Pondering the nuances of the terms cultural appropriation and cultural assimilation

On the heels of viewing and participating in a discussion about dreadlocks, I am pondering the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural assimilation … there is a difference. 😊 According to Wikipedia, the terms refer to the same kind of activity but appropriation tends to have a negative connotation while assimilation tends to be a more neutral term.  Which is a little ironic … because The Borg.

So anyway, this post started out as a Facebook status update … and then it kind of ballooned out of control. In fact, after I finished typing the bleuraak of words that were in my head, I cut and paste the wall of text into my blog post editor and noted that the word count was up to 450 words. Whoa … right? I know. I didn’t even think I could still write blog posts like this, it’s been so long … but I digress.

So my pondering is because of my reaction to the aforementioned discussion about deadlocks. I would do it a disservice by trying to summarise the discussion, and I can’t really link to it here since it was in a private group, and I certainly can’t copy and paste the words either because that would just be unethical. Suffice to say that the discussion started on the basis of opinions and stereotyping associated with dreadlocks; but then it descended into a judgement rant about people because of how their locks looked. I thought it was ironic the the initial discussion topic was posed based on the judgement the original poster thought people with dreadlocks endure but that there was judgement about different people and their locks too. Basically, it sounded to me like “the world should never judge us dreadlocked persons, but some dreadlocked persons are just in it for the looks and that’s just bad”.

Now, the history of deadlocks has its roots in Africa. As a cultural expression, it “belongs” to Africans and those of African descent. Popularised by the late Bob Marley, it is now more closely associated with the Rastafarian faith. I should note here that the original poster found it useful to say something to the tune of “most Africans are doing it wrong”. If anyone is doing it “right”, I’d say it’s them. His whole rant was … startling. Now, I am not disparaging this young man at all. He was speaking most vehemently based on the information he had. There is a lot of misinformation out there on the internet and I can’t fault him for falling prey to some of it. In fact, I remain strangely unemotional about the whole exchange. But it did set me to thinking…

Should I be angry that someone from a culture other than my own is telling me about my culture in authoritative ways? I am not. I am … simply pondering a world in which this happens so regularly that we can’t even recognise it.

At what point is it ok to take on the practices, ideas, traditions of another culture and discuss it in terms that imply you claim it as your own?

We study Tai Chi in several different styles (Yang style, Chen stye, Dong style, etc.). I found the Dong style groups here on the West Coast recently and learned their style is fashioned off of Yang style Tai Chi. It’s not cultural appropriation for Master Dong to form his own school, but is it appropriation for us in the West to form our own schools under his tutelage and claim the schools as our own?

I don’t know where the line is. It never bothered me before – mostly because I see the world differently and I don’t much care that white people are locking their hair. I can lay claim to the dreadlocks culture because I was born and raised in the culture that fostered Rastafarianism. But it doesn’t make me angry that people who don’t look like me are taking it on as their own expression. I don’t know that I can explain why either … other than to say I have never felt oppressed by anyone and so I don’t feel the need to be seen and respected as part of a culture or people or society. Thus I cannot relate to the anger that appropriation causes. I don’t discount it… and in fact, it is that very anger that I am pondering today. At what point do we get angry?

I mean … maybe it should be ok to borrow something from someone else when it works for you. But is it ok to tell someone they’ve been doing it wrong for centuries and now that you are doing it, you can explain the right way to do it? Maybe that’s ok too – because the heavens know how much humanity has gotten stuff wrong over the centuries.

Maybe this “owning” of a culture is restrictive, selfish, short-sighted … archaic. Maybe in this new global world that we live, it is time to let go of that idea that “our culture” is ideally better when that includes everyone. A conglomeration. And speak of sub-cultures or pocket cultures instead. I can get behind that – sure!

But what of those cultures that have been marginalised as sub-standard and inferior for centuries? Do we tell them “Look – we effed up when we said you’re a sub-species. We know it now and we want to make amends. But let’s all share your bounty in the meantime. I mean … I said sorry, didn’t I?”

Sorry

Here’s the tricky thing about granting equality and recognition after centuries of side-lining and marginalisation: when the oppressor recognises their wrong-doing, acknowledges it, and apologises for it, they don’t get to dictate the point at which time can move again. It’s like when you apologise to your husband or wife for betraying them over and over and over and over again …  and they demand some time to think … and heal. Healing takes time and the one who was wounded has every right to say, “Ok. Thanks. Now step back and let me heal … and leave me alone while I do it – thanks.”

To get back to my original point, here’s how I think about appropriation: Sure go ahead and express yourself with whatever you choose, even if it is a form of expression that belongs to some other culture. Be my guest. Chances are, the reason why that thing is so well liked is because it’s pretty magnificent to begin with and its why it is still a part of whatever culture to this day.

Dreadlocks, for instance. We think it’s pretty fabulous and if you think so too, fantastic – we have something in common. But please be careful how you then take it upon yourself to tell us that we’re doing it wrong. We’ve (us and our ancestors) been doing it for centuries and I think that by now we’d have ironed out the kinks. Unless, of course, you’re trying to say that we aren’t capable of working out the kinks ourselves?

Heh … I guess I wasn’t as unemotional as I thought I was, eh?

The point is – borrow, borrow all you want. Just be sure to be respectful while you do it – m’k? And remember that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Think about it.

That relationship between emotion and strength …

I think we tend to forget or ignore how important emotion is.

Some of us are able give into emotion easily, but a lot of us work hard to quell our emotions; mostly because we think that emotions make us weak. The irony is that most of us have no difficulty giving in to our anger, but when it comes to grief and loss and the sadness that accompanies it, we just don’t.

Thankfully, there are people (sometimes, luckily, in leadership positions) who understand how important it is feel. I attended a memorial service recently in which the officiant displayed an astute understanding of emotion and its role in the grieving process. I was touched at how he led the gathering through the grief, cried with them, and then led them out again into the joy of remembrance.

He started his address with funny anecdotes about how he’d met the deceased and how she made him feel as a brand new addition to the community. He moved on into a couple other remembrances of her with her family and the impact it had on him. He introduced a tear-jerker of a song next, dedicated to the family. He made sure to tell us that, “It’s ok if you want to cry. I probably will and I think I’m just going to sit right here while it plays because if I stand up here I likely will lose it”. And he did leave the podium to sit in a chair nearby while the song played.

We listened to a sweet song of love and remembrance and loss and we all cried – every last one of us. Even the officiant. There was not a dry eye in the gathering. Even the officiant was red-faced and crying. I was stunned because this was clearly a man comfortable enough to cry amongst strangers. How many of us can lay claim to that? I know I can’t.

After the song was finished, he launched into a 10 minute long remembrance that had us all laughing and nodding and grinning away. The woman who had passed was beloved and there were far more merry moments than there were heartache and he made us realise and remember that in a very visceral way. It’s an experience that will stay with me for a long, long time.

This preacher understands grief. He understands loss. And he understands that together they involve both tears and laughter, and that both are important in the grieving process. He played to those two expressions of emotion beautifully with his speech; by the time he was done, we had cried and we had laughed with equal vigour. And we felt better for it.

That experience taught me something. I think we need to spend more time allowing ourselves to sit with emotion. If you’ve ever been overcome by emotion, if you’ve ever cried like your heart was breaking, then you know how much better you can feel when the grief has passed. Better, lighter, stronger. There is no doubt … we are stronger when we let ourselves feel.

How we use our words …

We use words to paint pictures in other people’s minds. That’s what language boils down to, doesn’t it? Painting a picture for someone else to “see”?

I remember something read in Alan Watt’s The Watercourse Way: “An often quoted Chinese proverb is that one picture is worth a thousand words, because it is so often much easier to show than to say”. He’s right. What’s more he goes on to present a very compelling case for doing away with romanised language and instituting, instead, some kind of ideographic mode of expression much like the Chinese Written Language (which, incidentally, is the name of the chapter that begins with those words). It’s a rather radical concept and one that I can see several people having issue with. But I like it. I like the idea of simplifying our expression because I think the complexity of our expression is at the root of many of our current problems.

In recent months, I have observed and heard about several cases among my friends and acquaintances that exemplify words as the root of misunderstandings and miscommunications. What one word means to me means something entirely different to someone else and we react and respond based on those internalised meanings. It’s chaos. They say that language is what sets us apart from the animals. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing anymore.

I am a student of communication. My whole life, now, is how we communicate with one another and what it means based on the nuances, contexts, and shadings we bring to the conversation. Whether it be “ethnicity” or “race” or “culture”. (What the hell is “culture” anyway? I’m a little confused now after coming across a news item this morning about the LA Clippers owner who indirectly associated racism with a particular culture.) Or whether it is gender (binary or otherwise), sexual orientation, or level of “kink” (and I put “kink” in quotes because what might be my kink may be your norm and expresses exactly what I am trying to say).

My thoughts this week have been muddled. Maybe mankind is never supposed to achieve harmony. How can we, when everything we are shrieks differences? Even our language – when it is the same – differs. When I say “supremacy”, I think KKK; when you say it, you mean “a system that places one group above another”. Academia, scholarship … conversation, diversity, research, reading …. those 6 terms mean 6 different things, but they all mean the same as well. They all mean “furthering our understanding”, but they all convey a wholly different nuance to that concept as well. Academia and scholarship imply intellectualism; conversation implies something you and I do; diversity implies who we are to each other; research means looking shit up; reading means entertainment. And when you explain what those 6 mean to you, your list looks different from mine. Not wrong, not right; just different. In the end, though, what it comes to mean is that we learned something new.

It’s so confusing. How does one distill a message so that it is received in the same way by everyone – in spite of our differences? This is what is taking up my head space today … actually, it takes up my head space everyday. Is it as impossible as I think it is? I think it is impossible because in order for us to all interpret something the same way, we have to all be the same. And we aren’t the same. Not one of us is like anybody else. Even if you and I have a lot in common, we have just as much (or more sometimes) that differs.

How then can we use our words to mean the same thing to everybody?

Or maybe the question should be: how do we make it ok that our words don’t mean the same thing to everybody?

Words

Last week, we lost “Bunny Rugs” – let’s talk about Third World a bit.

Last week, we Jamaicans lost a well-loved voice and reggae ambassador – Bunny Rugs.

Every time I hear his real name, I forget it again within minutes… even so, what other name you need other than ‘Bunny Rugs’? Besides, you should know who I talking about when I say it… if you don’t, it is unlikely you know him by his real name. William ‘Bunny Rugs’ Clark was the lead singer for Third World; probably my favourite reggae band ever, assuming you were going to force me to choose a favourite.

I remember when I jumped onto the Third World wagon – it was during their “Committed” tour sometime in the early 1990s, and it was probably the first and only time I bought tickets to a music concert … ever. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again. ( I actually went to the concert alone too – imagine that!? )

(Note: my sincere apologies if you are having difficulties viewing the videos in this post; apparently YouTube is enforcing restrictions across regions and platforms now).

Now that I’ve listened to the song again, I think “Committed” might just be my favourite Third World song too.

For someone who claims to be one of their fans, I am realising that I know very little about them. Some personal recollections include the first time I heard the names “Cat” Coore and “Ibo” Cooper – those names are so unique that they’re hard to forget. Further, I remember “Cat” Coore because my father used to mumble stories about the Coore family when I was younger. I remember his father was in politics …  the Wikipedia page says his father was actually the Deputy Prime Minister under Michael Manley – so of course, it was in the midst of political drama in the 1970s.

I was never a big reggae music fan, as I mentioned last week. Partly because my father continually described it as “noise” and refused to tolerate it playing in his house. If it happened to come across the radio, he would change the station. If I even thought about playing it myself, I would get a stern lecture about what music is and how I should be “edifying myself with more uplifting sounds”. Yeah, yeah … I know. He sounds quite the stuffy elitist. And he actually kind of is … in a few different ways, but I digress.

Even though Dad despised anything reggae, he did manage to find a semblance of tolerance for Third World’s sound. Probably because it was mild, mellow, and easy to nod your head and tap your foot to. Their style is known as “roots reggae” and is described as a sub-genre of reggae which incorporates real life concerns (spirituality, poverty, etc.) into the music. More than that, the sound is less hardcore than the more popular dancehall style, with smooth and easy-going rhythms that incorporated more worldly sounds such as jazz and r&b into their music. Something some Jamaican artists were uncomfortable with and I’m willing to bet they got quite the earful about how much they were “sellouts” because they dared to reach out to the world with their music. If you are Jamaican, you know the criticisms Sean Paul got when he first hit the scene. In any case, maybe that is why I got around to liking them – at least I could listen to them at home if I wanted to in those days.

Third World has taken reggae to all corners of the world; even in doing this piece, I discovered they were here in the Pacific Northewest, where I am, as late as just last year.

Imagine that?! Wish I’d known – I might have bought my second set of concert tickets ever if I had. (No; probably not. Seattle crowds are still a little much for me.)

Their accomplishments include 10 Grammy award nominations, the 1986 Peace Medal from the U.N. among various other awards and accolades in the music industry worldwide. Their tagline has ever been “Reggae Ambassadors” and in true ambassadorial form, they have championed the cause of reggae the world over for 40 years or more. I guarantee you -any money spent on their music now is still money well spent. Their music is ageless and sounds as good to me today as it did 15+ years ago.

The Latest Third World lineup: Cat Coore, Richie Daley, Bunny Rugs, Norris Webb, and Tony Williams

The last Third World lineup: Cat Coore, Richie Daley, Bunny Rugs, Norris Webb, and Tony Williams

February is Reggae Month for me, not Black History Month.

I think I am going to forego the Black History Month thing this year.

I mean, it isn’t like there has been a year when I give it any extra thought at all. I have no way to relate to the notion of Black History Month. It’s not something I have ever had any investment in or any experience with.  I think the reason for that is that for me, and for many Jamaicans, the Black History Month celebrations tend to center around U.S. centric milestones, heroes, and accomplishments. In fact, I put in a search in Google just now for “black history month jamaica” and the article that was at the top of the search results was a piece our Carolyn Cooper wrote back in 2011 saying much the same thing:

So we’re celebrating Black History Month again. Like Valentine’s Day and Halloween, Black History Month is yet another commodity we’ve imported from the United States.

Tidbits like this one “Many of us still don’t know, for example, that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus” are not known to me. In school, I was taught that “Columbus discovered the new world”. Even then it felt odd to me that black people were standing up in a classroom full of mostly black students telling them that the Amerindians who were here before Columbus didn’t count as “discoverers” because the only people capable of “discovering” lands and countries were the Europeans. It felt so very wrong even then.  And now, my own historical knowledge is sadly lacking. I keenly feel the gap in my knowledge about my true ancestors and the history of my country; my region; my people. I have been starved of education. Is a good t’ing we nuh need knowledge to live – don’t?

I have nothing against the U.S. or their celebration of Black History Month. I have no comment or opinion about it. It’s just not something I think I have the right to have a comment or opinion about. So don’t get me wrong – I am not decrying the practice in any way.

No, my issue is simply that I have no frame of reference for the celebration as it is currently framed. I was born and raised in Jamaica. My frame of reference for black history is a far different ball game. Our heroes were heroes of the slave rebellion and the abolition movement back in the early 1800s. In the 1930s, a whole century after slavery was abolished in Jamaica, the United States was still struggling with inequality and prejudice on a level that I can only begin to imagine … this for several reasons outside the obvious. The most glaring reason is that I grew up in a time and a place where race was not an issue for us as much as class was (and still is, to a large extent). We aren’t struggling, in Jamaica, against racial bias; we are struggling with ‘colourism’ or ‘shadeism’ and ‘classism’ – a separate but somewhat related struggle.

In Jamaica, our heroes are Marcus Garvey, Nanny of the Maroons, Sam Sharpe and the like – the people who fought for an end to slavery in the 1800s, not people who fought against prejudice and racism in the 1950s. It is a whole different cultural dynamic let me tell you.

But I get it. I get it and I step back respectfully because just because it is not in my frame of reference doesn’t mean I cannot respect the idea and the ideal. Usually, I just nod and smile in silence. This year … instead of keeping quiet, though, I think I am going to do a little “going back to my roots” thing. The Jamaica Tourist Board is running a month-long promotion called Reggae Month. They have tons of activities and stuff lined up. I can’t participate physically, but I can get into the spirit of it. So I am going to do a weekly thing where I talk about reggae music stars who have made an impression on me and who I think deserve worldwide recognition for their contribution to reggae and to Jamaica’s legacy. I am not a huge music fan and I am certainly not a big reggae fan either. But I think I can call on a few names who have caught my ear over the years …

I’ve missed a Monday … so I’ll make it up maybe next week with two artists. Today is Bob’s birthday though. There isn’t much I can say about Bob that isn’t already out there. Well, except for the fact that he was born a few miles away from where my own mother was born. She is a bit older though, and they never met – so that fact is trivial at best.

Still, I will just leave this here:

An iconic Bob photo for you.

An iconic Bob photo for you.

It’s a rainy, dreary day in Oly, WA today …

And days like today bring back memories of being back home in Jamaica on a cloudy, dreary, rainy day when we’d be happy for the chill and the wet so we had excuses to drink things like hot cocoa, or more coffee (you haven’t had coffee until you’ve tried Jamaican coffee, if even just once) and cornmeal porridge.

Ah yes. I miss cornmeal porridge. It’s a hot cereal-like meal – it’s made with cornmeal (as you might have guessed), milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. You have to be extra careful with it, though, because if it’s made incorrectly or you let it sit for too long, it can get lumpy and icky to eat. My father used to tell me that cornmeal porridge “put hair on yuh ches’ [chest]” or that it “coat yuh backbone”. Frankly, I think the stuff that put hair on your chest was more of the scotch bonnet (hot pepper) or alcohol (like John Crow Batty – which is an overproof rum that is near enough to pure ethanol that it burns green) type deal than simple, unassuming cornmeal porridge. Frankly, a little John Crow Batty would be welcome about now … a stiff drink is not something I’d refuse today.

Still, despite the dreariness or the potential bad news I’ve had within the last week or so, I am in fairly good spirits. It is odd – I ought to be so down in the dumps that it is difficult to get out of bed. Well … it’s difficult to get out of bed anyway – it’s so damn cold. Not as cold as my Eastern and Central U.S. neighbours, but certainly far more cold than I have been used to all my life. It’s so much more comfortable to lay under a duvet and a fleece blanket than it is to get out of bed … for anything.

Anyway – the reason why I am in fairly good spirits despite all the blows this week … a book that validated my way of thinking for once.

You know how you hear people say “Think positive” all the time? That “staying positive will help solve problems”? That “envision the positive outcome and that is what you shall manifest”? All that drivel. I hear it constantly. And to me it is drivel. Sure I want to think of the positive outcome. It’s what I want to  happen. That sort of goes without saying…. but what happens if what I want does not happen? What then?

Cue the “Oh come on! Be positive!” crap. That doesn’t help me. What helps me is to envision all possibilities so that I can at least be mentally (if not practically and physically) prepared for them all. Apparently, this kind of thinking is called “Defensive pessimism” and there is a book written about it. Yes; there are a few of us on this earth who actually benefit from being negative because it helps us prepare for all possibilities in such a way that no matter what the outcome is, we can take it smoothly in stride and move past it.

Whenever I am faced with a decision, my first question is always “tell me what the worst and best outcomes are?” I only finally got a doctor who understood that recently. Everybody else seemed to think I needed to be coddled and told to “think positive; it’ll work out … somehow”. I want to tell them “Stop coddling me; I am grown woman” but I am too polite to do so. At the end of the day, when the ish hits the fan, I am the one who is going to be able to manage the fallout because I have already imagined the worst and know, in my head, how I am going to tackle it if it happens. Of course, I am also the one who will cheer and celebrate just as loudly with you when it does work out  - because I also know the potential consequences of the best outcomes as well.

I am hoping to read that book so I can see just how much of my own patterns are mimicked by others the world over. I want to know, finally, just how “normal” I am.

It’s that time of the year again …

The hubster found one of those memes on Facebook this morning saying “It’s almost 2014. Time for that new year new me crap.” The image was of Robert Downey Jr looking like someone had pooped in his cereal. I kind of feel the same way.

I’ve written about New Year Resolutions on this blog before and I haven’t really stuck to that process either. For me a new year is just that … a new year. Like a new day. It’s an opportunity to live some more. Maybe this is how I live the Taoist life – just flowing through life and taking the opportunities as they come. Or maybe I am just making excuses for myself and my laziness. But the thing is that aside from a few issues, I am happy; content. I want for nothing in my life. There are a few things I’d like to have, some will come, others won’t – I am not too worried about it.

An old friend with whom I reconnected this last week told me she got to cross something off her bucket list this year. I paused for a few minutes to think about what might be on my own bucket list that I wanted to cross off. And … I realised that I really don’t have a bucket list. Strange? Yeah – I’d say so. There is nothing that I absolutely must do before I die. And it’s not that I “have it all” … far from it. There are a ton of things I wish I had; just as much as a ton of things I wish I could do. I guess I feel no urgency to pursue them and I … am not entirely sure why.

An acquaintance once told me that I lack ambition. At the time, it felt like a put-down. I think what he meant to do was inspire me. It doesn’t much matter what he meant or intended – I agree with him. I don’t. Or maybe my ambition is simply to strive for harmony and balance (as much as I can) in my own life and help others achieve the same in theirs. (Still a work in progress with me, incidentally – I ain’t perfect. :D)

The thing is that I wake up every single day with one key thought: today I must do only good. I must strive to touch someone else in some way meaningful and if not, I must do no harm. I don’t know how lofty or meagre that goal is, I just know that most days … I nail it.

It’s the last day in 2013. I’ve had tons of ups and downs this year – made friends, lost friends. Made realisations about myself and the world around me. I’ve learned new skills, re-learned one or two I had forgotten about, and made up my mind what hobbies to focus on and which ones to leave by the wayside (Because one can have too many interests. How to know when you do? When you don’t have time for them all. /nod)

What am I vowing for 2014? Much the same like 2013, please. If I get more, yay! It not, yay! I’m still good no matter which way the wind blows. If 2014 ends up being sucky, I’ll figure out a way to find my lessons in it anyway. If it ends up being better than ever, I’m sure I’ll be happy with that too.

 

Communication law? Ugh.

I am struggling with my schoolwork again today. I’ve been successful at avoiding Monday night struggles with 2000 word papers for about 3 classes now. I stress over the papers over the weekends, but they are usually posted and out of my head by Monday morning (due dates are usually 11pm on Mondays). This week, I am right back where I started. And I think I figured out why that is. I have zero interest in Communication Law. At least less interest than it takes to write 1500 words about libel and defamation, right to privacy, and privilege. Ugh.

370px-Yellow_ribbon

It was Veteran’s Day today, in other news. Today’s Dear Prudie column had a letter from a wife who was miffed (the 4th letter down). Her mother-in-law chose to celebrate one son’s service and not the other because “he hadn’t seen any action”. Or some such nonsense. Now, I’m not a huge fan of days like today. Setting aside one day to honour or celebrate something always seemed silly to me. Want to show your support for veterans? How about you do it every single day in whatever way you can find? In any case, that a mother would be that dismissive of the sacrifice of one of her sons is huge. I don’t get that. If anyone has ever been near the military, in any capacity, one knows just how much of a sacrifice every single day is. It’s not a job. It’s far more. To sign your life over in the way today’s soldiers do, is a sacrifice worth recognising today and every single day of their lives.

Personally, I tell my husband every chance I get just how much of a hero I think he is. It takes a special kind of selflessness to submit to this kind of life, not just once, but continuously over the years. I don’t care what else you may have done, or may yet have to do as a soldier – all soldiers are heroes. Make them feel that way.

 

Apathy doesn’t have to mean irresponsibility

A Facebook friend (don’t you just love that?) shared a video today. It’s a video of Russell Brand letting loose on politics. In it, he espouses everything I feel about the current political atmosphere in the U.S. … and in Jamaica. Because even though both countries have completely differing political systems, the results for the man on the street is the same – we feel sidelined.

Brand proudly admits to never having voted in his life. Ever. He says voting in this system is a tacit complicity with a system that doesn’t work.  The interviewer asks him what gives him the authority to speak on political issues if he’s never even voted and Brand responds with this gem:

“Well I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm that is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of  service to humanity. Alternate means, alternate political systems.”

Of course, when asked what the alternative is, he balks because he’s not trying to offer a solution, he’s trying to raise consciousness to the problem. People in the article comments had things like this to say:

“So, my problem with it is that he doesn’t come up with a real solution – just that there are problems which we can all see….”

How many of you have kept quiet about your dissatisfaction with something because you don’t have a solution?  I know I have. I’ve kept quiet about my complete and utter disrespect and disregard for any and all political systems because they do not work. None of them take into consideration the nature of the human being to be greedy and selfish. And as Brand says, the systems we now have at our disposal all result in a “disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system” and thus any one of that underclass who decides to vote is lending “tacit complicity” to that system.

Why does this resonate so loudly with me? Because this is the way I have felt about the present political atmosphere both in Jamaica and in the United States. I tried voting in Jamaica. Granted, it was only once. Still, my vote did nothing. The representative I voted for did nothing for me or my community; at least nothing that I could see, or touch, or smell, or hear. And I wasn’t looking out for just my benefit. The roads got worse, schools were the same, crime got worse, community outreach was nil. In fact, this person was so invisible I don’t even remember their name.

Oh I hear you saying that this is only my experience and that it is but one experience among many; but I am willing to bet that it’s not just my experience at all. That there are many others out there who feel much the same. And here’s the thing about solutions: sometimes the best of them come out of brainstorming sessions where multiple people with multiple perspectives understand the problem. And think this is at the root of our current problem – we do not have a central space where those of us who understand the problem can brainstorm for solutions in a progressive manner.

“… We can no longer have erroneous, duplicitous systems held in place … only systems that serve the planet and serve the population of the planet can be allowed to survive. Not ones that serve elites – be they political or corporate elites …”

Revolution, dear friends. And I am not talking about taking to the streets with burning rubber and cardboard placards. We are a mature populace that now walks the earth. We can revolt in less disruptive, less violent, and less irresponsible ways. We can and we should take the power away from those who care little about us and only about themselves. Educate ourselves, brainstorm for a better system. The one we have just isn’t working; even if it worked at some point, it isn’t working now.

So I lend my voice to Brand’s – I am as indifferent, weary, and exhausted as he is of the “lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now and that has now reached fever pitch“. As I have been saying for years: throw them all out on their ears; fire them. And not because we want them to feel what we have felt. Vengeance is not the answer. No; fire them because they aren’t doing their jobs. Get some new people who understand the problem and can advocate for a better solution.

I wonder what would happen if there came a day when an election yielded zero votes for the “usual suspects”? Don’t you?

Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month – lend your voice

Domestic Violence, or Intimate Partner Violence, is under the spotlight this month. It shares the space with Breast Cancer Awareness and thus is a bit overshadowed. In my view, that’s a bit unfair since IPV is a very serious worldwide issue. One which I think we all know exists but tend to avoid thinking and even talking about it because it involves far more invasive action or intense self-scrutiny. If you’re involved in an abusive relationship, you don’t want to think about it or even talk about it. If you know someone who is, you don’t want to interfere.

“If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on the news every night.” ~ Rep. Mark Green, Wisconsin

It’s even worse when we see the figures:

One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.

and

Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

and

On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.

and

The health-related costs of intimate partner violence exceed $5.8 billion each year. Of that amount, nearly $4.1 billion are for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages.

and

Studies suggest that between 3.3 – 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.

(Source: Domestic Violence Resource Center)

Look, something has to be done. We need to talk about; loud and long. And we need to confidently step in and help in any way we can (without being pushy, of course; pushy is never good).

I remember seeing odd adult visits to my home as a child; women with bruises, crying women. There weren’t a parade of them day after day. In fact, it might have been just one woman over my entire childhood (at least, 1 that I can think of definitively). My parents tried to shield me from it, but children see a lot more than you might think. (Which is just another reason why we need to address this now.)

Soon after we left high school, a very dear friend of mine was murdered by her cocaine-laced, paranoid boyfriend who thought she and his mother were plotting his demise (whether it was death or re-incarceration, I don’t recall) when in fact they were planning a surprise birthday/coming-home party for him.

Later on, I got involved with someone who thought it was ok to commandeer my time anytime he wanted it, shun my attention when it suited him, and hit me whenever he felt angry (he only did that shit once, lemme tell you).

You’d think something like this would be obvious when it happened, that there would be some equivalent to a blinking neon sign, with exclamation marks and stars. It’s not. Sometimes it is so subtle that even if you look closely, you would probably miss it. Abusers know what they do is wrong, and they take great pains to either cover it up or make it look like something else. It’s not a cliché when a battered woman says she “fell down the stairs” or “walked into a door post”. And even it was horrendously cliché, it’s not too cliché to ignore.

If there is one thing in this world that I think humans need to keep doing and do more often, that is to have those hard conversations. That it is hard at all means it needs to be discussed. If it makes you angry, sad, depressed then it is something we need to face and talk about. When it’s a man brandishing a gun, we are eager to face him and attempt to disarm him. We should be willing to do that when they brandish their rage too. Because rage is a weapon – don’t let anyone tell you different.