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Posts Tagged ‘power’

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?
I) How do you fish?
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?

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.



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.


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.