"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

“Give up any hope of fruition” : Being Genuine In Meditation

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2018 at 7:08 pm
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Illustration by Andre Slob

Great meditators before us have laid out the path, but how can we be sure we’re following it genuinely? There are no guarantees, but Carolyn Rose Gimian has some tips for keeping it real.

Oldspeak: “OOOF. Good stuff on the value of boredom, confusion and cultivating genuineness in meditation practice. Being mindful of the pitfalls of self-deception, goal-orientation and attachment to spiritual credentials/materialism/”progress”.  I surely am a victim of these pitfalls. Feeling a sense of pride and achievement when people respond with amazement when I tell them I meditate for 1 to 2 hours most days. Feeling that sense of progress and feeling the need to label my formal meditation experience as “transformative” & “paridigm shifting”, thereby assigning it positive values, worthy of sharing with others.  Looking for confirmation, signs that something was “happening” in my practice, expectations certainly formed, especially after my vipassana experience. It certainly is a practice; letting go of attachments to form, labeling of experience and just attending to the breath as often as possible. Those things don’t sell in an “attention economy” with culture animated by consumption of positive desirous experience. Where form dominates. Where identifying with and labeling experience is second nature. Where attention has been comodified. Where everything we attend to must be entertaining. Where boredom = the great enemy. Much of the time it feels alot like the author says…

it’s not so easy to relax with that in ourselves. We have a lot of resistance to simply being ourselves, without pretense or adornment, with all our warts and wrinkles. It is quite uncomfortable. So often we put on a little show for ourselves and others, thinking that’s what is required. We try to give the people what they want. We try to give ourselves what we think we want. It’s actually very sad, and in the long run it doesn’t help ourselves or others. But in the short run, it’s a pretty good con.”

Much of the time it feels like everyone is conning each other. Pretending like they’re ok. Putting on a a show for inner and outer selves, documenting the highlight positive experiences via FaceTwiGram. Medicating discomforting negative experience away with aggressively organized forgetting of the violence of this disimagination machine slowly draining our life energies away. Conning ourselves and others into believing that we are this “I” we’ve been conditioned to construct. Conditioned to survive, to not be present, but always looking toward the future, or the past, never present. Conditioned to be in desperate need of a “future”. Obsessed with doing more, building things, progress, goals, productivity, and countless other credentials are accrued. Meditation provides a break from the con. A time to get bored with the stories we tell ourselves; stories like we’re not good enough or complete enough. A time for cultivating self-acceptance, unconditional love, tolerance of discomfort and undesireable experience.  A time to just Be. ” –Jevon

Written By Carolyn Rose Gimian @ Lion’s Roar:

When Lion’s Roar asked me to write an article about how to make meditation practice genuine and real, I wasn’t sure whether to be proud or insulted. Maybe they were asking me because they could see what a fraud I am on the meditation cushion, and they needed someone to write honestly about failure.

Well, guilty as charged. Failure to be peaceful, failure to be mindful, failure to be aware, failure to be kind, failure to think big, failure to be generous (or insert your favorite virtue/ accomplishment I’ve failed at). On the other hand, sitting on the cushion for a lot of years (if I tell you how many, it will be really embarrassing) has yielded some results. I have witnessed a whole circus of bizarre fantasies, emotions, and extreme mental states, starring anger, lust, hatred, delusion, arrogance, pride, depression, anxiety, and a host of other amazing performers. I’ve made friends with Speedy, Distracted, and Lazy, three of the seven dwarfs of meditation for small-minded people. However, I do have one genuine accomplishment: I have gotten completely and totally bored.

“Boredom is my great achievement.”

Boredom is my great achievement. Isn’t that what you aspire to in your meditation practice? To be totally, fully bored with yourself, your practice, your life, your fantasies, etc., etc., etc.? No?

My topic, the actual topic I was asked to write about, is genuineness. Genuine is a term that is bandied about quite a lot these days, and it can mean many things, depending on the context. Through my search engine, I found that a lot of advertising companies use the word genuine in the title of their companies and websites. Suspicious. I also noticed that popular searches with genuine as the first word were mainly for car parts. If you’re going to drive an automobile, you would like it to have genuine parts, I’m sure. But this was not what I associate with genuineness in spiritual practice.

On the other hand, my word processor tells me that synonyms for genuine include real, authentic, indisputable, true, unadulterated, actual, legitimate, and valid. As far as the practice of meditation is concerned, these sound pretty good. I would definitely like my meditation to be real, authentic, indisputable, true, unadulterated, actual, legitimate, and valid.

Okay, so how are we going to achieve that? And what are the pitfalls? Simple. To be genuine, you have to be honest with yourself first, and then with others. Don’t make anything up. Just do it. Just be it. It’s pretty straightforward. But being honest with yourself is not so easy. There’s a little thing called self-deception that gets in the way.

Now that we’ve introduced that scary word, self-deception, we have our work cut out for us. In the realm of overcoming self-deception, it’s probably better to have no goal in your practice, but that’s a very difficult thing. Since meditation actually works, it’s hard not to have a goal. It actually does make you kinder, more aware, less speedy, happier, more mindful, more efficient, more peaceful, more in the moment, and so on. I’m not belittling these. They are important and valid outcomes of meditation. There are many studies and self-reports that support this. I’m a fan, a true believer. But this doesn’t specifically address genuineness.

In fact, when it comes to being genuine, it may be better to have one of those definite but perhaps limited purposes and let genuineness, which is all-pervasive, take care of itself. Indeed, unwittingly, you do manifest genuineness through the practice of meditation. You become more transparent and available to yourself, your thoughts are less fixed, you discover both natural strength and natural gentleness, and you’re able to see through preconceptions.

I presume you’re all waiting for the but, the pitfall. Here it comes, and it’s a big one. Largely, it’s attachment to credentials.

Sometimes experience comes blessedly, with no connection to credentials. If out of nowhere you have an experience of openness, joy, compassion, or awareness, an experience that doesn’t seem causally connected to anything particular in your life, then it is largely free from credentials. It’s a gift. It’s just what it is. Enjoy it for what it is, while it lasts.

But as soon as you become a “meditator,” whether you have been meditating for one hour, one week, one retreat, or twenty years, you may begin to feel the need to label your meditation experiences and to communicate them to others. That’s the beginning of gaining your spiritual credentials. You’ve just done your first meditation retreat. You go home and tell your family and friends about it: “Oh, it was fantastic. I had a really hard time for a few days, and my body hurt and I couldn’t control my thoughts, but then I had the most amazing (or insert other adjective) experience.” Whatever it was. Well, what else are you going to say? “Nothing happened. It was a complete waste of time, but I want to keep doing this.” Huh? We have positive experiences, and we want to share them with others. That’s an ordinary and acceptable thing to do. Pretty benign.

“If we look into our experience, we see that we are very, very confused in some fundamental way. That may be the most authentic realization that comes up over and over in our meditation practice.”

A little less benign is that, internally, we are looking for confirmation, signs that something is happening in our practice. We are looking for results, progress on the path. That also may be natural but it’s a little more dangerous because after a while we may tend to manufacture results or jump on things in our practice. If we have a “good” (that is, peaceful) meditation session, we are pleased and we try to repeat that. Another time we are frustrated when our mind is a roaring freight train of thoughts and emotions. Or we are experiencing huge upheavals in our life, yet nothing is coming up when we’re on the cushion. Shouldn’t they manifest in our meditation? We may try to manufacture emotionality and crisis in our practice. There are many other examples of how our expectations manifest in our meditation practice.

All these concerns about our practice and our various meditation experiences are genuine signs of—wait for it—confusion. Actually, the recognition of confusion is quite helpful. Seeing our confusion is an important and, dare we say, genuine discovery. If we look into our experience, we see that we are very, very confused in some fundamental way. That may be the most authentic realization that comes up over and over in our meditation practice. If we are willing to acknowledge confusion, at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, then the path and the teachings are real, even if we may not seem to be getting anywhere.

Give up any hope of fruition. This slogan from the lojong (mind-training) tradition is another way of putting it. This is the idea of our practice being anti-credential, or free from credentials—through and through, start to finish. That is why boredom, our starting point, is so helpful. It’s really not a very good credential. If someone asks what you have achieved after three days, or three years, or three decades of meditating, it’s not that impressive to say, “I’m thoroughly bored.” To prepare for writing this article, I looked at ads for spiritual paths and retreats, and not one of them said, “Come sit with us. We’ll make you completely bored.”

But boredom is actually a great sign, if it is genuine, complete boredom that includes being bored with your confusion, your anger, your arrogance, your everything, your you. I’m probably letting the cat out of the bag a bit, but if you commit yourself fully to your practice and discipline, you eventually wear out a lot of things—they begin to seem quite unnecessary and quite boring.

“I’m probably letting the cat out of the bag a bit, but if you commit yourself fully to your practice and discipline, you eventually wear out a lot of things—they begin to seem quite unnecessary and quite boring.”

Boredom is genuinely helpful in ventilating our minds. The point of meditation is obviously not to encourage or enshrine our confusion, so getting really bored with our storylines, positive and negative, helps us clarify our confusion immensely. Of course, the path of meditation is not designed to deter us from commitment, confidence, and positive achievements in life. Meditation is not a nihilistic enterprise. But the approach of collecting credentials rather than wearing them out is problematic. It is very dangerous to try to con buddha mind, hoping to find a shortcut. It’s not dangerous to buddha mind itself, but it may lead to self-deception, the opposite of being genuine.

This is often a problem the longer you have been practicing, especially if you become an instructor or a spiritual model of some kind for others. Then you really feel that you have to demonstrate some accomplishment, and you may begin to panic if you don’t find anything in yourself that qualifies. People are looking to you for advice. They may be watching your every move, or so you think. They may ask you, “What was it like when you were just a beginner like me?” “How did you become so wise, kind, open, generous, blah blah blah?” And you start to think, “Well, I must have accomplished something. Yes, I am wiser, kinder, more open, more generous, more blah blah blah.” You may try to fulfill people’s expectations because you actually want to help them. But you also want to avoid embarrassment.

“It is very dangerous to try to con buddha mind, hoping to find a shortcut. It’s not dangerous to buddha mind itself, but it may lead to self-deception, the opposite of being genuine.”

The interesting thing is that people actually see right through one another, so really we could relax about the whole thing. It’s an open secret. Or as Leonard Cohen wrote, “Everybody knows.” Everybody really does know their own and others’ little secrets. We know, that is, if we admit to ourselves what we see, what we really know. That perception sees what is truly genuine.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to relax with that in ourselves. We have a lot of resistance to simply being ourselves, without pretense or adornment, with all our warts and wrinkles. It is quite uncomfortable. So often we put on a little show for ourselves and others, thinking that’s what is required. We try to give the people what they want. We try to give ourselves what we think we want. It’s actually very sad, and in the long run it doesn’t help ourselves or others. But in the short run, it’s a pretty good con.

But while everybody may know, that’s not a license for telling other people what’s wrong with them or what’s good for them. To do that, you’d have to really know. You’d have to be able to see others not just as schmucks or charlatans, devils or angels, but also as the immaculately genuine human beings they are. That has to start in one’s own practice. Sitting with ourselves without expectation, viewing practice as practice, as life’s work rather than a race to the finish line. In that way, we leave space so that buddha mind, genuine mind, can shine through at the most unexpected moments.

Genuineness is actually that simple. But I have to confess that I fall short most of the time, failure that I am.

A little voice pops up: Give it up. Abandon any hope of fruition.

I yield to the little voice.


Carolyn Rose Gimian is a meditation teacher trained by Chogyam Trungpa. She is the editor of Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery, and other teachings by Chogyam Trungpa, including his collected works.

 

 

 

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93% Chance Earth To Be More Than 4c Warmer Than Now By 2100. Sea Level Rise Projections Double, Painting Terrifying Picture For Next Generation

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2018 at 5:36 pm

 

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(Photo: Maria Da Conceição Araujo / EyeEm / Getty Images)

Oldspeak: “Happy New Year Dear Readers, thought I’d start the year off with a state of the world report. At the end of the year, we’ll compare and contrast how much more fuckuppedly feverish our Beloved Mother has become. The current ecological equation is as Mr. Jamail eloquently stated:

There is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere and heat absorbed into the planet’s oceans that even if we stopped emitting carbon completely right now, the planet would continue to experience and display dramatic impacts from anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) for thousands of years.

The second part of that equation is this: There is simply nothing to indicate that national governments around the world are willing to take the immediate, radical steps that would be necessary to begin to seriously mitigate these impacts.

Many of the humans being born right now will be alive in 2100. They will live in the conditions we are creating for them today: In a world where it will likely be impossible to feed the majority of the projected 9 billion people on the planet by 2050, water wars will be the new oil wars (the US military has already been practicing for water wars for years), major coastal cities will have long since flooded, and droughts and wildfires will have become year-round events.”

It’s currently warmer in Alaska than in Florida. The jet stream is obviously broken. Earth’s ocean’s are warming 13% faster than thought, and accelerating. Up to 30 percent of the Earth will experience serious drought and desertification by the year 2050. Water is becoming scarcer. Key food-producing regions are now plagued by chronic groundwater overpumping, dried- up rivers, and salt buildup in soils. In addition, an imbalance between growing populations and finite water supplies may shut off the option of food self-sufficiency for a growing number of countries. A biological annihilation of life is underway. And there is nothing to indicate that national governments are interested in taking steps necessary to mitigate impacts from Anthropogenic climate change. So that’s where we’re at in January 2018. Take a gander at Dahr Jamail’s latest dispatches from the climate edge. ” –Jevon

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

In a consistent trend, future projections of an increase in the overall global temperature, as well increases in sea level rise, continue to outpace previous worst-case scenarios.

This is due to a simple equation: There is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere and heat absorbed into the planet’s oceans that even if we stopped emitting carbon completely right now, the planet would continue to experience and display dramatic impacts from anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) for thousands of years.

The second part of that equation is this: There is simply nothing to indicate that national governments around the world are willing to take the immediate, radical steps that would be necessary to begin to seriously mitigate these impacts.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

Many of the humans being born right now will be alive in 2100. They will live in the conditions we are creating for them today: In a world where it will likely be impossible to feed the majority of the projected 9 billion people on the planet by 2050, water wars will be the new oil wars (the US military has already been practicing for water wars for years), major coastal cities will have long since flooded, and droughts and wildfires will have become year-round events.

While reading this month’s climate disruption dispatch, consider how the latest scientific reports and studies might translate into a picture of our collective future.

recent study showed that deforestation has twice the negative impact on ACD as previously believed. Deforestation has two main negative impacts. First, the trees are burned and they immediately release their stored carbon into the atmosphere. Then, farms are created in their place, which go on to release other greenhouse gasses like methane and nitrous oxide. Furthermore, without trees to act as a carbon sink, less carbon dioxide is being removed from the atmosphere.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Oceans Melting Greenland mission has warned that that Greenland ice sheet, which alone contains enough landlocked ice to raise global sea levels 20 feet, is more at risk, due to ACD, than previously believed. Even into late fall of this year, Greenland was experiencing temperatures as high as a stunning 54 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Some of Greenland’s coastal towns were even experiencing rain, while melting was occurring up on the ice sheet well into November.

Meanwhile down in Antarctica, recent evidence shows that even the glaciers in the eastern Antarctic, largely thought to be minimally impacted by ACD, are not nearly as stable as scientists had believed. The study, published in Nature, found that in the area studied there is enough ice to raise global sea levels by as much as 15 feet, enough to submerge most of the coastal cities.

Across the US, warmer temperatures have dominated throughout the late fall season. Even on the last day of November, just 7.6 percent of the country was covered by snow, which is only approximately one-third of the typical area of snow coverage for that time of year over the past 15 years. One seven-day period saw 1,550 record high temperatures around the country, compared to 15 record lows, a 100-to-1 ratio. On November 27, the mile-high city of Denver reached 81 degrees, which was 34 degrees warmer than Los Angeles, Houston or Tampa.

To get a sense of what these numbers mean, pay attention to the climate where you live. Look out the window. Take a walk outside. Compare today’s temperatures and climate to those of 10 years ago, or 20 years ago. Ask friends in other places around the country what they are seeing. Then, consider these monthly climate disruption dispatches in the context of that personal glimpse. Climate disruption doesn’t simply affect “the planet,” in some abstract sense; it affects every one of us, along with every other species on Earth.

Earth

As ACD progresses, increasingly profound impacts across Earth are apparent.

Along with unsustainable farming and fishing practices, ACD has caused a deepening struggle for survival among several kinds of vulnerable animals and crops. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “red list” of endangered species now includes several species of wild rice that are listed as “threatened,” while Australia’s ringtail possum is now listed as “critically endangered.” Three reptile species on Christmas Island have gone extinct in the wild.

Meanwhile across the US west, The National Climate Assessment has already shown how ACD-driven warming trends are changing both the water supply and ecosystems. Some of the impacts include an earlier arrival of spring, more precipitation falling as rain instead of snow (causing a lower winter snowpack), increasing droughts, and longer and more intense wildfire seasons.

On the human front, a recently published report links the growth of a new generation of child brides to ACD. The report showed that girls as young as only 13 years are being forced into marriage in an attempt to stave off poverty brought about by ACD impacts in countries like Mozambique. In fact, a 2015 UN Population Fund report estimated that there were 37,000 child marriages every day, and UNICEF warned that same year that if current trends continued the number of child brides could more than double, reaching 310 million by 2050.

Water

In the watery realms, ACD impacts continue to become increasingly pronounced as well. Longyearbyen, Norway, the most northerly town in the world, is at risk of disappearing. Winter temperatures there have seen a staggering increase of 10 degrees Celsius in the last three decades alone, snow is melting earlier in the spring and glaciers are thinning. Meanwhile, melting permafrost is causing avalanches near the town, closing roads and destroying houses. Between unusable roads from thawing permafrost, the ground no longer being able to support dwelling or town infrastructure, the avalanches, and disruptions to the food chain from melting ice and warmer temperatures, the town’s future looks grim.

Decreasing Arctic sea ice and warming temperatures are placing Arctic dogsledding culture in a very precarious position. Those who rely on dogsleds on a way of life can no longer count on the necessary ice, and hence, the traditional mode of transportation is on its way to becoming a thing of the past, as current melting trends continue apace.

Indeed, warming trends are only speeding up. Arctic permafrost is thawing faster than ever, Arctic seawater is warming up and Arctic sea ice is melting at its fastest pace in 1,500 years.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report showed that the Arctic experienced its second-warmest year on record during 2017, and that the melting sea ice (which reached its lowest point on record), “shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state that it was in just a decade ago.”

A recent study published in Science Advances has shown that one section of the Greenland ice sheet began melting 80 percent faster between 2003-2014 compared to the 26-year period beforehand.

Another report shows a dramatic increase in the use of artificial snow across ski areas in the Alps as temperatures warm and ski seasons shrink. The report provides the grim assessment, “The dream of skiing on Alpine snow is going to go away.”

Meanwhile in the Antarctic, the Pine Island Glacier is showing increasing signs of instability as a giant iceberg that broke off of it this September rapidly shattered. The incident underscored concerns among scientists about sea level rise continuing to outpace many worst-case predictions.

Efforts are afoot to figure out what to do to protect coastal cities from sea level rise, though the challenge is formidable. A massive barrier that aims to protect Venice from rising seas and storm surges is on target to become operational next year, but engineering limitations coupled with rapidly increasing sea level rise projections are showing that it will, eventually, all be for naught.

In fact, a recent report published in the journal Earth’s Future shows that the sea level rise many of us will see in our lifetimes may actually be more than double what was previously anticipated.

Lastly in this section, a recent report showed that last summer’s Hurricane Harvey was made 15 percent more intense — and three times more likely to happen — due to ACD.

Fire

The biggest news in the US for ACD-fueled wildfires brings us again to California.

That state’s largest wildfire on record, the Thomas Fire, burned more than a quarter of a million acres across the southern part of the state. At least one firefighter has been killed, and the fire is at least the seventh most destructive ever for California as far as the number of structures lost. Thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has branded the wildfires that have scorched his state over 2017 the “new normal,” and added, “With climate change, some scientists are saying southern California is literally burning up.”

Air

Warmer air temperatures are becoming the new normal as well.

Alaska’s northernmost town of Utqiagvik is now warming so fast that NOAA computers removed their air temperature data because the data was automatically flagged by algorithms as “unreal” and removed from the climate database. As the Anchorage Dispatch News recently reported on the incident, “In the short 17 years since 2000, the average October temperature in Utqiaġvik has climbed 7.8 degrees. The November temperature is up 6.9 degrees. The December average has warmed 4.7 degrees.”

For the first time ever, the American Meteorological Society’s annual report showed that certain extreme high temperature events in 2016 could simply not have happened without the influence of ACD. The same report showed that of 27 extreme weather events that were analyzed in 2016, ACD was found to be a “significant driver” of 21 of them.

Denial and Reality

As usual with the Trump administration, there’s far too much denial to fit in this section, so here are a few lowlights. In the pages of Steve Bannon’s favorite “weapon,” Breitbart “News’ ” James Delingpole has likened people who are concerned about ACD to Nazis.

The Trump administration recently nixed a cross-agency government group that was created to help prepare US cities for inevitable ACD shocks.

The so-called administration also has proposed a federal budget that will slash ACD-related NASA missions, and is instead urging the space agency to prioritize missions to the moon and Mars instead of “Earth-centric research.”

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the world is living in reality and continuing to try to do something to mitigate ACD’s devastating blows.

Recently, a large group of world leaders, energy magnates and investment fund representatives met in Paris for a summit addressing ACD. They did not invite anyone from the Trump administration to the meeting.

In Canada, the Trudeau government will be introducing a new law next year that will make polluters pay for their CO2 emissions.

According to a new survey, nearly one in six new cars on the planet will be electric by 2025.

And despite the Trump administration’s efforts to clamp down on climate science, important research is pushing forward.

A sobering reality check comes in the form of a report showing that ACD may be more severe than expected by 2100, adding that global temperatures could rise 15 percent (.5 degrees Celsius) higher than expected during this century. The study shows that there is a 93 percent chance that Earth will be more than 4 degrees Celsius warmer than it is now by 2100. Previous estimates had given that possibility a 62 percent chance. This report is in alignment with a consistent trend among climate models, which continue to adjust upward projections as ACD intensifies with time.

Punishing “Predators” Will Not Save Us

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2017 at 4:46 pm
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Protesters attend a “Me Too” rally to denounce sexual harassment and assaults of women in Los Angeles, California, on November 12, 2017. (Photo: Ronen Tivony / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Oldspeak: “The powerful men who’ve been outed for harassment, assault and other abuses are not going to prison, for the most part — and even if they did, would they become less harmful? Punishment-based approaches to social harms are the default in our society, but they have consistently availed us nothing. Few rapists ever see the inside of a jail cell, whereas 86 percent of women who have spent time in jail are survivors of sexual violenceMarginalized women face continued criminalization for acting in their own defense, and across the board, US prisoners face alarming rates of sexual violence while confined. But in this supposed watershed moment, high-profile white women, whose voices have been loudly amplified, have offered little critique of the carceral and punitive approaches that have only added additional layers of abuse and exploitation to an already violent society

Are we creating an environment where survivors are more supported? Has the average, working-class survivor been given new tools with which to halt their abuse? What about survivors living in the margins, whose cries are often unheard, even when they have disclosed? And will this fleeting moment, of simply naming and condemning “predators,” bring neglected survivors closer to the care and resources they need? Will it transform the people who harmed them? I think not….

So, what is this cultural moment accomplishing? For one thing, it is feeding a conflation that will ultimately be weaponized against the marginalized. I know no one wants to hear it, but let’s challenge ourselves to take a look backward, at the history of criminalization and punishment. There have been other historical moments when a lewd comment or gesture (or the perception or accusation of such) evoked the same rage and response as an all-out assault. ​Throughout US history, in the eyes of the law and white society, Black and Brown men and boys have been viewed as potential predators. Historically, those who have been deemed “predators” have been ensnared by social mechanisms that were supposedly geared toward “public safety.” If you’re thinking, “the men who are being brought down now are white and powerful, so these situations aren’t comparable,” I would ask you to consider what happens when the high-profile white women who’ve taken the wheel, in this social moment, get out of the car and move on to other things. That car will still be in motion, but who will be driving? And who will they run down?….

Treating people who commit sexual violence as outliers, who can simply be ejected from our society, will not unravel the norms, policies and practices that make sexual violence inevitable in this society. Pretending we can effectively address the problem with a smattering of takedowns will actually reinforce those norms, policies and practices.” –Kelly Hayes

“Yeeeesssss…. Brilliant, contextualized and nuanced analysis of the current media frenzy around harasser shaming. Focusing attention on well known personalities doesn’t allow for the deep critical analysis necessary to truly deal with root causes of behavioral patterns  grounded in patriarchal systems of racial and gender based oppression and domination that have been in place for eons. Will we change how we rear our male youth? Will we stop imbuing them with madness like  “boys don’t cry”, “be aggressive” “be competitive”, “dominate the competition”, “don’t be a pussy”, “you (insert insulted behaviour here) like a girl”?  Will we stop condoning violence when “justified”? Telling them feelings, emotions, compassion & empathy are only for girls? Will we stop teaching them to exploit others weaknesses?  We see this violence, abuse and exploitation replicated in how we treat other species and our Great Mother Earth. Is there any wonder that violence, abuse and oppression of women is the norm here? A pervasive, global phenomenon in this barbaric culture of cruelty? These conditions will not change with more punishment & condemnation of  “predators”. These conditions will not change due to virtue signaling women’s marches, rallies & protests.   Actual change will require root level rethinking of how we raise men.  It will require deprogramming and decolonizing of minds and ways of being. How we define manhood. Of the behaviors reinforced and condoned by men. A global renunciation of pathological patriarchy. Short of that sadly we can expect more of the same, ad infinitum.” –Jevon

Written By Kelly Hayes @ Truthout:

Ten years before Alyssa Milano turned #MeToo into a viral hashtag, the concept was created by Tarana Burke, a Black grassroots organizer, as a means to help survivors, particularly survivors of color, get the support they need. Recently, the hashtag quickly galvanized a post-Weinstein movement to expose men whose harassment and assault had gone either unseen or unacknowledged. As the hashtag gained popularity, Burke acknowledged feeling “a sense of dread,” because “something that was part of my life’s work was going to be co-opted and taken from me and used for a purpose that I hadn’t originally intended.” But within days, Burke had been credited for the concept, and granted some amount of attention, which for many, was enough to silence concerns about whether the moment reflected Burke’s crucial purpose — to help and support survivors.

Punishment-based approaches to social harms are the default in our society, but they have consistently availed us nothing.

“What the Me Too campaign really does, and what Tarana Burke has really enabled us to do, is put the focus back on the victims,” Milano said in an interview with Robin Roberts.

But has the evolution of this cultural moment, as Milano claims, actually put the focus on victims? In recent weeks, I have seen a steady stream of allegations, but what I have not noticed is a larger public conversation about how to materially and emotionally support victims. I have seen no increase in advocacy for programs that help survivors access resources. Conversations about prevention are usually reduced to catchphrases about “teaching your sons not to rape” — a process that has no established road map in a culture of rape. And then there are the takedowns, which are treated as ends in themselves, as though robbing some powerful men of some of the trappings of fame materially alters the landscape of sexual violence.

Somehow, in the hands of powerful white women like Milano, a moment of solidarity and a discussion of how we can support survivors became a large-scale mission to take “these men” down. So, they’re being brought down. Now what?

The powerful men who’ve been outed for harassment, assault and other abuses are not going to prison, for the most part — and even if they did, would they become less harmful? Punishment-based approaches to social harms are the default in our society, but they have consistently availed us nothing. Few rapists ever see the inside of a jail cell, whereas 86 percent of women who have spent time in jail are survivors of sexual violence. Marginalized women face continued criminalization for acting in their own defense, and across the board, US prisoners face alarming rates of sexual violence while confined. But in this supposed watershed moment, high-profile white women, whose voices have been loudly amplified, have offered little critique of the carceral and punitive approaches that have only added additional layers of abuse and exploitation to an already violent society.

Will this fleeting moment, of simply naming and condemning “predators,” bring neglected survivors closer to the care and resources they need?

It is possible that renewed interest in rape survivor Cyntoia Brown’s case could mark the beginning of a larger public dialogue about the criminalization of survivors. But given Cyntoia’s extraordinary circumstances — including the fact that she was trafficked as a child and has pursued higher education while incarcerated — it seems more likely that her case will be approached as an anomaly, rather than one that exposes a system that grinds survivors under. Meanwhile, the emphasis of the vast majority of public conversations remains on the allegations and the perpetrators, not on supporting survivors.

I will admit, I was here for the takedowns, for a moment. I am not sorry rapists and those who have harassed are losing their jobs or the respect of their peers. What I am worried about is what we are building right now, and what we are not building.

Are we creating an environment where survivors are more supported? Has the average, working-class survivor been given new tools with which to halt their abuse? What about survivors living in the margins, whose cries are often unheard, even when they have disclosed? And will this fleeting moment, of simply naming and condemning “predators,” bring neglected survivors closer to the care and resources they need? Will it transform the people who harmed them? I think not.

As a Native person, I am acutely aware of sexual violence, and the ways in which it is invisibilized. Fifty-six percent of Native women have experienced sexual violence — which means Native women are 2.5 times as likely to experience sexual violence as any other group. I do not expect that the current flurry of celebrity takedowns will have much impact on the violence Native people experience, or even spur a greater awareness of that violence, or the transformative efforts to overcome it.

So, what is this cultural moment accomplishing? For one thing, it is feeding a conflation that will ultimately be weaponized against the marginalized. I know no one wants to hear it, but let’s challenge ourselves to take a look backward, at the history of criminalization and punishment. There have been other historical moments when a lewd comment or gesture (or the perception or accusation of such) evoked the same rage and response as an all-out assault. ​Throughout US history, in the eyes of the law and white society, Black and Brown men and boys have been viewed as potential predators. Historically, those who have been deemed “predators” have been ensnared by social mechanisms that were supposedly geared toward “public safety.” If you’re thinking, “the men who are being brought down now are white and powerful, so these situations aren’t comparable,” I would ask you to consider what happens when the high-profile white women who’ve taken the wheel, in this social moment, get out of the car and move on to other things. That car will still be in motion, but who will be driving? And who will they run down?

We already know.

When we demand total disposal of “bad” people as a social standard, we are creating a social mechanism. When we put serial rapists in the same category as people who say, or once said, terrible things, we are creating a social mechanism. When we foster that conflation, and call everyone it encompasses “predator,” we are creating a social mechanism. When we demand the disposal of all such “predators,” we are creating a social mechanism. Sometimes, those mechanisms are enacted at a personal level; sometimes, they are codified, like the “three strikes” laws Hillary Clinton pushed forward by vilifying Black children.

Personally, I am working to root the word “predator” out of my vocabulary because we aren’t hunting for predators in an otherwise pristine forest. The forest itself is on fire.

When everyone who broke a law, any law, became a “criminal,” a social mechanism was born.

When Black children became “super predators,” a social mechanism was born — one that fed Black children to the prison industrial complex.

When conflations and generalizations that render people disposable are loosed upon the world, I worry about where they will land, because, on a long enough timeline, they will always land in the same places.

Personally, I am working to root the word “predator” out of my vocabulary. I always knew it was a term that dehumanized, but some harms would provoke me to spit out a word I knew was harmful and ugly. However, in the current climate of conflation, the word “predator” could mean anything, and therefore means nothing. It’s not a meaningful characterization. It’s a garbage chute into which people are being tossed.

If you’re thinking, “Well, these men are garbage,” I would counter that if that’s the case, we are still swimming in trash, and merely celebrating the removal of a few Hefty bags.

As much as we would like to “other” harassers and abusers — marking them as separate from ourselves — “predators” are human beings, as are your friends and family members, and many of you, who have at times crossed lines and broken boundaries. I believe that many such people can transform their harms. My first concern, however, is to support the healing of survivors, which is what I thought I was doing when I wrote my #MeToo post. In truth, that’s what #MeToo still means to me, because the need for us to find each other and heal and love, and our ability to transform the world that hurt us — that’s all still there when we are ready to do the harder work.

People like Tarana Burke were doing that difficult work long before this viral moment, and will continue to do so long after it has passed.

Treating people who commit sexual violence as outliers, who can simply be ejected from our society, will not unravel the norms, policies and practices that make sexual violence inevitable in this society. Pretending we can effectively address the problem with a smattering of takedowns will actually reinforce those norms, policies and practices.

We aren’t hunting for predators in an otherwise pristine forest. The forest itself is on fire. It always has been. And when the predator hunt ends, we’ll still be standing in the flames.

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Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes is Truthout’s social media strategist, as well as a contributing writer. She is also a direct action trainer and a cofounder of The Chicago Light Brigade and the direct action collective Lifted Voices. Kelly’s contribution to Truthout’s anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? stems from her work as an organizer and her ongoing analysis of movements in the United States. Her work can also be found on her blog, Transformative Spaces, in Yes! Magazine, BGD and the BGD anthology The Solidarity Struggle: How People of Color Succeed and Fail At Showing Up For Each Other In the Fight For Freedom. Kelly is also a movement photographer whose work is featured in the “Freedom and Resistance” exhibit of the DuSable Museum of African American History.