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!”
“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.”


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.

1 comment:

Cherrie Ann said...

Terrific and insightful article. I enjoyed reading it. Will share widely.