Sunday, January 28, 2018

this rose has thorns - #500

Protocol and Punishment. If you do something bad and wrong, your tribe will punish you. If the tribe wants to limit how much punishment it must meet out the tribe will create protocols to prevent the behavior altogether ...and up the punishment for maximum deterrent currency.

In the tribes I know of, it's a two-fer. A little prevention and a decent amount of punishment. Punishment itself is used as a two-fer...punish often enough and with a enough force and the punishments become prevention. Our current social structures expect this to be in total sufficient - we know it isn't. It's also where I struggle to believe the #MeToo and #Timesup campaigns will be deep game-changers. Maybe I'm wrong, and that would be cool.

And I'm sure Oprah and her colleagues didn't read my Dear Oprah post. For my little corner of the universe though, it was widely read (and widely read is absolutely a comparative to my other stuff and the idea of "widely" to me mostly means "read at all"). Confirmation that I'm on to something is that it was both agreed with and strongly disagreed with--

There's another award ceremony coming up - and a continuation of the efforts to support the #metoo and the  #timesup campaign, the artists are going to be wearing white roses. Kinda' cool in a fashion because the white rose was a symbol of women's suffrage and those women paid heavy prices for their commitment. They were jailed, starved, tortured in various was including being beaten and served food crawling with maggots.

Now the fight is about sexual harrassment and sexual violence with a strong focus on the arts and entertainment industry. #Timesup is a statement that people don't "get to do that anymore".

I'm poking around at a couple of questions - why is the time up? Why now? Why not 10 years ago? Why not 100 years ago...or a thousand years ago? Sexual violence has been protocol-ed and punished for millennia. 

Momentum probably gets a good deal of the credit. We've had more change in the 50+ years I've been alive than the last 300 years combined where women are concerned. #Metoo and #Timesup have created some momentum in the arts & entertainment industry and some momentum among the common folk as well.  It looks like a degree of this momentum is anchored in Protocol and Punishment. As in, let's do more of that. I don't know if that's good or bad - above my pay-grade, really. I am cautious about it remaining anchored in that particular trajectory.

It has the potential to invite an externalized attitude about personal authority and I've seen the damage that causes. Protocols are set by the tribe to keep us in-check and punishment is force-applied action when the protocols are violated. Protocols -rules- work for the people who agree with them. What if you don't agree with them? How many times have you driven over the speed limit? Anyone text and drive for even a second since the laws forbidding it were ratified?

Risk v. Reward drives those choices. In that moment of going over the speed limit, the reward felt worth the risk. There is no difference between rape and speeding when it comes to protocol effectiveness and behavior management. If you agree, you'll comply. If you don't, you won't.

Taking it deeper - systemic (tribal) punishment is only a factor if I get caught. And even then, I may judge the Risk:Reward ratio as worth it. Serving time is not always considered a horrible outcome. What then?

#500. I threw that out there in my letter to Oprah because I like the notion of women being able to decide for themselves. To have the skills, knowledge and ability to set their own protocols and their own ability to support the protocols with enforcement if necessary. Can that go awry? Will some women use physical force when it's not called for? Sure. But that's already happening across all gender lines for pretty much everything. That's why we still have child abuse. Yes, oversimplified comparison perhaps - but nonetheless that's the bottom line.

And at the end of it, women trained in self-defense .... includes a frontloading effort in prevention skills. Yeah, of course that includes don't all go out together and all get really shit-faced with no one to serve as the sober decision-maker.  Prevention is sooooo much more. People reading, understanding how and where and why violence happens, how to identify the difference between threat displays and pre-attack indicators, how to....

They physical stuff is the everything-else-failed option. It needs to BE an option, it also needs to be one of many options. And those of us in the industry need to be teaching All the things. All of them.

--and to prevent someone getting twitter-pated because that sounds like teaching all the prevention stuff is only a girl's game - don't hear that I mean it as such - it isn't.

Speaking of the proverbial Someone - someone...well several someone's actually - called me on my words. Give me 500 women? Pony up, sister. 

I'm in a massive project that is like a giant pacman eating all my time. It's over mid-March. But I'm moving on the #500 and I have an amazing tribe in the VioDy team who are standing with me and thinking with me and when March is past - there will be more. Boots-on-the-ground more.

....because - if we hit a tipping point of a high percentage of women who are trained in at least rudimentary self-defense the cultural expectation will shift from an assumption that women are easy targets to maybe only some women are .... but which ones? The Risk:Reward ratio will be harder to discern and I'd like to see what that looks like.

Circling back around to the white roses. Cool symbology. Let's remember too that this symbol far outreaches virtue signaling and reflects frontlines-level risk unprotected by the beauty and glamour of Hollywood Royalty. A white rose for this purpose also signals a level of anarchy required to create substantive change and a willingness to be at stake for a level of risk that carries an equal opportunity of reward and punishment. There will be both and the cost can be high.

Monday, January 15, 2018

nesting dolls

I'm in Santa Rosa, CA this week. It is like being in a nesting doll - a living breathing nesting doll.

I don't even know how to articulate it.

In October the area was hit with the "Tubbs" Fires. It's January and the impact of the devastation is still palpable. Not where I'm staying and working - it looks untouched. It isn't singed or scorched. But it's a pocket. It's a spot of normal in a reeling abnormality of destruction. Everyone I know here has talked about the new layer of impact - community wide PTSD. If your house didn't burn, maybe where you worked did - maybe you escaped both but XX number of your good friends are homeless.

I can't really find the language to express the ripple effects -

So nesting doll. I'm here in this city that is normal and abnormal paradoxically simultaneously.  And I'm teaching physical self-defense, a little ConCom, a little Violence Dynamics, a little Krav, in this mismash that shouldn't work...but does. Teaching a group of people who "have to" come to the training and the research on mandatory programming in any kind of rehabbing (including the whole idea that prison should be rehab of a sort) consistently reports mandatory stuff doesn't work. But this seems to.

And the people in my classes are in the bigger long term program that is voluntarily mandatory because being IN the program is voluntary but participating in the different aspects of the program once you are mandatory.  And so the people who show up to work with me for two days didn't have a say in it.

And they all have a metric ton of life they are working through, including addiction.  Violence is an up-close and personal experience for the majority - both on the giving and receiving end of the violence spectrum. So there's a lot of conversation and experience of PTSD in the program tucked inside a city that kind of has PTSD.

Nesting dolls.  Nothing profound to say about any of this. Just noticing and wondering about it. And fascinated once again by the crazy capacity humans have to adapt and adapt and adapt again. There's a continuum or a scale in how humans measure adaptability ...healthy to unhealthy to not-at-all.

But being here in the midst of a great deal of adaptation in action, all I can think of is --

no wonder we made it to the top of the food chain - we just don't know how to die, do we?

It's a figurative statement, haven't met an immortal human yet and we all eventually die and sometimes we die in tragedy -

at the collective though? we don't die easily. We should - but we don't.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Dear Oprah, give me 500-

Dear Oprah;

Inspiration is a fantastic emotion. When the well of emotional energy living at our core finally gathers enough energy to explode upward into conscious awareness and we feel compelled - there is something grand about watching a volcano erupt and something equally grand about feeling inspired.

And then there is the aftermath. The emptiness that is left once all the energy has been expelled. When the molten rock cools we are left with a barren landscape. Let's face the aftermath of our inspirational experience and get our hands dirty. Do the work.

Hard work. Work that plods forward outside of the eyes of social media and work largely unrewarded - which is by no means a bad thing. In your acceptance speech, you acknowledge the hard work. The years of toil under oppression whether the oppression be about race, or gender, or both.

You also applauded the #METOO women for their courage - what have they gained for giving their voice and sharing their experience? Individually- perhaps a moment of inspiration. And an experience of strength for walking past the shadows of misplaced blame and its sister shame - maybe that as well. Not small moments.

But Oprah; what has changed? Yes...I hear your argument about how change takes time and we need to dig in and be an agent of change regardless of reward. I hear you. I speak those words and I agree.
What will be your unrewarding efforts? Now that the inspiration has past, where will you work?

Here's an idea. Give me 500 women from the North American Continent. Not all at once - 20 at a time is do-able.  500 women I can train in essential elements of self-defense specifically for women. 500 women who will know how to explain prevention skills, how to read the early warning signs of escalation in behavior and pattern. 500 women who will understand the context of violence in a way that is honest, straightforward, without ego of "I know all the answers" because as women, we absolutely know we do not.

These 500 women will understand the social, tribal training wired into the behavior of both men and women. They will know how this creates a context for violence and what it requires to step outside this context. They will be able to communicate this understanding and be able to invite other women into this wisdom.

These 500 women may be able to tag themselves with the #MeToo campaign, but it is not a requirement. I can. I didn't. Having been targeted for violence is not a prerequisite for an effective self-defense instructor. It does not automatically make me knowledgeable. It does not make me an expert in any action of violence except the specific events I have personally experienced and this may - or may not - be transferable.

These 500 women will know there is nothing glorious to be gained by experiencing violence. They will know the scars left behind are permanent. They will know too, the scars can be reinterpreted into strength. And this will be their invitation. Strength is more than a hashtag.

Strength is a choice.

Give me 500 women. In a year, each of the 500 will reach (and by reach - I mean train/teach) 100 women and in short order there will be 50,000 women with basic self-defense skills. That is the beginning of a tipping point. Add 500 more instructors in Europe and another 50,000 women. And let's keep going. Let's go to places where violence against women is far more indemic.

The potential for this to be exponential is in the math. Not in the inspiration. Change is in the work. Work we can do now - not in 50 years, not when legislation and sentencing laws change, not in safe spaces.

Maybe instead of coming forward in a band of violated sisterhood we can stand in strength. #500

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Right Room

playing with answers and thoughts to a trap my monkey brain just SO badly wanted to jump right in the middle of -

A lot of folks like to educate on topics in which they are poorly informed

Common phenomena in all industries and all areas of human interest from economics to art to violence. Social and behavioral psychology offer loads of explanations for this behavior. It's not new, nor is it a mystery.

Picking away at the layers though into more specific versions of this broad-stroke human behavior I'm struck by a subset. When someone who is actually rather informed on a subject and they not only jump out of their lane but do so with such grand unequivocal proclamations of expertise - this behavior is the trap/hook I reeaaaallllly wanted to get wrapped up in recently.

Once in a while, I throw my monkey brain a banana and let it play until it exhausts itself. I was tempted, really tempted on this last one. Wanted to rant about - not sure why I held off -

What usually happens when I don't go bananas, I end up poking a stick at it.

Here's the thing. The more a human learns about a topic or subject matter, the more the human discovers how much s/he does NOT know. The more 'expert' in an area we become, the more clear we get about what we do NOT know. When ego overwhelms what intelligence dictates, the monkey brain demonstrates it's power.

Where does this gigantic push from the monkey brain come from? The ego needs to be affirmed. It needs to be right. It needs to prove something and it needs to be dominant. If I think about the essential biological purpose for this drive, it is about structuring the tribe by enforcing protocols and squaring up unanswered questions about leadership and power. This is a super interesting function when it takes place among a group of people who are all pretty competent, i.e. powerful, in the same subject matter.

When that subject matter is violence and the competent crew in question has gained competence through experience the dominance display doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Unless it's an expression of fear.  Think about it... if I have survived a violent subculture by being the most dominant, the most frightening and the most asocial animal in the territory, then the monkey brain is going to create an intense correlation between dominance and survival even among friends (or at least friendly colleagues).

The opposite then, is also true. If I am not the most dominant, the most Right, the most expert of the crew then I am vulnerable. Dominance = Survival. Vulnerable = Death. So Dominance it is.

Recently, I watched someone who is not a woman, and by admission has not beaten a woman, raped a woman, etc. explain with great veracity (and in my judgment, great hubris) what women really need in self-defense training.  It was not a dialogue but more a diatribe. An unnecessary dominance display among colleagues - some of whom were women. No nod given to the women in group, no recognition of the intellectual and experiential collective gathered regardless of gender, and therein lies the hubris. And beneath that hubris, I suspect a great deal of unacknowledged fear.

What was cool though, no one got worked up over the dominance display. The diatribe addressed a couple of different topics in the same breath and in that breath, there was a good deal of truth spoken as well. A couple of folks in the conversation responded to that truth - gave acknowledgement etc. Maybe, in time, this will quiet the fear. There is a fantastic experience being human offers us...the conscious acknowledgment of what it's like to NOT be the smartest person in the room - when that happens - you are in the right room. When the fear that requires dominance controls us, we can never be in this room ...even when our body is in that room our monkey will never allow the reality to be acknowledged.