Friday, August 25, 2017
let's see how many questions I can ask in a single post -
When teaching in a group of women if the training is long enough someone inevitably asks me if I have any personal experience with violence.
Mixed gender or all male groups - the question doesn't come up.
This wants to ask a question, doesn't it? Like....why is that? Why do the women ask and not the men? Do women ask only women? Do women ask male instructors? Why don't the men ask? And, do the men ask other men just not women?
This is probably just a rabbit hole but the questions have me super curious. So I asked a friend of the male type - I shared the observation based on my experience and asked...why don't the guys ask?
His response was it's kinda' like a guy-code. You don't do it. You don't ask another guy if he's killed somebody or how many fights he's gotten into, or if he's ever stabbed someone or gotten shot. In this conversation, he reminded me of a situation we both happened to observe. One of those moments when a guy broke the code. There was a visceral reaction from a number of folks when the code was broken. The guy who was asked made it clear the ask-ee had crossed a line. What if it had been a woman who had presented the question?
Hmmm. I think the general response would have been the same - not cool, sister, not cool.
BUT...what if it had been a female instructor and the question had come from a female participant? When I've gotten this question from other women it's generally come from one of two places, that I can tell anyway. One: credibility. Do I have the experience to back up my confidence in what I'm teaching? Women doubt. They (we) have seen enough bullshit in self-defense instruction that we doubt. Two: safety v. risk. A lot of the time the question comes from a place of fear. If I have the been-there shirt then she can let her guard down...doesn't risk as much potential judgment. And, if the answer from a female instructor is NO, I don't have the been-there shirt, a little explanation and personal sharing cinches the credibility factor pretty well too. Women are all...well, women.
If you haven't been physically attacked, you have worried about it at some point. You have been cautious going out to your car at night or have been the focus of spurious catcalls or some other unwanted attention. The girls get it. Maybe. Hmmm. Then there's the whole neurological multi-connectivity factor in the female brain which tends to create more investigative questioning just by the nature of her wiring. Is that it? Probably contributes but I think this is more a socially driven construct than a biologically driven construct.
What happens though if a guy asks the violence question to a female instructor? I have no idea. I have never seen this happen. Would the violation of the guy-code be bigger or less? Would the women be happy someone asked on their behalf or incensed at the intrusive curiosity?
What about credibility? If the female instructor says yeah, I have the t-shirt, what are the guys thinking about that? Does it add to her credibility? Or, do the men in the crowd feel all offended on her behalf - or - maybe it detracts from her credibility, she's a damsel in distress and should have known better ...or... What if her answer is no - loss of credibility? Are the men relieved but somehow drifting towards being dismissive? No idea. Not a guy and again, have never seen this dynamic go down.
I don't know if the answers inform anything or really matter. I'm just curious more than anything else because it is a trend and, not knowing the rules is one of the things that can up the propensity for violence and conflict. So I am curious about what the underlying rules are here, and even more curious why the rules exist. I have seen it happen, had it happen on more than one occasion. The women ask. The men don't.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Okay-dokey. There's a whole lot of angry and binary and positioning going on right now. It is impacting a lot of different stuff like politics and history and human rights and freedom of speech and...
Is the U.S. on the brink of a new type of civil war? What's the real issue with Charlotsville; freedom of speech? hate crimes? terrorism? the beginning of a new Hitleresque regime on the rise? Do we tear down all the historical monuments from the history of the U.S. Civil War? Do we tear down the pyramids in Egypt because they were built on the backs of slavery? And then there's Trump's response pointing his finger at both sides and the backlash that he didn't condemn the white supremacists.
At a sociological level this is twisty and complex. At a human level, there isn't anything complex about it.
Any time we see, feel, experience or believe Power is a binary, closed percentage proposition we are fucked. If you get an entire generation of children to believe 2 apples and 2 oranges = 10
Almonds and the numeral 10 comes to mean those 2 apples and 2 oranges as a new concept and you rewrite the dictionaries to change the meaning of the words so they match, there are still 2 apples and 2 oranges on the table, not 10 almonds. If we try to solve math equations with this new interpretation and we bend the numbers and our definitions of reality to make it work - it is still inaccurate and the solutions we create will be skewed and ineffective. The skewed solutions will eventually breakdown because there are just some things that can not survive the test of raw reality.
Trying to solve battles for power by dividing one pie and allocating the pieces to an infinite number of human beings is always, eventually going to break down.
Power is not a finite equation and is not binary. If I have some, you do not have less. Everything we believe about our power or lack thereof has been taught/learned. We can get super existential even and think about what Frankyl said in Logo therapy and his experiences from the Nazi Concentration camps - he was kinda' powerless when he was interned .... or so it would appear. But he came out of it with theories about being human that eviscerated a binary and finite orientation to power.
One of the things he discovered was humans in the concentration camps had basically two relationships with the food...ummm....well, what passed as food. People would risk their lives to hoard what little they were given in case they needed it later. Other people would give their portion up to a sick(er) detainee when in need. The latter group lived longer. Tended to be more resilient. Weird, huh? Give away your meager portions once-in-a-while and you live longer? What?
When you feel like someone has power over you, it is because at some level you have surrendered a degree of it. When you feel like you have to drive your car through a crowd of people you hate, they rule you. Yes, you may kill and injure some of them and that sure as hell looks like you have more power than they do. Look, I do this too. We are deeply socially programmed to see power as an equation with a finite numerical product.
There are experiences that inform beliefs I have and those experiences can argue deeply about power differentials 80/20 etc. Moments in which I did not have the necessary skills to avoid the impact of someone else's decisions - that can feel like powerlessness. No doubt. It doesn't mean it's true.
White lives matter. Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. Take monuments down. Destroy history. Keep history. Be right. Be wrong. It's all a battle for power. Only here's the thing - You can't win something you already have access to and you can't lose something wired into your DNA. No matter how hard we try, adding together 2 apples and 2 oranges will not give us 10 Almonds. And as long as we try to solve the equation by using the wrong computation, we are fucked.
Monday, August 7, 2017
This is the allegoric representation on why it took me a ridiculously long time to finish a 3 - part series on stalking for Conflict Research Group, International.
The deeper I delved into the writing project, the worse it got. The more I tried to be precise in my writing the more I discovered the whole field and everything in it was unclear, undefined and difficult to identify. I wondered if this is what Scott felt like years ago up in the outlands of Canada. Scott being a cousin who was contracted by the Canadian government to go out and identify all the plants growing in the grasslands and then to categorize which ones were indigenous and which ones were interlopers. He spent weeks out there with his dog/wolf hybrid. Sometimes days on on end without seeing another human. Looking at each little growing thing seeking to answer two questions. What are you? Do you belong here?
Working on the stalking articles I felt like what I imagined Scott might have felt weeks into the project. Overwhelmed by all the possibilities. While Scott was digging through the underbrush and plucking at leaves and stems, I was digging through published material and various taxonomies. Plucking through Bureau of Justice statistics while also periodically disentangling myself from my monkey brain chatter rising up through a field of personal experience (having been stalked twice). On the second rewrite of article 2 of 3 all I could see was an expanse of unnamed possible patterns in human behavior and fields of possible taxonomies - some established, others undetermined. And then a feeling of futility.
And that's where I wonder if Scott and I shared another experience. If he might have looked out across the landscape as it dropped off into the infinity of the horizon and pondered on the possibility there might be no true end to the project - a fuck-this, what's the point? - moment.
The chatter that ran through my little monkey brain sounded a lot like that and I, in my fantasy of presumed solidarity with a family elder I respect, I wondered if we shared something.
- why am I doing this?
- what's the point?
- I'm sure there's someone better at this, knows more about this
- I don't think I'm smart enough to figure this out
- No one's going to read this anyway (it doesn't add to any valuable body of knowledge)
- I probably don't know what I'm talking about
When I got really lost in the weeds, I pitched the unfinished, multi-versioned articled #2 to a friend. One I trust to call bullshit - one I trust to say whoa sister, way too much personal drama.
His feedback, over a couple of conversations, made things worse which made the whole project easier. He had his own wonderings, musings and questions about the topic and behavior patterns and affects. I realized there was a metarphoric metric ton of plants in this field that were never going to be fully identified in a little 3-part article series. So I let go of that part and suddenly I had a finished product. There are a series of assumptions in the articles and a more than equal chance they are wrong as much as they are right.
And that's okay. This is what I've got. Personal experience + a little professional knowledge + some training in the arena of personal defense/safety. Maybe it adds to the body of knowledge. Maybe the suppositions are so wrong, it will send someone else off in a particularly right direction.
My monkey's need to be correct - was part of my problem. I didn't want to misinform and my past experiences where telling me I was supposed to get it all figured out. Ego's a bitch.
And as I finish up this post, I am having a flashback. Remembering a moment with an intuitive, intelligent, slightly off-kilter ex-heroine addict-turned-leadership-trainer. John looked at me and made an observation. "You like to observe and assess and figure things out, don't you?" Yup.
"Yeah....that's not really going to work for you." He said a few more things but I don't remember them because the rest of it just completely pissed me off and all I remember was the moment when I called him out.
"Are you challenging me?" to which John replied by covering the distance of a conference hall in a nano second and stood well inside my 3 foot space bubble, leaned in and announced with more certainty than I thought possible - "Yes! Yes.I.Am."
This was almost 20 years ago. He was right then, and he is still right. I am better when I stop trying to figure it all out ahead of time. We all are. There is a difference between being an idiot and ignoring the information and experiences gained by others - the wisdom that exists through the knowledge of people who have traveled the terrain ahead of us. And when we hit uncharted spaces - figuring out all the possibilities before we move into the terrain is paralyzing. The new stuff, the fun stuff, the fantastically terrifying stuff is out there in the weeds and the uncertainty and the wrong-ness that is guaranteed by playing in spaces that are uncharted.
"Beyond this place there be dragons" translated to ink on my arm as a reminder that the best lessons are learned playing with the dragons of uncharted territory clearly isn't enough of a personal reminder, because writing these articles would have been much easier if I had remembered.