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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Photo Credit: stijnbokhove @Flickr

Photo Credit: stijnbokhove @Flickr

Create awareness. Engage new audiences. Pursue and develop dialogue.

I think those steps get lost in the conversation of social justice. People get trapped in semantics (are you going to call it forced child labor or just child labor?) and the evidence of tangible results (what kind of result are you looking for?).

When tying advocacy with rigidly specified definitions, I think you lose purpose – maybe even focus. There is a tone that colors some forms of social justice advocacy that is a mixed bag of guilt, a sense of overwhelming and ambiguity.

We aren’t interested in victimization. We want to know about empowerment. Instead of manipulatively shocking me with photos of disembodied hands with cigarette burns and bruised legs – show me a person. Don’t just show me that something bad happened.

Better yet, show me a person with a story to tell.

People, in a readily conscious way, want to feel a tangible connection. The dialogue is about connection. There is no relevancy in creating distance.

When something seems beyond you – it stays there. On the outer edges of remaining “other people’s problems.” We say, “Too bad – that’s so sad.” Shake our heads and move on to the next news item about The Bachelor overdoing the waterworks on television.

Yet, it’s much easier to bring the content to people who may not, otherwise, seek your conversation. We want them to overhear what we have to say. Loud and clear. And, that’s the point, right?

There is one avenue of writing reports, setting up websites and creating booklets for human rights conferences – it is quite another to create a 3-dimensionality that you and I can touch, read and see on street corners.

And, that is what I think is missing from the conversation of these issues. The dimension of “realness” -making it touchable, heard, felt and seen. Books and articles don’t necessarily do it by themselves.  Yet, when creating this dialogue, activists  (unintentionally) needle potential new audiences  with guilt learning and wagging fingers.

Virtually, alienating the very people from whom they seek support. Look to empower on both ends of the spectrum, from those who are unengaged to those needing the support. When you start there, only then can the real energy of change begin.

It burrows into the mental space of your brain. It stimulates a question that may not have been asked.

It adds, without pause, a third dimension.

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Lynsey Addario
Photo Credit: Lynsey Addario

Jimmy Briggs is telling a story about a Congolese woman he is interviewing.

The woman is describing how she was raped twice in one day.

In the interview, the woman explains that her brother, husband and children were present when she was first attacked in the morning by the Congolese government army.

When they were  finished, the army left the house.

Later, that afternoon, non-government soldiers arrived. They are more brutal. The woman’s husband ran away.

Her brother tried to hide on the rooftop. The militia shot him. The group of men (5 in all) proceeded to rape the woman inside her house. Her children began to call for help outside the home.

The militia men stop the attack and proceed to leave. The woman follows them out. Then, one by one, they shoot each of her children in the back of the head. They proceed to finish the rape.

They leave.

I heard this story while at the Congo/Women opening reception this past Thursday (curated by this organization). The room is surrounded in black and white photos of Congolese men, women and children.

There are huge color photo displays detailing the life and violence in the Congo.

It’s beautiful. Yet, it is also tremendously tragic.

The room shudders with a very still quiet. Mr. Briggs tells the crowd that he wants us to remember this woman’s story. Do not be afraid to remember it. Be brave enough to keep it in your mind.

He wants us to remember that we have the power to change the world if we remember to tell each other’s stories.

Sometimes, the only power you have is simply telling someone else’s story.

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mouth

Fake

This communication trait is usually defined as someone who you feel (or you know) dislikes you, but treats you like sugar cotton candy whenever they see you. Women have big problems with this behavior, particularly in the office. 

In social circles, it’s less of an annoyance because women are much more likely to “call you out” on such behavior. Especially, if they’ve had a little bit too much to drink. Nevertheless, this post is not about the tipsy behaviors of women toward fake-sometimes-gal-pals in bars.

This is about the (sober) communication traits women pretend don’t happen in the office, but seethe about later to their boyfriends or husbands. So, if someone is being fake, most aptly, they are being “insincere.”

And women loathe insincerity. It’s up there with lying…or sleeping with her best friend (which ever will peeve her the most at the moment).  

Yet, the dual friction with such behavior is that women can’t stand it when other women actually act like they don’t like them. It’s hostile. It’s uncomfortable. It gets our Victoria’s Secret knickers in a knot. Especially, when we don’t know why.

And secretly, lots of women want to be liked other women

Women are more adept at using communication as tools of exclusion, derision or alienation. So, we’re particularly annoyed (simultaneously) when others fake-like us versus participating in real-dislike.

It’s nutty. So, don’t try to think too hard about it.

On the other side of the coin, women never acknowledge that the fake behavior is about someone treating you like a respectable human being, despite the fact that they may trash you when your back is turned.

In that case, the adjective “spineless” can be added to the long list of descriptors in relation to this person. Yet, fake is just an inaccurate designator.

Secondly, if given the choice (and moral permission) to behave how we really wanted toward people we disliked (immensely) we’d be in trouble as a society. So, be thankful that whoever you deem “fake” has the moral aptitude to at least to pretend to like you when they see you (whether or not they don’t have the moral decency to keep pretending after you’ve left the room).

Most people insist that if such behavior has to occur, they rather the person confront them with how they feel or be “real” about it. I respond, however, with “why?” Get over yourself and the idea that you deserve to  know what everybody thinks about you.

Leave those truthful sentiments for God and your parents.

And, yeah – they’re being insincere with their feelings, but that’s not the point. Fakeness (in the office) is not about sincerity – it’s about the (misguided) ways of getting what you want.

 

Bitch

How many women call men bitches? Honestly. Even though people like to think that the term is gender neutral, I wonder how many women will call men an @*!hole or jerk  before they call them a Bitch.

Personally, I think women instinctively like using the word bitch. It’s got the extra oomph descriptor we need when wanting to describe a hard nosed, exacting and difficult woman.

On the other hand, it has that emasculating quality as well…when used in reference to a man.

Women are the gurus of detail when it comes to picking the word descriptors that best fit any situation (or person).

 

Snobby

This trait is always interesting to me because snobbishness is probably the most sensitive, subjective opinion one can have of other people.

And, women pick up on it like blood hounds. In work place culture, it’s hard to be nice to snobby people because they make it so easy not to be. Yet, snobbishness is manifested in a number of ways via cliquishness and other communicative behaviors women claim they abhor (but practice with shrewd efficiency when they need to).

I could go into an infinite amount of details of snobbishness taking place in the work environment, but let’s be safe in saying that no matter what – a woman will pick up on it.

Snobby behavior may be the symptom of pretentious, ill-mannered people, but it has some uses in the workplace.

For instance, knowing when to avoid the Bitch or the Fake-jerk.

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Edward B @ Flickr

Photo Credit: Edward B @ Flickr

Humor can get you into trouble. Especially when you are making fun of yourself. Even when you think you are trying to make someone else more comfortable.

It’s 1998. I’m in my freshman year of college. 

There’s loads of pearl necklaces, girls wearing pink and green track suits (the school colors) and cheering our mascot – the vixen.  In spring semester, it was common practice to play ring games to celebrate marriage engagements. 

Students could indulge in a fake “sorority” system that took on an even more exclusive tone because girls had to be specifically chosen. Unlike real Greek sorority systems (that at least let anyone pledge) you had to be chosen to pledge in the first place.

The number of non-white women who enrolled freshman year was considered to be the largest group ever. A whopping 10…out of a class of (maybe) 200.

I’m not sure if this is still done, but upon enrollment, girls had to choose curfew options. Option A meant you could have guests (usually, this means men) visit you whenever you wanted on the weekends – provided they didn’t sleep in your room. Options B and C varied between never having a guy in your room at all or having your guest leave by 8 pm (or something like that).

I chose Option A. Not because I’m boy crazy, but I didn’t see myself telling potential visitors they had to leave by a certain time. When you see your dorm mates having their brothers, boyfriends and anybody else with a penis (or not) in their room, having a curfew just seems whacky.

After half a semester, I became pals with a few of the (Black) guys from a neighboring college.  One Friday night, they paid me a visit and spent time hanging out  in my dorm room. However, my guests didn’t attend school down the street – they had a 2 hour drive to get back to campus.

And, since we weren’t that friendly, my friends had to return to their own dorm rooms.

All this, at the late, late hour of 11 pm. As we were saying our goodbyes, one of my (white) neighbors came walking down the hallway.

She stared. And, I don’t mean she stared because she thought my friends were cute. And, I doubt she was staring because she’d never seen the male sex. This was obvious glaring – at least 5 full minutes. It made me uncomfortable. At least, that’s what I remember the most.

I smile, laughing a bit, and say, “Hey, [insert weird girl’s name here] don’t mind the Black folks in the hallway.”

Her reaction was like that of someone coming out of a trance. She made a huge gulp and replied, “I’m not staring,” and returned to her room. Weird, again. The night is over. My friends leave.

I go to bed.

Side Note: I much rather be called out for being a jerk and making a bad joke then someone mislabeling it and calling me a racist. Excluding the event if the joke is racist – then, you are a racist jerk. Personally, I think her next reaction is little over the top.

I get called down for a “meeting” with the Dean of Students (like I’m in trouble with the principal). Weird Girl reported me for making a racist statement towards her. The Dean of Students even told me it went into my “file.” I was instructed not to confront her. Otherwise, I’d be labeled as “hostile.”

Oh geez.

What really surprised me is that I knew Weird Girl. Well, I knew her in the way that she was comfortable enough to puke in my dorm room. She was comfortable enough to let me nurse her through Freshman Party binge drinking. We weren’t BFF, but I thought we were OK.

At least OK enough to have a normal, adult conversation. OK enough to at least be open to discussion. But, perhaps I was being naive about where I was planning to spend the next 4 years of my life. Progressiveness is not a guarantee when you go to college.  Perhaps, all those life changing conversations about sensitive topics happen on other campuses and not this one. And sometimes, people aren’t interested in having conversations at all.

To make matters worse, Weird Girl was telling anybody who’d listen that I was a horrible, racist person and no one should talk to me.  If you let her tell it, I was hanging dead white children across my door and proclaiming the speeches of Minister Farrakhan. Like that’s going to help anybody. Personally, I think she got a kick out of calling someone who was Black a racist. Obviously, she wasn’t doing anything to help change my hi-falutin “racist” ways. Just trying to alienate me from others. 

That only makes me question her “motives” further.

What makes Weird Girl truly earn her moniker? She insisted on talking to me. Very nicely. Chatty, genteel conversation. If you think someone is a raging, fanatical racist, do you really try to make nice talk with them?

Frankly, I can’t imagine why she just didn’t say something to me earlier. “Hey, what you said last night, I thought it was mean,” or “Hey, that wasn’t cool.”  At least I could’ve apologized. I always thought if you had to take issues up to higher heads, it’s because you think you’ve exhausted all your options.

Or, you think you are going to endure physical harm.

Or, it’s an emergency. Something like that.

But, if some jerk says something you don’t like, you move on and know they’re a jerk.  

What was she trying to “prove” anyway? That I was racist or that she wasn’t? It still boggles my mind. Despite the year being 2009, some people are (still) uncomfortable dealing with race. Even though the events I described transpired over 10 years ago, I imagine Weird Girl still feels she is justified in “outing” my racism and racist behavior.

Perhaps, from a cultural perspective, I made her uncomfortable. But, I didn’t have a problem with that. She did. And if someone is making you uncomfortable, you should try to figure out why. And, if it is truly offensive, take it as an opportunity to learn. 

So, Weird Girl had every right to “report” me. But I don’t think she learned anything meaningful from it. I did. But, in a not so glamorous and very uncomfortable way. 

People behave in a number of ways when someone that’s different from them makes them feel uncomfortable. They can be irrational. They can be mean. Or, they can be confrontational. You have to be careful.  You have to be more discerning. Learn from it. Hopefully, you’ll become more insightful.

Even when you believe you are right or justified (or being funny) – you still have to censor yourself.

Two things I learned:

  • Some people don’t get the joke
  • Other times, your joke just isn’t funny.

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Chicago ElI love where I live. I only have to take one bus to a straight shot downtown. I don’t have to walk very far to get to work. Yet, I trek north several times a week to do my shopping, eating and pub crawling. I’m always glad, nonetheless, to return to my (quiet) South Shore bungalow (or my boyfriend’s Bucktown condo – whichever is closest).

There are busloads of young Chicagoan twenty somethings that believe they should (and could) only live in the following three neighborhoods: Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville and anywhere north.

I once knew a guy that worked for Chicago Apartment Finders. My brain would buzz with shock at how many calls he’d get from fresh (and not so fresh) college grads telling him they could only afford $2300 in monthly rent. Insisting that apartment scouting stick to certain neighborhoods, their missions involve keeping social circles tight. They want to be near friends.  

Like any typical Gen Yer, Chicagoan twenty somethings want to be close to the thriving bar life, local eateries and trendy clothing boutiques that scatter into the various, secluded neighborhoods. I wonder how they justify wanting all those amenities when their potential bar money, restaurant tips and clothing splurges are being devoured monthly in $1200 rent (even with a roommate or two).

Now, that the 3rd coast can boast being the hometown of a president, how will the residential landscape of Chicago change? Instead of the homely, stepchild of the Southside, will more young twenty somethings choose to move a little further south? Will it be cool to live near a president (or, at the very least, live in his neighborhood)? 

I am not sure. That probably won’t happen for a while yet.

But, Obama lives (or used to live) in the Kenwood area, it’s pretty upper crust. So, that’s high hoping if you think that Obama’s presidency could do much to transform the image of Chicago’s southern half.

Unfortunately, most Chicagoans have an uneasy, arm’s length relationship with the Southside. Unless you are a extremely familiar with its trappings, most newcomers don’t even consider living there unless circumstances (and finances) dictate otherwise, if that. The paradox of Chicago is that it is the home of a president and tops as one of America’s most dangerous cities. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Also, with the newest publicity B12 shot of becoming a finalist in the 2016 Olympics, one must ponder the mayor’s latest scheme to use Washington Park as part of the development. This begs  the question: what does Daley plan to do once the Olympics packs up and leaves town (or, never comes in the first place)?

The residential landscape of Chicago may change. Perhaps not. I think despite renewed interest in the Southside, the city’s residential tipping point will remain northward. Young and new transplants alike will continue to flock there. Anything beyond the borders of 57th street will remain highly suspect, inaccessible and “ghetto-ized.” Oddly, lots of interesting young people are merely seperated by geography (and not necessarily class or income).

What’s to become of Chicago once the shiny newness of a president begins to dull?

Whatever it is, I hope it doesn’t screw with my commute.

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barack-obama-and-crowdMr. Obama’s win over the presidency got my gears turning (even more than usual). I thought about the extreme confidence, leap of faith and pure, absolute gusto it took to accomplish such a tremendous achievement. This involves only one thing, my friends: a rebel consciousness.

The rebel consciousness was evident in, not only Mr. Obama, but his supporters, campaigners, the voters who stood in 2 and 3 hour lines to vote and the massive crowds that gathered at Grant Park last night for Obama’s victory rally.

Instinctively, people bury their inner rebel when deciding to embark on a journey that is most certainly fraught with danger, hardship and challenge. It’s self-sabotage in its most  absolutely naked form. We call it “being realistic” or “understanding limitations.”  Some may even convince themselves that lowering expectations will keep them from being too disappointed if they get “surprised” with defeat.

Changing your own mind is the hardest thing to do. Rebellion, revolution and bucking convention gets things done.

If you are looking to realize a dream deferred – you cannot do so without subtracting the sagging and desperate mindset of “the way it is.” Holding fast to the rebel consciousness provides the nourishing energy that catalyzes ideas into action. 

Do not fear being rebellious. Whether in the job hunt or in life – it is that rebelliousness that is too often deleted from our mindset. There is no tried-and-true recipe for success. The complications can be as interesting and multi-faceted as you want to make them. Cooking up your own concoctions for self-fulfillment are countless and inevitably result in a delicious number of outcomes, if you are willing to get in the kitchen.

Barack Obama’s nova-bomb career trajectory from community organizer to president-elect is the ultimate example of having and maintaining the rebel consciousness. Squashing the idea of “doing it the way we should,”  instead Mr. Obama made up his own rules.

If only more of us warmed up to such ideas.

Rebellion is about the steady self-resolve. It’s the true understanding of can instead of can’t, definitely instead of maybe and creating direct answers instead of giving credence to second-guessing questions. If more of us incorporate this rebelliousness into our brains, we will give birth to our own internal revolution. It will morph our personal history into something magical, wonderful and even a little bit awe-inspiring.

And that’s all you really need nowadays. Not motivational quotes and ambiguous opinions or easy-get-it-quick solutions. Begin to dare yourself into a new beginning. Crush the fear factors coupled with the idea of “what is” and transform them into the promise of “what can be.”

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