The damage done to the souls of men and white people

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One of the reasons I am a fan of Fanon, is because he dared us to examine the heart of the colonial beast from the brilliantly liberating vantage point of it’s diseased center.

His writings breathed fire. They were powerfully anti-colonial and anti-Eurocentric. No doubt, like any other man, they were also mired in his gender oppressiveness. But he nevertheless helped me understand oppression in a very liberating way. I realized that understanding the damage done to the souls of oppressors was a far more empowering way to engage with the myriad forms of oppression in and around me.

Now, we can further complicate this shit, but I don’t think I have the literary skill or temperament to hold your attention for that long. So for now, I’m going to limit myself to two particularly well-known global demographics – men and white people – both groups of whom, it can safely be said, benefit from the overwhelming majority of oppression on our good green earth. Yes, yes, in varying degrees when we complicate it with class and nationality and yadda, yadda. But wherever you go on this earth, men have it better than other genders – at least in their own local communities and societies – and white people have it better than damn near everyone else on the fucking planet. (Holy crapola did that European settler colonialism work wonders for the melanin-deficient.)

Now, I say that we gain spiritual strength over our oppressors (inside and out) by understanding the damage done to the souls of those oppressors. And in the global north, i.e. the privileged-ass Western world, this means understanding the damage done to the souls of men and white people.

(And I daresay that would be the case in any other part of the earth as well.)

The reason I think it is empowering for me to think of oppression in this way is because it both humbles and strengthens me at the same time.

It humbles me because I realize that even beyond what oppression does to our bodies, our minds, and our social environments – it is at our deepest, most soulful level that oppression is fought.

It strengthens me because I realize that no matter how violently and/or silently oppression might manifest in our daily lives, those who reap the benefits of it cannot hide from the damage it does to their souls.

And that’s a comforting mixture of truth, justice, and that little bit of whacky to help you sleep at night.

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Sadly, Trump’s misogyny is commonplace in a rape culture society

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When I inexplicably found myself back in grad school for the second time in my life, during a slightly lonely period in my late twenties, I used to hang out with the “dudes” of my department. These hang-outs were usually drunken, come-to-think-of-it-rather-trite-and-banal, shindigs.

When the hang outs were all guys, sexism in the form of humor was an oft used lingua franca among many of them. Unfortunately they tended to be the loudest and dominated the proceedings. Since this was a progressive social science department, all the guys had taken different feminist theory classes during their grad and undergrad years. Indeed, the most disgustingly misogynistic of the lot apparently even minored in women and gender studies at UCLA, his previous alma mater.

(Just goes to show that ivory tower credentials are highly unreliable in determining good human beings.)

In more than one party, this misogyny masked as ribald humor would rear it’s ugly head. Indeed, the stuff that came out of the UCLA-graduated head misogynist’s mouth was no less than the vileness that has been revealed to come out of Trump’s mouth. And it was all laughed at and seen as fun by the rest of the guys in that group.

All I did at the time was numb my loneliness with booze, as folks guffawed to the drunken ramblings of some white, self-identifying Marxist’s lewd misogyny, heartily egged on by his drinking buddy – a white, Anarchist dude who identified as a very public feminist. (If there’s one thing socialist and anarchist dudes seem to find congruence on, it’s male privilege).

The group also happened to be a really white and heteronormative group. Me and a buddy of mine were the only men of color (and I was, as far as I could tell, the only queer man).

I don’t say this to make some vague point about intersecting forms of oppression.

I say this to undo the shame I feel to this day of not doing a damn thing to intervene – cowering behind the excuse that I didn’t feel safe enough to do so. When in all honesty, I would have been fine. I could have told them off, walked away (and almost certainly have been far happier and healthier for it). I could have even tried to counter it with humor or sarcasm or just done something. For a variety of reasons, I preferred cowardice at the time.

But as I sat there wallowing in my misery, I did make particular note of this feeling that churned inside me, a rather sickening feeling.

There is a particular insidiousness to misogyny when it comes from men of the more entitled sections of society. Because there’s greater social and cultural power behind the words. Whether it’s white men in America or upper caste Hindu men in India or men from the majoritarian sections of society wherever the fuck their miserable selves may exist – rape culture is held up, among other ways, by majoritarian male power and control.

And glued together by the silence and willful ignorance of others.

Now Trump’s misogyny seems to know no bounds – be it his braggadocio in committing rape and sexual assault or his despicable sexualization of his own daughter on, of course, the Howard Stern show – Trump is human refuse. But he is not human refuse in a vacuum. He emerged, or rather was hellishly spawned, out of a society steeped in rape culture.

Indeed, one of the most troubling things about the revelations of his violently sexist conversations is not really being addressed by the media – maybe because it poses far more difficult questions for us as members of this society.

Trump-style misogyny is far more commonplace than we might think.

The patriarchy that is bred in silence – and a bro way to fight it.

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We all are, or at least ought to be, aware of the more brutal manifestations of patriarchy – a social, political, cultural, and economic existence for humanity that privileges men over women and gender non-conforming folk.

(Apologies in advance for any mansplaining transgressions in this essay btw.)

Physical and sexual violence often come to mind right away when thinking about the most commonly cruel fall outs from this system of male power and control.

But I know there is more than just those egregious forms of patriarchy. Many people, myself included, have viewed or continue to view those types of gender-based violence solely in a vacuum, separate from the rotten and fetid foundation that the violence stems from. For if it wasn’t apparent to me before, it certainly is now, that the foundation of this global system of oppression is ultimately kept in place  via silence – a willfully tight lipped ignorance.

Most men, across the globe, close ranks when it comes to discussing patriarchy and sexism. Even the self-identifying “decent” ones, like many of the men I used to have in my life, tend to not be very open or concerned about gender injustice because it ultimately means looking into the unearned privileges they have accrued at the cost of the women around them. Now make no mistake, these are men who would condemn gender-based violence, maybe even with a lot of emotion, but cannot bring themselves to understand and engage with their own internalized sexism and male privilege.

The preservation of unjust privileges can often be a far stronger unifying force for those who benefit from them than the dismantling of those privileges can be for those who are oppressed by them.

(Fuck me, there I go mansplaining again – and with such long, boring-ass sentences too.)

But men closing ranks around the preservation of patriarchy is a real pain in the butt – especially if you’re trying to play even the tiniest of roles in effecting some social justice and real liberation (not to mention deal with your own internalized crap). Cos this shit happens across the board – cops, military soldiers, nationalists, religious crazies, cultural figures – all and more close ranks when the injustice of their existence is questioned. It’s men being men.

Petulant, cowardly men.

So when I find myself mired in rather depressing questions.

Ones like:

Why is silence so effective in maintaining this oppressive system?

Why are so many men so very scared of talking about these very real problems afflicting our communities and our homes?

What is it that prevents so many men from embracing true love and liberation and equality? And the enriching, but often difficult, struggles that are needed to keep regenerating those beautiful life forces?

When I get bogged down by such painful ruminations – I also remember to hold onto hope.

For I now have a beautiful new realm of bromance-building to find good men in my life.

It is the gift and all important responsibility of fatherhood.

(Which also often happens to be buckets of awesome, if occasionally irritating, fun in and of itself.)

Because a friendship cultivated with a man out of a mutual treasuring of that most liberating of life endeavors – that of parenting a child – is likely a friendship with a man who is caring, nurturing, and honorable.

And that’s a bro I can hang with.

What is it that makes babies so spiritually powerful?

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I will never forget that very first feeling I had when Daya was born.

That rush of spiritual energy.

It was indeed immense – throughout the entire process of birth – filled with no small amount of love, high emotions, gratitude, focus, relief, and pure joy.

But at the very root of it all, there was one particular feeling that stood out when I first held my daughter in my hands, all gooey, and sticky (and ever so calm, come to think of it).

Awe.

I was in awe of this being  that had a spiritual power far superior to anything I could ever hope to possess or be.

I was in awe of this entity that seemed to be able to look right through me and calm me down when I started getting scared.

I was in awe of this tiny little baby that felt like I was holding the spirit of the earth herself.

So fragile.

Yet so radiant and powerful.

This feeling of awe has never left me. But it has also resulted in some strong spiritual beliefs.

For instance, I am of the firm opinion that the souls of babies are quite possibly the closest we will get to a living embodiment of divinity.

(Of course those souls will eventually get the ever-loving shit kicked out of them, especially in boys, due to patriarchy and sexism…but you know, I’m in a happy place here, so am going to focus on the cute and cuddly side of life for now.)

Needless to say, I am and continue to be in total awe of my daughter and the strength in her soul. I doubt that will ever stop being the case.

My little baby warrior and freedom fighter.

I have often thought long and hard about why Daya is so spiritually powerful. Indeed why all babies are so spiritually powerful.

And I realize that they are the embodiment of the very essence of humanity.

They teach us that love is the only entity that can save us from ourselves.

Equally importantly babies teach men that love should never, ever be taken for granted.

They tell us, in no uncertain terms:

I don’t care about the way things have been all these years.

I don’t care if you’ve lived your life taking the love that has been showered upon you from birth for granted.

I don’t care about the unearned privileges of patriarchy nor the pyrrhic benefits of sexism that have swaddled you for thousands of years.

Love me, and love me properly.

Because I and humanity deserve nothing less.

Dear daughter, this world we’ve brought you into…

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What can I say about this world we’ve brought you into my love?

What can I say about the privileged misogynistic scumbags, and their fathers, who populate the elite hallways of this world?

What can I say about a world that is built for the benefit of men and white people (and the few privileged women and people of color that the colonial structures let into the club)?

What can I say about the hostility we as a family face from white men everyday we step outside the bubble of our home?

What can I say about the evil inherent to the male of the species that evidently the majority of men are blind to?

What can I say about the soullessness inherent to colonial society that evidently the majority of white people are blind to?

What can I say about the fact that there are times when I daydream about gutting the life out of any man who dares cast an evil eye on you (empty and horribly masculine though those flights of fancy might be)?

What can I say about the harsh sadness I’m trying to mask with that anger – a sadness stemming from the fact that, try as we might, your mother and I cannot protect you from all the evils of the world?

What can I say about this all-consuming fear that I will fail in providing you the tools and weapons you need to fight the evil blanketing this world?

What can I say about a world of nation states and borders, where patriarchy, privilege and profit take us ever closer to a likely violent resolution?

What can I say about a world where people in the dominant colonial power are choosing between a demagogue and a plutocrat  to be their “elected” leader (both as white as freshly driven snow in a wealthy suburb)?

What can I say about a world where nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and misogyny seem to be the go-to bastions for the fearful majority of people, privileged and vulnerable alike?

What can I say about a world where I truly believe humanity and the earth would be better off if 80% of the world’s men would simply drop dead  – proportionately across all countries and communities (I am extremely egalitarian when it comes to hating men)?

What can I say about a world where I often up that figure to 90%?

Well…

When I’m at a loss to say or do anything about the oppression and evil in this world we’ve brought you into…

When I feel depressed and weak in the knowledge that this oppression and evil is so vast and deep…

When I feel the urge to build an impermeable, self-sustaining life pod for our family to live in forever…

When I feel the need to embark on a multi-generational, quantum physics research project to transport us to an alternate universe where matriarchy, freedom and egalitarianism prevail…

I look at you and I see the power of your soul…

And the warmth of your heart…

And the depth of your mind…

Only matched by your mother’s (in all three departments, mind you)…

I then rest a little easier…

For I know the evil flourishing in the world today is ultimately no match for your divine strength.

Dear daughter – I’m sorry for my failures (but know that I won’t fail you)

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Hi love,

As I hold you in my arms and see those rascally, angelic eyes slip into a deep sleep following a majestic poop explosion, I often reflect on yet another parenting cycle – a cycle usually consisting of three very regular stages:

Stage 1: a general failure to address your immediate needs with my efforts, followed by…

Stage 2: a blundering,  occasionally teary, attempt at redeeming myself, usually by adhering to the grace and wisdom of your mother, followed by…

Stage 3: simultaneously amusing and irritating the crap out of you with energetic, puppy-like adoration – a manifestation of this fascinating new spiritual feeling I have; I think it could be paraphrased as the deep, singularly unique, and mind-boggling love a parent has for their daughter or something.

Now, it’s easy for me to get caught up in stages 2 and 3 of the cycle – it’s generally more pleasant to focus primarily on the redemption and love.

But truly if I want to ensure that, despite my failures, I’m still being the best parent I can be, then I absolutely must focus on the failures themselves.

And I think the first step is to name them and apologize for them. But don’t worry, I won’t stop just at this perma-sorry for my myriad failures. I will actually try to learn from them. I just need to retrain my hitherto dense and regressive brain, swaddled as it has been in patriarchy for so many centuries. You are way too awesome for anything less.

Plus, your mother and I are hell-fucking-bent on ensuring that we as a family (cats included) fight for the freedom and happiness of all souls on earth. Thus, as your parents, we especially want to fight for that kind of life for you, and it takes some honest reflection to keep fighting well.

So, let me begin by first apologizing for the times I get frustrated, irritated, even angry when nothing I do seems to meet your needs. For the most part I’m frustrated, irritated, and angry at myself, but let’s face it, the feelings inevitably home in on you. When I step back to think about it, I feel shame, my darling. I – your adult father with over three and a half goddamn decades of life experience – actually get frustrated and irritated at a 2-month old kid whom I love beyond life itself. All because you, divine soul, try very patiently (and in the only way you know how) to communicate to your father, guiding him to hold up his responsibilities properly. I know I keep the frustrations “inside” or at least try to, but I also know that I cannot ever fool the spiritual bond between us.

Because I know it upsets you.

For that (and all the other fuck ups, just to be on the safe side) – I am so very sorry my love.

Please don’t mistake this for false humility or something. I can’t stand that shit. I have a galactic sized ego, and really have no real issues with self-confidence or thinking I’m the coolest (i.e. luckiest) guy on earth. I get the big picture. As your parents, I know that your divine mother with me as her pet lout and loyal sidekick, will strive with every sinew of our beings to engulf you in love, joy, health and happiness. We also have an awesome transnational community of family and friends who will provide a very privileged safety net for all of us. So life will likely be more good than bad for the most part.

However, having plied my trade as a trauma therapist and community health worker across three countries for many years now, I am well aware of the numerous forms of abuse and violence that parents and adults in general can impart on children. No doubt, all violence exists on a spectrum – with the horrendous sexual, physical, emotional, and mental abuse existing on a particularly traumatic side of the spectrum. We as a society have this dangerous tendency to think that abusive parenting solely consists of those egregious acts of violence – and we forget that patriarchy is not just egregiously violent but also insidiously covert.

I know that, no matter how sincere and loving and caring, I will make mistakes that will hurt you. It is violent when my frustrations are directed at you. How can it not be? Your capacity to harm me is pretty much non-existent. You didn’t choose to grace our lives with your glorious presence. You’re not the one with decades of human experience. Most importantly though, patriarchy has made our relationship unjust from day one, with you getting a really shitty deal.

But while patriarchy is indeed guided by power and oppression, you, your mother, and my mother, among others, have taught me that patriarchy can be challenged, undone, and eventually dismantled with love, liberation, and a veritable fuck ton of struggle.

So I make this simple, and hopefully ever-evolving, promise to you (very much extended to our larger family and community and, oh what the hell, the world in general):

  • I promise to spare no effort in being the best parent I can be and ensure that our relationship is always egalitarian and just.
  • I promise to love you, nurture you, and fight behind or alongside but never ahead of you for your inviolable rights to freedom and happiness.
  • I promise to dismantle internalized patriarchy and oppression from within me, no matter how many lifetimes it may take.

Ok, so I might have been a little hasty to classify this as a “simple” promise but whatever. I assure you, I will keep this promise even if it kills me because it’s neither political revolution nor mass social change that motivates me, but love. And without love, my soul would cease to exist. So, please feel free to whip my ass into shape whenever your powerful self desires, because you already know more about winning this fight than I ever will – and I would never say no to being guided by your wisdom, your spirit, and your courage.

But, sweetheart, I think this piece needs to be ended because you have just had another poop explosion.

And a fresh diaper – maybe even that gorgeous smile of yours – beckons.

Being in love with a brilliant freedom fighter

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I often speak about my soulmate (and mother of our soon-to-be little one) in many of my posts. Today I’d like to dedicate a piece to her because she liberates me, herself, and others in ways that I can only dream of achieving.

Being in love with this brilliant freedom fighter has been the greatest experience of my life. Sus brings love, light, and liberation to a world easily consumed by hatred, darkness, and oppression. And she does so disarmingly, as if it’s the easiest thing to her.

Make no mistake though, she makes it look easy because that’s what real freedom fighters do, but easy is the last thing it has been. Very few know of her struggles, the mountains she has had to traverse, the battles she has had to fight, the grief and pain she has had to endure.

And while I’m not going into the details for various reasons, I feel very privileged to have a vantage point in my life that allows me to learn, from the inside out, just what it takes to be a lifelong freedom fighter – for that is what she is.

Sus doesn’t do bombast or arrogance. (That’s my forte.) Sus fights the good fight with all her might while embodying an organic framework of care, solidarity, and spiritual self-reflection. She fights for freedom because she knows it’s the only way – no matter what might be thrown her way.

That’s because Sus doesn’t do cowardice either.

She fights against patriarchy, colonialism, and racism because she sees it playing out in oppressive ways in her own life. But many people, especially privileged folk, see it play out in their lives and don’t do shit – happy to turn a blind eye so they can continue wallowing without being inconvenienced. Not her though. Sus is made of sterner stuff.

Like I said – she’s no coward.

This is one fearless warrior-goddess.

She teaches me that organizing and fighting for freedom happens across the length and breadth of life. It happens in our homes, at work, on the street, and within our families. She doesn’t shy away from any battle, and she gives her all to each and every one of them, no matter how small or big the fight may be. Because she knows that it’s in the small battles that the fight against oppression is won.

I know a lot of activists who do what they do to get their street cred going or to showcase their radical political chops publicly to others. I know a lot of do-gooders who do what they do to build up their altruism cache and seem like a great humanitarian. I know a lot of progressive thinkers and writers who do what they do to generate acclaim and praise for themselves. I know this because I was one of them, all of them, and likely still am.

Which is why it is so fucking awesome to be with someone like Sus. Her liberated soul and deeply compassionate heart blazes a trail for lesser mortals like me – a trail which almost always leads to healing and happiness – even when we have to occasionally come through pain and sadness.

For Sus is no run-of-the-mill activist. She is no privilege-mongering do-gooder or elitist-minded writer.

Sus is a freedom fighter. The very best there is.

And, if this wasn’t already bleedingly obvious, I’m the luckiest man on earth.

I pray that everyone finds this kind of love in their life.