Just a thought to put things into perspective...
The Blog of Power, Seduction and War
Just a thought to put things into perspective...
As passive outrage online shifts from Eric Garner to Charlie Hedbo and Boko Haram, a disturbing tradition continues to thrive among the NYPD. According to a recent story in the New York Times, chokeholds are still a preferred tactic among police officers despite their illegal status.
It’s not difficult to see why this type of deadly force is preferred by law enforcement:
The technique isn’t designed to kill, but it can lead to death, especially in the middle of a violent uncontrolled confrontation. But in the collective mind of the police the potential for a suspect’s death is not a justification to abandon the technique, because the antagonistic relationship fostered between elements of the police and elements of the community creates an environment where lethal compliance is easy to rationalize. When the police feel justified in turning their back on the mayor and are willing to manipulate arrest rates to make a political point, the subculture of policing threatens the health of the city. Chokeholds are only a symptom of the disease. (See Police Departments and Power Games)
Chokeholds may be illegal, but laws on their own are not the key to improving society. (See Laws Don’t Improve Society, We Do). Improvements in police/ citizen relations will come on an individual level, encounter by encounter, block by block. Until then, the Moscow Rules and a bit of luck might be our only protection for surviving a police encounter. (See Women, Minorities and the Moscow Rules)
According to Foreign Policy Magazine, the rape culture of India isn't being reduced by public calls for castration, mob violence and harsher anti-rape laws. The problem might be getting worse.
The problem isn't limited to India or our present issues with police brutality in America, pseudo religious extremism in Europe or mass murder in Nigeria. Governments can pass laws and crackdown on segments of the population, but our problems will continue until we change our individual perspectives and attitudes.
Consider the ongoing experience America is having with the LGBT community. Prior to the Stonewall Riots, homosexuality was a lifestyle shunned, attacked and rejected by mainstream society. They were blamed for HIV and accused of undermining the fabric of American society. In 2014, challenges still exist, but gay marriage is legal in a majority of states, same sex relationships in entertainment and advertising is on the rise and the mainstream has watered down gay culture in order to absorb it.
This didn't happen because laws were changed to compel people to change their views. Views changed when anti-gay people understood some of their friends, family and colleagues were gay. Views changed when the two groups looked past the labels and started dealing with the people. Once the views were altered, the door to progress could open and then the laws changed. Of course, there are some people still fighting progress and other parts of the world are just as bad as they ever were. But change is happening among people first. Changing the law comes second.
If we want change, then we have to change. We can't just call for laws to be passed, demand people be fired, and wait for other people to change around us. Rape culture, racism and religious extremism are all macro level problems we can begin to reduce on an individual level. We won't be able to eradicate any of these problems, but changing individual attitudes can create a cultural shift and that kind of change can have more impact than passing a random law.
I often get the impression that society uses the government, the mainstream media, priests, and psychologists to enforce the concept of normality. They claim, without any real authority, the power to define what is normal. They use surveys, statistics and selective historical trends to create the illusion of a “typical” man or woman. They preach that normal is inherently good and that all of us should strive to fit our bodies, hearts and minds into the mold that they dictate. Everyone who is willing to forge a new path or question the conventional is discouraged, punished or rejected. This perspective is supported by an article suggesting the new DSMV IV (the manual used to diagnose mental illness) now classifies above average creativity as a mental disorder. (See Non Conformity and Free Thinking as Mental Illnesses).
he rationale for the sudden explosion in mental disorders isn’t hard to understand. It is easier to make money from people who have mental problems than people with independent personalities. Patients can be medicated, sent to therapy and studied for years without results. Free thinkers are not a profit center.
At the other end of the spectrum artists, dreamers and hedonists resist this process. We reject what is normal and forge paths that are often bizarre, disturbing and completely fascinating. They are often misunderstood or unappreciated but the power of their voice is undeniable. For better or worse, artists fight against the tide of normal in an attempt to forge new paths and create a new reality.
Society changes and grows because individuals reject the current order and forge their own direction. The mainstream often follows because they are fascinated, inspired and motivated to think and dream. I’m glad I’m too old to have someone crush my creativity to sell a few pills. The potential artists who come after me might not be so lucky.
The NYPD may or may not be refusing to make arrests as a part of their spat with the mayor. According to the New York Post (whose credibility is always in question, arrests for petty crime have dropped more than ninety percent.
How do we interpret this response? Is it a collective temper tantrum from out of control, over privileged civil servants?
Not at all.
Is it a defensive tactic to protect the safety and welfare of officers afraid of being ambushed by a cop killer?
It is a direct attack on the city's finances. It is a message from the NYPD to City Hall that hits the city where it hurts the most, in the budget.
Fines and tickets make up a big part of the city's income. If the mayor won't support the police by letting them kill minorities at will, then the police won't support the mayor with cash.
This fight isn't about laws, justice, freedom or even lives. It is about money and power. Everything else, including us, is collateral damage.
It is easy to lament the state of modern romance (See This Is How We Date Now). We can look at dating apps and claim romance is dead. We can point to the abundance of our digital connections as the reason behind our collective personal disconnection. We can point to the illusion of social media and blame it for the one sided portrayal of the relationships we manage to have. But these protests are short sighted because they ignore a basic reality of sexual expression.
It’s true many of us in the twenty first century can find a potential partner in the same way we can order pizza. Couples on dates do spend a disturbing amount of time staring at their phones instead of each other. Most online relationship narratives only show the happy moments. Life and love were so much better before social networks, smartphones and apps, right?
Society has created multiple methods to bring people together throughout history. Arranged marriages, matchmakers, church groups, social mixers and random encounters in bars and clubs pre-dated Tinder and Match. Did they produce better results?
People who did get together spent a lot of time apart. They might be separated physically because of work and travel, or they might be mentally separated staring at the TV all night. Were those romantic droughts preferable to smartphone staring?
The interpersonal problems we had were covered up in public with banal conversation and elaborate lies. Emotional release was satisfied by professional courtesans and concubines for the rich or amateur infidelity for the poor. Some people just suffered in silence, drowning their sorrow in liquor or lashing out at the people around them. Why is that life better than the one we have now.
Technology has changed the details of our romantic encounters, but it has not changed the fundamental process. It has made it easier for us to connect and disconnect, but has not altered the art of seduction. We now have the ability to find people to love, but most of us still don’t know how. Technology isn’t the problem. It’s the people who use it.
We have no collective skill in romance or love because most of us never get a seductive education. At a certain age, we’re pushed to be attractive, date, marry, procreate and repeat the process with the next generation with most people stumbling through every stage like a drunken monkey. It’s as if we were each given a gun and bullets and then told to protect ourselves without any instruction on the physical, mental, emotional and social impact of owning a deadly weapon. We are burdened with the expectation and responsibility to love with nothing more than the ignorant mantra of “it will work out if it’s meant to.”
It’s not as if the lessons of love don’t exist. Ovid’s Art of Love, the Kama Sutra, the Technique of the Love Affair and the Art of Seduction are only a small sample of the books devoted to romance. There are historical icons from Casanova and Ninon de l’Enclos and modern examples like Prince and Monica Bellucci today. But the education is hidden or rejected. The experts are either shunned or marginalized as unique or different from the rest of us. But romantic fulfillment isn’t a product of apathy, apps or astrology. It comes from intelligent effort, focused attention and constant communication.
I left the open dating world before apps went main stream, so I only have an observer’s perspective on the current state of affairs. I’ve been in love for five years now with a woman I idolize and adore. We share affection, communication and understanding I appreciate but never take for granted. I still try to attract and impress her because I’ve made the personal decision to continue and enhance our romantic relationship. In spite of the dire predictions, romance isn’t dead. It can’t be killed by society or technology. Romance is simply rare and it only lives and thrives with inspiration and effort.
Each person in our society falls into multiple categories defined by class, race, ability, gender, orientation, education and others. As we move through different environments, our multiple forms of "membership" are perceived as positive or negative. This class gets attacked for X but has an easy time doing Y. This race is accepted here but not there. Navigating the different currents can be treacherous, especially when several factors come into play at once.
A piece in the Huffington Post called Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person looks at the defensiveness certain people have when confronting the concept of white privilege. The author, who has the benefits of race but the challenges of gender and race, points out that white privilege (or male privilege or American privilege or cisgender privilege) isn't a magic wand anyone can use to erase all the other obstacles in their lives. It suggests most of us are dealing with a complex tapestry of issues which are only becoming more intricate as our subgroups grow.
I read the piece thinking about both my own complex relationship to the world around me as well as the multiple layers I want to build into my characters. I'm sharing it because if more of us saw each other beyond a singular two dimensional image we can turn our privilege into something positive.