Tuesday, December 2, 2014

On Indigenous Cultures as the Saviors of the World

As we all know, our world sucks.  Or rather, the issues we face as a global culture and sometimes individually are severe and horrible in many ways.  I see much talk about indigenous cultures as where to look to for a solution.  Are the beliefs and practices and world views held by indigenous cultures our saviors, the answer to all our problems?

A good friend posted the following link, asking if I and others thought it was romanticized or realistic, possible or impossible:

Can Indigenous Beliefs Save the Contemporary World?

I think it is romanticized, and while not impossible, not a complete solution, nor a perfect solution.  I think we are just looking for a savior of the world, and think we will be disappointed.


The world's problems are very complex.

Because each person is complex, and the interactions of people that much more. Adding a second person doesn't double the complexity, it changes the order of the complexity.

In computers, we refer to the complexity of a solution as orders. A constant is order 1, O(1). Linear is O(N), regardless if it's 2N or 2000000000N. Quadratic is O(N^2). Two people is relationship isn't X+Y where X and Y are the complexity of each, it is X*Y.

If human complexity is O(N), two people are O(N^2), three are O(N^3), and so on. Each increase in order of complexity makes the problem harder to solve, and needing more resources to solve. We live in a global culture now where virtually all people in the world are part of the complexity, and both the problems and the benefits that complexity brings. There are over 7 billion people in the world. We're talking a complexity of O(N^7,000,000,000). To be solved by a computer, that type of complexity would basically require more resources than there are atoms in the universe.

Because it is such a complex problem, there is no easy solution. Isolating specific issues can be more manageable, if you can abstract them down to a low enough order of complexity. But all issues? A perfect solution isn't possible, no matter what paradigm or world view is used. Not meaning it's hopeless, just meaning it is too complex to address the entirety of the problems facing our global culture, all solutions must focus on narrowed down problems to be solvable within the constraints of our resources.

The Utopian Projection on Indigenous Cultures

The assumption that indigenous beliefs and practices can solve the problems facing the global culture relies on the assumption that indigenous beliefs and practices have no issues of their own and are perfect "utopian" societies. Note that Moore named his ideal society Utopia from the ou+topos, not+place. Part of his point was that there are no perfect societies, and his book shows that if you look carefully. And the point is as true today as it was in the 1500s, and was true millennia ago as well.

Some of the cultures that practice female circumcision are indigenous. Some of the cultures where rape is accepted and expected are indigenous. All the cannibalistic cultures I'm aware of are indigenous. The Native American plains tribes that slaughtered whole herds of bison by pushing them back until they fell off cliffs and left most of the meat to rot were indigenous. The tribes who burnt the forests that once covered the Plains, in order to have more grazing room so the bison and other herds could increase in number to provide more food were indigenous. Many indigenous peoples kill babies born with birth defects or handicaps. Many indigenous peoples fought century or more long wars, killing any of the enemy tribes that were encountered, armed or not.

Yes, there are great things to learn from indigenous people, but there are also many things to avoid. And yes, not all this issues, or even any of them, are true of every indigenous culture or group.  But they aren't outside the problems non-indigenous cultures have, they just have their own problems and their own versions of universal problems.

The Monster and the Noble Savage

The idea that indigenous cultures are the solution is just a new expression of "noble savage" in 17th century literature and thought.

It is akin to monster theory, just the other side of the coin. In monster theory, and this is easily seen in literature, history, and present day, the idea is that to avoid seeing the monster in ourselves, we project it on others, making them the "monster", Other. It is easier to deal with the monster being outside and known than inside and unknown. Horror movies where the monster is one of you and you don't know who or where tend to be much scarier than an outside threat. The monster as Other and outside distances that monster-ness from us, so we don't have to look at our own monstrosity. What happened following September 11 in the US is a good example, as is the rhetoric of Islamic extremists. And Christianity in some pagan and LGBT circles, and LGBT and pagans in some Christian circles.

The other side of the coin, the noble savage, assumes the opposite, that we are the monster, and the Other, whatever isn't us, must be the location of salvation. So we look to the indigenous peoples because they are Other, "not us", as our saviors. We romanticize them and ignore their faults and their own problems, because if we don't, we might lose hope they can save us. So we claim the Monster and paint those that aren't us as the Utopia, not understanding that both are projections and illusions, not reality. I see the same thing with Westerners who are infatuated with Hindi or East Asia religions and philosophies. They ignore that problems and struggles, because those might make them lose hope in the strengths and good things.

Instead of honest assessment and realistic learning, we idealize and romanticize, end idolize something that doesn't actually exist outside our projections and illusions.

The Golden Age

We always as humans tend to look back to an earlier time as a "Golden Age". You see this in late antiquity in Greco-Roman thought, the looking back to the Golden Age of Greece. You see this in the High Middle Ages and Renaissance looking back to Rome. You see it in the Pagan Revival of the 19th century. You see it in reconstructionist circles today.

And because indigenous peoples maintain cultural links to the past, to what we see as pre-civilization, we see them as ambassadors of that distant past, so, romanticize go that last as a Golden Age when all was perfect, we project that fantasy of ancient utopia onto the indigenous peoples as ambassadors of that time, and see them as guides to take us back there.

But we forget that the world has changed since back then, and that the indigenous peoples, even those without extensive non-indigenous contact, have changed with it, just as we did, if not to the magnitude. And we forget the dangers and problems and fears and hardships faced back in that bygone time, that even the most struggling indigenous people today are still living improved from then, that that bygone age was not the utopia we project on it.

Indigenous Cultures as the Saviors of the World

The idea of indigenous peoples as the saviors of the modern world and the global culture is a romanticized, oversimplified, and idealized idea that ignores both the complexity of the issues we face and the reality of indigenous cultures.

Yes, non-indigenous cultures can learn from them, as there are strengths they have that have been lost by the larger overculture.  And yes, we have a lot of issues that indigenous cultures don’t share.  I take inspiration from some of the concepts and philosophies that are common in many indigenous cultures, even if I don’t use their practices themselves.  I definitely think non-indigenous peoples can learn from indigenous ones, and that there is value in the dialogue.

But we need to remember that indigenous cultures are not without issues purely by the virtue of being indigenous, and that our issues are complex and can’t be solved by one overarching solution.

~Bethany Davis

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Next?

I ask a question, to the Civil Rights Movement of now in 2014, to the LGBT community in the United States, to those who fight for civil rights.  What next?

With the recent legal rulings on gay marriage, one thing that is very on my mind is, when one group gains the rights they have been fighting for, will they stop fighting for the rights of others?  Does the fight end for a group when they get what they are fighting for, or do they continue to fight for others, especially for those groups with less resources or connections so can not fight for themselves as easily as those groups that have already gone through the process to bring change?

I’ve looked at history and watched time after time one group winning great victories and either deliberately excluding other groups or actively speaking against them.  As an example, many of the recent victories for lesbian and gay rights have been battles fought since the Civil Rights movement, but many in the Civil Rights spoke against the LGBT community, and instead of language in law that would have protected everyone’s rights, everything became race related only.  In some cases there was biases against the LGBT community, but in other cases, it was fear that no one would get rights if it was too wide, that is was better to get protection in the race issue and ignore the rest than risk losing the current battle.

It is a great thing that same sex marriage bans are finally being struck down.  It is an amazing thing, and a great victory.  But I hope that it isn’t seen as the end of the battle.

The fight is not over.

And I’d like to point out that having legal rights and protection does not automatically change culture.  There will be back lash and push back from the culture.  Remember that we were unable to remove the bans through legislation process.  If people were not willing to vote it down, we can’t assume they will automatically be supportive after the courts struck them down.

And remember that it isn’t those that are secure and established that are most at risk.  Most of those who will benefit from the marriage equality are not those who are in the most danger.  Those that are homeless, or jobless, or work in part time service jobs might or might not benefit from the changes, but whether they do or not, they are more vulnerable, and often more visible as vulnerable.

Those are the people who are most likely to suffer from the back lash and people trying to take what they think is right into their own hands.  To be blunt, people will get hurt, likely people will die.  Like it or not, this is reality.  There is danger, and likely more than danger, and I’m afraid many people will be too busy celebrating to notice the casualties and people hurt in the fall out.

And I’m afraid the fighting will end here, and those that don’t have rights yet, and those rights that haven’t been won yet even among those that have some rights now.  I repeat, the fight is not over.  Not by a long shot.  And I’m afraid people will forget this or not even be aware there is still a fight.

Will the community step up to help protect those who are vulnerable?  Will the community continue the fight for those who still need it, and for those things that are still not won?  Or will the community settle into apathy and complacency and ignore or turn a blind eye to what will happen, and what continues to happen?

I don’t know the answer.

~Bethany Davis

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Burn Bright: On Cultural Change

What does it take to bring change, lasting change?  I'm not talking just any change, but specifically changes to those things we do or say that hurt people, yet continue to do.  We meaning enough of the population within a culture to be an ongoing problem, not just a small number.

There are always radicals at the edges, people way beyond the norm who either hurt people to the point most of culture is uncomfortable with it, or are so caring that we either see them as heroes or as a bit loony.  While the hurtful and harmful extremes are an issue, it is when the hurt and harm are coming from the middle of the bell curve, not the outliers that I'm concerned about.

People say oh, it's just words, or that's what kids/girls/boys do, or any number of dismissals.  These dismissals imply that beyond the issue that is causing the harm and hurt, the culture finds those things acceptable, or at least not unacceptable enough to do anything about them.

They might be "just words", but the same words said enough, said forcefully enough, or said by enough people, become more than just words.  They sink in like a morning mist, settle, and stay there.  Only with enough heat from the sun or a strong enough wind will that mist leave.  The same is true with words.

But language we use doesn't change simply because someone speaks out and says it hurts.  If culture accepts the language used, it will keep being used.  By the culture as a whole.

It's the cultural shift that changes people's thinking making hurtful language in an area no longer relevant or of any use, bringing about inclusive thought processes that naturally provide inclusive language that I'm a proponent of.  As long as inclusive and non-hurtful language is something people are trying to do with a lot of effort, the underlying cause remains unchanged, and it becomes a matter of hoping you (generically) don't slip and say the wrong thing because you weren't paying attention instead of the inclusive and non-hurtful language being your default without trying and sometimes things just coming out wrong and you being shocked you actually said something that sounded like that, instead of being pleased with yourself that you said everything in a non-hurtful way.

And that culture shift can't be regulated into existence or pushed on people, it has to be modeled and lived and caught like fire in the soul from the passion of those living it.  Cultural change begins in me shifting my perceptions and thought processes and world views, then living them with passion for those around me to see and have a fire of passion lot in them for the same.

I remember a friend of mine in college.

He had been quite hurtful to the LGBT community there on many occasions, or to individuals in particular, as a result of his religious beliefs and how he chose to act on them.  At a certain point, he became convicted for these actions and felt the need to support the people in the community and love them.  I wasn't involved in the community at the time, but knew him in a different context.

He realized he didn't really know them or what he could do to help them and love them, so he decided to start attending the weekly meetings for the group on campus.  He was quite surprised that they welcomed him and made him feel at home there.

He learned a lot, both about himself and about the community during the period he attended the group.  He grew in many good ways, and became much more compassionate and loving in general.  He changed many things he did.

One thing that stood out in particular was something he did that he didn't think of as hurtful, and wasn't something that crossed his mind before that as being an issue.  It was his use of phrases of the form, "that's so gay" and similar for things he thought were stupid.  To him, it wasn't saying anything about gay people, only about what the person was doing, so it never dawned on him to see it as an use.

After a few weeks, hearing the word "gay" using in the context of the LGBT community, he began to rethink the phrase.  In his own ears, the meaning had changed, and he began to take offense with himself for using it.  He worked hard to change his language, and he spoke out when anyone else used the phrase, at least when people outside the LGBT community used it.

It was never a phrase I had used, and I did find it offensive, but I had never spoken out about it, had just let it pass.  I cannot hear the phrase today without remembering his passion concerning the hurt it could cause.

Living life with those the phrase could affect, and having a face to go with the word changed him.  And the passion that resulted changed many around him.  This is how cultural change starts.  It takes time, but it changes not with the regulations or laws, but with people changing themselves, living their passion, and modeling what is right.

The end of the Civil War and the freedoms that began there did not end the hurt.  Over a century later, the Civil Rights movement was fighting the cultural issues that had not changed.  And today, another half a century later, not everything has been fixed.  But the changes from the mid 1800s to today are striking.

Laws and regulations don't bring cultural change, but they do open the door for the dialogue to start, for people to put faces to the names and words, for passions to start being shared.

As just one point of fact.  If it is so important to people in Belgrade to keep gays from being visible for a march that would happen just one day that they were preparing acid to throw on them if they marched, what must their day to day lives be like?

The government there in Serbia can't change the culture, but by changing their policies, laws, and regulations, they might begin the process of allowing cultural change to happen.  It may take a long time, but the change isn't impossible.

Activism and lobbying can help bring about political change, can help open those doors for dialogue.  And activism done right can ignite the fires of passion in people to begin making changes in their own life and where they are.

The next step, though, is in living it, walking it, modeling it.  Cultural change begins at home, in your house, in your neighbourhood, in your community, in your region.

Gandhi is well know, among many other things, for the statement that translates roughly, "Be the change you want to see in the world."  This is what I'm championing.

I can't change the whole culture of the world or country myself.  But I can change myself.  I can be conscious of what I see and do, of how those affect others.  I can keep in mind that it matters not at all if I think my actions or words are acceptable.  I can consciously analyse if I hurt people, even, and especially, unintentionally, and can look to how I can change my words and actions to avoid that in the future.

I'm not talking avoiding speaking truth or being true to myself because it might offend or upset someone.  Far from it.  The truth can hurt, but lies, even if they avoid immediate hurt, will hurt eventually.  I'm talking looking at what I'm doing and saying and seeing if my language and actions are inclusive, if they avoid hurt that doesn't stem from being honest, if they mean and look the same to others as they do to me, and so on.  I'm not talking changing everything, or walking on egg shells.  I'm talking being conscious and deciding objectively what I can change.

I am responsible for my own words and actions, and only my own.  This is a paraphrase of something Temple Grandin shared, reprased to be more straight to the point for me.  I am responsible for my own words and actions, and only my own.  I am not responsible for your reaction, or how you take what I say or do.  But if there is something about what I say or do that can be changed to avoid hurting you, I need to seriously consider it and decide if I'm willing to own leaving it unchanged.  Be the change you want to see in the world.  What do you want to see?

I can change myself.  And I can show that change, through my passion and actions and speech, to those around me.  And they can catch that from me, can change themselves.  And they can show that change, through their passion and actions and speech, to those around them.  And that is how cultural change occurs.

Cultural change cannot be regulated and forced by law.  But it can occur.

Be the change.  Live it.  Embody it.  Model it.  Burn bright.  Burn bright.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Show Pride, Remember Stonewall

The world is one great battlefield 
With forces all arrayed. 
If in my heart I do not yield, 
I'll overcome some day. 

I spent the weekend at Denver Pridefest, my first ever Pride, and Denver's is a big one.

I heard projections for total attendees from 200,000 to 700,000 for this year. Considering that Wyoming, where I lived from 1991 until 2012, has a total population only around 500,000, this is an amazing number of people to me. I don't know how many actually attended, but there were people everywhere. Except for the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City that we accidentally ended up there for, this is the biggest event of any kind I've ever attended.

In some ways, it was very commercial. Coors was a big sponsor, as were Wells Fargo, Smirnoff, At the Beech, and Xfinity. Vendors with stalls were everywhere, and a lot of money changed hands. Between Pride itself, the hotels and restaurants, and others places getting the business of all those from out of town, Pride is estimated to bring in around $25 million total to the Denver area.

Commercial or not, though, for many there, it wasn't, and isn't, about money. I'll get to the heart of that statement shortly, but the event itself needs a bit more details, I think.

There is a sexuality about an event that is centered around things like sexual orientation and gender identity and similar things, which can't be ignored. How can you talk about being true to yourself, in the context of sexual orientation, without sexual undertones? And how can you talk about being true to yourself, without the physicality of your body being front and centre? For many, you can't.

The things you see at something like Pride are varied and often beyond what you are used to. Women with stickers or pasties as their only top, and some men the same. Drag queens in full garb, likely baking, but willing to deal with the heat. Men and women both in nothing but underwear. Bikinis and short shorts. Costumes of all kinds, even some you just know they wore to Comic Con the weekend before, like the Storm Trooper walking down the sidewalk behind the onlookers during the parade. Leather face masks strapped around heads in the form of dog heads. Leather buckles and straps. You name it, you see it.

In the crowds moving around, you see all walks of life. Some are most likely homeless, but enjoying the festivities among some quite obviously rich. Manual labor workers in their best clothes rub elbows with techies and lawyers. Straight couples walk hand in hand past lesbian couples and married gay men. People who are thought to be straight by all their friends are openly gay for this one weekend. People who have hidden their true selves all their lives wear shirts proclaiming it to the world. Trans people too afraid to present in public normally, present openly in a crowd of thousands. People who are curious about what it's all about, who only know the things they've been told by friends and families and churches and politicians come to see what people really are like for the first time. People who don't know their own selves but are curious come and see and find themselves for the first time. Churches give out sun screen. Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians have booths encouraging people to register to vote. Petitions are passed around for for people to support whatever they are interested in. Politicians walk in the parade, shaking hands as they go. And other politicians have followers in the parade and don't bother to show up themselves.

I joke as I walk, in the belly dancing outfit I talked myself into the courage to wear and my rainbow feathered wings, that I can tell the straight guys because they are the ones that forget how to walk when they see me. I can tell the lesbians, because if I pass on one side of them, and a gay guy with a cute dog walks on the other, they are conflicted on which way to look. And I can tell the gay guys because they have no conflict, the dog gets the attention. And, joking aside, in some cases all three of these were true.

But is Pride about the commercialization, about the money and the things to buy? For some, sure. But it isn't the heart of it. Is it about showing skin, about being seen, about being checked out, or checking people out? For some, sure. But it isn't the heart of it. Is it about politics and voting and petitions for your favourite cause? For some, sure. But it isn't the heart of it. What is Pride? And why is it important?

If you pay attention, if you listen, if you observe, you can't go to Pride without hearing or seeing the word Stonewall somewhere. And therein lies the heart of it. In places like Russia, where every year those who march are beaten and/or arrested, this heart is more obvious than Denver Pridefest with police and sheriff vehicles in the parade and officers walking among the crowd not to prevent riots, not to keep things from escalating, not to be seen to keep people quiet, but to protect those there and keep idiots from doing stupid things. Bags aren't checked in Denver to make sure no one brings weapons to use against authorities, but to prevent weapons from being used on the crowd, and more pressingly, to keep beverages that weren't bought there from being brought in. Stonewall is not as obviously on the minds of many, but it is of those that were there, or those that saw what happened, knew people who were there, or saw the after effects. The heart of Pride is not all the festivities or anything else so gay (in the sense of happy). The heart is what happened in the Stonewall Riots and where those short days have brought us.

Denver Pridefest has happened in June every year since 1976, two years before I was born. For those counting, the United States finished pulling out of Vietnam the year before, and 1976 marked the 200th year of the existence of this nation, marked from the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 
It wasn't until the 1990s that Denver Pridefest became the big event it is today, but 1976, the year of the first march in Denver, was also the year that in November the first gay center was opened, which became over the years the Center that many visit out on Colfax. This center was the first safe place for the LGBT community in Colorado, as only came about as a result of legal battles from 1972 until then. Before that, many were beaten by police in addition to by civilians, especially gay men. It is from the changes in this that both the Center and Pridefest came to be, though of course it was a long process and change didn't happen overnight.

Going back a bit further, things never would have changed in Denver if it wasn't for events previously in New York City. As I said, Stonewall. Specifically, the Stonewall Inn and the riots involving it.

The Stonewall Inn was in Greenwich Village in New York City. During a time when gay bars and clubs were routinely raided, and it wasn't safe to be outwardly gay or lesbian, and very unsafe to crossdress, dress in drag, or be known as trans, the mafia in New York City overhauled the old Stonewall Inn and turned it into a gay dance club. Greenwich village was a very rough place, and the LGBT community there were very poor and often in bad shape. Mafia run or not, and with what problems it may have had, Stonewall was a place they could be open about who they were with less danger than normal.

When the police raided it on June 28 of 1969, things didn't go as normal. It was at a time of night that raids were rare. It wasn't announced the way they normally were, so everyone was unprepared. And the police didn't expect they'd have any backlash.

Those presenting as female refused this time to have their gender checked. Those presenting as male refused to show identification. Those thrown out of the club didn't go quietly home. Those living around that area didn't look the other way. A crowd formed. People sang We Shall Overcome, a song growing in popularity in the Civil Rights movement at the time A lesbian being mistreated fought back, then called for the crowd to do something when she was manhandled into a vehicle. And the crowd responded. All the hardship that had been suffered by the community and by individuals boiled over, and it went badly for the police who tried to control the crowd. The riots continued into the early mornings. More riots followed. Gay shame shifted to Gay Pride. Oppression shifted to Empowerment.

The first Pride March was held a year after the riots, June 28, 1970. The marchers marched with signs and banners, uncertain how things would go. It was an exciting time, but not one of safety and security. It wasn't met with resistance, though, few if any tried to stop it. Similar marches were also held in Los Angeles and Chicago, with similar results. The next year, there were more marches, across the US and Europe. And the year after that, five people met in Denver to discuss how to make a change for what was being suffered here.

Pride isn't about dressing promiscuously, about bright colours and fancy floats. It isn't about corporate sponsors and vendors selling goods. It isn't about burlesque shows and rock concerts. It isn't about socializing and gathering for festivities and fun. All these things are there, but they aren't what it is about. These things can be enjoyed because of the heart of what Pride is, not because they are what Pride is about but because they can happen because of the changes that have come.

I wasn't at Stonewall. It was nine years before my birth. I don't know anyone who was, at least none that have mentioned it. I can look back through what has been written, what has been told. Storytelling has power, and the history of change is the soul of that change. Do I know what it was like in Greenwich Village in the late 1960s? No. Do I know exactly what happened on June 28, 1969? No. Do I know what it was like in Denver in the late 1960s and early 1970s? No. But I can walk the streets with less fear because of those who do, those who were there, those who had had enough. I can be true to who I am because they risked their lives. I can attend the largest party I've ever seen, walk the streets with thousands of people, enjoy food and drink and love and laughter with friends, buy things from vendors, watch a parade with not just those marching who are proclaiming who they are, but politicians and police officers as well. I can do all these things because of those that risked it all before I was born, in a time when death or suffering was a more likely outcome than overcoming and surviving and rejoicing.

I can do all this because of what happened at the Stonewall Inn and what followed, both in New York City and across the United States and Europe.

Truth forever on the scaffold, 
Wrong forever on the throne. 
Yet that scaffold sways the future, 
And behind the then unknown 
Standeth God within the shadow, 
Keeping watch above his own. 

~Bethany Davis

Monday, June 2, 2014

Trust, Not Trusting, and Distrust


There's a lot of discussion just now about trust and distrust, about whether it's okay to distrust an entire portion of the population because of things a small percent do, or might do.  The context of this is of course the recent killings by a man upset that no one would have sex with him, and the discussion that has followed this about the fear many women deal with daily, and hurt and pain more that should have gone through.

This has been an emotional topic for me over the last week, as many fears and realizations have been brought to the surface for me in it.  I had an anxiety attack related to all this a few days ago, but have got it calmed down enough now that it isn't affecting my ability to function.  Which is a good thing.

While the over all topic is quite emotional, it's easier to face and process when I step back and look at it in abstract.  And writing about it helps.  One point of abstraction to look at it in is that that I broached above.  Is it okay to distrust an entire segment of the population because of things a small percentage so, or might do?

The following are my thoughts on the subject.  Take them for what they are worth.  Or if not, take them for what you paid for them.

There's a difference between not trusting and blaming and accusing, in my mind.  Maybe even between not trusting and distrusting.  Actually I think I prefer that last phrasing.  Distrusting is an active presuming the person can't be trusted and therefore being unwilling to enter dialogue.  Not trusting is withholding judgement on if you can trust them until you know evidence one way or the other.

If I am in a parking garage alone, it is not safe for me to trust those around me.  It is not a setting to open dialogue, the results might end horribly for me.  So I don't trust and I act under the assumption anyone could be a danger to me and remove myself from that danger as fast but controlled as I can, avoiding making myself a target.

If I met the same person the next day in a safe location where dialogue would not put me in possible danger, I would leave the door open for them to show me who they are to see if I can trust them.  And honestly, in a safe environment, even if I had not trusted them in the unsafe environment the night before, I'd likely fully trust them until they gave me reason not to.

Distrust is not the assuming they could be a danger but assuming they are.  If I distrust someone, even in a safe environment I won't give them the chance to show me I can trust them, out of fear they will hurt me if I do.  So I endeavour to trust people when it is safe to do so until they earn my distrust but to not trust people when it is not safe to until they earn my trust by allowing the dialogue to occur in a safe environment instead of an unsafe one.

Not trusting someone because they might be a danger to you is good sense, not a matter of judging or unfairness.  My not trusting you when I don't know if you are a danger or not reflects nothing on you as a person, it reflects on the circumstances where I am vulnerable if you happen to be a danger.  I don't owe it to you to give you a chance if the circumstances are that I might end up raped, in the hospital, and/or dead if you turn out to be a danger.  My safety comes before giving you the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, not trusting someone when it is a safe environment when you don't yet know if they would be a danger or not in a different situation shuts down the conversation and prevents any chance to find out if they are safe.  It's a matter of mutual respect to give the benefit of the doubt in a safe setting and find out.

That being said, it's a completely different story in regards to those who have already been hurt.  If you remind me of those that have slammed me up against lockers or walls or buses and pressed against me, pinning me with their body while calling me names and asking what I'm going to do about it, there is no safe place to talk.  If you remind me of those that threw rocks at me, tried to drown me, chased me with a board with a nail in it, there is no safe place to talk.  If you remind me of those that pulled my hair or grabbed me by it, or grabbed my arm behind my back and lifted me by it, or took things from me and told me if I wanted them I had to come get them, or destroyed my art work I worked hard on, there is no safe place to talk.  I have scars from the things I've experienced, and the risk of re-opening them is usually too much.  This isn't a matter of groups of people, but types of movements and body language that reminded me.  It isn't "all men" or only men.  Anyone that makes me feel like something I suffered might occur again is not someone I can trust.

This likely has nothing to do with you (unless you are the type that would do such things), it has to do with me, and if I can't feel safe around you, not because of distrust because of the part of society you are part of but because the memories are too much.

So, trust and distrust, trust and not trusting.  It isn't a very simple subject.  But here's how it stands for me:

I will not trust you if I am in a situation where the danger that could come from trusting you puts me in danger.

I will trust you if I am in a safe situation and you don't specifically remind me of those who have hurt me.

I will not trust you if you remind me of those who have hurt me, if you make movements that bring back those memories.

And neither category of not trusting is about me blaming you or saying anything about you.  It's about me staying safe and feeling safe.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

I Am Not An Activist

I am not an activist.

It's just not something I do or have inclination to do. I might rant about topics where I see injustices or other issues. I might volunteer to help with activities or groups that do great things for people in need. But I'm not an activist.

You will never see me out holding a sign protesting something. But you might see me bring water to those that are protesting out in the hot sun. You might see me helping out at a find raiser for a group that does great things for adjacency or activism. You might see me putting people in contact with each other so they can both do more through their mutual involvement.

I am not an activist, not because I don't support the causes, nor because I think activism doesn't do any good or can't. No, I think it's often necessary, and I think it is effective and many cases.

I am not an activist partly because I'm to a certain point shy and an introvert more than anything. I don't like being the center of attention in a public manner. I don't mind it one on one, I don't mind it in small groups, but I don't like being in the public eye. I'm a private person, despite the fact that I often say my mind and tell things about myself I should keep to myself.

I want people to listen to my ideas, to be inspired by my words, to learn what I know, to pay attention to me. I'm under the delusion that I have something to offer, that people can learn from me and grow from what I say and share. I want people to have the best life they can, and to see and be able to address those things they are doing, or not doing, that keeps them from having the best life they can. I want to inspire others to greatness, to help others grow, to help others be safe and happy.

I know that life isn't fair and often things beyond our control get in the way of happiness and what we desire and need in life. But I want to do what I can to lessen these things, to limit the possibility of these things, to limit their impact when they happen. And I especially want to help people learn not to be the cause of their own unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. To not limit themselves. To realize they deserve better and inspire them to aspire to this.

Activism is one method that can help limit the things that prevent our happiness or prevent us from reaching our dreams and desires. I'm a firm believer in this. But it's not something I can do, not because of ability or anything else, but because it's not where my heart and vision lies. I am all for activism, and I work to inspire those that can do great things in that area to do so, to not let anyone hold them back. But I personally focus on the behind the scenes portion, and on helping those that are hurt or suffer either for their activism or because activism has not changed things fast enough.

Activism is a great thing, but its goal is social change, and social change takes time. The battles fought today will help protect and benefit those in the future, but the issues and problems in society today break and hurt people now. Those that can and have the vision to should fight to change things, but those for whom those changes aren't soon enough need people to stand with them, to help them walk again, to be there for them, to help them move forward the best they can. Change in the future doesn't protect those who are hurt now, and helping them is important as well.

My vision for life is simple. I want to be a safe place for people, and to facilitate the creation of safe places for them. This includes many areas, this includes many people, this takes many forms.

Here are a few of my specific visions. They aren't all of them, and they aren't fully developed even as concepts let alone plans. Some of these are further off in time than others, even to begin planning, let alone birthing them.

  • A public house. I want to create a space, in a suburban or semi-urban environment, not intercity, not rural, or at least not too rural, a space that is for people, for the public if you will. I want this to be a safe place where people can be and have community, a community house if you will. A place where they can just go and talk or hang out or play games or read or do anything, as long as it doesn't hurt the safety of others. A place where people can be loud at times, quiet at others. A place where you don't have to buy anything, you can bring food in to eat with others. A place where there is a cafe or similar where you can buy food or drink if you choose, at a price that helps offset expenses but isn't designed to make money, doesn't cost people much. A safe community space, a safe public space. 
  • A program to help people be authentic. More specifically, a program to assist those that are hurting financially because they chose to be true to themselves. People lose their jobs or careers in quite a few cases when they move away from what is expected of them. I'm not talking expected as far as job duties, but as far as social expectations that should not be relevant for employment but often is. Things like sexual orientation, gender identity, religious practices, cultural practices, disabilities that aren't visible, and many others. I'm not talking about people using these things to hurt others but when they try to be true to themselves. People lose housing for similar reasons. I want to help create something that will give assistance to help people get through the rough period where they lost things necessary to live a good life but can't get to a point of rebuilding and enjoying a life more authentic. I want to help people make their rent and utility payments to they can worry about what they should be working on. I want to help people get skills or contacts needed to build a new career. I want to basically do what the Department of Vocational Rehab in many states is supposed to do for those who have a disability that results in job or career lose, but for those who experience the same because they chose to be true to who they are. 
  • An intercity youth center. I want to create a space in the heart of a city or in a rough area of it that is a safe place for the youth. A place they can find food if they need it, find a place to stay if they need it, can get help learning if they need it, basically get any need they have met. Met without strings or requirements. And a place that is safe for them to go, that they know they can go to when they are in need, where they know it is safe. 
  • A small business to help small businesses and startups to get the technology they need to do what they do best. Technology solutions can be hard for small businesses and startups. They don't have the staff to research and determine what will provide what they need. They don't have the traffic or volume to get discounts or good services or support from big companies that can provide the things they need. They don't have the expertise to develop complex solutions that aren't their core business but can facilitate their business. But combining multiple small accounts and basically becoming a reseller of the services that can help them allows both for a focus on the expertise on their behalf, and allows for cheaper services and better support than their individual needs would allow when dealing with the large venders of such services. Specifically I'm talking about things like voice and video conferencing, video streaming, web caching and content delivery, and similar, though other technologies would likely be included. The goal would be for the small business or startup not to need any technical knowledge about these things at all, but for them to say, we would love to be able to do blah, or we have this need, and for my group to be able to say, here's how we can make it happen, do the leg work, provide direct support, and make it happen with as little work for the small business or startup as possible, and at as low of cost as possible. 
  • A retreat and research center. A place in a remote place where people can go to get away and stay as long or as short as they'd like. A place with the solitude and environment for contemplation that a remote abbey or monastery might have, but without any vows, and no restrictions except avoiding disrupting the other people there. And a library containing materials on every subject we can get and as much as we can get, where no materials leave the center, but anyone can come and research and use the materials while they are there, spending as long or as short period of time they want or need. And with a social space similar to the public house idea, where those who want company or social interaction, or a break from contemplation or research, can go and talk and have community. 

These five things are my big visions at the moment, and the things I want to accomplish at some point. And they are pointers to what I need to do now, the type of people I need to make acquaintance with, the skills I need to develop, the resources I need to gather.

I am not an activist. But I want to help people and help the community, to inspire and provide, to nurture and support. The people need activists, but they also need safe places and safety nets, and to be cared for before the time passes necessary to make the social changes activists are working toward.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What Does Love Got to Do With It

Tina Turner's words echo in my ear as an ear worm, just the one line over and over.

"Oh what's love got to do, got to do with it"

It echos not because the song itself is speaking to me, but because my thoughts brought me to the same line from a different direction.

I took a survey this evening, not one of those Internet quizzes that are so popular, but a survey about important things, things that can touch deep, things that can brush up against hurt or joy, strong emotions of one variety or another.  Several of my answers surprised me, and revealed things to me about myself I hadn't realized previously, but knew to be true as soon as I identified them.

The one that surprised me the most was a question about what is important in an intimate relationship.  It listed quite a few options, with ability to select as many as apply, and to list other things not listed, at the end.  Some of the options included emotional connection, non-sexual physical touch, sexual physical touch, love, and intellectual connection, plus a few others, and I included several things in the "other" category.

What surprised me is love wasn't on the list of things that are important to me in an intimate relationship.  Not that I don't want it, but that what I want is the emotional and intellectual connection and to feel safe and valued and important.  That sexual physical touch wasn't important to me but non-sexual physical touch was, is important, but not surprising.  I already knew that.  I desire to be held and comforted, not necessarily to have sex, not that I'm against the idea, it's just secondary to the other.  But, back to love.

Part of this of course relates to what I'm currently going through, a bit of jadedness in relation to love, a feeling that love didn't fulfill.  But that isn't the part of the picture I saw when I answered the question.  That I entered a relationship based an believing I was in love, and I won't begin to claim I know at this date years later that I wasn't, or that I was, it's too raw and painful now to say for sure looking back.  I just know I believed myself to be.

It was something different.

I realized I could be content and happy in a relationship where I didn't feel in love with the person but had that connection.  I got in both the relationships I have had because I presumed I was in love and that meant I should be in a relationship.  But being in love without the connection, is loneliness and pain even if with someone.  I can see myself being in a relationship where I could say, with no guile and no hurt or pain, that I am not in love, but am happy with the person, and they with me, and love is of secondary concern.  Just as non-sexual physical touch is what I desire, and sexual physical touch is secondary.

But where does that leave me?  Is it bitterness or pain speaking?  Is it that I don't understand love?

It might be that "love" for me is a construct I built to try to make the world make sense and as I know myself more, that construct feels less real.  That I made this "thing" in my mind I called love, and I presumed because I named it love, that that is what love innately is.  That "thing" in my head failed me, so I presume love itself is what was broken, not my construct I baptised as "love".  Maybe this is the case, maybe it isn't.

I think I need to find it without the word defining it, then redefine the word based on that which I find.  Once the dust clears from the current hardships, I think I need to set the word aside for now, forget what I think I know, and find that thing I need that contains the emotional and intellectual connection, that is safe and comforting, that include intimate touch without sexual touch.  And maybe sexual touch if it feel right, maybe.

And then, when I find that thing I desire and long for, and can then redefine love based on what I find.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Erotic is...

Erotic is that which is gentle and sensuous, slowly building, soft and moving, tickling the senses, whether on a mental, emotional, or physical level, sliding smoothly and moistly across the tips of physical, mental, or emotional hairs, a brush, a caress, an embrace, feeling beautiful in a vulnerable way, exposed in a way that feels safe and secure, bare and revealed in a way that feels welcoming, whether literally fully clothed or naked.  A moist, gentle kiss to the soul, felt physically, mentally, and emotionally even if there's no touch at all.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Safe Lesbian Sex

Because a lot of girls assume that "safe sex" is only necessary for sexual relations involving men (whether her with a man or two men), I wrote up the following in hopes it will be helpful for girls to realize that lesbian sex does have its dangers, and that it's important to take precautions.

Warning, a little graphic and descriptive

Monday, May 30, 2011

So Soft, So Silky, So Small

Abstract Pink Pleasure
from 4iPhoneWallpaper.

So Soft, So Silky, So Small
By Bethany Davis

I run my hands over your body,
So soft, so silky, so small,
My hands join me to you,
To your body, to your soul.
The darkness, the blackness of you,
So beautiful, petite, wonderful.
You move against my hands,
Touching me with your body,
While I touch you with my hands.
You soft back, your small hips,
You head so perfect in my hands.
You purr at my touch in joy,
Enjoying my hands as much,
As my hands enjoy your body.
I’m so thankful for you,
For your presence, for your love.
I adore you, my little cat.