Monday, October 16, 2017

The Nine Noble Virtues: a Modern Take - Courage

The Nine Noble Virtues are a modern invention, so it seems my title is redundant. However, little seems to have been done to bring the concepts themselves from the past into the present.

I do not consider the NNV to be a historical reference. I do consider them to be a modern way of understanding cultural and even subconscious values that were stressed, if not perfectly, by those peoples lumped together as Norsemen.

This series will explore my thoughts on these values and, hopefully, start conversations about them in a modern context.

Courage is a concept oft discussed and seldom understood. People say it's the soul of a soldier defending the ideals and values of their country. Soldiers argue that it's the way you deal with absolute terror, doing what needs to be done in the face of that which makes others run. I'm more inclined towards the latter definition.

While courage may have once been the one who faces down wolves and bears to protect friends and family, times have changed. Not nearly as much as you would think though. Our loved ones are not threatened by wildlife so much these days. Instead, it is society itself that is the greatest threat to many of us.

To me, courage is weighing your options carefully and using whatever advantages you have in your life to stand up for others.


Weighing your options

This is the tough part, because literally no one can tell you how much risk to take. If you have a boss who's racist, you can't necessarily tell them to shut up if you have rent to pay and a family to feed. If you are a minority, you may not be able to stand up against discrimination in a safe way.

Even online, women are doxxed and attacked and threatened more than men. I imagine the same is true for racial and LBGTQ+ minorities. Diving into various discussions that will likely turn hostile can have actual, harmful consequences.

At the same time, I'm sure there are many who use that as an excuse to not stand up for people being discriminated against. There are some who will live their lives more intimidated by possibilities.

And the hard part is, ONLY THEY CAN KNOW WHICH IS TRUE. More often, they haven't done the introspection to know, but I certainly can't make that call for them. Neither can anyone else.

The first step in courage is knowing the truth behind your motives. Is it because the threat is really too much? or is it because the threat is too frightening? Until you know, you can't know that you act with courage.

Using your advantages

I am a woman, which makes me a minority. But I am also white, cis, hetero, and (at least to casual appearances) financially stable. I am well-spoken by the accepted social standard of such a thing, and I am well-read with a healthy background of knowledge.

This all gives me some huge advantages in a conversation. I am usually not dismissed or degraded because of my gender identity (at least not until I've pissed off a broflake), and I come across as an average American woman.

Because of this, I can get into conversations that others may not be able to, either because of knee-jerk discrimination or outright hostility. I dive into debates about rights and truths for minorities that aren't me. I get into debates with casual racists, and homophobes/transphobes. The haters let me begin these conversations because I am not one of THOSE. I am more like the hater, so they give me some leeway to get into it.

I use my advantages as a weapon for those who don't have the advantages, but need the fight. The fact that these fights don't personally affect me IS MY WEAPON. I could sit on the sideline. I could sit there and talk about vague philosophies with my white children. But I don't. I start fights.

Standing up for others

One of the questions I see so often is, How can I be an ally to XYZ group?

Stand up for others.

We see videos passing around social media of racist bigots punching someone because they didn't like their skin or their language. We see men drawing guns in public places because they didn't like that the dark-skinned person standing in line behind them... was just standing in line behind them.

Every day, people yell the "N" word at people of color, telling service people of color to "get out" of the country they risked their lives to protect. Every day, LGBTQ+ teens are kicked out of their homes for being themselves, openly. Every day, people make jokes about slavery or "being gay" or disabilities. The list goes on.

Those of us who are not the "other", who want to be allies... we are the ones on the receiving end of a racists nudge when they say a murdered black teen "got what he deserved, the thug". We get the wink when people make comments about "no homo". We get the side hug/friendly jostle when someone implies that a "man in a dress" is incompetent or a pedophile.

We can give the polite response - an uncomfortable, forced laughed with a quick change of subject.

Or we can put the haters in their place with a well-placed "why on earth would you think that that disgusting idea would be a good idea to say out loud to me?" We can shove away the nudge/side hug, give voice to the horror in our minds, and tell that person that they made a mistake thinking they could get away with being like that in your presence.

Stand up for others. Make it uncomfortable for haters to voice their hate.

It's not right, it's a right...

"Oh, but if they aren't allowed to voice their beliefs, it'll..."

What? What will it do?

People have weird and inappropriate thoughts ALL THE TIME. Parents imagine dropping their kids. Spouses consider how easy it would be to smother their snoring partner. People have the brief idea to crash their car into the overpass while driving down the interstate.

It happens to nearly everyone. It happens so often, the French (bless their grim little souls) have a phrase for it: l’appel du vide - call of the void.

WE DON'T HAVE TO LIVE WITHOUT THE FILTER. In fact, we shouldn't be encouraging this unfiltered life.

We can be honest with ourselves without forcing the oddities of our own minds onto others. We can be true to ourselves without spilling every little idea out of our mouths with no regard for how our words affect others. And we don't have to accept that others can say whatever they want without consequences. That's literally not how that works.

BELIEFS DON'T HAVE TO BE SHARED. And some of them shouldn't be shared.

Case in point: I believe that people who don't maximize traffic flow should get a point against them. After so many points (quite a lot, to be sure), they should have to defend themselves or be executed. Okay, I really only believe this when I'm out driving around, but... Wouldn't it be fun if I kept bringing that up at parties?

NO! That's why I have this lovely little fantasy that I keep in my own head. No one else needs to know that I wish death upon so many. It's irrelevant because neither I nor anyone else should be able to force that kind of thinking on society.

But that's what we allow with bigots. That's what we allow with the -ISTS (racists, misogynists, anti-semetists, etc). We let them spew their unfiltered BS into the world like it's right.

Not A right. Just, right. But it's wrong. Just because it isn't illegal doesn't mean society should allow it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Dark side of Mental Illness - Abandoning those who need us to keep ourselves clean

Many people have seen the video of Sinead O'Connor in the past week. This raw and even heartbreaking expose of her motions and of her situation brings to light mental illness.

More importantly, it brings to light the way we look at mental illness. Specifically, the way we attempt to distance ourselves from it.

Mental illness is hard. It is hard to live with. It is hard to have. It is hard to watch.

In many ways, it is just as hard to deal with somebody in your life who has mental illness as it is to be someone who has mental illness. The difference is, one of those people gets a choice.

Many times it is easier to push people away rather than deal with the issues that they themselves suffer from. We decide that somebody is not worth the extra time and energy that we would need to invest in them.

The major problem here is that what seems like self care from the person who can push somebody else away, is also abandoning a person who is suffering from mental illness. It is a fine line to walk. And it is a hard decision to make.

When you know someone with mental illness, you need to determine if you are self care of pushing them away and of neglecting their care is more important than the help and support that they need from you. Each person in their lives has to make this choice. But the person with mental illness, they have to live with those choices.

Helping someone with mental illness is part of Shadow work. And Shadow work is difficult. The problem is when people decide that the shadow work is too difficult, and they wash their hands of it.

Well that may be a valid choice for some, it is not a valid choice for all. And we each need to take responsibility for making that choice when we are in that situation. We need to acknowledge what we are doing when we choose ourselves over someone with mental illness.

Shadow work is never done by washing one's hands of an issue. It is done by facing those issues that most people wash their hands of.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Energy of the Eclipse

I'm a practical sort, but I do feel energy and communicate with spirits. Yeah, I know, this puts me in an odd place where I'm both believer and skeptic. Oh, well.

Today's eclipse was a rather unique opportunity for me. Because of where I live, I didn't need to travel to see the totality. Score! My daughter's school provided eclipse glasses for any parents who wanted to show up to watch with the kids. Double score!


So the hubby and I went off to the school and got our glasses and watched the eclipse from a spot a little off from everyone else. Just how the introvert in me likes it.

The first thing I noticed was that my stomach was all a-flutter. I was happy to see the eclipse, but it wasn't really an excitement thing. Why would I be reacting this way? I finally realized what it was and I turned to hubby. "It feels like the energy before a big storm." He agreed.

There was some cloud cover where we were, which was a bit disappointing. We saw only bits and pieces of the moon moving over the sun. Still the energy was weird, restless, like something coming, like a struggle.

When the time came, the school's principal announced to the kids "glasses off!" By that time, it had gotten dark, cold and windy. Crickets were singing and street lights came on.

And the clouds broke.

Even before I looked up to see the light-limned blot in the sky, I could feel the change in the energy. It was harsh, powerful, indomitable. I stared up at the sun, the symbol of the Seelie, Fae Court of Summer, and I watched the Winter Court parade across it.

The Wild Hunt, restrained for this show to all mankind, strode across the land in the shadow of the moon over the sun. Mab and her retinue looked down upon us as if to say "This is my power. This is a reminder."

Then, too quickly, it was over. The sun peeked out again, with a show of rainbows on the clouds. The temperature raised several degrees, and a full expression of Summer brightened the day.

I took a deep breath and, as the kids trailed teachers back into the school, we left. My stomach roiled and my legs were rubbery, just like when I do big energy work. We spent half an hour grounding before we got back to a semblance of normal.

I didn't do any spell-work. Having never experienced a total solar eclipse before, I can't imagine how I ever could have been prepared for the energy of it. It was like expecting a breeze and getting a hurricane.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My Response to "Violence is not the Answer" in Protests, Pt 2


This is continued from another post... HERE.

Why should we not take the high road when protesting hate?

Simple answer: Because we have the high road as an option.

Not so simple answer:
The high road is still available to people who don't agree with the VBH (Very Bad Haters) who oppress and suppress entire populations of people for a multitude of reasons, primarily (but by no means exclusively) the sins of being born with A) genetics that are less European than they find acceptable, B) a sexuality and/or orientation that is not cis-het, C) not a penis.

We can still fight it. We can still do this. We aren't in the midst of an actual military war, which is where we (the whole damn world) ended up when we (the US) ignored Germany's VBH takeover of Europe for YEARS. Let's not repeat that SNAFU.

Code what?

Most organizations that have a code system (green, yellow, orange, red) have stuff that they do BEFORE it gets to code red. The goal is to NOT get to code red. But here we are talking about things like they are code mellow-yellow, when oppressed minorities are telling privileged folk it's more like code burnt umber. If you don't think violence belongs in protests, you are probably not one of these groups being murdered or tortured on a daily basis. Just saying.

Silencing Voices

This means that by not acknowledging how very bad and even desperate it is (because we may not be experiencing it ourselves - privilege defined), we are actually SILENCING the voices of those who most need us to hear them.

At war

Additionally, outside of the whole military conflict aspects, this is a war. A social war. It is a fight for rights, and people are DYING. Literally dying. (Let me google that for you - ran out of words to link.)

This is a war, and wars produce veterans. And veterans carry scars, both physical and psychological.

Why do we thank veterans for their service? Because they suffered brutalities of battle on behalf of those who couldn't, those who wouldn't, and those who came later.

The truth about heroism (hint: it's shadow work)

We want to believe that because our cause is just, we can accomplish our goals with no collateral damage, no injury to innocents or innocence, no lasting scars because we are on the side of right.

THAT'S NOT HOW THAT WORKS.

This isn't an epic fantasy with a hero would comes out unscathed. We will be damaged. And we will be heroes, not because of adherence to some stupid code of honor that has us facing the same crap villains time and time again (looking at you, Batman). We will be heroes in a way that cannot be ackowledged, because it is too damn dark and depressing.

We must fight this fight with fists because it WILL damage our souls. We must fight this fight because by doing so, we step up and take the bullet that would spread and damage other generations. We step up when we don't have to and take SOUL DAMAGE so as to give those already oppressed a little respite.

This isn't white light and unicorns, people. This is the fact that the ones who fight the good fight usually don't make it out okay - be it physically, psychologically or spiritually. We are injured in the fight, and it's worth that injury to still fight.

That's why it's hard. That's why it's heroic. That's why it's shadow work.

My Response to "Violence is not the Answer" in Protests, Pt 1

There are finite ways to make a protest effective, particularly in situations where one side has significantly more systemic power (read: white, able-bodied, male, cis-het, rich, Protestant, etc.). If you are going to protest against a powerful group, you have to make it painful to them.
Luther, being the first Protestant, specifically...
Lutheren

I have to point out that BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ONES IN POWER, most of what you can do to make it painful is illegal. This is not a coincidence. This is how systemic power works.

I also want to point out that the religious power group in the US is the Protestants, who got their name literally from the fact that they PROTESTED the Catholic Church's systemic power. Thus the circle is complete.

The truth about peaceful protest

IF the power group has a conscience, cares about its reputation, etc, you can attack them through shame. This was how Gandhi did it. But before you start nodding your head about how Gandhi had it right, let's go through the WHOLE process.
Gandhi: *smiles*
Churchill: Ah, bloody hell...

See, Gandhi counted on British shame, which is pretty reliable. His entire protest method was based on PR. The non-violence part was the most important, but not because of any aversion to violence. It was so, when you were beaten and probably killed, it couldn't look like you deserved it.

Let me repeat that, you laid there and let them KILL YOU so they couldn't argue accidental death in self-defense. Then, because Brits (love ya!) are very proper and mannered (in general), they would be ashamed of this.

I'm gonna just sit here a minute while you try to apply that same situation to neo-nazi broflakes. Take your time; I'll wait...

...

...

Active protests, outlined

Another way to protest and make it painful is to actually hurt someone. I don't usually recommend this, but...

I'm lying. I always recommend punching nazis. There are dozens of other ways to make it physically painful to the people in power: 
  • Damage their business/financial holdings - This one is tricky. Vandalism and looting can hurt people other than the business owners. Mostly employees, customers, etc., and they are likely innocent. If destroying stuff isn't your thing, you could instead mark the business as a financial resource for a Very Bad Hater (VBH). Kinda like in Inglourious Basterds, when they carved a swastika on the foreheads of nazis who defected to save their own skins. Let their choices have consequences by helping people know their icky secrets.
    As the synagogue in Oberramstadt burns during
    Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"),
    firefighters instead save a nearby house.
  • Damage their ability to be gainfully employed - talk about turnabout. Most people can't fight the crap situations they are in because they are working on surviving in a world that doesn't prioritize hiring them over the power-holders. By making it difficult for the power-holders to get/keep a job, they are put into the same position. (See Charlottesville neo-nazis for how this works.) This is another way for there to be consequences to VBHs.
  • Shame them for speaking their beliefs - again tricky. Some say that this is how we get the ideas festering in secret. But the problem is, if we let up on the shame, anyone who held these beliefs in secret slowly grows to believe that it is their right to ACT on the beliefs that they just whispered online before. This one works best in conjunction with other methods. It is also important for preventing or at least minimizing the spread of these beliefs and creating more VBHs. Many people become VBHs because they are looking for a solution and someone tells them about this thing instead of kicking their asses and telling the broflakes to grow up. Make it harder for people to find the whiny, buck-passing solutions for their problems.
  • Physically hurt them, just not TOO badly - this is where punching nazis comes into play. Most people are gonna be just fine after being punched. It doesn't often lead to permanent physical injury. But, as physically abused wives everywhere know (yeah, I just went there), you stop talking if you get hit every time you open your mouth. Make them rethink espousing their VBH beliefs to impressionable young people (see reasoning above).
I'm going to continue this in another post... HERE.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

It's Okay to Not be Okay

An issue has come up several times in the past few weeks. Someone who is undergoing a severely stressful situation, ends up apologizing or otherwise feeling guilty for breaking down.

I'm here to tell you, it is okay to not be okay.

Sometimes your life takes a turn that is just plain shit. When that happens, it is completely all right to mourn it, to hate it, to break down, and to not be as strong as you think you need to be.

Strength is not a hundred percent all the time. Sometimes strength needs to be recovered. Sometimes strength needs to be washed in tears. Sometimes it's just not right to have to be strong in the face of a shitty situation.

You are not a lesser person for doing this. You are not weak. You are not fragile. You are not wrong.

People need to learn that it is okay to cry. It is okay to be upset. It is okay to be angry and sad. It is okay to break down.

Those emotions, those reactions, are perfectly valid. Even if they are not the endpoint, even if they are not permanent. We can have temporary emotions. And sometimes, those emotions can be negative. They can be more negative than we want them to be. That does not define us.

In the words of Moana: This does not define you; you know who you are, who you truly are.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Orlog, Judgment and Discrimination

I like to say that I am non-judgmental, but that isn't exactly true. I was recently told that it feels like I am judging every word that people say. And that is accurate, but misleading.

I am an air sign, very solidly so. As such, one of the things I do is analyze everything. So, yes, every word people say, every action that they do... all of it goes through my metrics, my algorithm of behavior.

And, yes, I very much judge people on that, but perhaps not the way you'd think. Good/bad judgments are reserved for extremes and overall assessments, if at all, and those are pretty liberal in nature. I will determine things like the person's self-identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, hobbies, likes and dislikes, etc.

Each one of those things puts that person into a category based on that. Not categories for how much I value them as a person, but categories to determine if they would like certain topics of discussion, potential hot-button issues, and how I should address them (particularly important in the case of self- and gender identities).

But while those things change how I interact with that person, none of them change how I value that person AS a person.

There are some topics that either directly or indirectly do change my valuation of the person. Sex (not identity or orientation) is one. A person likes sex - good for them. A person cheats on their partner - red flags. A person has lots or little money - no good/bad assessment at all. A person steals money or things, or cheats on their taxes, etc. - evaluation time. A person doesn't want kids - valid choice. A person has kids and refuses to take emotional, physical or financial responsibility for them - mayor of schmuck-ville.

In case you didn't see the pattern, here it is in a nutshell. People can make their own choices about their lives and how they live it. It may not be the choice I have made/would make, but it is theirs to make. It may change the way I talk to them about certain topics, but that's more situational awareness then judgment.

However, if the person ACTS in a way that can or could hurt or harm others, judgment is made. Plain and simple. And the judgment itself is simple, too. This person will hurt others. If they will hurt others, they have lost value or respect in my eyes. They are not as good of a person now.

Ok, so what does this have to do with Orlog?

Well, Orlog is a person's reputation. It comes from their own behavior and, to a lesser extent, their words. It can come from what people say about them, though that has less impact than direct experience. It can also come from the actions of their friends and family. A person you know nothing else about can, and will, be judged by "that's Robert's boy" or "he hangs with Joe the Stoner". You can overcome the Orlog of friends and family pretty easily, but it is still there.

So every time someone interacts with me, their Orlog is subtly adjusting, moving along one or more axis as the information comes in.

Do I judge people? Of course, I do. I can tell you which of my friends I will lend money to, and which have lost that privilege. I can tell you who in my blood family will get more than a bare acknowledgment, and who is only family because of the blood ties to myself and others. We all judge people. It's how we know who we can trust and with what.

That is your Orlog and your Honor. Don't taint it.