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

Archive for November, 2017|Monthly archive page

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.

=========================================================================

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.

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Healing Begins With Gratitude

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2017 at 1:49 am
gratitude-flower

Photo by Harry Burk.

Oldspeak: “All you need is already within you, only you must approach your self with reverence and love. Self-condemnation and self-distrust are grievous errors. Your constant flight from pain and search for pleasure is a sign of love you bear for your self, all I plead with you is this: make love of your self perfect. Deny yourself nothing — glue your self infinity and eternity and discover that you do not need them; you are beyond…..

It is always the false that makes you suffer, the false desires and fears, the false values and ideas, the false relationships between people. Abandon the false and you are free of pain; truth makes happy, truth liberates” –Maharaj

The great open secret of gratitude is that it is not dependent on external circumstance. It’s like a setting or channel that we can switch to at any moment, no matter what’s going on around us. It helps us connect to our basic right to be here, like the breath does. It’s a stance of the soul. In systems theory, each part contains the whole. Gratitude is the kernel that can flower into everything we need to know.

Thankfulness loosens the grip of the industrial growth society by contradicting its predominant message: that we are insufficient and inadequate. The forces of late capitalism continually tell us that we need more—more stuff, more money, more approval, more comfort, more entertainment. The dissatisfaction it breeds is profound. It infects people with a compulsion to acquire that delivers them into the cruel, humiliating bondage of debt. So gratitude is liberating. It is subversive. It helps us realize that we are sufficient, and that realization frees us. Elders of indigenous cultures have retained this knowledge, and we can learn from their practices. -Johana Macy

 

“Whew. In this era of infinite growth society, where gluttonous hyperconsumption is viewed as occasion for hedonistic holiday celebrations, where more is never enough, where hungry ghosts rule,  Maharaj & Macy’s words of self-reverence, love and gratitude pierce the veils of illusion we’re shrouded in. In this time of the Great Turning, where the very peoples who are best equipped to heal this burning earth and the weitko infected humanity that is destroying it are under relentless assault, we would do well to make ourselves more familiar with their divine knowledge and ways of being. Develop the capacity to see our wounds, have compassion and gratitude for them and have the courage and strong determination to create space for our wounds and sickness to heal. Seeing that all we need to heal is within us. Not dependent on external circumstances. To be grateful for ALL, to find the liberation from pain, suffering and inadequacy that gratitude brings. To realize that we are Beyond. Beyond all the bullshit we take ourselves and “others” to be. To know that we are irrevocably inter-being with all that Is, and that there is nothing to fear. Renouncing, the false; judgement, separation, condemnation & hatred of self and “others” and seeing that All Is One, All Is Self. Make a habit of practicing gratitude. Cherish and enjoy your ride on this spiral of Life. You are perfect just as you are, here and now.” -Jevon

Written By Johana Macy @ Lion’s Roar:

We have received an inestimable gift. To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe—to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it—is a wonder beyond words. It is an extraordinary privilege to be accorded a human life, with self-reflexive consciousness that brings awareness of our own actions and the ability to make choices. It lets us choose to take part in the healing of our world.

Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.

In the Tibetan Buddhist path we are asked to pause before any period of fmeditative practice and precede it with reflection on the preciousness of a human life. This is not because we as humans are superior to other beings, but because we can “change the karma.” In other words, graced with self-reflexive consciousness, we are endowed with the capacity for choice—to take stock of what we are doing and change directions. We may have endured for eons of lifetimes as other life-forms, under the heavy hand of fate and the blind play of instinct, but now at last we are granted the ability to consider and judge and make decisions. Weaving our ever more complex neural circuits into the miracle of self-awareness, life yearned through us for the ability to know and act and speak on behalf of the larger whole. Now the time has come when by our own choice we can consciously enter the dance.

In Buddhist practice, that first reflection is followed by a second, on the brevity of this precious human life: “Death is certain; the time of death is uncertain.” That reflection awakens in us the precious gift of the present moment—to seize this chance to be alive right now on Planet Earth.

Even in the Dark

That our world is in crisis—to the point where survival of conscious life on Earth is in question—in no way diminishes the value of this gift; on the contrary. To us is granted the privilege of being on hand: to take part, if we choose, in the Great Turning to a just and sustainable society. We can let life work through us, enlisting all our strength, wisdom, and courage, so that life itself can continue.

There is so much to be done, and the time is so short. We can proceed, of course, out of grim and angry desperation. But the tasks proceed more easily and productively with a measure of thankfulness for life; it links us to our deeper powers and lets us rest in them. Many of us are braced, psychically and physically, against the signals of distress that continually barrage us in the news, on our streets, in our environment. As if to reduce their impact on us, we contract like a turtle into its shell. But we can choose to turn to the breath, the body, the senses—for they help us to relax and open to wider currents of knowing and feeling.

The great open secret of gratitude is that it is not dependent on external circumstance. It’s like a setting or channel that we can switch to at any moment, no matter what’s going on around us. It helps us connect to our basic right to be here, like the breath does. It’s a stance of the soul. In systems theory, each part contains the whole. Gratitude is the kernel that can flower into everything we need to know.

Thankfulness loosens the grip of the industrial growth society by contradicting its predominant message: that we are insufficient and inadequate. The forces of late capitalism continually tell us that we need more—more stuff, more money, more approval, more comfort, more entertainment. The dissatisfaction it breeds is profound. It infects people with a compulsion to acquire that delivers them into the cruel, humiliating bondage of debt. So gratitude is liberating. It is subversive. It helps us realize that we are sufficient, and that realization frees us. Elders of indigenous cultures have retained this knowledge, and we can learn from their practices.

Learning from the Onondaga

Elders of the six-nation confederacy of the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Iroquois, have passed down through the ages the teachings of the Great Peacemaker. A thousand years ago, they had been warring tribes, caught in brutal cycles of attack, revenge, and retaliation, when he came across Lake Ontario in a stone canoe. Gradually his words and actions won them over, and they accepted the Great Law of Peace. They buried their weapons under the Peace Tree by Lake Onondaga and formed councils for making wise choices together, and for self-governance. In the Haudenosaunee, historians recognize the oldest known participatory democracy and point to the inspiration it provided to Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and others in crafting the Constitution of the United States. That did not impede American settlers and soldiers from taking by force most of the Haudenosaunees’ land and decimating their populations.

Eventually accorded “sovereign” status, the Haudenosaunee nations—all except for the Onondaga—proceeded in recent decades to sue state and federal governments for their ancestral lands, winning settlements in cash and license for casinos. All waited and wondered what legal action would be brought by the Onondaga Nation, whose name means Keepers of the Central Fire and whose ancestral land, vastly larger than the bit they now control, extends in a wide swath from Pennsylvania to Canada. But the Onondaga elders and clan mothers continued to deliberate year after year, seeking consensus on this issue that would shape the fate of their people for generations to come. Finally, in the spring of 2005, they made their legal move. In their land rights claim, unlike that of any other indigenous group in America, they did not demand the return of any ancestral land or monetary compensation for it. They asked for one thing only: that it be cleaned up and restored to health for the sake of all who presently live on it, and for the sake of their children and children’s children.

To state and federal power-holders, this was asking a lot. The land is heavily contaminated by industrial development, including big chemical processing plants and a number of neglected toxic waste sites. Onondaga Lake, on whose shores stood the sacred Peace Tree, is considered to be more polluted with heavy metals than any in the country. Within a year, at the urging of the governor of New York, the court dismissed the Onondaga claim as invalid and too late.

On a bleak November afternoon, when the suit was still in process, I visited the Onondaga Nation—a big name for this scrap of land that looks like a postage stamp on maps of Central New York. I had come because I was moved by the integrity and vision of their land rights claim, and now I saw how few material resources they possess to pursue it. In the community center, native counselors described outreach programs for mental health and self-esteem, bringing young people together from all the haudenosaunee. To help with the expenses, other tribes had chipped in, but few contributions had been received from the richer ones.

They were eager for me to see the recently built school where young Onondagans, who choose not to go off the Nation to U.S.-run schools, can receive an education. a teacher named Frieda, who was serving for a while as a clan mother, had waited after hours to show me around. The central atrium she led me into was hung about with shields of a dozen clans— turtle clan, bear clan, frog—and on the floor illumined by the sky light was a large green turtle, beautifully wrought of inlaid wood. “here is where we gather the students for our daily morning assembly,” Frieda explained. “We begin, of course, with the thanksgiving. Not the real, traditional form of it, because that takes days. We do it very short, just twenty minutes or so.” Turning to gaze at her face, I sank down on a bench. She heard my silent request and sat down too. raising her right hand in a circling gesture that spiraled downward as the fingers closed, she began. “Let us gather our minds as one mind and give thanks to grandfather Sun, who rises each day to bring light so we can see each others’ faces and warmth for the seeds to grow.” on and on she continued, greeting and thanking the life-giving presences that bless and nourish us all. With each one—moon, waters, trees—that lovely gesture was repeated. “We gather our minds as one mind.”

My eyes stayed riveted on her. What I was receiving through her words and gesture felt like an intravenous injection, right into my bloodstream. This, I knew, can teach us how to survive, when all possessions and comforts have been lost. When our honored place in the world is taken from us, this practice can hold us together in dignity and clear mind.

What Frieda gave me is a staple of haudenosaunee culture. The Mohawks have written down similar words, in an equally short form, so the rest of us can have it too. known as the Mohawk Thanksgiving Prayer, it begins:

The People

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother

We are all thankful to our mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

And it concludes:

The Enlightened Teachers

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. We send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.

Now our minds are one.

The Creator

Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or great spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. for all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the creator.

Now our minds are one.

Closing Words

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Now our minds are one.

The Spiral

There are hard things to face in our world today, if we want to be of use. Gratitude, when it’s real, offers no blinders. on the contrary, in the face of devastation and tragedy it can ground us, especially when we’re scared. It can hold us steady for the work to be done.

The activist’s inner journey appears to me like a spiral, interconnecting four successive stages or movements that feed into each other. These four are: 1) opening to gratitude, 2) owning our pain for the world, 3) seeing with new eyes, and 4) going forth. The sequence repeats itself, as the spiral circles round, but ever in new ways. The spiral is fractal in nature: it can characterize a lifetime or a project, and it can also happen in a day or several times a day.

The spiral begins with gratitude, because that quiets the frantic mind and brings us back to source. It reconnects us with basic goodness and our personal power. It helps us to be more fully present to our world. That grounded presence provides the psychic space for acknowledging the pain we carry for our world.

In owning this pain, and daring to experience it, we learn that our capacity to “suffer with” is the true meaning of compassion. We begin to know the immensity of our heart-mind and how it helps us to move beyond fear. What had isolated us in private anguish now opens outward and delivers us into wider reaches of our world as lover, world as self.

The truth of our inter-existence, made real to us by our pain for the world, helps us see with new eyes. It brings fresh understandings of who we are and how we are related to each other and the universe. We begin to comprehend our own power to change and heal. We strengthen by growing living connections with past and future generations, and our brother and sister species.

Then, ever again, we go forth into the action that calls us. With others whenever and wherever possible, we set a target, lay a plan, step out. We don’t wait for a blueprint or fail-proof scheme; for each step will be our teacher, bringing new perspectives and opportunities. Even when we don’t succeed in a given venture, we can be grateful for the chance we took and the lessons we learned. and the spiral begins again.

Then all the work I put my hand to
widens from turn to turn.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Thanksgiving Distorts History And Sugarcoats Continuing State Violence Against Indigenous People

In Uncategorized on November 23, 2017 at 6:02 pm

 

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While often valorized as a time of celebration characterized by the benign coming together of friends and family, Thanksgiving is also a holiday that actively elides the genocidal violence that has made the US. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout, after Jean Leon Gerome Ferris)

Oldspeak: “Happy Indigenous Peoples Murder Day. :-< Words about the day from the perspective of a Indigenous American.” –Jevon

Written By Jaskiran Dhillon @ Truthout:

It’s that time of year again. Step into any retail outlet and one is immediately confronted with a plethora of pumpkin products and leafy, decorative centerpieces for the dinner table. Families gather in groups, big and small, to engage in some form of “giving thanks.” Gluttonous feasting and football are hallmarks of this annual, federal holiday that finds its roots back in the 1600s and the conventional trope of English pilgrims in Massachusetts. Less talked about, though, and even actively suppressed in some cases, are the ways that Thanksgiving — in material and symbolic practice — is yet another avenue for the distortion of colonial history through the elevation and circulation of settler memory and nostalgia. While often valorized and rationalized as a time of celebration characterized by the benign coming together of friends and family, it is also a holiday that actively elides the genocidal violence that has made the US. It is a state-sanctioned endorsement of the erasure of Indigenous peoples and their lived experiences and resistance efforts, both past and present.

The celebratory zeal of the day is part of the state’s machinery that allows us to abdicate political responsibility and turn a blind eye to the persistent colonial violence.

Stated otherwise: This holiday, like clockwork, ushers in more of the colonial same.

As a public scholar and educator who thinks deeply about colonial histories and contemporary realities, the widespread and normalized festivities during “Thanksgiving” have always made me feel profoundly uncomfortable. In particular, I’ve been troubled by the way this “holiday” reproduces notions of American benevolence and innocence, reinforcing the idea that the United States was born out of justice, liberty and goodwill instead of war, murder, slavery and the vicious seizure and occupation of Indigenous homelands (the real story). Thanksgiving tells the tale of peaceful settlement, of a conciliatory arrival at coexistence with the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. The celebratory zeal of the day reinforces collective and shared meaning of these nationalistic sentiments by keeping an imagined version of the United States alive in the hearts and minds of millions of white settlers and their descendants who, unquestionably, reap the material benefits from the immense harm that has been done, and continues to be done, to Indigenous lands and bodies. It is part of the state’s machinery that allows us to abdicate political responsibility and turn a blind eye to the persistent colonial violence that is so clearly evidenced in the criminalization and incarceration of Indigenous peoples, the ongoing dismissal and violation of treaty rights, the encroachment of extractive industries onto Indigenous homelands and sacred sites, and the rampant gender violence that has become part of the everyday realities for so many Indigenous women, children and youth — egregious violence that seems to exist outside the bounds of the law.

Thanksgiving is the symbolic embodiment of the story white Americans like to tell themselves about who they are and what they stand for.

Contrary to the well-rehearsed response that one often faces when offering an intellectual and political critique of Thanksgiving, it is not simply a “holiday.” Like Columbus Day and the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving is the symbolic embodiment of the story white Americans like to tell themselves about who they are and what they stand for. And this is what I tell my students when they ask me why I call for the critical interrogation of this so-called holiday.

For the past few months, I have been teaching an undergraduate/graduate seminar in the Global Studies program at The New School, my home university. It is a course that was designed to work in purposeful opposition to the unfailing denial of colonial history and ongoing violence against Indigenous peoples in the present that is so pervasive throughout the mainstream education systems (both secondary and post-secondary) and media outlets in the United States. In many ways, it serves as an antithesis to Thanksgiving itself. Grounded in a version of revolutionary red pedagogy advanced by Quechua scholar Sandy Grande, the class takes students on a journey through competing versions about the “truth” of the United States. It does so by excavating knowledge that has been deliberately subjugated, and by asking essential and difficult questions that destabilize what we think we know about the places where we build our lives.

Throughout the evolution of this course, my students have faced unsettling realities — including developing an awareness of their own complicity in reproducing colonial relations of domination. Week after week, students have collectively read the scholarship of Indigenous writers: a revolutionary move in its own right given the whiteness of the curriculum in most institutions of higher education. Week after week, they have systematically analyzed the colonial founding of what we now call the United States of America through anti-colonial accounts of history and politics. Week after week, they have pushed themselves, each other, and me, to reject depictions of Indigenous peoples as remnants of a bygone past and instead view them through the frame of the active presence. They are now recognizing them as leaders in a global fight for decolonization, freedom and environmental justice worldwide. They are coming to see them as communities of Nations who have been maintaining their own kinship relations and ways of being while living under conditions of violent occupation. They view them as the First Peoples of the territory many of my students call home. These discussions, not surprisingly, have also been characterized by the enduring question of how to actively organize alongside Indigenous peoples — responsibly and ethically, in ways that lift up Indigenous social movements for revolutionary change as opposed to co-opting or working against them, often without even knowing it.

This has not been an easy process for my students, nor is their (re)education complete. But it is a step in the right direction. More so, the collective work we have begun to do serves as an example of what is possible when we step back and adopt a more radical politics when it comes to challenging the social and political meaning of holidays like Thanksgiving. It gives us some sense of how we can tackle the intensely racist backdrop against which this “holiday” has emerged, and to think critically about what it would mean to support political sovereignty and self-determination for the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, upon whose land all of us reside.

 

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Jaskiran Dhillon is a first generation academic and advocate who grew up on Treaty Six Cree/Métis Territory in Saskatchewan, Canada. Her work spans the fields of settler colonialism, anthropology of the state, anti-racist feminism, colonial violence and youth studies. Her first book, Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Politics of Intervention (2017), provides a critical, ethnographic account of state interventions in the lives of urban Indigenous youth. She is currently an assistant professor of global studies and anthropology at The New School in New York City.

Vulnerability Is Strength

In Uncategorized on November 21, 2017 at 11:37 pm

The strength of vulnerability is not self-centered. It is like the young spring leaf that can withstand strong winds and flourish. This vulnerability is incapable of being hurt, whatever the circumstances. Vulnerability is without centre as the self. It has an extraordinary strength, vitality and beauty.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti, “Letters To The Schools, Vol. 2”

Do you see the necessity of being open and vulnerable? If you do not see the truth of that then you will again surreptitiously build walls around yourself. To see the truth in the false is the beginning of wisdom; to see the false as the false is the highest comprehension. To see that what you have been doing all these years can only lead to further strife and sorrow – actually to experience the truth of it, which is not mere verbal acceptance – will put an end to that activity. You cannot voluntarily make yourself open; the action of will cannot make you vulnerable. The very desire to be vulnerable creates resistance. Only by understanding the false as the false is there freedom from it. Be passively watchful of your habitual responses; simply be aware of them without resistance; passively watch them as you would watch a child, without the pleasure or distaste of identification. passive watchfulness itself is freedom from defence, from closing the door. To be vulnerable is to live, and to withdraw is to die.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti, “Commentaries On Living, Series 2

As a spiritual being that is looking within, I have spent many years silencing my mind, and these old school, preconceived ideas on who I was supposed to be as a man. As I have shed these layers of self I have also shed these layers I built to shield myself from connection and love. You see, when we build these layers and masks that we wear we may shield others from our fear and weakness, yet we also keep people out and away from our true inner being. We create a sphere of isolation around us no matter how many relationships we have. Deep down we know this, we know we are not authentic or real. We understand that we are acting in our own play, pretending to be something for someone. We hold back and reserve our heart. We keep our stiff upper lips, and we keep our fear and worries to ourselves and we close our hearts. One cannot fully love unless their heart is fully open. Quid pro quo. This is life, what we want we must first become. If we want unconditional love, we must be unconditional love. Unconditional love is love without the boundaries, with no masks. It is a fully exposed heart. Yet our mind wants to shield us. The questions pound in our mind, what if they do not accept me and my weaknesses? What if I love and they do not love back? What if…? Our mind fights these questions and holds us in check. Our mind keeps us safe by keeping us confined. It takes courage to put your heart fully out there. This is the paradox as vulnerability is not weakness it is strength. To live a life exposed and out there authentically is the hardest path. It is a path that anyone can judge, yet it is also a path that has no limits. It is a path that is entirely free. No more lies, no more masks, just an exposed, vulnerable heart.
In this vulnerability we find empathy, and compassion. We find love at its root, its deepest level. In this we find authenticity and the depth of our path in this life. The courage to take this difficult path is rewarded in the relationships and authentic experiences we have in opening our heart.” –Thomas D. Craig

“Ooof. What Thomas talks about in this piece resonates with me very deeply. Living a life of “double consciousness.” Decades of layers and masks crafted. Keeping people out and away from my true inner being. Creating a sphere of isolation no matter how many relationships I had. Pretending to be something other than my authentic self for others. Fear filled and closed-hearted, keeping my fears and worries to myself, justifying it by saying “I don’t like to burden people with my shit.” “Safe” in self/societally imposed emotional solitary confinement.  These typical and undiscussed ways of being as a black man born into the violence & oppression of systems of patriarchy & white supremacy, for many of us, seem like a necessity for survival. Having to be hyperconsciously self-policing about how you present to the world, because in some cases, being yourself can be hazardous to your health. Grateful to have found to courage to put my heart fully out there. I would encourage you to check out the brilliant documentary “The Mask You Live In” to get a glimpse of what this way of being is like. –Jevon

 

Zen Warrior

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” ~ Rumi

rumi lightIt has taken me a lifetime to understand that vulnerability is strength, that an open heart takes courage. As a man, this principle goes against everything in how I was raised. I grew up in a small, rural, mill town, a place that if I could describe in short I would say it is old school. Old school in that boys played football, didn’t show their emotion or feelings and kept their pain in check. The be strong and act like a man mentality. This fear induced mentality has limited our growth and spiritual evolution. Yet, you still hear the remnants of this message today. Words that oppress and control women, or fight against feminism and equal wages. Words that divide and create classes, or control. This level of thinking is like the 12 year old bully with…

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The Power Of Real Love

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2017 at 8:07 pm
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Sharon Salzberg (left) and bell hooks (right)

 

Oldspeak: Ms. hooks said it best in her book “All About Love” :

Love as a process that has been refined, alchemically altered as it moves from state to state, is that “perfect love” that can cast out fear. As we love, fear necessarily leaves. Contrary to the notion that one must work to attain perfection, this outcome does not have to be struggled for – it just happens. It is the gift perfect love offers. To receive the gift, we must first understand that “there is no fear in love.” But we do fear, and fear keeps us from trusting in love.

Cultures of domination rely on the cultivation of fear as a way to ensure obedience.  In our society, we make much of love and say little about fear.  Yet we are all terribly afraid most of the time. As a culture we are obsessed with the notion of safety. Yet we do not question why we live in states of extreme anxiety and dread.  Fear is the primary force upholding structures of domination. It promotes the desire for separation, the desire not to be known.  When we are taught that safety lies always with sameness, then difference, of any kind will appear as a threat. When we choose to love, we choose to move against fear – against alienation and separation.  The choice to love is a choice to connect – to find ourselves in the other.” –bell hooks

“Jesus. When I think back to all the “love” I’ve professed and was professed to me in my life, I have a hard time thinking of an instance where conditions & fear weren’t also present. Fear of feeling. Fear of speaking. Fear of separation. Fear of being queer. Fear of loss of love. Fear of truth. Fear of trust. Fear of judgment. Fear of being my authentic self. Innumerable permutations of fear disguised as Love.  “love” professed in states of extreme anxiety and dread that went unquestioned. “love” employed in service of manipulation and control and domination. Always struggling to attain that which just fucking happens. The amount of heartache, frustration, anger and stress endured in the name of “love” Whew. That’s a lotta life energy expended to come to the point to be fortunate enough to experience fearless, unconditional, “perfect Love”. So grateful for the experience. So thankful for the gift. Real Love is something we all could use more practice with in these times of universal deceit and hatred.  Only the power of Real Love can vanquish fear.  These beloved wise ones have some excellent insight into how we can go about it.” –Jevon

 

By Bell Hooks, Sharon Salzberg & Melvin McLeod @ Lions Roar:

How do we bring more love into our lives? Sharon Salzberg and Bell Hooks sat down with Lion’s Roar’s Melvin McLeod for a special discussion on love in celebration of Salzberg’s new book, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection. Photos by Christine Alicino.

If love is what we need more of—and we do—then Sharon Salzberg and bell hooks are two of the most important voices of our time. As a leading teacher of loving-kindness meditation, Sharon Salzberg answers the all-important question: how, precisely, do we bring more love into our lives? As one of America’s leading political and cultural critics, bell hooks advocates for the power of love to transform not only our lives, but our society, overturning the culture of domination. I was honored to join these two great women and champions of love to celebrate the publication of Salzberg’s new book, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection, in a discussion at the Jewish Community Centre in New York co-sponsored by Lion’s Roar, the Garrison Institute, and the JCC. —Melvin McLeod

Melvin McLeod: We all want to be loved. We all want to love. But many of us are baffled about how to actually bring more love into our lives. How can we start?

bell hooks: Something I deeply appreciate about Sharon’s teaching—particularly in her new book, which is a kind of love workbook—is that she explores what we need to do to carry on the work of love. It fascinates me that while we are so obsessed with romance, many of us are turned off by the practice of love.

When you tell someone that there’s really a practice—a way that many of us, especially those from dysfunctional backgrounds, can learn what it is to love—they are hesitant to fully accept that. Sharon, when you express your conviction in our innate capacity to love, I’m not sure many people really believe in that.

Sharon Salzberg: Well, why would we, really? [laughter]

There’s a line from an old Steve Carell movie, Dan in Real Life: “Love is not a feeling. It’s an ability.” I wanted to use that line in my book Real Love, but my editor pushed back, saying I couldn’t really say that because people think of love as a feeling. So I sort of fudged it and wrote, “While we might think of love as a feeling, we can also think of it as an ability.” That turned out to be the most important line in the book. It describes the essence of a transformative experience I had a long time ago.

Love is inside me. Other people might awaken it or threaten it, but as a capacity, it’s mine.

In 1985, I was in Burma practicing intensive loving-kindness meditation. I had been there three months when I had a realization. I saw that up until then, I had considered love something that was in someone else’s hands. They were either going to deliver it to me or take it away. It was as if the UPS person arrived with a package of love, but if they got to my doorstep and decided they had the wrong address, I would have no love in my life.

In that retreat, I realized that was not true. Love is inside me. Other people might awaken it or threaten it, but as a capacity, it’s mine. That was incredibly liberating and also a little daunting. Because—and here’s the big question—if it’s an ability, does that mean it’s my responsibility to try to cultivate it, even in difficult circumstances?

bell hooks: Anytime we do the work of love, we are doing the work of ending domination. In a culture of domination, it’s extremely hard to cultivate love or to be love. At this moment in our nation, there’s so much disrespect afloat. Respect comes from a word meaning to look at. Right now, we are not looking at one another with loving-kindness, with compassion.

As Sharon teaches, you have to practice love not just for the people you like, those who are near you. You have to practice it for everyone. In Appalachia, where I live, I see an upsurge of white supremacy. Prior to this, I felt I was taking to heart the Buddhist emphasis on practicing love. I felt I could walk around Appalachia and beam love to white people. Maybe they wouldn’t respond or they would turn away, but I did not feel fear.

These days, I feel fear and uncertainty in my relationship to strangers. So I struggle every day now with how to love the stranger. How do I love people who are beaming a lot of hate in my direction? That’s a really crucial national question right now. How can we return ourselves to a place of loving-kindness?

Sharon Salzberg: Normally, we don’t want to love someone we’re in an adverse relationship with. We may feel it means giving in, surrendering, or giving up our values. But real love means loving them too.

An indelible image that has stuck in my mind is of the freedom riders registering people to vote in the South in the 1960s. One civil rights activist who had been badly beaten was being interviewed in the hospital, and he was radiant. Asked why, he said, “We practice nonviolence.”

Where did that come from? I’d have a hard time generating that kind of radiance for a bad cab driver. That shows us what’s possible when we don’t see love as being weak or giving in, but as courageous. If we see love as touching something much greater than our own situation, then it becomes a wellspring of strength.

Over the years that I’ve taught loving-kindness, I’ve encountered many people who are skeptical about the whole thing. “If I were to develop a more loving heart,” they think, “I’d have to give more money, I wouldn’t take a stand, I wouldn’t protect myself, I’d just sort of smile.”

If we think that’s what love means, what a degraded notion of love we’ve come to! There’s something empowering in recapturing the word “love” as something strong and unafraid.

bell hooks: That’s part of the power of Martin Luther King Jr. that we’ve kind of lost. He talked about love as a transformational source. It’s come down to us as a sort of a watered-down version of “Love your neighbor as yourself,” not as an empowering force that changes everything. I love Dr. King’s book Strength to Love, in which he talks about the courage it takes, in the midst of domination, to decide to love.

Breaking down that us-and-them binary is part of the work of love.

That’s a commitment many of us would rather not deal with. How do we make that commitment? How do we start to love? We’re in such a climate of hate right now. We’re seeing diminishing acts of kindness and love because fear of the stranger has been so deeply cultivated in us. Breaking down that us-and-them binary is part of the work of love. We need to challenge all the binaries we face and try to see where to find a relationship with the “other”—the one we fear—so that we can enact compassion.

Melvin McLeod: Love is a word with so many different meanings and interpretations. How do you define it?

bell hooks: Love is mostly about the action, not the definition. Drawing on Erich Fromm, I see love as a combination of six ingredients: care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust.  They form a basis for action. It’s not about what you’re feeling or how you’re defining love. The real question is: what is the action you’re taking?

Melvin McLeod: In Real Love, Sharon, you remind us how self-doubt and inner criticism can hold us back from loving. As we make the effort to cultivate more love, is it also helpful for us to recognize and celebrate how much we love and care already? Rather than continually questioning our capacity to love, are we challenged to see how our inherent capacity to love is constantly in action already?

bell hooks: Is it constantly in action, or is it something we have to activate? Our innate capacity to love is like a seed in the soil. What do we need to do to activate that seed, to make it capable of blossoming? It’s not enough just to know that the seed is in the soil.

Sharon Salzberg: Yes. Without our effort, it will not grow and spread. But I agree that we have unguarded moments of profound connection and they’re not strategic. They don’t even have to be with a human being or fall within the standard picture of a relationship. We can love life or nature. We can be struck with gratitude and awe, have great moments of connection, without another person involved.

It’s true we can be harsh judges of others and of ourselves. We always need to look at both the stories others tell about us and the stories we tell ourselves. Part of what makes us feel incomplete is not noticing that we are loving people, that we have great capacity to love. Love is not a scarce resource.

bell hooks: This takes me to the one place in Sharon’s book that raised a question for me: where you say you don’t have to be completely self-loving to love others. I have my doubts.

I make a distinction between care and love. I received care in my dysfunctional family and I’m here today because of it. Even if you receive care Monday through Friday and abuse on Saturday, it doesn’t negate the fact that you experienced care. But it’s not love. I believe we can wholeheartedly care for others without loving ourselves. But I don’t know that we can love them.

Sharon Salzberg: That’s a good point. As you’ve been speaking, I’ve been thinking that the missing ingredient in the six elements of love you listed is love for oneself. If you give love to others without loving yourself, you’ll be out of balance. You won’t find wholeness.

On the other hand, I don’t think loving yourself one hundred percent should become the project before you ever work on loving somebody else. People say that to me all the time: I decided to spend a few years only offering loving-kindness to myself. I understand and respect the impulse, but the question is, how do you know when you’re done? What’s the measure you’re looking for?

bell hooks: It’s not necessary to get to the point of being able to say I completely love myself. But I do think we must come to that place of wholeness where we are at peace, especially those of us who have unresolved trauma. When you have wholeness and peace, it makes you want to love more. As you say, Sharon, people start off thinking they could never love that much—it’s too daunting. Or they don’t want to, because it would make them too vulnerable. But the more you practice love, the easier it is. It becomes an act of grace.

Question from the audience: How do you find the strength to love the other? How do you stop seeing someone as the “other” when they are obviously othering you?

bell hooks: The practice of compassion is a profound practice of finding space. Can I find a space I can enter with this person who clearly others me, who wants to deny me my humanity? That’s one of the key roles of meditation—finding a space where I have the strength to not be shriveled up by an act of aggression I encounter.

As Black people and Brown people, we encounter so much everyday aggression. What may seem like a trivial incident can do real damage, and we end up carrying it around. For me, the alchemical process of meditating, of reflection, allows me not to carry things with me that can paralyze and wound me. Self-care strengthens our capacity to enter into this culture of domination and othering without being constantly wounded.

Sharon Salzberg: You’ve already done the hardest part, because you want to reach out to the other. You don’t see that as weak or being in collusion with the other’s destructive view.

That’s strength already. That’s your innate dignity coming through. It enables you to look at how that person is “shriveled up,” in bell’s words. You can see the self-imposed prisons they live in, how the choices they’ve made have cut them off. Compassion can flow from that.

Question from the audience: Love was a radical notion to my mother. I realized early that she didn’t know how to love herself, and that meant it was hard for her to love me. I wasn’t shown what it means to love; I was shown what it means not to love. How can I learn through meditation and other practices to connect to what it means to love from a positive perspective?

Sharon Salzberg: There can be something beneficial that can come out of learning through negation. When you get to see up close what doesn’t work, you can also see what’s left, and you may find something really potent.

As far as meditation practice goes, the proof is usually in doing it. If you’re the kind of person who’s really helped by structure, I would suggest trying a structure that seems reasonable to you. Don’t make it too ambitious, and then give it a shot. If you’re just starting out, try something like ten minutes a day.

One thing I’ve learned from my own meditation and from teaching others is that while you may think you’re getting nowhere with meditation—I still get so sleepy, I’m so bored, I’m not getting an ecstatic charge out of this—change does happen in your life. You might look in vain for the change during that ten-minute period each day, but not notice that when you made a big mistake, you didn’t beat yourself up quite so much. Or you met a stranger and really paid attention to them instead of being self-absorbed. Or a conflict arose and you didn’t treat it with the same desperation. That’s how meditation can help more love seep into your life.

Question from the audience: I run an organization where I work 24/7 to help others. But I also have a lot of anger. It feels like in the face of hatred, revenge is good. Others are now saying, as they did back in the sixties, “Get down, put your head down, and let people spit on you.” At the time I said, “I’m not going on those marches. Nobody is gonna spit on me without me spitting back,” and I still feel pretty much the same way now. So where does somebody like me go with that? How can I find a way to be authentic within all this?

bell hooks: We like to think that revenge is satisfying, but there are so many stories in which people discover that revenge isn’t satisfying. It didn’t take away the weight they were carrying with their rage. That’s why we offer love, because it can deal with that rage and offer us ways to move beyond vengeful feelings.

As Black people in the diaspora, we use anger as a way of cutting through invisibility. If we become enraged, if we strike out, we feel like we are seen, that we are exercising a form of power. It’s possible, though, to look to other forms of power we can lay claim to, that we can use.

On the other hand, trying to contain rage, tamping it down, doesn’t work either. We get sick because we can’t engage in the healing self-care that has to happen for us to blossom.

Sharon Salzberg: If somebody spit at me, I hope I would say or do something that says, “You have no right to treat me that way. I deserve better.” I don’t see “I deserve better” as vengeful.

Audience member: That’s why I’m talking about authenticity. I want to come from a place where I really don’t want to spit back. I have learned that I have enough love for a person who spits on me that I will not spit back, or hit back, or bite back. I really, really feel that that’s not the right thing to do. If I learn that, that’s authenticity.

 

 

 

On The Perils Of Certainty And The Wisdom Of Doubt

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2017 at 7:22 pm

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Oldspeak: ” Hello. My name is Jevon and I’m a certainty addict. As you may surmise from a cursory perusal of the last 7 years of content on this blog, I’ve been quite thoroughly and completely ensconced in my confirmation bias reinforced filter bubble of certainty addiction on a variety of topics. Most singularly lately, my certainty that unmitigated ecological calamity is all that awaits life on earth in the near future. Certainty DOES make you feel good doesn’t it…. It felt really good to  feel concerned about things I didn’t feel most others knew or cared to know about.  To feel specially informed. To ascribe a level of inviolability to my belief structures to the point that any information or argument which challenged or contradicted them were seen as the musings of poor ignorant uninformed souls. Ego fueled arrogance, self-righteousness and smarter than thouness was abundant.  A Perfect antidote to those ever recurrent pesky feelings of insecurity, depression, anxiety, alienation, fear, powerlessness & learned helplessness. This pathological desire for certainty and security in a world where there is none is quite a tough habit to break. Especially when considering the omnipresent,  powerful and convincing systems of cultural and commercial conditioning we’re born into which lead us to believe certainty and security exist in this transitory world of constantly changing flux… Fiona’s thoughts for me bring to mind the words of Alan Watts in his classic text “The Wisdom Of Insecurity” when he says:

There is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentaryness and fluidity. But the contradiction lies a little deeper than the conflict between the desire for security and the fact of change.  If I want to be secure, that is protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life.  Yet it is this very sense of separateness which makes me feel insecure. To be secure means to isolate and fortify the “I”, but it is just the feeling of being an isolated “I” which makes me feel lonely and afraid. In other words, the more security I can get, the more I shall want… The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing.

We look for this security by by fortifying and enclosing ourselves in innumerable ways. We want the protection of being “exclusive” and “special” , seeking to belong to the safest church, the best nation, the highest class, the right set, and the nice people.  These defenses lead to divisions between us, and so to more insecurity demanding more defenses. Of course it is all done in the sincere belief that we are trying to do the right things and live in the best way, but this too is a contradiction.

What we have to discover is that there is no safety and security, that seeking them is painful, and that when we imagine we have found them, we don’t like it. ”

Consider kicking your habit of certainty addiction. Take some time out to honesly & objectively inquire about your most inveterate beliefs. To critically analyze the externally prescribed life script you’ve memorized and are artfully acting out. Maybe improv life once in a while.  Have the courage to lower the considerable defenses you’ve erected around your core belief structures and consider adopting other ways of being. Connect with feelings that come up when you peel back the thin veneer of certainty. Smile, lovingingly accept them & let them pass away. Be with the idea that you may not be the “I” that you’re so securely certain about. Take a walk outside of your past and future made prison of certainty and see what you find.  Beware of certainty. Become more familiar and comfortable with the wonder, mystery and awe of the ever changing, ever present and uncertain NOW. -Jevon

 

Written By Fiona Robertson @ Beyond Our Beliefs:

Lately, I’ve been reading about certainty addiction (or bias). Our brains are apparently wired to perceive uncertainty as a potential threat to our survival, so we go looking for certainty wherever we can find it. We prefer certainties – however painful or uncomfortable – to the unknown and uncertain. We will ignore facts, reasoning and arguments – however compelling – that seem to threaten our sense of certainty. We see certainty addiction playing out in many areas of life, including politics and religion. It is also evident within spirituality.

Certainty feels good. In fact, certainty evokes the same kind of feel-good feeling as sex, gambling and other addictions. It also tends to reduce anxiety; the more certain we are, the more our sense of threat diminishes. No wonder we are attracted to certainty. A lack of physical certainty– food, shelter, warmth – can indeed be a threat to our survival. However, we often act as if our belief structures are equally necessary to our survival. An attack on our beliefs – even hearing an opposing viewpoint – can feel viscerally and powerfully threatening. We invest our ideas and beliefs with certainty, and proceed to defend them come what may.

When we go into defensive mode, we act as if we are defending the beliefs themselves, as if it is the content of the belief or viewpoint that is so important to us. In reality, however strongly we think we feel about a topic, we are also driven by our addiction to certainty. The more certain we are, the stronger and more determined our defensiveness will be. We will do whatever we can to hold onto our certainty, desperately trying to not feel all that comes with uncertainty.

Our addiction to certainty, while it gives us a sense of self and a feeling of security, also confines us. Having a sense of the known – even if the known is unpleasant or painful – is often less frightening than entertaining the unknown, yet it keeps us bound and unable to see wider potential or possibility. One of the many things I love about inquiry is the ability it gives us to question everything, to cast the light of doubt on anything we take to be certain truth. When we inquire, we come face to face with our certainties. I most definitely am unlovable. Yes, I’m better than him. Yes, my opinions are right. We discover just how tightly we are holding on to all our beliefs and opinions about ourselves and the world because we can’t conceive of what or who we might be without them.

Asking the inquiry questions opens up the possibility that things – including ourselves – may not be as we’ve believed them to be. Whatever our answers, the questioning itself can pierce the armour of certainty, or at least open up a slight chink. Sometimes, entertaining the possibility that we may not be X or Y is feels challenging, subversive or scary. At other times, it is liberating or exciting. It is also humbling to loosen the reins of certainty and allow other possibilities and perspectives to come into view. Either way, questioning our certainties connects us with the emotional pain that inevitably resides beneath. Once certainty is no longer obscuring it, the pain can finally emerge. As we continue to feel what has been previously unfelt, we develop the capacity to simultaneously hold certainty and uncertainty, surety and doubt. We ascribe less to an either/or model of the world and see the potential for both/and. We find a place of much deeper wisdom beneath the brittle veneer of certainty, a wisdom that only emerges when we are willing to doubt.

Inquiry does not leave us without opinions or viewpoints. It does not render us incapable of discussing issues or taking a stand on what we feel is important. It does, however, release us from the burden of having to defend our viewpoints in service to our own sense of certainty. We no longer need to be certain, because we are less addicted to certainty and the promise of security it seems to offer. As our need for certainty recedes, our relationships inevitably change. We become less defensive, less attached to our particular certainties.

Whenever we meet certainty – particularly absolute certainty – we see certainty addiction at work. Inquiring into our own certainties injects a healthy dose of doubt into our constructs and concepts. What if? What if this isn’t the case? Is this what I think it is? Am I what I tell myself I am? Again, we don’t need to come to a conclusion. There is not necessarily a definitive answer to these questions. It is the act of asking them in the first place that is most important. Can we stand not knowing? Can we rest in a place of doubt, resisting the temptation to land in a place of certainty?

In our increasingly polarised world, many people seem deeply entrenched in their certainties and unwilling or unable to question them. It seems incumbent on those of us who are willing to do the deep work of questioning to bring the wisdom of doubt to bear on all our beliefs and certainties. Perhaps together we can open up possibilities previously hidden by our collective addiction to certainty. Humbling and painful though it can be to question our sacred cows, how much better it is than to be trapped in our addiction to certainty.