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Posts Tagged ‘antifragile’

X number of Provocative Questions

In Of Power on April 16, 2015 at 12:30 pm

mental floss

A recent post made a lot of people uncomfortable, myself included, for very different reasons. I seemed to have upset the conventions of social cohesion, even on my personal Facebook wall.

Given the crude realities of sexual harassment in NYC (elsewhere, too), and referencing the catcalling video, I’ve said some “horrible things” about a young woman, and what her open back romper invites, on a day where everyone else in that subway car was covered in leathers and other pieces that offered full-coverage. The post, out of orienting reflex, isn’t to question her prerogative to be. The words, perhaps loaded, to which I still stand by. The argument in question isn’t about rape vs. wardrobe, which if you’re inclined to know, I’m in the correlation camp, not causation. To deny the correlation puts you in a world I don’t live in. Yet, the comments that ensued seemed to have taken issue with my word choices, shifted the responsibility entirely to those who rape, and the girl is left innocent. There in lies the problem.

The aim of the post was to highlight the inherent dangers in the seed of a less-than-intelligent choice, and consequently, what that provokes in a less-than-pristine world. During a decade of misadventures around the world as a solo young woman, I’ve learned, the hard way, that nothing happens out of thin air. Been around that block too many times to speak nicely about human nature, I can say, with brutal honesty, that many times, when I’ve been “victimized” and called for help, I was faced not with sympathy or coddling, but with questions like “What were you thinking?“. It’s easy to slip out of the dress of responsibility and lay the blame on the villain. But what does that perpetuate? At some point, sooner or later, you’ve got to own your life, your actions, and certainly the way you put yourself on display in public is an everyday exercise in that chapter. Your body is a human billboard. What are you selling? What are you accentuating? What are you transmitting?

Power isn’t something others can rob you of; don’t volunteer it away.

My words weren’t pretty, but the realities of sexual harassment aren’t often, either. What I said wasn’t sugarcoated, and perhaps, politically incorrect, if anything, but they weren’t “horrible”. What’s horrible are the crazy things that happen beyond the ideal world on paper, where most of the arguments seem to niche. I have no interest in psychobabble, or really counter-arguing to justify stupid decisions. Did you know that lawyers account for the top three psychopathic professions? If my words, as they were, made you feel uncomfortable, you don’t want to hear me entertain further arguments. I don’t speak to coddle; I don’t speak to incite anger or provoke victim mentality soothing either.

Some provocative questions for thought.

I. Do you believe that there’s power in non-verbal communication?
It’s really not a question of belief, but more so of acceptance, and acknowledgement. There are banks of behavioral studies in the public domain that will blow your mind.

II. Are you aware that when reporting sexual harassment claims to any official,
A) that they question what you did to provoke that?
B) that your actions and behaviour are called into question, just as much as what had happened to you?
C) that they tell you, most indecent men would take any sign as a yes, if it’s not a definite, loud, no?

III. Do you believe in social conditioning? That as much as socialization is something that happens to us, that we are also responsible for shaping it?

IV. You’re in a crowded subway car, and there’s a scantily clad woman within your intimate space (skin to 18 inches, according to Edward Hall, anthropologist). Her open back romper flares open with the breeze that accompanies the motions of the subway, and the frame is a naked back, exposing bra hooks and all.
A) Where is your focus?
B) What kind of attention is this calling for?
C) What would you think that a less-than-decent man would do? Take a street-smart guess.
D) What are her chances of having something “horrible” happen to her?
E) When was the last time you were within inches of a women’s exposed back?
F) When was the last time you were within inches of a women’s bra, so that you can count how many hooks on it?
G) Are any of the above of a sexual nature?
H) How do you train your dogs?
oops.
I) How do you fish?
exactly.
J) Do you believe that the worst of people have animalistic instincts?
K) How does orientation reflex play out in this case?

V. Do you correlate the above mentioned woman to a figure of power?

VI. Are laws made because every one can/should/do control themselves? Have you heard of addiction?

VII. Have your thoughts filter through a victim mentality check. Do they support and encourage victim mentality? Be brutally honest.

VIII. Does the alleviation of responsibility coupled with the labeling of “victims” empower them?

IX. By judging my words on paper, literally, in an ideal world setting, what are you really perpetuating? A lot of things sound good on paper, Communism is one of them. The world we live in? https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates

X. A life lived in victimhood, or a life lived in ownership? Which contributes towards a better world and a healthier society?

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Newton’s 3rd Law.

{X}

13 things you failed to see when you reported my photo for nudity.

In my charmed life, Of Power, reflections on February 6, 2015 at 6:02 am

clothednudity

It’s easy to say, “get off my work, and mind your own,” and that’s largely how I felt when I received the notification from Facebook, informing me that a recent photoshoot snap had somehow offended your tastes, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, you reported it to have violated Facebook’s Community Standard on nudity. Now, if you were genuinely concerned about my well-being, you could have reached out to me directly. Flagged an email, sent a message, saying, “hey, perhaps you could reconsider…” But instead, you chose to operate anonymously, passive aggressively. This kind of behaviour is not my style. Now that you’ve gotten my attention, you’ll forgive me for folding my usual modicum of diplomacy into the round-file, because if my work offended you, this is not going to get better.

A common failure for millennials such as myself, is the incomprehensible yearning to be understood by the wrong people and seeking validation in all the wrong places. But you see, I don’t like to misdirect my energy this way. I align myself with women who, pardon my manners, didn’t give a flying f*ck. If I curbed my ways to make others comfortable, I would fail as an artist. If I fail as an artist, I fail as a being.

While I don’t aim to be understood, I would be mistaken if I didn’t show you the thirteen things you failed to see when you reported my photo for nudity. These thirteen things are what I know for sure, and what I know for sure, trumps your opinion about a world you clearly don’t understand.

I. My four-figure worth of designer wardrobe.
Pieces include: Quilted Designer vest; AP bra top; AP knickers; Designer boots.
Novelty, I was actually wearing clothes. I had to, it was a job. It was for one of the fiercest fashion designers I’ve had the honour to meet. It was a creative collaboration. There was hardware involved; I was selling something; that something wasn’t flesh.

II. This is a professional photo, by a leading photographer.
That means this is work; this is art; this is product; this is public.
What this isn’t, is that it’s not a selfie that reveals too much privacy, which if you allow my two cents, has cause for greater social concern, relatively speaking. But the means to take a selfie render these #firstworldproblems. I digress.

III. The hours of hair and make-up art, by a team of talented artists.
There were a team of hair and make-up artists. They came with concept drawings, reference images, and a full table’s worth of make up that would last the average person about ten years. There’s nothing average about artists; nothing average about what we create. This is our standard kit, but “standard” is easily a dirty word.

IV. The art of the pose.
The reality of being 5’4″ dictates that I usually never do fashion modeling. I was booked for who I am, as opposed to the fashion model that I’m not. That alone, is success as an artist. When you book work as yourself, instead of who they want you to be, and believe me, there are a lot of people wanting you to be a lot of different things, in this crazy world called showbiz.

By booking me as who I am, I brought who I am to the pose. That means eleven years of yoga and bringing the pose down to a level where vertical inches became irrelevant. At the same time, achieving an artistic goal of balancing flow, grace, energy, and movement in a dramatic way.

You try. No really, try

I guess the nudity was too distracting for you to have seen all this.

V. The art and skill of the capture.
That was not a wig I was wearing. That’s real hair, and working with forces of gravity means that what you see doesn’t come naturally. As badass as it would look, in moments of imagination taking flight, I can’t walk around town like this – not even in New York City, and not even if I wanted to, because it’s literally, naturally, impossible. What you’re failing to see, is the physical work involved, the mechanics of time and time again of various actions called, rehearsed, and then the sheer chance of one of those clicks working out. Maybe.

I guess my clothed nudity must have impaired your faculties for comprehension.

VI. The art of lighting and photoshop.
Self-explanatory.

VII. The collective efforts of a team of creatives.
For the purposes of this shoot, there are seven: two models; two make-up artists/hair stylists; photographer; designer; gallery owner. All seven creatives have invested in time, energy, and efforts to make creative magic. Any creative project involve three phases: the prep/pre-shoot, shoot, and post-shoot. Each phase has its own work.

When you report a work like this because it conjured up something so uncomfortable within you, you are effectively undermining all of the following, each of which has a cost that far exceeds the price-tag of the clothes I had been wearing.

VIII. The collective creative vision of seven artists.
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” – Helen Keller
Magic doesn’t happen when the vision isn’t aligned. To align the visions of seven artists is magic, in its own way. I’m sorry you failed to see this.

IX. The daring pursuit of love and passion – of and as – an artist, x7.
We are not timid to pursue what really sparks within us. The work is created from a place of love and light. As artists, we operate out of love. I dare say that the average, certainly under-performing crop of 9-5ers operate out of fear. Sometimes, I wonder where the value of life is, in those other lives?

X. The courage to choose to be an artist, x7.
Being an artist is a choice. I had, and have other options. The easier choice would have been to have stayed within academia, or government. I chose, perhaps, the most difficult one, but also the most rewarding one. I confront the challenges and inevitable dark sides of this choice daily. Tomorrow, I will choose again. I hope, with all my light, that you could have the courage to lead a life you’re proud of, one that’s fulfilling, one that’s rewarding.

XI. The commitment to living a life as an artist, x7.
Most of the class I graduated with, from Film Academy, are now onto other careers. Having worked since the age of fourteen, my father, to this day, is still wondering when the day will come, when I get myself “a real job”… I had one. I had plenty. But the life I have committed to, is that of an artist, and that’s a life that I will re-commit to, with each rising sun.

XII. The unyielding love for all we create, x7.
As artists, we are all naked, in a sense that we are totally vulnerable to that which we create, and then to those whom we touch directly and indirectly through our art.

Like all creations, you, too, were born into this world, naked, with a lot of chaos, screams, blood, and sweat.

Naked, but my creations are conceived and coated with love. Everything else is trivial.

XIII. Facebook’s Community Standard on Nudity.
https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards
Given that I’ve excelled in every subject I’ve ever studied, the pairing of poor judgement with impaired comprehension does not impress me. If I were your teacher, I would make reflection an assignment. I would ask that you re-evaluate your judgement, given the thirteen items above. I would ask that you read some poetry, go to a museum, attend a concert, watch a film, learn a new language, get a drink, see a therapist… but why?

Why art? Art offends you.

So please, just unfriend me. Get off my work, and mind your own. Facebook did that. Your turn.

verdict

{X}

Hendrick’s with Hobbes

In Drunken Philosophy, life, Of Power on November 30, 2014 at 2:56 am

#Ferguson #RayRice #JianGhomeshi #whyistayed #whyileft #BigEarsTeddy

Hendrick's With HobbesHashtags violent enough to descend Hobbes to my apartment door, in the “all of everything” that is New York. He didn’t show up uninvited – I don’t appreciate these surprises as they disrupt my creative flow and derail my work cycle. Rather, he’s been on my mind. His theory of the natural condition of mankind has been deeply ingrained in me, even before the POLS250 days. Political theory – a subject dense enough to have induced anxiety attacks of former classmates, is not the average cup of tea, or your usual Saturday night delight. Hendrick’s is served.

Between #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday, the world as it is, glitters with more abundance than ever. Yet, stripped away of material excess, the State of Nature remains a “war of all against all,” in which human beings continue to constantly seek to destroy each other in an increasingly incessant pursuit of power. Life in the State of Nature remains “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” In the increasingly interconnected world, every platform amplifies, every echo resounds, every wall reflects, every Retweet further perpetuates. Noise levels have become assaulting; silence is harder to hear. Impressed, Tom was, of my modern recount of Leviathan. He noticed the tattoo above my left heel; Chapter XIII was my favourite, I told him.

At my piano, I entertained him with some twelve tone ideas I had been engrossed in for a brass quintet reading at Juilliard. Perhaps a wild mistake for a man who didn’t live long enough to even experience Bach, but it was the precise prerequisite to tolerate any tinkering on a gravely out-of-tune piano. He took to the Hendrick’s. Well… given the options, I, too, prefer music of his era. Sorry, Jon, but you know this about me.

Tom served me a top-up, and inquired about the concert-program-turned-coaster beneath my glass. Fragile Freedom, he noted. Yes, now that was music to his ears. Having conceived his masterpiece during the English Civil War, arguing for Social Contract and an absolute Sovereign, he took serious intrigue with the Velvet Revolution and the transformation it had ignited. In times of war, freedom is fought for with blood, tears, and lives on the line; freedom is a dream, elusive and fragile. In times of peace, freedom is a blessing, yet bruised by irony, its existence seems more fragile, because we didn’t fight to secure it. If freedom in our lives cease to exist, it’s because we have failed to own it.

I told Tom about the woman at the street corner (see Worth) only a week ago. As life would have it, I met her only 5 minutes after having left the Fragile Freedom concert. Our acquaintanceship literally formed on concrete, where she was drowning in a sea of feelings – feelings strong enough to have halted my kinetic march home on a very cold night; feelings that I remember to be as destructive as they were debilitating. Feelings, the very essence of what makes us humans; the most primal and deeply rooted are fear and desire.

At the most primitive level, fear is instilled in us to trigger retreat from life-threatening danger. This type of fear saves us; its value and utility lie within self-preservation. However, a continual state of fear paralyzes us, and fear-induced-paralysis feeds the demon. I know this from experience. Abuse is the name of a monster whose initial attack is an assault, where our blood is but an appetizer. What feeds it, and what strengthens it, is the target’s submission, the ultimate relinquish of one’s power. If after the first attack, you didn’t run for your life, then the alchemy of fear clearly didn’t serve you. It didn’t serve S, nor is it serving Janay Rice. With only a glance of the news, Tom was tickled to see that his theories remain relevant to this day, that even in 2014, we still live in a Hobbesian world.

Out of the crucible of fear, are endless narratives of #WhyIStayed. These voices aren’t limited to romantic relationships, domestic partnerships, or any relationship of a sexual nature. The monster’s desires go beyond carnal appetite; their lifeblood runs on power – and thus, it feeds on every type of relationship.

Another drink. Tom noted the photo next to the Hendrick’s, and asked me about the beautiful girl in pink. Can you blame him? “She’s engaged to an amazing man,” I said. “But why is she crying right now?” Touché, I forget that the dead can hear beyond our mortal ears, and that even with the sonic assault of my out-of-tune keys, Tom was able to register the sounds of her tears.

“She, too, is battling with a monster.”

“Tell me more…”

“You know the story. The very foundation of the Leviathan, and of your life’s work. Every man for himself. She signed a contract with a monster who clearly cares nothing of her welfare or time; she is not valued for even a fraction of her worth, let-alone well-being, but exploited for results, an experience any high-performer could relate to, as most have attracted and/or experienced some form of such abuse in their trajectory. Abusing the contract, the monster reigns sovereign, which actually, defines him as a tyrant.”

You know how this is going to end.”

“I don’t assume that I do. Although I hope, as I have asked her, to reclaim her self. To own herself. The possibility for an alternate ending, for a counterstrike, exists as long as she hasn’t completely relinquished her power.”

I use the word “target” because “victim” carries with it too much negative connotation. It is not to deny the power dynamic, but “victim” denotes the battle is over, whereas “target” is a status of a fluid nature. I refuse to further strip away one’s dignity by word-painting them into a position of even less power. Words matter. The monster is after power; fearlessness is its kryptonite. Targets can win this battle, but only by fearlessly owning themselves.

“…fear by day and night, fear as deep as the marrow of the bone; … this past, this endless struggle to achieve and reveal and confirm a human identity, human authority, yet contains, for all its horror, something very beautiful. I do not mean to be sentimental about suffering – enough is certainly as good as a feast – but people who cannot suffer can never grow up, can never discover who they are… He achieves his own authority, and that is unshakable.” James Baldwin

Unshakable starts with knowing your worth. He who thinks we live in a time of peace is under grand illusion, for so many of us aren’t even at peace with our selves. The only freedom that’s antifragile, is the one fought for, by exercising supreme authority over your self, owning your self. Owning your difference, your narrative, your time, your choices, your mistakes, and your power.

For Tom, sovereignty is the soul of the Leviathan. I say, sovereignty is the soul of antifragile freedom.

{X}

P.S. Di, the copy of Antifragile, which our photo is propped on, is yours. I remember your traveling style to be with overweight suitcases, nude pumps on feet, and a hard-cover book on hand – all signs of an inexperienced tourist, really, but as facts would have it, you jet through 60+ countries on a regular basis, so I don’t feel too badly about this contribution to the weight you carry.

P.P.S. M, Hendrick’s and rosewater go very well together – better than Hennessy and Guru, the way we had once experimented in our undergrad days. I mixed in the bottle you had brought back from the Middle East. Tom was a fan. 

P.P.P.S. Jon, having said what I said, I am nonetheless grateful for the limitations that push creative growth 🙂 I hope cocktails are being served with the readings, and not after the readings. I’m aware that this may read rather suggestively.