December 01, 2011

Intimacy In A Time Of AIDS


Some time ago, on the Saint Lucian radio talk show called What Makes Me Mad the host, Andre Paul led a discussion about his grievances with an AIDS awareness ad that advocated condom use if you believed your partner might place you at risk. The question he sent out over the airwaves was, “Would you continue to have sex with your wife if you knew she was HIV positive?”

The flurry of responses ranged from many disgusted “Absolutely not! I will get an instant divorce!” to a scant number of more tolerant “Yes, I will have sex but only with a condom”.

After the heated debate over the safety of having sex with a person with AIDS went on for a good thirty minutes, it became quite obvious to me that when it came to sex, the callers had a very one track mind when it came to sexual intimacy. The only thing on their minds was vaginal penetration and nothing more. This lack of imagination saddened me, especially when there are hundreds of safe and loving things a couple, even a couple where one person might be HIV positive, can do to share intimacy and pleasure. And so, it led me to ask, “Could our lack of imagination when it comes to sex be one of the many reasons why AIDS is spreading so rapidly in this region?”

Maybe if we were focusing more on the quality of our sexual experiences instead of the quantity of times we “get a juk” (especially the men), it would be easier to implement safer sex into our sexual routines. Could it be that true lovemaking and a fulfilling intimate sex life between couples is one of the answers to the AIDS epidemic?

Are Afro-Caribbean men unskilled and unimaginative when it comes to sexual intimacy beyond the athletics of jukking?

In the 1990’s several Sex survey studies at the UWI Gender Affairs St. Augustine indicated that Caribbean men are seriously lacking in sexual sophistication as they do not particularly enjoy the act of reciprocating orally. They also did not understand the importance of foreplay or that basically is it just the outer third (about three inches deep), of the vagina that gives a woman the most pleasure (so the obsession with size is unnecessary). The sex study dubbed the typical Caribbean male’s approach to sex “The wham bam” technique.


The study also went on to show that Caribbean women are also very much to blame for their lack of pleasure. They simply are not communicative enough and dishonestly fake orgasms. In fact, a lot of women are guilty of simply being mere outlets, present but yet not present during the act. How sad, especially when you consider that women are the superior sex when it comes to sexual pleasure.

We have a body part designed for nothing else but pleasure. Unlike, the penis, a woman’s clitoris does not serve any double function; its only purpose is to send us crazy with ecstasy. It has over two times the pleasure nerve endings of the male organ. As if that wasn’t enough, we were blessed again, with an internal G spot and are capable of having multiple orgasms. But how many of us are living up to our true pleasure potential? How many men are taking the time and care to truly make love to their women with care and comprehension of their needs? And are we women communicative with our partners? What do these questions have to do with AIDS prevention?


Designed with an organ only for pleaure with twice the nerve endings, twice the orgasm duration and the ability to have multiple and extended orgasms. You would think more women would be actively involved in speaking up about their sexual fulfillment but many are still not doing it.

The fact is safer sex goes hand in hand with good sex.

That goes for all sexual couplings but particularly the heterosexual and the MSM (men who have sex with men) community as lesbians remain one of the least infected groups when it comes to HIV (but not necessarily other STDs). Then again, women love to share their feelings, especially with each other and they do not wield the potentially dangerous, intrusive sexual organ called the penis, at least not the organic kind that is full of micro-organisms.


This organ can be a lethal weapon when wielded by an insecure, ignorant, impulsive selfish, guilt-ridden, self-loathing, unbalanced, compulsive man, gay or straight.

Within the gay male community, HIV is on the rise and there continues to be a problem of men simply not getting tested, not caring if they have it, not caring who they infect if they have it and worst of all, not even caring if they get it.

Why?

I used to think it was a “gay” problem caused by self-loathing particularly in homophobic societies like the Caribbean. Gay men are subjected to so many hateful and shame inducing indoctrination about their sexuality-“You will never find love!”, “You will troll the streets for strangers to satisfy your evil lust!”, “You will live a superficial life that revolves around vanity, materialism and hedonism until you can no longer afford it or grow old and ugly and get kicked out of the club”, “You will abuse drugs to numb your shame!”, “You will get AIDS and DIE!”

Many gay men unwittingly self-fulfill the prophesies levied against them because there is little else opposing those messages with love, self-acceptance, inclusion, family-life, unconditional love, real relationships, real intimacy and a healthy way to express joy, sexuality, individuality.


But I am beginning to doubt whether that is the only factor. For even in developed nations with liberal social attitudes, support systems, mainstream pop cultural acceptance and legislation that protects the equal rights of homosexuals, HIV continues to plague the gay male population. This makes me wonder if the problem is actually a MALE thing. Could it be that the same poor male attitudes towards sex, intimacy and respect for self and other that are making straight men infect their women with impunity are also present among gay men? Then further compounded by societal discrimination and criminalization that keeps sexual activity closeted and HIV status untested?

Could the risk-taking, careless, predatory approach to sex by men (both gay and straight) be rooted in something more primal?

While doing a “Prostate Cancer Awareness” campaign for the Brian Lara Cancer Treatment Centre in Trinidad, the chief oncologist revealed some of the male attitudes she has to deal with which include a reluctance to visit the doctor even when the signs show up, get tested and even get treated (if diagnosed). She said men have this risk-taking and defeatist attitude when it comes to their own life. But of course! Men were the gender that had to go out and face down saber tooth tigers and charging rhinoceroses. They were on the front lines, daring to hold a spear steady while multitudes charged. They learned that risk can bring immediate and long term reward. They learned to feed off adrenaline. Women on the other hand learned life is precious and the most important thing is protecting themselves and their young. We faced off with our mortality every 28 days and won. We were the ones nagging our children not to run with scissors.

Could it be that safe sex is just BORING to men? Could it be that the claims of decreased sensation is all in their mind because the thrill of skin to skin is not there, the danger (of potential pregnancy or infection) is not there?

It is clear that men, gay and straight will have to learn how to replace this thrill with something else. But that of course will require IMAGINATION and INTIMACY and here is where our problems start.

Imagination is the easiest to fix of course, especially for men. I am sure it will not take a great deal of effort for them to think up right now of 50 ways to ejaculate outside of a vagina or asshole.


Pick up a copy of the Karma Sutra, read ancient erotica, use your imagination! Our ancestors were forced to be inventive about sex in order to keep their populations under control and in harmony with their eco-systems and seasonal patterns. Children were supposed to be well-timed accordingly, thus all the various fertility festivals that still influence our annual ceremonial calendar. Learn from them!

The real problem is intimacy. The things that get in the way of it are well entrenched in our culture- ignorance, shame, macho attitudes and disempowered female attitudes (and that includes disempowered female attitudes of gay men who are “bottoms”).

We will never get couples to practice safer sex when men still treat the female anatomy as a mere outlet instead of an actively engaged lock to their key, with special hidden keys of its own. We will never get couples to practice safer sex when they aren’t even in the habit of communicating their most intimate needs and desires because they are ridden with shame about it. If a man’s approach to sex is completely self and penis-centered, do you really think he’s going to care about his partner’s needs for a slower pace, gentler touch and most of all, putting on a condom? How can a woman who does not even value herself enough to insist her partner pleasures her properly truly care about him protecting her reproductive health?

Good sex comes from a kind of intimacy that allows openness of communication, concern for each other’s pleasure and health, mutual exploration, sharing desires and fantasies and freedom to feel safe within a loving relationship. As a bonus, much of the infidelity that often results in the spread of AIDS would also decrease if both parties were deeply satisfied in their sex lives with each other.

In this day and age of the AIDS epidemic, one would expect our imagination to grow beyond just rudimentary coitus. We have stubbornly held on to their outdated hypocrisy and shame. We are not widely providing sex aids, sex counseling, couples counseling or open and honest education about sex and sexuality. Yet at the same time we continue to nourish the primal sexual drive in our music and culture.


Why is this more acceptable, easy to do, easy to emulate?


But not this?

I attended a World Aids Day rally on Brian Lara Promenade in Trinidad, in 1996 and there was a kiosk set up by a brave young activist group. Their mission: show how safer sex could be fun and practical in a real life context. One of their members, a gutsy woman at that, demonstrated on a very life like dildo, how to put on a condom orally, as well as many other very practical and pleasurable safer sex techniques. She did this fully clothed and to an adult audience only. Yet still, there was a huge moral uproar! Funny, that same uproar is missing when some soca or dub artist teaches a new sexy dance to the public, including children.

It is no coincidence that the countries with the highest HIV contractions are those that still have deep seated conservative, repressed and hypocritically religious views on sex.


Here is my very novel message for this year’s World Aids Day, ladies, be open and honest about what you would really like him to do. Men, take the time to care about more than just a quick hole in one. Slow down and really be intimate and in that quality sensual time you spend with your mate, you will discover how easy and sexy it can be to introduce safer and imaginative techniques. It’s the message AIDS awareness campaigns missed completely- TRUE, EMPATHETIC LOVE MAKING, even if it takes the form of spontaneous, urgent sex that is a little rough in all the right ways…is ALWAYS safe and fulfilling.


The 2012 Survival Kit Series will continue in the next post.

October 31, 2011

Dear Editor,
Trinidad Express Newspaper,





Even after British Empire’s public apologies to people like Oscar Wilde. Even after the insights of people like Alfred Kinsey. Even after decades of peer reviewed, research by respected medical and psychiatric boards around the world that have proven homosexuality is neither a disorder nor danger to society. Even after animal biologists have identified sexual diversity in nature. Even after countless gay and lesbian luminaries have contributed to our society, Trinidad and Tobago remains one of the forty one (41) countries in the Commonwealth that still have the old British Empire law on their books that basically states that anyone caught engaging in homosexual sexual activity or has confessed to being a homosexual is liable to be prosecuted, fined, punished (corporal) and/or imprisoned.

The constitutionality of the Offenses Against the Person Act No. 10 of 1925 and the Sexual Offences Act No. 27 of 1986. have not yet been challenged in the courts and it is overdue for revision. Not just because of foreign pressure, but for our own good.

Since May, 1998, a paper called: Comments on the Equal Opportunity Act was submitted for review to Government, Opposition and Independent Senators, Members of Cabinet, the Attorney General's Office, Ministry of Legal Affairs, Ministers of Government and religious and group leaders. It included peer reviewed Statistics on Homosexuality, Mental Health, Homosexuality and Teen Suicide, Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation, Homosexuality and Child Molestation, The Genetics of Homosexuality, Homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago and Homosexuality and the Law.

Nothing came of it.

Now, Australian Commonwealth delegate Michael Kirby has said that at this Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, the agenda will include a request to scrap anti-gay laws. He told ABC Radio that HIV messages were “very difficult” to get across without removing laws against gay sex. Many representatives of the Commonwealth countries that have repealed their anti-gay laws- UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India, are expressing disappointment with being associated with countries so backward in their human rights record in this day and age. There are even suggestions to attach economic penalties to countries that refuse to abide by the clearly stated human rights principles of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth secretary-general, Kamalesh Sharma, has written an article in the Nairobi Star and I quote:

“I have consistently made it clear publicly that we deplore hate crimes of any nature and the vilification and targeting of gay and lesbian people runs counter to the fundamental values of the Commonwealth, which include non-discrimination on any grounds.

“I also recognised the Delhi High Court for its landmark decision to decriminalise homosexual acts. This addressed a legal legacy of the British colonial era that continues to affect more than three-quarters of Commonwealth countries long after Britain itself has moved on.”

He continued: “If attitudes are to change, if homophobia is to be challenged – as it should – and if laws on homosexuality are to be reformed the best hope lies in democratic and legal processes.”


Countries like Uganda and Zimbabwe in particular have been downright inhumane to gays and lesbians. Here in the Caribbean, Jamaica leads the field in hate crimes against gays. However in Trinidad and Tobago and other territories like Barbados and Saint Lucia, the law against homosexuality is basically already operationally defunct.

When was the last time you heard of anyone appearing before court being charged with the crime of homosexuality? We go against our laws and allow self-professed homosexuals to come to our shores, Elton John, Tim Gunn, tourists from gay cruise lines and more. The law does not even apply to lesbians! No Magistrate will ever send someone to jail just for being gay and/or having an adult consensual relationship. Nobody of any standing, save the extremely religious, ever wants to be known as THE anti-gay, inhumane, intolerant idiot by the global community. For the story will make international news just as the ridiculous religious protests over Elton John performing in Tobago in 2007, Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” and Jamaica’s homophobic dancehall made international news.


Our Government officials know all the arguements for gay rights and why they should decriminalize. They know fully well the existing laws are outmoded. They have gay and lesbian friends, family, colleagues, admired fashion designers, performers and artists too. They do not want to be seen by the world as ignorant, homophobic and backward. They are just afraid of public disapproval among certain religious circles that may cost them votes.

Why can’t we just admit it? The law is just a legislative wet blanket to existing cultural prejudices, ignorance and religious bias. It can only be enforced by catching two men in flagrante in public, a matter Public Decency Laws should sufficiently address. These laws have nothing to do with protecting consent, children, society or public decency. It is strictly a religious sanction against a group of people.

These outmoded laws have no place in a multi-cultural democracy. Christianity is not the only majority religion represented in our country and even among many Christians, there are differing views. Father Clyde Harvey, parish priest of San Fernando's Cathedral, in his address Youth - "A Force for Change" commented:

“As heterosexual transmission [of HIV] increases, especially among married people, we are forced to consider the injustice of our discrimination and prejudice against HIV+ persons . Indeed, it is the same fear and prejudice which seeks to justify the exclusion of sexual orientation from the Equal Opportunities Bill.”

Anantanand Rambachan, professor of Hindu Studies at St. Olaf College, Minnesota commented:

“One of the fundamental and universally accepted teachings of Hinduism is that God exists equally in all human beings. It is the immanence of the divine which confers value and worth to the human person. Since God exists equally in all human beings, all human beings, without exception, must be regarded with dignity and treated justly. To discriminate against another in the workplace on the basis of gender, race or sexual orientation is unacceptable from the Hindu standpoint and symptomatic of a failure to discern the equal presence of God.”

“Tolerance” is one of our motto’s watchwords. We are no longer under a Church/Empire that felt it was their Supreme Right to not only dictate what consenting adults do in private but publically punish even if you did not follow their religion. This is where the un-constitutionality of the Sexual Offenses Act is most glaring. Do you know that same colonial religious bias once forbade beating African drums and Orisha, Shouter Baptists and Hindus their equal right to worship freely as their conscience dictates?

These laws and the supporting culture are also killing us! To be clear, homosexual orientation is not what causes the spread of HIV/AIDS. Irresponsible, promiscuous, unsafe sex does. Living in secrecy and having low self-esteem because of social exclusion and fear of legal harrassment tends to lead to clandestine, fleeting and often risky sexual outlets. It makes education, testing and treatment difficult for our Health Services when gay men don’t come out and/or worse, hide in sham heterosexual relationships.

If you are gay, lesbian or a friend, relative or colleague of gays and lesbians who recognizes that it is time we come out of the dark ages, please sign the petition as I have. It is confidential. Trinidad and Tobago, "forged from the love of liberty" and "where every creed and race find an equal place" is the most culturally diverse, innovative, progressive and creative of the Caribbean Commonwealth Member States. We should already be ahead of the field when it comes to this matter, not be in the same basket with places like Uganda, Zimbabwe, Jamaica and religious dictatorships in the Arab world.

October 27, 2011

2012 Survival Kit- Fear and Fighting False Phobias

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1933)


Your mind goes blank, and you feel unable to speak, move or think. Your mouth goes dry and all the moisture accumulates on your palms. Cold shivers run down your spine and explode in paralyzing currents through every capillary in your body and every muscle seizes up. Yet even so, your heart feels like it will pound out of your chest. In fact it is the only muscle somehow activated by this stomach churning paralysis.

What creates this sensation for you?

Is it a snake slithering or cockroach scuttling or armed bandit shuffling across your path? Hearing, “You’re fired!”, “This relationship is not working, I’m leaving you,”, “Sorry, you do not qualify for a loan,” or the ominous growl of an approaching dog whose bite is worse than its bark? Does derisive laughter of your peers with whom you long to fit in or having your hidden weaknesses, lifestyle or private parts put on display trigger this sensation for you? Or maybe being put on the spot or in the spotlight? What about thinking about getting old, sickly and dying or watching it happen to your loved ones?

How often do you feel this sensation? Once a month? Once a week? Once a day? Many times a day?

This sensation is of course Fear.

What Is Fear?

Feel free to check the dictionary definition but here is mine:
Fear is the innate FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE to a person, place, position or possible outcome which makes one FEEL UNCERTAIN about their ABILITY TO SURVIVE unscathed or at all.

Like pain, fear is part of our inbuilt survival instinct.


We evolved and survived as a species because of it this “Fight or Flight” response. It primed our ancestors to take on things like mammoths, saber tooth tigers and stampeding bison. It is what urged them to struggle out of sucking quicksand and fierce river currents. It got their legs moving to run away from landslides, lava and tidal wave surges. Those who did not, their genes did not survive to our time.

However, as with all things, if it is not used purposefully fear will become a problem, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

To Be Used Sparingly

Fear places tremendous stress on our heart and drastically alters our body’s chemistry so you can burst forth with superhuman strength and single minded focus in order to survive.

For those who push through fear, they find that just like pushing through pain, on the other side is often extreme euphoria, comfort, strength and power. But in that moment, when you get slammed in the chest by fear, it truly feels you ran a marathon in a matter of seconds. Something so profound is not a reaction to waste on petty things and should be saved for moments that truly deserve it- defending your life and health or the life and health of your loved ones.


The human body and mind is a marvelous thing and able to grow stronger when subjected to stress with purposeful intent. The brave spiritual/truth seeker can also get stronger by learning how to use the sensation of fear to their advantage.

Today we rarely have to stare down snarling wild animals and hostile natural elements with little to no protection or understanding as our ancestors once did. In fact, some of us miss the thrill so much we deliberately seek danger and scary experiences to trigger the adrenaline rush our ancestors enjoyed several times a day.

Embracing fear, much like embracing pain can lead to pleasurable feelings on the other side as well as strength.

So how come with all our technology, seeming control over Mother Nature, freedom and prosperity our society seems so sick with fear induced stress? Why do so many people feel so confounded and powerless and afraid even though there are no lions scratching outside our door and we understand sickness is caused by micro-organisms and defective genes, not nefarious demonic forces?

Surprisingly, despite all our advancements as a species, we are still ruled by a lot of uncertainty, some of it is real and some of it is rooted in the spiritual diseases of Lack and Masculine/Feminine Imbalance. Do you wish to be free of unnecessary fear?

Freedom from Fear involves two things:

1. Understanding what is Real Fear and how to transcend it to power and purpose
2. Identifying what is False Fear and how to stamp out the Lack and Masculine/Feminine imbalance at its core.

There is a reason why I capitalized certain words in my previous definition of Fear. Here are those words again:

FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE
FEELING UNCERTAIN
ABILITY TO SURVIVE


When trying to differentiate Real Fear from False Fear these three key aforementioned factors play a vital role.

Fight Or Flight


When fear is based on real factors, choosing one of the following (Fight or Flight) immediately frees you from it in the short term and helps you survive. For example:

A woman finds an intruder in her apartment. She experiences the Fight Or Flight response. She chooses to fight and grabs a kitchen knife, defends herself and manages to discourage him and he runs off.
OR
Same scenario and she flees and calls for help.



In both cases, she is attempting to safeguard her survival. She may not be successful and may in fact die but her response to the situation is honorable, purposeful and valid. If she survives the incident, even with injuries emotional and physical, she emerges feeling extremely empowered and capable of dealing with the situation again.


Studies into the recovery of victims of sexual assault show that women who fight back while being raped recover faster from the shame, violation and fear. Women who become paralyzed by the Fight or Flight reaction take a much longer time to recover a sense of power and freedom from shame and fear.

Understand that Fight or Flight do not always mean literal Fight or Flight.

Sometimes Fight or Flight can translate to: (A) Staying and fighting for a relationship, goal or cause or (B) Fleeing from a relationship or abandoning a goal or cause.

On the other hand, when a fear is based in falsehood rooted in Lack or Masculine/Feminine Imbalance, the Fight or Flight reaction does not work!

This is often your first indicator that the fear is not valid. For example:

A singer has extreme stage fright and deals with it by fleeing from any public appearances. The fear never goes away. She never becomes empowered or capable of dealing with the source of that false fear.
OR
A man is extremely fearful of rejection and so, lashes out violently at any and every opportunity that brings up that fear. His fear is going nowhere! He is not becoming empowered and capable of dealing with the source.



So first clue that your fear is false:

• It does not go away when you apply Fight or Flight
• When you apply Fight or Flight you actually make matters worse for yourself and others.

Feeling Uncertain

Uncertainty is at the very center of fear. Or to put it another way, the actual sensations you feel as Fear is that indecisive, anxious, sickening crux between Fight OR Flight. You have no idea how the situation is going to turn out and for a split-second, you are indeed in a state of paralysis.

This in-between phase often manifests as avoidance or inaction. And some people never get out of that state of paralysis because their fear is false and as we mentioned earlier, cannot be solved by either Fight or Flight.

Nothing is as torturous as dwelling in the uncertain middle ground between Fight and Flight. It is literally like dwelling in a state of fearful, paralyzing paranoia all the time.

Fear only becomes a problem when you remain stuck in that limbo between Fight Or Flight. Often people get very comfortable in this state of fearful non-action and even find ways of justifying it. This is where resistance to change, compromise and the stagnation of the growth of your soul takes hold.

I speak from personal experience here.

For years I was afraid to lay my cards on the table in my relationship out of a paralyzing fear that my partner would be unable to deal with it and it will mean the conclusion or a drastic change in some way we both would not find pleasant. I justified it as being mature, civil, accomodating and long-suffering but the truth was it would keep me up at night. It would affect my mood. It would make me shut down all communication which would escalate into even more serious problems- constipation, piles, stress fuh so!

When you have no idea how something is going to turn out or which action you should take (Fight or Flight) you begin to fill that void with your own speculations of what will happen if you take action. Suddenly what you become afraid of is taking any action. Those of us with wild imaginations know how we can self-torture ourselves into insomnia and insanity. Worse yet you can be exploited by others to live in a state of Avoidance & Inaction, while others can commit great crimes. For example:

As we speak, we know something is wrong with unbridled Capitalism and so-called free markets. However we are so afraid of what revamping it will bring, we choose to just do nothing or even worse, stubbornly defend the failed system, its culture, politics and accompanying religious systems.


Fearful inaction by people who should know better has been at root of so much evil in our society.

The Cure For Uncertainty

There are three guaranteed cures for Uncertainty.

1. Knowledge
2. Enlightenment
3. Divine Trust


Whether you are theist, deist or atheist, one, two or all of the above work wonders. Let us explore how it works within one particular and very common scenario: A parent finding out their child is gay.

Knowledge

A mother learns her beloved son is a homosexual.

Before this, she has never had any personal dealings with a homosexual and her only knowledge about homosexuals came from one, very limited source which has painted a negative picture.

This picture is what causes her Fear because she as far as she knows her son is doomed, deviant, hell-bound, evil. However, this conflicts with other things she knows; her son is also kind, talented, loving and genuinely distressed by not being able to change to please her and fit into their family and community.

She is stuck in a state of uncertainty which can manifest passively as:

Avoidance and Inaction: Pretend my child is not gay, avoid the subject.
Or actively as:
Ignorant Rush to Fight or Flight: Condemn, denounce and try to change him or ostracize him and then spend the rest of her time over-defending her actions she knows it cannot be easily validated.



Because both responses are rooted in ignorance, it will wind up hurting her and her son.

The mother will remain in this state until she embarks upon a mission to broaden her knowledge and research ALL the medical, historical, sociological and legal facts. This will result in a new choice based on greater understanding of the situation. Knowledge can empower a more informed Fight or Flight response. She can now choose to:

Fight: For her relationship with her son, his happiness, his well-being and equality in society
Flight: Discard and remove herself from any false or one-sided beliefs that cause pain and suffering and the people and situations that promote them.



However knowledge only works if someone is receptive to it.

A pre-existing resistance to knowledge will cause someone to actually choose to remain in that limbo state of uncertainty and conflict or Fight or Flight in ignorance and then grasp at ways to justify it as it hurts others.The ability to be receptive to Knowledge comes from having Enlightenment.

Enlightenment

Knowledge is indeed Power. But knowledge alone is not what leads to power. What leads to power is being able to:

Accept the knowledge however disquieting, process it fearlessly and then make whatever compromises are necessary to live in harmony with that newfound truth, even if it hurts your ego, status, feelings, comfort level.


This requires Enlightenment.

If our mother of the homosexual already has the raw ingredients for Enlightenment- a level of fearlessness, freedom and fullness of self-esteem, when she learns about the medical facts, research and spiritual basis for natural sexual diversity her paralysis is instantly healed. She feels empowered to Fight or Flight from a place of truth even if she risks social, peer and family disapproval.

The opposite is true. If she is powerless and enslaved to a belief or the external trappings of her social standing and peer and family approval she will continue to choose deliberate ignorance. But where exactly does that power to be Enlightened come from?

Divine Trust

When that mother of the gay son learns about his sexuality, she feels genuinely powerless.

Now, she can rail against her utter powerlessness or she can simply admit the truth:

Although I gave this child birth, food, shelter and inculcated my values based on what I know, in the end, I have no control over many innate qualities this child possesses; his personality, talents, intelligence, sexuality and most of all, his self-determined, life choices.


It does not matter if you believe in a Purposeful Universe or Divine Plan or not. This is a Universal Truth- we cannot control everything and everyone. It is also called The Law Of Allowing.

Recognizing where your control ends and the will of another and the Universe begins is one of the most liberating, empowering lessons that sadly many do not learn before it is too late. Throughout their entire lives they take on other people’s shit, let other people’s shit unduly affect them and try to control what others do with a false sense of power.

Prayers for Bobby- The movie is based on the true story of Mary Griffith whose conservative Christian beliefs and standing in her church community made her reject her gay son leading to his depression and suicide. His death is what finally enabled his mother to find the courage to be Enlightened. Today Mary Griffith shares her Enlightenment with the world to save countless lives and countless parent-child relationships.


However, those who do believe in some form of Universal or Divine Purpose and truly act in accordance with what they believe, often find a lot more comfort in the process of admitting their powerlessness. Why? Because they feel a safety net under them if they just free-fall with love and trust into something higher, bigger, all-encompassing, even if they cannot exactly define or understand what it is.

This is also known as faith.

Not blind faith mind you! But faith based on Universal Truth about our human limitations; humbly admitting we lack the ability to understand everything right away and simply trusting that with time the answer will come.

Those whose entire sense of security rests in being overly certain they know ABSOLUTELY FOR SURE how everything OUGHT TO BE right now, are actually the ones demonstrating blind faith and are usually the ones plagued by the most fears. Certainty or false pride in having a certain position becomes a crutch for other insecurities. Sometimes only a truly tragic or humbling experience gives them the courage to let go, be still and let the truth unfold as it should.

To him that waits all things reveal themselves, provided that he has the courage not to deny, in the darkness, what he has seen in the light. ~Coventry Patmore


So, there is in fact a more empowering option than disempowered paralysis between Fight or Flight. It is Divine Trust.


Divine/Universal Trust is not dejectedly throwing your hands up in the air. It is not giving over your power or cowardly refusing to do the right thing. It is throwing down your burdens and weapons and admitting, “Okay, I am lost! I need a map before I continue!” or “Okay, I am tired. I need strength beyond what I can fathom to deal with this!” or "This is not working, I need to try something else, I don't know what yet but I will cease and desist until it becomes clear."

Throughout history, great strides in human rights, social justice and yes, even science have been made by people who did just that instead of CONTINUING TO PRETEND THEY KNEW WHAT WAS BEST BASED ON THE SAME PARADIGM THAT LED THEM TO THE CONFLICT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

The greatest warriors and martial art philosophies of the world embrace this state of being still or Zen just before you unleash your Fight or Flight. When you get good enough at it, you can actually do it on command or in a split second when your life is on the line. Combining wise, purposeful focus with the power of that adrenaline rush can save your life and the lives of others.

There is a favorite scene of mine from the movie The Last Samauri where the character Nathan Algren played by Tom Cruise, foreplays the entire battle in his head, analyzing each outcome before he launches his attack. Yet it happens in a split second. The state of being still and letting God/Universe is actually like getting the benefit of hindsight without the regret.

Conversely, great tragedy and human set-backs have been made when we rushed to Fight or Flight without the benefit of either Knowledge/Enlightenment that can only be obtained in that moment of stillness.

Can you imagine what our world look like right now if the USA had not rushed into bombing Hiroshima, invading Iraq or adopting post WW2 economic plans based on unbridled consumerism and corporate omniscience?


Thank goodness for all the people that embraced that stabbing shard of doubt, that unsettled feeling, that twinge on their heart-strings, that moment of pause and simply surrendered and learned to be still long enough to be enlightened before acting.

Ability To Survive

Remember how we started this discourse. Fear (Fight or Flight) is a tool that primes us to have the strength and focus to act in defense of our own survival. So truly the ultimate barometer of whether that Fight or Flight response is valid is whether it has resulted in- Our Survival or Our Demise.

In the last Survival Kit essay on Masculine/Feminine Imbalance, one false fear was already laid bare. The False Fear Of Losing Ownership/Control Over Another.

In the next easy we unveil some more false fears that are plaguing society by measuring them against the litmus tests of this essay. We will also reiterate and affirm the Spiritual Power-Ups that fight these false fears.

I truly hope that a newfound level of courage will come to you and me by the end of this exploration.

October 04, 2011

Warning Signs Of A Harmful Cult


The next installment of the Survival Kit Series is being worked upon, I promise.

Would you be able to tell right now whether the group to which you belong, whether religious or secular was a dangerous cult? After all, basic group dynamics that prioritize conformity are at play in almost every organization. Is there an objective method to differentiate innocuous groups from cultic or extremist ones that seek to deprive individuals of an unreasonable amount of their autonomy and power?

Yes.

Below are some warning signs that can help you reasonably determine whether or not a group is likely to be a destructive cult, and if you should be concerned about a friend, co-worker, or loved one or even yourself.

Now chances are that you will find at least one or two warning signs may apply to most groups and organizations. This is normal as belonging to any cohesive social group naturally requires at least some level of individual compromise on certain freedoms.

The key is the extent of compromise being asked and for what purpose? In my opinion, if MORE THAN TWO of the warning signs presented below apply to your group, your red flag should go up immediately. It may not necessarily mean that you are in a destructive cult but you are certainly in a high-control group that may rob you of your self-autonomy and self-actualization if you let it.

Try to be as objective as possible and ask yourself if the following criteria apply to the group you are concerned about.

1. Total control of its members' behaviour.
Cults are likely to dictate in great detail not only what members believe, but also what members wear and eat, when and where members work, sleep, and bathe, and how members think, speak, and conduct familial, marital, or sexual relationships. You are strongly discouraged from pursuing your unique talents and ambitions. Doing what is best for your individual needs and circumstances and thinking for yourself using your own common sense, is strongly discouraged. To outsiders members of your group are like clones of one another acting and speaking the same way, using special language and symbolism exclusive only to members of the cult.

2. Lack of privacy for members but total privacy for management
Members are urged not only to be obedient within the cult and carefully follow the rules but are also encouraged to be overly revealing and honest within the group. You are urged to refrain from keeping secrets and must constantly confess all to the leaders, even telling the intimate secrets of other members. Tattle-tailing is rewarded and encouraged. You cannot somehow have your “own private business” or “private family life”. Members pry, interrogate and instigate themselves in your life all the time and you have no space, no room to just be.

Meanwhile, the inner workings at the top levels of the group regarding things like appointments, finances and decisions that affect the entire group are kept strictly under wraps. The rank and file have no idea how or why certain decisions are made. They just are! And all must comply or else.

Are you feeling like you are losing your identity?

3. Dishonesty
While full-disclosure is encouraged inside the group, outside the group the members are encouraged to be secretive and even dishonest, especially in defence of the group or leaders of the group. You may be encouraged to act unethically by manipulating outsiders or non-members by not being forthcoming about the true experience within the group, especially when trying to attract new members. Things that most would find unpleasant, offensive and objectionable are sugar-coated or hidden until it is too late and the convert has already sealed their commitment in some way.



4. Suspicious double standards
Even though your group may claim all must abide by one set of ethics you clearly see that there is a pecking order and levels of justice and freedom depending on hierarchy or other forms of classification. Undue amount of sacrifices may be asked of the lower rank and file in the group, like living frugally, avoiding certain diversions, celibacy, abandoning or altering their families, friends, and careers to suit the group. Yet the higher ups in the group seem to enjoy special dispensation from these sacrifices.

5. An over-emphasis on recruiting new members and fund-raising.
Many altruistic movements, established religions, and other honourable groups also recruit and raise funds. However, these actions are incidental to improving the lives of its members, community and of humankind in general. Destructive groups on the other hand are obsessed with recruiting and fund-raising. Their goal is clearly to increase the prestige and often the wealth of the leader or group of leaders. The followers' possessions, money, time, and lives become totally wrapped up in furthering the cause of the cult and they spend a disproportionate amount of their time and resources recruiting new members. Successful recruiters are rewarded either financially or given more respect and rank within the group.


6. Exclusive and isolationist
The group presents itself as the ONLY viable system for change that will solve life's problems or the world's ill or the ONLY true path. You spend most of your time learning how to defend this stance instead of actually examining the validity of the “absolute” claims of the leader and the cult. You are either physically, emotionally or mentally isolated from the rest of the world- sometimes all three. You are encouraged not to have any meaningful social interaction with anyone outside the group, even family members. You are encouraged to see the cult as “special”, “privileged” and the rest of the world as misguided, evil and doomed.



7. Subtly or strongly discourages questioning, investigation
Natural doubt and curiosity is seen as disobedience or “lack of faith”. You are forbidden from reading, watching or interacting with sources of different information or challenging information. Certain limitations are placed on academic study, children are indoctrinated early and are then kept ignorant about anything different or outside the teachings of the cult or are told such things are “totally evil” and taught to fear them. Any discussion or interchange with different views or outside media is strongly discouraged. Various forms of pressure are used to illicit total compliance. You do not feel free or able to have a different opinion without fearing some kind of reprisal. You do not feel free to interact with people of differing views, beliefs, cultures etc. You feel scared, frustrated and flustered when you question anything you have been taught.

8. Authoritarian in its power structure.
The leader/s of the group is regarded as the supreme authority and members are discouraged from questioning their actions or do not feel emboldened to do so. Power may be delegated to subordinates but it is for the purpose of seeing that members adhere to the leader's wishes. There is no appeal outside the leader’s power system to any greater system of justice. If you are ill-treated within the group, you are discouraged from going outside for help. Injustice or conflicts resulting in loss or bodily harm are kept hush-hush. Members police one another to be submissive to the power structure, anyone caught “bad-mouthing” a superior is quickly reported (See No. 2) because the leaders are seen to have some kind of special divine knowledge, revelation or power that set them apart from others and exempts them from human scrutiny.

9. Counter-intuitive or dangerous requests made.
Last but not least, any group that asks you to accept as true something that is clearly (scientifically, historically, ethically) untrue or asks you to do anything that will bring serious harm or bring death to yourself or another for any reasons other than legally justified self-defense is not to be trusted.

What to do if you or someone you love is at risk?
If you know someone who belongs to a group that demonstrates at least FOUR OR MORE of these warning signs- THEY ARE DEFINATELY IN A DANGEROUS CULT. How destructive depends on how many more of these warning signs the cult exhibits. The Branch Davidians (David Koresh) for example demonstrated all nine signs.

If you have serious reason to suspect your loved one is in a cult, remember that while your suspicions may be justified, the person you care about may see things very differently. Their judgement of the situation has been impaired by dependency, peer pressure, emotional blackmail and mind control. It’s you, the outsider who has the most objective view of what is going on and will notice changes in their personality and glaring forms of manipulation. But they won't and you will be tempted to jump in, guns a blazing to the rescue.

Stop!

Here are three dos and donts for helping a person trapped in a cult:

DONT: Say or do anything to make the person feel ashamed or hurt for choosing the cult. Many cults pre-empt family or friend objections by telling converts to expect persecution. Your stern condemnation of your friend or loved one will be seen as persecution and you will be reinforcing in their mind that the cult was right! And while you “persecute” your loved one, the cult will be there to comfort them and gain solidarity in “shared suffering”. Who do you think your loved one will trust afterwards?

DO: Offer unconditional love and support. It will be hard but try to keep your cool and phrase your objections in the form of open-ended, calmly delivered questions that prompt their inner evaluation. For example:

Isn’t it curious that they do not want you to read any opposing information? I always thought it is smarter to hear both sides of an argument before making a decision. If I was ever in court, I would certainly hope the jury deciding my fate was open to hearing both sides of the story. What about you?

DONT: Attack the cult directly or make it all about the cult or its leader. They probably have already programmed your loved one to become defensive on their behalf. This is not about the cult , not really. The cult is just the end result, a symptom of a deeper issue lurking within your friend or family member. That issue may be their self-esteem, their intellectual capacity, their coping skills with life’s challenges, their need to belong, their need to have a purpose in life. Just like a drug addict, that cult is the substitute for something.

DO: Hone in and then try to heal the source of weakness, dysfunction, hurt, pain, loneliness, confusion that has made your family member or loved one vulnerable to a cult. In their evangelizing/recruitment preparation, many cults encourage their proselytizers to seize on any opportunities presented by people who have suffered loss and/or are in a weakened state. When someone is hurt, scared and alone, they are not in a mental or emotional position to make good judgements and ask rational questions. How many of us could resist being bombarded by love, charity and acceptance by a total stranger when we were in a weakened state? Cults are the vultures feeding off family road-kill. So pay attention to your friends and family and their well-being. If you don’t, I guarantee that someone less savoury else will.



The "black sheep" that does not get love, acceptance and understanding from their family and friends is an easy target for cults

DONT: Wait or doubt the signs you see or be fooled by little positive changes like stopping certain vices or addictions or their new convert “euphoria”. Parents who lost children to cults recall how, “I was skeptical and I knew the group was shady but she seemed so happy! After being involved in drugs and unhealthy living, I thought she finally put her life together!”

Political correctness is another dangerous delayer of proper action. Yes, we should all have freedom of religion and you do not want to be a accused of being a bigot or intolerant but religious freedom is NOT AN EXCUSE for someone to be harmed. Many fearing the "intolerant" brush shied away from taking action until it was too late. There are UNIVERSAL signs of somebody being manipulated againt their knowledge or will and guided to give away all their power. These signs DO NOT LIE! Take action! Deal with the accusations later.

DO: Be unrelenting until your friend or loved one is free! Always keep the lines open. Be prepared for that phone call in the night, “I need help! I am scared! Come and get me!” and be prepared to act right away. In fact, if you know the situation is truly bad (6 to 9 signs of a cult), don’t even wait for the phone call. Sometimes physical intervention and extrication is needed and therapy will come later.



There may be certain cases where swift physical intervention may be justified. Families who managed to get their children out of the David Koresh cult before the Waco incident do not regret taking drastic action.


If you are reading this and it strikes home that it’s you who is in a cult, you are fortunate to still have your wits about you.

Do not feel ashamed because you suspect that you have fallen prey to a cult. Shame often leads to a defensive attitude as you try to take your power back by justifying your choice. Master manipulators know that a secretly insecure, defensive group members are loyal members. The more time you spend defending your choice, the less time you spend looking at it critically. That is why cults always need a ‘Them” to their “Us” to keep their members distracted with being on the defense.

Look, even intelligent, confident, decent and accomplished people have fallen prey to cults. It could happen to anyone. You are not a bad person. You are not a stupid person. Remember, these groups and their masterminds are well rehearsed in taking advantage of people who are either deeply wounded by trauma, going through a difficult situation or desperately searching for the meaning of life. Most of us are not taught how to withstand such tactics as a vital part of our upbringing, so we often have no way of even suspecting we are being sucked into a pyramid scheme, sexually exploitative pit or a position as a clueless political pawn. Most of all, it is our nature to want to believe the best about others. It comforts, reassures and keeps us sane.

The only reason some of us are now more vigilant is because of being a former victim. Trust me it is not because we are better people than you or anyone else.

Take heart, you can still find wholesome fellowship to enrich your life, offer you comfort and shelter as you seek for the answers to life’s deepest questions. Just be careful and always alert for signs (blatant and subtle) of manipulation (emotional, mental, social), injustice, invasion of freedom and suppression of individuality.


And remember, YOU ALWAYS HAVE A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT TO BE ABLE TO THINK FREELY, SPEAK FREELY, QUESTION, INVESTIGATE, MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND AND WALK AWAY FREELY FROM ANY ORGANIZATION WITHOUT FEAR ANYTIME YOU CHOOSE! Nobody is your master! Do not let anyone make you forget it!

If you would like more information on how to deal with destructive cults or mind control, here is a good place to start.

September 14, 2011

The Culture Of Bullying And Persecution Complexes.


The 2012 Survival Kit will continue with an exploration of Fear that hopefully will help us dismiss fake fears and learn how to deal with real ones using the Universal Laws and Spiritual Power-Ups.

While I work on it, I thought I would share a much simpler and related discourse on the whole “Anti-Bullying” movement taking off around the world, particularly in first world countries. Comedians highlight that the discomforts, depression, disorders, even food allergies seem to be first-world nation disorders. Happiness and inner peace seems more attainable by people who are content with far less and still challenged to work hard.


This is not to make light of the true victims of abusive words and actions or those who have suffered isolation, defamation, exclusion and denial of personhood, a fair shot at success and equal human rights. This is about gaining some perspective and strength in an overly sensitive, politically correct world where people’s egos seem even more fragile than egg shells and the very notion of becoming stronger by facing trial by fire seems unfathomable. It seems like if everyone has a low pain threshold. Even people with abundant food, loving family and friends, blossoming careers and easy acceptance within the status quo are somehow being crippled by depression.

So how do you separate what is truly an injurious and inhumane infraction on your person and what is merely the inevitable friction caused by diversity of beliefs, attitudes, levels of enlightenment, maturity and tolerance?

What you need is to find the constant, the true benchmark by which you measure an injurious and inhumane infraction. Of course, everyone’s tolerance levels are different and here lies the challenge! We have to keep our balance as a society. Those whose tolerance levels are too low must learn how to develop some backbone! Those whose tolerance levels are extremely high must learn how to become a little less desensitized.

I once had an impassioned argument with a young, upper class-born, Caribbean female professional now living and working in North America. She grew up in a life of relative ease uncharacteristic for most young women in her island; two parents, lovely home, abundant nourishing food, access to great health care, great school, extracurricular activities, family vacations abroad and her academic goals supported and funded. Though not gay herself (as far as I know) today she gains great satisfaction from immersing herself in contentious, difficult and challenging situations helping gay teenagers cope with rejection and discrimination in her first-world country home.

Commendable work indeed!

What inspires such bravery in more hostile places of the world?

But when I tried to point out that a disadvantaged black person from the ghetto here and/or even in North America has it much harder than some middle-class gay or lesbian in a first world country and probably needs a lot more support, we diverged in opinion…drastically. She was really fired up about how terrible it is for those young homosexuals in the first world and even claimed I did not understand their pain.

Now, she had no idea that she was speaking to a lesbian who came out at fifteen to staunchly religious and intolerant parents, survived depression, suicide attempts and still puts up with far worse abuse, including watching her partner get assaulted twice, while living in the Caribbean with little to no support available and no recourse. Male, angry, frustrated, confounded calls of, “Zami” forms part of the soundtrack to which I go to work, the grocery or movies.

I choose not to tell her about my experiences and those of other Caribbean gays and lesbians who suffer even more than I do.

I could see she was close to tears already and I had no intention of making her feel like her commendable work was worthless because it is not. aAny effort made to help another is a blessed thing. However all that fire, that passion she has for what she does will be exponentially more powerful if motivated by the right principles and guided by clearer perspective.

We all have different tolerance levels for things that are unpleasant or that seem unfair. This is why it is important to look at everything objectively and universally. Only then will the real persecution reveal itself and only then will holistic solutions become apparent.


Perspective is everything.

Perspective is the only thing that empowers us to invest our energies wisely and that includes our anger, effort, ambitions and activism. Sadly, there are many things that get in the way of finding that perspective.

These are:

Nurturing A Subjective Self-Esteem

How is it that a teenage drag queen can proudly strut her stuff through a rough Caribbean neighbourhood, full of homophobic, sexually-insecure men quick to violence, in a country where homosexuality is not only socially frowned upon but illegal? But in a first world country where it is not a crime to be gay and gay culture is supported, celebrated, endorsed and unions are legally recognized another young man’s spirit is utterly demolished by being called “Faggot!”

That young Caribbean man’s self-esteem comes from within and rests on a foundation of inner strength both emotional and spiritual. For this reason, it is unshakable by public opinion or even law. I know of cases where the person simply believes, “I am fabulous! I am proud! I know God loves me so I don’t need your damn approval! I deserve to be able to walk this street as I please just as you do!”

The“In-your-face, objective approach” to self-love, celebration of diversity and individuality has far reaching positive benefits.

Whether the first openly gay person in the workplace to the first black person to try to join the all-white golf club to the first woman to seek Government office or the only atheist who is brave enough to decline participation in an inappropriately imposed religious practice. These are the people who inspire the breakthroughs that lead to greater freedom for us all. We need a lot more individuals, not just gay and lesbian but all people of all creeds, beliefs and cultures whose self-worth is not subject to whether or not they get validation from the system or their social environment.

For this reason, I think the Lady Gaga approach to bullying- “Love yourself! Stand proud! You are beautiful!” is far more empowering than the approach taken by activists who try to police the social environment with cosmetic-only policies that demonize words, symbols, differences of opinion, often devoid of context and unable to address the complexity of human interaction and expression.

They demonize the “N” word regardless. They demonize “Fag” regardless. They demonize all expression of any religious beliefs or non-belief. They demonize all difficult debates.

In the end what this does is create a society of weaklings who never learn how to independently develop that kind of self-esteem possessed by the self-loving, self-affirming drag queen in the homophobic Caribbean who braves the threats and confronts it head on with rebuttal, debate and well-coined defense. That brave soul is doing much more for gay rights than those trying to force society to be palatable. When he responds to:

“Yuh fucking bullerman! Fire bun!”
with...
“Why yuh watching if you doh like?! Don’t make me drag your dirty laundry out for everyone to hear!”

He is showing strength. He is addressing the hatred. He is highlighting the hypocrisy. He actually has the opportunity to influence and possibly change the intolerant person’s mind-set. But when we prevent the intolerant person from even speaking, we let their negativity fester below the surface of polite society, unaddressed just waiting to explode in ways that will certainly be far more calculated and damaging to the intended victim of his hatred.


North American and European society is becoming more obsessed with being palatable than being profound and powerful in our ability to identify truth and justice. It is actually becoming impotent against those who truly seek to impinge on human rights and dignity. All they have to do is now jump on the politically correct train.

"No, we don’t hate gay people. We just hate the sin of homosexuality."

"No, we aren’t setting out trying to hurt gay families. We are just supporting traditional values."

"No, we aren’t racist. We just don’t believe the Government should give special assistance to the poor (mostly black) communities. Why can’t they help themselves? We did! We had no special advantages whatsoever!"



And the persecution complex train…

"People are calling our beliefs bigoted and our viewpoints are being challenged and becoming unpopular in the mainstream media! We are being persecuted!"

"A secular and/or scientific viewpoint is being considered instead of our narrow religious viewpoint. We are being persecuted!"

"The Government and public square is not showing favor to our religious beliefs over other beliefs or non-beliefs. We are being persecuted!"




Only a few voices in the media have the balls to engage in more a penetrating intellectual search for truth instead of playing the politically correct/persecution complex charade where deep, complex issues are settled with dubious sugar-coated sound-bites.

When we give credence to false premises and false hurts we end up becoming impotent at powerful debate in the public square.
Now, if we were to grow some cahones, we would know that the response to someone expressing, “I believe being gay is a sin!” is not, “That is hurtful, bigoted, old-fashioned. SHUT UP!”

Instead, it should be:
“Let’s debate that! Go on! Prove your statement to be absolutely true! If you cannot then society is under no obligation to show any consideration for what is just a subjective religious opinion even if we respect your right to have it and express it. Nor do you have the right to impinge on anyone’s human rights because of your subjective religious opinion. Seeking to do so makes you potentially an enemy of freedom and equality.”

This is the standard that should be demanded of everyone, particularly politicians and religious leaders seeking to influence public policy. This is the level of debate that should be taking place in the media and in schools. This is the kind of exchange that brings society one step closer to gaining some true perspective.


Brilliantly handled! See how local Long Beach residents dealt with the hateful protest of Westboro Baptist Church in their area.

I look at the tragic shooting of Lawrence King by the troubled student Brian Mc Inerney and the way it is being handled in the courts and I just cringe with frustration. In the oversensitive, simplistic, politically correct arena of US Law, what everyone is missing is this: Lawrence King (May He Rest In Peace) was a confident, fulfilled, esteemed and loved child. In his tragically short life, despite being different and sometimes teased for it, despite having difficulties with his home life while growing up, Lawrence discovered through all his tribulations the power of self-expression and was supported with love and tolerance at his school.

At his memorial service, the Rev. Dan Birchfield said, “God knit Larry together and made him wonderfully complex. Larry was a masterpiece.”

I look at Brian Mc Inerney, the perpetrator and all I see is tragedy. Abused, unloved, ignored, insecure and a ticking time-bomb that nobody cared to hear or see. He will be spending most of his life in prison for a crime committed from a place of utmost inner weakness and turmoil at an age when he lacked the wherewithal to deal with such powerfully demoralizing emotions. He will forever be remembered as a hateful monster by most too content with a simplistic world view where the bully is seen as the one with all the power, not as the one in need of the most help.

It is clear to me that the concern, love, attention, paid to Lawrence to boost his self-esteem, even though commendable would have better helped Brian Mc Inerney because Lawrence King was a stronger, happier, more evolved and resilient soul than Brian Mc Inerny. If our approach was a little more balanced, perhaps two lives would have been saved.


The saddest thing is that by labeling all bullies MONSTERS and not delving any deeper, by labeling all the bullied, VICTIMS, particularly when the results are fatal for them and not delve any deeper. It’s as if their death has no meaning, no lesson to teach us to make us more empowered.

Myopic Entitlement

In other words, “I am so special that I exist outside the impact zone of cause and effect.”

WRONG!

The Lady Gaga approach to self-love that I applauded earlier does have its limits. At some point, your ego has to mature enough to accommodate the fact that as thread in the tapestry of the human fabric, you will experience its rippling and stretching.

We all fall prey to this inability to see and make connections between our seemingly exclusive existence, hopes, dreams, expectations and the bigger picture of which we are unavoidably a part. For example:


A European tourist couple comes to a third-world country on vacation. While there, they exist entirely in their own unique universe, hopes, dreams and expectations until they are robbed by a desperate, ghetto dwelling man trying to provide for his family. The European couple is devastated. Their vacation is RUINED! They feel totally victimized and see the entire situation as unfair to THEM. They had nothing to do with what happened to them! How could it possibly be their fault this happened to them! The robber, the third-world island’s law enforcement, government and their economic policies need to take personal responsibility!

And I agree. Every individual in this situation has to take personal responsibility. I just believe that includes the European tourist couple. While they have no control over another individual’s actions, what makes them think that the conditions in that third-world island that fosters an environment that drives desperate criminal acts has zero to do with them and the life they enjoy?

Once you are an active consumer in our capitalist system you are connected to that starving child, African rape victim during militia unrest over precious minerals, homeless indigenous tribe who watched their rainforest decimated. As participants in an unfair and failed system we cannot be exempt from the karmic repercussions however they find us. When they do, we must temper our suffering with some perspective.

If that European couple were to step outside a narrow, subjective viewpoint that only accommodates the supremacy of their hopes, dreams, and expectations it is easy to see that they have deliberately or unwittingly accepted a number of false assumptions. Topmost among those false assumptions is that it is somehow their right to be able to enjoy an uninterrupted lifestyle of luxury in a poor country with desperate people who do not benefit from the tourism industry because of Government corruption, exploitative foreign debt and unfair trade.

How many false assumptions are we nursing that are based on our subjective awareness? Better yet, are we so over-involved in our little universe that we forget the world out there? It seems so.

Do you think that because you are an attractive, educated black woman you are exempt from being approached by less desirable men? Does it overly offend you? Then you need to- GET OVER YOURSLEF!

Do you think that because you have money and gadgets to flaunt it makes you cool and interesting and you get offended when certain people still do not seem impressed by you? Then you need to GET OVER YOURSELF!

Do you think that because you truly believe you’ve found the “true religion” and it has done wonderful things in your life that people must listen, believe and convert whenever you preach to them or else something must be wrong with them? Then you need to GET OVER YOURSELF!

A good exercise is to read the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It helps to put your false assumptions about what you are entitled to on this planet into perspective, set your benchmark for gratitude a lot lower and thus make it more attainable which makes you more empowered to focus on real problems.


Let me tell you, on many occasions I too need to GET OVER MYSELF! I find that if I don’t do it, sure enough, The Universe will provide one hell of an embarrassing or humbling experience to make me realize that as unique and blessed I think I am, I am still part of this crazy, unpredictable thing called life. The stinky vagrant who annoys me with his unwanted attention ends up being the same one helping me off the floor because in my self-involved fuming, I trip and buss my tail.

In fact, I have a major test of everything I claim to believe coming up. An active construction site full of Caribbean men from the poorer districts is going up right in front of my home. I know from expereince that within those environments, men are raised to gape, soot and throw lewd comments to assert themselves when they see women, even if and especially if it is obvious the female victim would not ever be interested. I know from experience that a woman who looks like me (black with dreadlocks) that lives in an upscale neighborhood is going to be of particular interest and then particular affront to that particular brand of black, male ego when I show no interest in the cat-calls. Sharing a house with my white, female life-partner isn't going to help either.

I am not thin-skinned. I am not even afraid to the point of wanting to move. I have the knowledge. I have the spiritual foundation. I am not looking at the situation with myopic entitlement. I see the struggle and hardship those men face. I see their Masculine/Feminine imbalance. I see how much Lack and Fear drives the actions of men who harang women relentlessly and/or are homophobic and feel deep insult by lesbians or interracial relationships.

But when I come face to face with it, will I be able to maintain inner peace, self-confidence, freedom and a deep sense of security rooted in my inner strength? Can I forgive and turn the other cheek?

Well, I'll keep you posted on that one.


Meanwhile I take comfort in Ras Shorty I, our beloved Trinidadian Soca Music pioneer who recommended that when you are overly frustrated, overly angry that is the time to surrender and just breathe and sing the mantra,
“Om, Shanti, Om”, let it go!

You will feel happier and feel a lot less bullied by the world.

September 11, 2011

2012 Survival Kit- Masculine Feminine Imbalance- Getting Back Into Balance



We've come to the conclusion of this part of the Survival Series The African community and Diaspora are perhaps the most powerful example of what happens when you deliberately tamper with the Masculine/Feminine Balance of an entire group of people to suit the needs of conquest.

Today, the challenges (control, distrust, emotional immaturity, mercenary arrangements, lack of communication, sexual dishonesty, low self-esteem, over-dependency) that plague male-female relationships in the African/Diaspora community, yes the same ones comedians like Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle and Rachel Price cleverly highlight through humour, are like a concentrated version of the imbalance that permeates everywhere else in all other cultures and creeds.

The dysfunctional black relationship has been well explored. The factors that contribute to it, less so.

We've suffered a legacy of shame, exploitation and domination manifested as genital mutilation, forcible breeding, ripping families apart, systematic male disempowerment, systematic female dehumanization, sex-slavery and rape, systematic religious and social indoctrination in deep hatred for bodies, indigenous spirituality and sexuality. We experienced the ripping away of The Mother/Divine Feminine from our lives losing our connection to Yemanja, Oshun, Mwai Lisi and also in even more visceral ways- taking land, resources, crops, personhood right under our feet.

The imposition of Arabic and European standards of human sexuality, female beauty & virtue had disastrous consequences on the African continent. Tribes with accepting attitudes towards non-procreative and/or pre-marital sexual activities, homosexuality, polygamy, matrilineal land ownership, female shamanism reaped a world of dysfunction and disease trying to implement foreign standards.

Our societies are still slow to accept the counter-arguments against patriarchal oppression, particularly in the deeply Christian Caribbean. Black men still try to measure success and self-worth by how well they emulate colonial patriarchal ideals of dominion over the female and black women are trying to gain security and status like colonial women do by acquisition of a Daddy/Master/Provider.

Even when we try to reclaim African heritage, we continue to rate our level of self-fulfillment and gender expression based on a system that never accepted us as human in the first place. For this reason, true love, spiritual enlightenment continues to elude many of us and we continue to cannibalize one another.


The destruction of the Alpha/Divine Feminine is discussed in this lecture given by Eve Ensler, who actually gives it the nickname, “Girl” and elaborates on how we (men and women) have all destroyed the “Girl” and the consequences of doing so. Her accounts of what is happening in Africa are heartwrenching.

Now, in no way shape or form am I saying that the indigenous sexuality and gender relations in various African cultures were idyllic, perfectly enlightened and balanced before colonial occupation and the slave trade.

The ugly, less popular truth that indigenous culture apologists overlook is that imbalance already existed within African, Indian, Native American, Aboriginal and pagan European societies. If there were no weakness, our ancestors would have been far too powerful for the even more imbalanced Judeo-Christian/Abrahamic colonial powers to conquer. That is the how powerful Ishvara (The Divine State of Perfect Balance Between Masculine and Feminine) can be.


When colonialists encountered the “Barbarian ” and “New” worlds, they found that our forefathers were already infected with false pride, greed and racism/tribalism. It was easy to make this sales pitch, “Forget Mother Goddess and you will become a God like we are! Your enemies will not be able to hurt you. Your women will not be able to hold you accountable. Our religion will teach you how. Our system will teach you how.”

The ugly less popular truth is that many tribes were already losing The Mother and distracted with war and conquest and easily pitted against each other by European and Arabic powers, far more experienced in strategies of war and conquest. What made Islam, Christianity and its accompanying economic power structure particularly actually attractive to our ancestral male tribal chiefs was the military might and technology of the colonial powers gained by eliminating the check and balance of having to answer to Mother.

Colonialism was basically seasoned tyrants empowering young and upcoming tyrants to reject their Mother and once they did, they were betrayed and mired in testosterone-fuelled pissing contests. And it just so happened that the European and Arabic tyrants were more brilliant at pissing contests. But not because of innate racial or cultural superiority as often claimed by religious bigots, racists or Manifest Destiny apologists.

The seeming victory of European/Christian and Arab/Muslim colonialists had everything to do their systems of economy and governance strongly focused on over-hunting, over-harvesting and hoarding as well as an unfathomable hunger for power. Coming from the harsh wintery and/or desert plagued parts of the world, European and Middle Eastern cultures had to push harder against nature in order to survive. They suffered lack of food, warmth, sunlight, water for months. This drove the innovation of technology for conquest of nature (both land and human) by sheer necessity.


The best conquerors over Mother Earth (including her people) gained not just survival but eventually, power. Unfortunately, some used this to oppress others and institute a class system, with the upper class, becoming like vampires feeding off powerless serfs and gaining a perverted amount of power. This resulted in the envious serfs developing an unquenchable thirst to be part of the vampire class.


This vampirism also manifested in pockets in the “New World”. Caribs committed genocide against Arawaks. The Aztecs captured other tribes and literally built their empires on their blood and bones. African tribes clashed in bloodly, gut-curdling battles. Different Asian clans had spats, millennia old. The only difference is that it was far more contained, again, not because of Native Indians, Africans and South Pacific peoples being innately more compassionate than Europeans and Arabs but because they were also products of their geography.

Unlike the flatter, less obtrusive Eurasian Continent, Mediterranean, Northern Africa and Middle East which allowed the conquest and hoarding to spread, Equatorial Africa, Southern Asia, South and Central America and all the various islands had daunting geographical barriers to large-scale military invasive action.


Even Alexander The Great could not contend with rainforest, deep green gorges and sudden mountains, mile-wide rivers swollen with monsoon rains, mosquitoes and guerilla-style warfare.

There was also less of a culture of hoarding, not because these so called, “primitive” societies were less ambitious, lazy or less intelligent but because they had no geographical/cultural reason to do such things. They lived in abundant parts of the planet with year-round sunshine, lush, green forest with all its bounty, rivers and seas teaming with fish. Anything that was not consumed would rapidly rot in the hot, humid climate.

What was deemed “primitive”, "lazy" or "unlearned" was basically a common-sense, Mother-Earth Balanced, approach to survival. Travel light, take only what you need and what Mother will provide.

This balanced interdependence resulted in a spirituality where and man was not seen as higher than nature and therefore imbued with the right to absolute dominion over it. It developed a different value system about self-fulfillment as illustrated in the story below.

“And then what?”

A Wall Street Executive on vacation alighted from a luxury cruise line that just made port in a sleepy Mexican village, where fishing has been part of the culture since the time of the Mayans. It is mid-afternoon as he walks along the beach and sees a group of fishermen having a siesta under the palm trees.

“Man! That looks like the life!” he cannot help but exclaim.
“Si señor! Life is good!” says one of the fishermen.
“So are you done working for the day?” asks the Wall Street executive incredulously.
“Si señor! We get up at the crack of dawn, take the boats out. Come back mid-morning with fish, prawns, lobster for the village. Then we repair nets and then we siesta. Later we will eat a nice meal from our catch, drink tequila, play music, play cards with our amigos, enjoy family, make love to our women and sleep. Get up do it again,”


“But! You guys! You have no idea what you have here! The potential!” says the Wall Street executive, “This whole operation! It could be so much bigger if you just have some vision! Some ambition!”
The fisherman, laughs and decides to indulge the American.
“Tell me señor, what is your vision?”
“Well,” begins the Wall Street Executive, happy to share his expertise, “Instead of fishing for just four hours a day. Why not fish for eight hours! Catch more fish! Sell more fish! Make more money!”
“And then what?”
“Well, then you can buy some more boats and hire more people to fish and make more money,”
“And then what?”
“Well, you can form a fishing company, exporting fish all over the world and if it gets big enough, you can trade it on Wall Street and make millions! Billions even!” the Executive shares getting increasingly excited.
“And then what?” asks the fisherman
“Then you can retire and just relax and enjoy life and fish because you enjoy it,”
“But señor, that is what I am doing right now…with a lot less stress, less damage to the ocean and more time to spend with my woman and children. Enjoy your vacation.”


The European and Arabic colonialists saw indigenous peoples as primitive, lazy, lacking ambition and therefore undeserving of their beautiful land and ripe for plundering. “If you don’t want it! If you aren’t using it to get POWER to get MORE to get POWER to get MORE! Then by all means let ME take it!”

The rest is history.

Patriarchy’s Omega focus is not inherently evil, just as the male sex drive is not inherently evil. There must be some level of penetration and destruction for creative and innovative enterprise to be. However, the Capitalism/Colonialism Apologists who argue that their systems are superior to Communal/Naturist ones are seriously mistaken.

The survival instinct that drove Patriarchal over-hunting, over-harvesting and hoarding may have been valid at some time when we were at the mercy of wild animals, starvation, thirst and unfamiliar/unpredictable Mother Nature. But when we do not evolve spiritually as we evolve technologically, these seemingly valid feelings of lack and fear become falsehoods and lead to dysfunction.

We are still in “hoarding-mode” when there is no need for it.

The problem is not penetrating and impregnating Mother Nature. It is doing so against her will and not giving Her enough respect to allow this process to be done as She chooses so she can also maintain her balance. They don’t call it raping Mother Earth for nothing. Sure at first it feels like victory, just like dominating a woman feels like victory. But the truth is that there is not a predator alive that circumvent Mother’s bitch-slap of “No! I do not want that!” otherwise known as bio-feedback.

Everything about the way our planet is responding is just like how a woman responds when she is repeatedly humiliated, used and abused. At first she seems beaten down but there is a turning point when victim becomes avenger, prey becomes predator.

In order to regain the balance which creates the power that sustains Life, Mother Nature, will go as far as to do a kamakazi. Mother is life AND death. Mother can be re-born. She’s taken on comets, global melt-downs and ice-ages….and Life always returns because the ingredients for Life are within every spec of star-dust in the Universe. There is no Yang without the Yin. The superiority of Western, Judeo/Christian/Abrahamic cultures is just an illusion and not worth defending at the expense of human rights and the planet’s health. If we are survive another generation on this planet we must learn how to rebalance, starting with ourselves by tackling the False Fears and Lack still driving our actions.
So let’s do that now, shall we?

FALSE FEAR OF “LOSS”/REJECTION

WHY IS IT FALSE?
It ignores/forgets the Universal Law of Attraction, Consequence, Infinity, Eternity, Momentum.

UNBALANCED RESULT:
(Active) Domination, possessiveness, jealousy, envy (Passive) apathy, powerlessness, self-pity, guilt

SURVIVAL KIT SPIRITUAL POWER UPS:
From Christ to Buddha, spiritual teachers have tried to help us unmask the illusion of “Ownership” and get it through our head that we brought nothing into this world neither can we take anything out. Every individual is on their OWN journey and has their OWN relationship with The Divine/Universe which has ultimate dominion. Therefore dominion over another is an illusion. We reap exactly what we sow and when we cannot circumvent this Universal Law, without bringing suffering to ourselves and others.

Re-balancing Your Ambitions/Ego(Men & Women)

Affirmation
“I am a child of the Universe. I accept that the Law of Attraction is active in my life. There is no need for me to steal, force or try to hasten the timing, quantity or quality of what I receive thereby creating imbalance and suffering in the world. I attract to me things and people in perfect balance. I become stronger in my ability to do this and feel strong, content and well esteemed. My success is real because it is based on real benchmarks of- self-mastery, selflessness, self-esteem, self-sufficiency.”

Challenges
• Go without your material possessions, food, status and see if still feel good about who you are and know who you are.
• Rejoice in another’s success without feeling jealous, competitive.
• Invest in the planet in whatever way you can.


Re-balancing Your Sexual Attractions/Love (Men)

Affirmation
“My inner Yin soul thrives on unconditional love. I need my soul-mate/love/spouse/friend to love me for real. I do not need to seek emotional security through dishonest, disrespectful, inhumane, mercenary or domineering means. When someone gives me their love freely from a place of strength it makes me stronger.”

Challenges
• Set the one you love and desire free and see if they will decide to love you without you trying to influence or destroy their freewill.
• Seek love/friendship without using pea-cockery or presenting your status as a sales pitch.
• Lose or limit your involvement with people in your life who do not love you unconditionally.
• Give love/friendship to at least one person without wanting anything back in return.


Re-balancing Your Sexual Attractions/Love (Women)

Affirmation
“My inner Yang soul thrives on freedom. I want my soul-mate/love/spouse/friend to allow me my self-actualization. I do not need to seek emotional security through being subservient, using my sexuality or being dishonest about how smart I am or squashing my strong opinions or dreams. I want someone who appreciates my strength.”

Challenges
• Embrace your intellect, ambition, power and freedom and see if the one you love will continue to love you without you trying to dominate you.
• Seek love/friendship without using any games, hiding your personality, intelligence or power
• Lose or limit your involvement with people in your life who do not love you unconditionally.
• Give love/friendship to at least one person without wanting anything back in return.


Re-balancing Your Spirituality (Men & Women)

Affirmation
“The Divine is both Male and Female. Great Mother, I know now I am not a Motherless child. You are alive! You are active in my life! I will no longer ignore You. I will seek You out. Please reveal yourself to me. I will be open to Your signs. I will honor You with equal fervor as I honor Your Male Counterpart. I will show gratitude for Your blessings.”

Remember your Mother. She is there under the surface of many "God-only" traditions.

Challenges
• Expand your spiritual knowledge and reclaim The Goddess. Find out who, why, how She was forgotten and destroyed and honor Her once more in whatever capacity you can.
• (For men) See the women in your life as having spiritual power in their own right and respect their words of healing, wisdom, power.
• (For women) Take up your rightful spiritual place alongside your brothers. You have spiritual power and wisdom. Use it!


The False Fear of Loss/Rejection is not the only one that causes us to go out of balance. In the next 2012 Survival Kit we will explore Fear in its entirety.

It is my hope that after the Fear Essays we will be ready to take on the challenges the future will present as the old system collapses around us and we are called to fight fearlessly (to the death if necessary) for truth, justice, equality and true freedom.