well as in-person communities support widespread knowledge sharing. Techniques and designs evolve with the times and this medium is infinitely flexible. That evolution results in domination of many user’s time, to the point of detriment to other activities or relationships in their lives.

Although my next angle on this topic touches on the deceptive nature of altering our appearances, it’s not that anyone is deeply fooled by the make-up facade. We all do understand you’ve got a face under there somewhere. But talking about the way that make-up is fake is part of the other side of things: the motivation and the cultural associations we build around this practice. The fakeness that make-up highlights shows a lot more than just society’s judgment of attractiveness. Workplace culture considers make-up a sign that we want to work with others, that we’re more cooperative by nature. Mothers who wear make-up are seen as more competent than their plain counterparts. Make-up supposedly instills added confidence to the wearer, like power suits or big earrings. That obvious fakeness is seen as proof of your willingness to reinforce social standards – it’s a way of conforming.

We are given to understand that using make-up is a sign that we take care of ourselves, which always struck me as particularly backwards. Or, not backwards as much as there is an issue with my feelings on this concept. Caring for something can mean to like it or be personally invested in its future, or to take action to maintain its integrity. I have mixed up the meanings in my mind because I feel like we should care for ourselves if we care for ourselves, but I suppose that’s annoyingly confusing. My point is that I believe we should care for ourselves as we are, rather than changing ourselves into someone that we think others care for. When we use a facade we cover up who we really are, and that’s not really caring for ourselves. When we put forth a veiled version of ourselves, we are not being accepted for who we are – we’re being accepted for who we think others want us to be. To me, if others don’t like the unadulterated us, then at least we all know what they’re rejecting.

One of the funniest parts of this topic to me has always been that when I say I don’t wear make-up, I often hear “you don’t need it anyway.” The concept of “needing” make-up automatically implies we’re talking about ugliness, or some similar detractor that needs to be mitigated. Yet, if the topic comes up of why people employ make-up , those who use it almost always fiercely deny that aspects of this practice are so closely tied to vanity or insecurity. It’s funny coming from those who say things like they would never leave the house if they weren’t made up first. People who use make-up use it for lots of reasons, but they aren’t always honest about all of them.

Lots of folks who wear make up tell us it’s their form of self-expression, and I can understand that – but I don’t think that’s all it is for them. I’ve decorated my body with tattoos and it’s a form of self-expression, but it’s not intended to cover perceived flaws. I’ve never claimed that they enhanced my beauty, confidence, or self-esteem. They stand alone as art, and do not occupy any space as an enhancement technique. I’ve never used a single beauty style to draw attention to or away from any of my natural features. I have never been embarassed to be seen in a state of comfort or repose. The difference between make-up and self expression has a lot to do with what we’re expressing. Expressing ourselves shows who we really are, but changing ourselves to be other than what we are is not expression of who we are, it is denial of who we are. It’s in their belief that they “look better” this way. “Better” is the operative function, it’s that mindset of needing improvement which belies the dominance of feelings of inadequacy over mere artistic license in this setting.

Ready availability catapults babies into a world of make-up crazies, and it starts before they can fully walk and talk independently. They see it all in the media, on the strangers they go by, and of course with their own friends and family. From too young they are taught it is shameful to be without, and it’s ever so much better to have it, not to mention the gender normalization involved. They are taught to cover sickness, sadness, and fear with layers of chemical warfare. The ultimate extreme of these cultural ideals that demean results in “permanent makeup” and cosmetic surgery. A permanent change in our size or shape that is not based in health or need, is to erase some sort of shortcoming. Of course there is probably a contingent of emotionally healthy and well-adjusted make up users. But on average the masses buy and apply untold tons of product because they don’t feel like they’re good enough.

As much as people enjoy rituals, some border on obsessive behavior. When questioned or debated, some who participate can get really heated. There is surely no survival function or overt necessity tied to using make up. Yet the depth and breadth of the affection some hold for this medium can be surprising. Although rooted in shallow spaces, vanity’s grip is tenacious, and it can manifest in myriad ways. Most people want reassurance that they’re wanted and accepted, but then, many strive for superiority. Competition to be the most good looking is a long-standing tradition. As much as I can admire the desire to be the best, there’s a limit to how much I’ll change about myself to prove it to all the rest. The court of public opinion is fickle; no matter how hard we strive, it holds no loyalty, it only sees the next best thing.

 

 

we do try

We try diet after diet, from raw only to no carbs, vegetarian to just liquids; we’ve tried them all. We’ve tried a cleanse, a detox and a fast for every day of the week, and every week of the year. We look for new juices, supplements and vitamins. We exercise for hours, and drink gallons of water. We try cardio, weights, circuits and obstacle courses. We’ve taken classes for everything from spinning to yoga and back again, and our gym membership never expires. We’ve gone running, walking, jogging, biking, played sports and danced our butts off.

We don’t eat late at night, we don’t eat refined sugar, we stopped drinking alcohol and just have black coffee. We drink two glasses of water before eating a meal, chew our tiny bites slowly, and count all our calories. We weigh our food, boil it or bake it with no oil, and long ago left cheese behind. We’re the one in the restaurant with diet coke and asking for all the toppings on the side. We eat at our desks, avoiding any gazes to ward off judgment, even when it’s a salad. Appetizers are a thing of the past, just like midnight snacking. We record, track, journal, discuss and analyze everything.

The weight I might try to lose today wasn’t gained yesterday. It’s from a lifetime of thinking about other things, and this issue being a low priority.

[Edited to remove snarky last line, replaced with slightly less but still snarky last line]- But in seriousness, why shouldn’t I be the one to publicly deride you for wasting time and energy on appearances while people are dying all over this world from a lack of the resources you so readily take for granted?

 

Man vs Man

In the behavioral sciences it has been said that Western or Modern culture values the individual over the group, whereas Eastern and less industrialized cultures value the group over the individual. It is presented in a way that treats these two approaches as equivalent. Ostensibly people are merely focusing in one direction vs another. I find this definition to be a false equivalence that is intended to prop up Western values to make them appear rational and serviceable.

Focusing on individualism is selfish. It’s self-centered, it’s self-focused, you can call it whatever you want, but at the end of the day it’s quite clearly caring for self above and before others. Which inherently is caring less about others than one’s self. It’s a lack of respect for the people around them in a profound way.  Individualists tend to extend their own viewpoint to others, framing everything from their own perspective and expect others to see things as they do – thus assuming that they are right and that everyone agrees with their values. Group-oriented people by nature are better at seeing things from another’s perspective, giving them a better chance of building compassion and respect for others.

Whether it’s inappropriate behavior or discourtesy from the individualist, people who focus on the group know better. Those who focus on the group are being responsible and mature by sharing this world with others in a way that honors our mutually shared existence. None of us lives alone, and cultures that focus on the individual would be fine to do so if the individual was fully self sufficient. Many indicators point to the exact opposite, and that people reared in a group-oriented society are more self sufficient, more productive, and more contributory than individualists.

The dichotomy of individualism and groupism is a sign of the ambivalent relationship humanity has with competition. Individualists value competition, and by extension, winning victories over others. Group-oriented people value collaboration and cooperation, and would rather overcome challenges together. Individualists fiercely defend the concept of competition as the means to prosperity, they equate prosperity with success, and success is equated with happiness by their standards – thus they see prosperity as happiness.

The World Happiness Report is based on several indicators, but some of those are distinctly Western values. A country’s GDP or a an individual’s freedom to make life choices are valued higher by Westerners than some other groups, and using those as factors in measuring happiness reinforces bias toward individualism when other cultural groups may not consider those to be significant factors in their own happiness.

Western values associate individualism with freedom, but those can be mutually exclusive. Focusing on the group is a sign of mutual respect and moral/ethical adherence to respecting that which is greater than ourselves; it does not preclude or prevent freedom of choice. Considering the needs, wants and circumstances of others is honorable and should be seen as exercising superior social/life skills. Denigrating caring for the group is an indication of participation in oppressive social ranking that pits individuals against each other while degrading their confidence and self-esteem. It also disregards the difference between people focusing on the group experience and people being controlled by those who hold power.

To the individualist’s eye, focus on the group is seen as a negative thing. A large part of the negativity associated with group orientation is the correlation between it and conrolling power groups. The assumption is that no one would focus on the group unless they were coerced, since (again) the individual has such a difficult time broadening their perspective rather than just extending their worldview to others. It doesn’t occur to the average individualist that power groups have simply been able to infiltrate group-oriented societies, which should be obvious as power groups are universal in human existence. Those in group-minded societies are no more corrupt than individualists are, and my feelings tell me that if anything, it’s the contrary.

Individualists have been subject to propaganda that reinforces their world views, just as those who are group-minded. Because they are individualistic, they somehow assume that means they have more freedom or control, which is a false assumption at best. What’s even more unrealistic is their complete lack of personal responsibility accompanying all that freedom and independence. For some reason, the individualist believes they should be allowed to act with complete autonomy of free will – yet they don’t seem nearly as concerned with the consequences of those actions.

More importantly, the individualistic idea that happiness or even “success” should be the goal of each human and humanity as a whole is flawed at best. The WHR is used by organizations to pressure governing bodies to focus on happiness as the goal of their governance and the measure of its success. This is a deeply damaging goal, not just in considering the inconsistent and fickle nature of happiness itself, but in the broader sense of dismissing priorities that do supersede personal satisfaction.

The individual focusing on their own happiness, or on the happiness of the group is reasonable. However, a governing body needs to focus on the totality of its capabilities to affect change for holistic benefit; that which is best for all rather than some. Leadership needs to be focusing on the impact its populace has not just to mitigate damage but to be able to drive change to provide lasting benefits to future generations.

If humanity wants to claim that continuation of the species is paramount, and that we want to give our offspring the best chances of success, we’re going to need to work on our individual roles that come together to make the whole of society work, so we can each support this goal. Although group orientation focuses on the group as a whole, the group is still comprised of individuals coming together to support common goals. Constantly competing to succeed detracts from humanity’s ultimate goals and makes false promises that some of us could escape suffering, while diminishing our collective capacity for good – it wastes valuable resources.

In some ways, a group-oriented mind set is still an individualistic mindset, but it’s one that focuses on the responsibility that each of us has in handling our decisions and actions in a way that recognizes that none of us is the only individual in this universe trying to survive.

Movin’ on up

i don’t want to beat you because i don’t want to win at all. i don’t want to be on top, be first or be the best at any one thing.

At the first job I had full-time, I’ll never forget the day someone looked at me and said “don’t you want to move up?”… I didn’t even know what they meant. I had never been part of corporate culture, not even when I did work for a big corporation prior to them. But I had never understood, never made the connection, that everyone else was here to rise up in the long run.

For me, moving up should be no more necessity, no more frivolity. I don’t care to move up or down or sideways. I just want to support myself and my family. Where is up anyway? I’d rather not work, not because I’m lazy, but because I would like to spend that time in a better way. I wish I could support my community, my friends and family – with more than just money, items or position. I want to help support their dreams and feelings, make the world a better place and hold on to traditions.

I don’t want to earn more and more and more. I don’t want to compete with you, I want to collaborate with you. I want to work together to build the future of our dreams, eliminate suffering and foster harmony. I don’t want to get ahead of anyone else in this world. I don’t want to dominate anything or anyone. I don’t care if I’m in charge or I win anything. I don’t need external validation.

If we could make this world a better place for everyone, and satisfy our basic needs, I am sure we could find a way to get away from the idea that we need to compete. Endlessly achieving benchmarks for their own sake makes no sense in the face of true suffering and hate. It’s not that I don’t have goals or dreams, it’s that the ones I have are not just a means to serve me. I don’t want to be alone atop a mountain of losers, looking down on all the shattered dreams of my fellow humans. This world deserves more than nothing but Alpha/Type A oppressors. It deserves more than petty bickering and infighting. Ensuring my own success at anyone else’s expense is first of all not success, but also unacceptable.

I don’t care how I fare if I live in a world where little kids and grandmas are pushed out of the way. If you can’t be counted on to help when needed what is the point of living in the group experience? We were all children and will most of us grow old. I would rather care for those who are most vulnerable than turn my heart cold. I am not willing to do all the things it takes to make myself a success or bring someone else down to failure. I want to get along and work without pressure. I don’t need these demands on my life when I don’t care about “getting to the next level”.

I am here, I am good, and all I want is to exist unfettered.

 

[TA]