Let Love Prevail

As the world continues to crash and burn, it can be challenging to weed through the myriad ways that all this chaos manifests itself in our own day-to-day lives, lives of those of us who have the time, space, and equipment available to even access this very blog post, to sit in our leisure and read the words of someone whose livelihood isn’t being violently ripped away from them… at least not directly.

But there are plenty of ways that my livelihood is being stolen from me although I don’t wake up to see homes smoldering around me. The most basic shit, the shit we should all be on our fucking knees with gratitude for having the ability to experience – even the most basic shit becomes so difficult amidst the fogginess and confusion of inhumanity. I should be sitting here feeling like the most fortunate motherfucker in the world for all of the things I have – yes, shelter, food, all of those things, but really love, Love, LOVE: love for people around me and the people I care deeply about, and reciprocation of that love. When love is what the world is most devoid of, I should be cherishing this shit like water droplets in the desert (which honestly it feels like it is); I should really be allowing myself to revel in the glory of love and then channeling that energy outwards to inject even just a little bit back into the world… I know that sounds like some Jesus shit but it’s true. Love > everything.

The part that gets difficult to admit and even infuriating, is that it isn’t easy for me either to let love flow through me like a channel, because I, too, am blocked in different areas from allowing myself to just give into it; I am blocked by fear, fear that comes from the knowledge of a lack of love and the deeeep cutting pain that comes from it. That knowledge, and that pain, prevent me from living my life as full as possible and letting love transform me into something more human; the only force really, that can transform our humanity in a world so dehumanizing and violent.

When we devalue any life anywhere then we are automatically devalued along with it, because we are no different from one another regardless if we are the ones sending the bombs written “From Paris, with love” or the ones whose children are receiving it; the forces of hate and dehumanization do not only exist in certain places – it’s just that it is easier to feel as though they don’t exist when we can be distracted with the so-called “luxuries of life…” But we’re no different. There is a reason why it is so hard for us to love ourselves as human beings when there is so much showing that humanity is not worthy (look at the fucking Bible ha!), and no amount of anything will make it easier until we start to truly value humanity wholly and understand our sameness with one another.

It is hard for me, someone who at many levels is on the side of violently desecrating the humanity of others through forced complicity, and at so many other levels having the same thing happen to myself, to love myself fully and therefore allow the power of love to transform my being. It is hard for me to believe that I am worthy as a human being because I am lack of examples of what that looks like. And how fucking stupid is that? I may be black and I may be other things but goddamn if I don’t have the time to sit here and ponder it, and that ENOUGH should make me feel driven with a feverishness to soak up all the love possible; to put what I know in my head into my heart because we don’t have TIME, we don’t have any time anymore to not be about love and only love and nothing else, I mean – look what is happening all around us!!!!

I can’t let my fear of not being worthy keep me from whole-heartedly running in the direction of love when I can sit at a vantage point that sees how fucking destructive the lack of it is. We all owe it to ourselves and our humanity, especially those of us who get to sit at this vantage point, to not spend any more time letting fear creep into the spaces that instead should be filled with love, it is the least that we can do (or the most?) to in any way resist the forces of oppression/destruction that are being wreaked with flourish across our precious universe

We DON’T HAVE ANY MORE TIME.

In fact, time ran out quite a bit ago, so we have to work extra hard to undo the accumulation of destruction, and fear. Do it for yourself, do it for others, do it for humanity… do it for Syria. Those little moments that scare us, the fear that prevents us from glowing with love, fight against them with every fiber of your being, because if not, we are just as dead as the rest.

 

The Burden of Oppression

There are many ways that oppression creeps into our daily lives and causes us undue stress and anxiety, pressure that would otherwise leave us space to be free to do the things that fulfill us and feed our souls. Unsurprisingly, the burden of oppression is most felt by the oppressed; it just wouldn’t be sustainable that those that benefit from the oppression of others (as most all of us on this earth do at varying degrees) would be left with the responsibility to carry the weight of something so energy-draining and distracting – why, that wouldn’t be a benefit at all!

One of the most taxing ways that we are being kept as oppressed people is through the burden of heartbreak. If we look at any system of oppression, it is clear that the feeling of being broken-hearted is being held by those that are at a disadvantage, and this acts as a major mechanism of separation between the acting parties. We can see this between men and women in a system of sexism and patriarchy, between whites and people of color in a system of racism and white supremacy, even in more specific examples such as between the Israelis and Palestinians in that system of who-knows-what-the-fuck – I could point out endless examples if I chose to, but these are the ones that are closest to my own heartbreak.

Without even delving into situations of oppression that leave me feeling extra helpless, I can look into my own relatively super-privileged life and see the ways that the burden of heartbreak that I carry acts as a barrier between myself and those in my life who I struggle to come to closer understandings with, those that inhabit the other side of this heart-break barrier because of whatever reason. Relationships between men and women are already so convoluted within our shared (and taught) understandings of how things are supposed to work, without even adding in the heart-break factor – and when we do consider the role that oppression plays then it is no wonder that magazines like Cosmopolitan can continue to make a profit trying to “decode” the whole mess of things… I cannot speak for all women but I do speak as a woman when I say that one of the things preventing me from holding my brothers (and by brothers I mean men, male-identified individuals, not my actual fraternal brothers) a little closer in our shared understanding of what it is to be human is their lack of understanding what it means to be heartbroken by the oppression of sexism. This is not to be misconstrued as a belief that men do not suffer from heartbreak under a system of sexism, nor a belief that men cannot be heartbroken because of sexism. Rather, that the experience of being a woman and being told what that means (in relation to sexism) in itself constitutes heartbreak – how can it be anything but heartbreaking to grasp at any level that you are designated as less-than, as second class to a class of beings that is supposedly more valid that yourself? (As an aside, this reminds me of my younger, actual brother, who is currently going through the process of discovering that he is black and what that necessarily means in a world of white supremacy… and honestly, thinking about anyone’s self-discovery of their second-class status brings me to depths of heartbreak that I cannot even access through tears –

Although I often talk about things in a very abstract manner, the evidence of the heartbreak barrier between men and women (for example) is something that we see play out in concrete ways all the time. We see it in the reactions that we have as women, whether constructed or real (and honestly is there any differentiation on that anyway?), to the things that those men of particular importance in our lives do within our relationships of particular importance – the relationship of salvation that is set up for us women: our romantic relationships that are supposed to save us from invalidity as human beings… To be more clear what I mean is that being loved, or claimed, by a man is touted as what is supposed to validate us as women, as evidenced by, well, I don’t know, look a fucking round you (hint: everything). This is how sexism works (and fuck me if it isn’t a hell of an effective system): tell women we aren’t worth shit, then tell us that to actually try and fight for being worth anything we must do so through the eyes of a man/men, i.e. be valued by men to be valuable as a woman. As long as whatever we happen to be doing is being understood through a (constructed or not/ whatever) male-oriented framework then we are oppressed as fuck, and I honestly can’t even wrap my head around the scale of our oppression because it is so entrenched in everything, or rather everything is entrenched in it, or really I don’t even know (both!). This is why it hurts us (me!) as much as it does when the men in our lives (the men that are given that particular importance of saving us from our worthlessness) do things that can be perceived as having little to do with us; and no I am not saying that our romantic male partners must have their life revolve around us, but that it can be anything, literally anything, that feels threatening to their us than the other way around (issues of appearance fit into this larger framework of sexism along with concepts of scarcity). This is why it hurts so much differently when a man “cheats” on a woman than when a woman “cheats” on a man, not because it doesn’t hurt to both men and women, but because for women that is putting into question our whole validity as humans within the larger, accepted context of sexism. This is why we can’t compare, thinking of a different form of oppression, the words “nigger” and “cracker” as if they carry the same weight. Yes, they are both racially-charged terms, but one doesn’t come with the history of invalidating the target race’s entire fucking humanity like, forever.

There are so many articles out there on sexism, racism, this and that, about where we see it and who and what, where/ how/ why. They are all very important, but they don’t help me to navigate my heartbreak any better. Where are the resources that are telling me that yes, we are heartbroken too, and this is how we are getting through it (?). I’ve given up on the possibility that the man of that particular importance in my own life (of whom, by the way, I am doing my best to not give him the importance of saving me, as 1: I am actually worthy and valid as a human being already because we all are, and 2: I don’t need anyone but myself to understand that) – that he will understand the pain I feel tied to different events within our own relationship or even within the greater world, because as much as I explain to him my feelings, he has not taken on the legacy of heartbreak that comes with being told he is less-than (in terms of gender) and so he can never relate emphatically to matters of that. Just as white people will never know what it is like to not be white, as much as they can intellectually conceptualize it in their heads, men will never know the heartbreak of being a woman, and this is a barrier to our truly understanding one another.

But human beings find connection through shared experiences, and so we do not need to completely be each other to know each other. We only need to have known suffering, and laughter, to understand the people outside of us. If we understand that pain and joy are universal experiences of humanity, then we can extrapolate our own experiences of these things to see that we are no different than one another, then treat ourselves and others accordingly. This is how we can comprehend the humanity of even the most hateful individuals, or whomever individuals are hardest for us to love in our own lives (by understanding that their pain is the same as our pain) and how we can love even deeper those who cause our hearts to flutter, by understanding that their joy is our joy. We all suffer from oppression in this world, and the sooner that we can see that we are all the fucking same the sooner we can connect on more meaningful levels with one another.

It is important to remember though, that the most necessary part of the equation is self-love. Self-love is important because no one is going to save us from our heartbreak but ourselves, and because it doesn’t matter how much same-ness we see if we cannot learn to love our humanity for what it is. And ultimately, isn’t that what oppression is trying to prevent? Self-love is resistance to oppression. Let us redeem ourselves through self-love (and consequently self/other/love) and emancipate ourselves from heartbreak slavery; none but ourselves can set us free.

what mercury retrograde taught me about love and acceptance

Blame it on the planets: these last few days while mercury has been trying to get its shit together, I’ve been in mental fucking turmoil. Perhaps it is my double-Cancer nature that sends my emotions upside down while the planets do their thing, perhaps it is my own annoying habit of trying to feel secure about everything inside of myself all of the time… I can’t really say. Either way I’ve had a lot more realizations in the last week than I have had in the last six months, and although they are painful for me to understand, they are exactly the type of answers that I am looking for.

This is what the mercury has taught me about love and oppression, two of the most present concepts in my mental space: if I want to love, then I must accept oppression. It may sound like a simple concept or maybe one that is far-fetched, I’m not exactly sure yet. What I am sure of is that this is my newly discovered truth, one that is undoubtedly difficult to swallow. All of the resistance that I have cultivated within myself has largely been based on my rejection of oppression and my desire to disassociate myself from all aspects of it. Perhaps it was naive but I also think it was a necessary step in my own personal journey of mental emancipation … I had to have that feeling of rejection to be able to originally break myself free from the complacency that so many of us simply fall into without even knowing it, keeping the cogs of the great oppression machine turning, allowing our humanity to be systematically stolen from us as we remain in a state of ignorant agony… I had to reject oppression first before being able to come full circle to accepting it once more, this time hopefully a little wiser and with more clarity. It seems that the time has come for me to enter into a new stage of my tumultuous relationship with oppression, the state of acceptance.

It is so difficult to have acceptance because it can feel like resignation. It feels as if I am giving up my struggle and my resistance to the one thing in the world that hurts me the most. It feels like surrender, like loss, and the reality is that we are experiencing loss all of the time – loss of what could have been, what we could have had; the unknown and untapped pieces of our humanity that die along with the rest of our unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Oppression has been winning this entire time, but at least not completely, or else we wouldn’t even be here anymore. And while we are still here living and dying and loving and suffering oppression remains looming over us, hindering our hopefully inevitable collective liberation of humankind. I’ve been trying to fight a battle for a long time that I simply cannot win on my own. I have been like a fish that is trying to resist water, but as much as this water is polluting us and making us sick it is still where we exist, and as much as I hate to say it, we need it to survive. I can see the distinction now; the water is not the pollution, the pollution is just part of the water, but all the same I must accept it as a whole if I ever intend to live, to actually live and not be crippled and paralyzed by my recognition of this poison/pollution and the ways in which it takes so much from us.

In a way I suppose, I am giving up. Not my convictions or my resistance, but giving up the battle that I’ve been so invested in fighting, the battle against oppression. I cannot actually change the fact of our polluted world – I only have the power to change myself. I do not have the power to cleanse or liberate humanity as a whole, only the power to try and rid myself of all the bullshit that has been forced upon us, invading our lungs and our lives every day. I honestly don’t know if this will have any effect at all, but at least the power of our collective pollution will be lessened to the degree in which I do not allow it to infect me; a testament to the equal power that can be accessed within our own humanity, a proof that as much as we have to accept the reality of the world that surrounds us, we do not have to succumb to it.

So this is what mercury and the planets have been trying to guide me towards, answers to my own struggles that I have been seeking. Not only does change begin within ourselves, but it actually cannot extend much farther than that, as hard as it is to accept the things that we cannot change. If I truly want to emancipate myself from mental slavery, to liberate my own mind to the greatest of my ability, then I must first pass through the gate of acceptance, so that I can move forward towards the paradise that is love, loving everything, pollution and all.

male privilege is a bitch

I realized recently that hanging out with a bunch of men is like hanging out with a bunch of white people – there is a limited level of tolerance that once surpassed, ain’t no body got time for it. My boyfriend said to me recently that while he realizes that power dynamics work on a grand scale (impressive) – for example, that men have privilege and power over women within a structure of systematic, sexist oppression – he doesn’t see how oppression works on an individual level and within interpersonal interactions (typical). It is a valid question to have, and one that is difficult to answer and explain, especially to members of the class of people who generally are the ones making you feel shitty about your gender, race, sexuality, [insert oppression here] by their behavior during these interpersonal interactions.

This weekend brought up for me a great example of the way power dynamics work on an individual level, as I found myself surrounded by men (straight men, ew)  for the majority of the weekend, and this is including Friday. As you can imagine, I was over it real, real quick. Any woman who is paying a lick of attention can relate to the experience of being the only woman in a group of men, saying something at the same time as a man, and having what she said be disregarded in favor of what the man has said. I would argue that this is as common an experience for women as being hit on, and it’s bullshit! Men are so used to privileging their voices over the voices of women that when it happens it is barely noticeable by either gender – it is just the order of the day, once a-fucking-gain, men unapologetically taking up space while we women wait, hope, and fight to be recognized and acknowledged within that space.

Interactions do not have to be directly sexist from one person to another for the dynamics of sexism to work themselves in. None of the men I was surrounded by this past weekend have any reason to feel anything but benevolence towards me – I am their friend’s girlfriend so my existence is minimally relevant them, just someone to be nice to while they hang out with my boyfriend. Regardless, because oppression has made it so that public space is still the domain of men, their voices are automatically privileged because space belongs to them. Obviously I don’t actually have to be “in public” for male privilege to kill my fucking vibe everywhere I go – three’s a crowd so as long as there are three or more people conversing, the space becomes “public” if there is at least one male in the group. Like in the French language. In French, you can refer to groups of people (“they”) as either “ils” or elles,” the former being masculine and the latter feminine. The only time you would actually use “elles” is if the group of people you are referring to only has women in it – one man and you automatically refer to the group as a group of “he’s:” “ils,” even if there is only one motherfucker in it and throngs of women.

And actually I take that back – you don’t need to have one male in the group for the dynamics of sexism to work themselves in neatly. Yes, in terms of privileging voice in a conversation, a male voice is required for this direct interaction to take place, but this does not mean that the insidious and slimy nature of sexism doesn’t work its way into our conversations as women with women as well. In fact, it would be silly of me to assume that we as women could ever really escape the privileging of a male voice, a perspective, a framework… after all, isn’t that world in which we live? More than twice this weekend did I want to break into James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World” as these fools were talking and completely missing the fact that I had uttered sounds, words, interesting and relevant commentary on what was being spoken about at any given time. It’s not that we are being ignored as women. (Some of) what we say eventually is heard and is responded to, but it takes an assertion on our part for our voices to have equal paring with the voices of men, and this is very literal and very figurative.

Not only did the privileging-of-male-voices turn me off this weekend but in general the ubiquitous male gaze. The male gaze is something I have said hi to, told to fuck off, and struggled to escape from, and for the most part (I think but probably not) I feel I have gained enough awareness of it at least to try to resist it in a constructive and safe way. This weekend, however, as I spent copious amounts of time in the presence of heterosexual men as the only female, I also found myself reverting to more patriarchal and sexist ways of thinking. Freud (fuck Freud) calls this the defense mechanism of regression, where one regresses into “earlier stages of [psychological] development” when faced with a stressful or threatening event. I wasn’t stressed or threatened by any of the events that happened this weekend, but I am in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar practices, dynamics, and expectations than I am used to, so I found myself regressing. At one point during the weekend, while the boys were cleaning (one advantage of loving to cook is having people offer to clean up the mess afterwards!) I sat in the dining room of this beautiful, grand flat I am staying in in Paris, smoking a joint while overlooking the sun-soaked apartment tops of the neighborhood through giant windows, listening to music, generally just chilling the fuck out. When I listen to music I close my eyes and bob my head to the beat and try to enjoy the sensual experience of being spoken to through the medium of a musical rhythm… so the boys come into the room to eat and I continue to do my own thing, but now because they are in the room I was conscious of myself, of how I looked, how I moved, how I sat; just really mundane shit that no one should ever really give a fuck about ever.

It was strange for me to experience such sudden and familiar self-consciousness, and essentially, as I have identified it, be susceptible to the subtle and gripping power of the male gaze. I know myself enough to know that this is what I was responding to, but I didn’t understand why. When thinking about regression as a defense mechanism, perhaps I was regressing into a more sexist and patriarchal way of thinking because I was already especially sensitive to the gender dynamics of the weekend, starting with being over the male-voice-privileging. I am in a country unfamiliar to me, with people who understand things differently than I (culturally), with the hurdle of language to overcome when trying to communicate. I am also in a very unfamiliar environment in the sense that I am living with my boyfriend for a short time, and this is after coming from living alone in my own apartment, in my own city, lit as fuck with all black errythang. How did I go from being a lit-ass bitch paying all her bills to a (still) lit-ass bitch who is (still) paying all her own bills – lol – but worried about what some fucking guys (white guys at that) think of me??? It’s regression! Thank you Freud… for that ONE thing, I guess.

It is quite an adjustment to be living like a wifey (temporarily) when I am generally anti-wifey, to live within a culture that is much different (but in many ways the same) from the culture that I come from, and I am changing and growing and learning everyday. Sexism, however, is sexism wherever you are, and male privilege stanks just as much abroad.