March 2015 Archives

March 14, 2015

Getting Away from the USA

The Next Great Migration - NYTimes.com

Watching what happened in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island and knowing that blacks are 21 times more likely than whites to be shot by the police constitute a heavy psychological tax.

In this piece, Mr. Williams suggests that perhaps black Americans should consider some time apart from their home country. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have the exact same thought during those bleak months ending 2014.

Replies arrived of varying types, petering out as Twitter discussions usually do, but I’ve never stopped thinking about whether my time in the United States has reached its expiration date—a thought that had never entered my mind, even in my time living abroad. On the surface, it is about escaping that psychological tax. But that’s the beginning; where the impetus starts. Moving from that central theme outward, we find, as James Baldwin wrote (and the author quoted), “the sanction, if one can accept it, to become oneself.”

“The race situation back home occupies so much space in your mind, even just safety-wise, I actually never fully understood what it meant to be American, and all the advantages that come with it, until now.” There are subtler satisfactions, too: “You immediately remove that affirmative action target from your back. A work visa gives you the validation that you’re good at what you do.”

What prosperity of the black American can be realized in an environment steeped in ostracization, fear and inferiority? Such an environment, paired with the oft-heard call to repair one’s own reputation, create the most vicious of cycles. What if we could break that by just…going away? Stepping further, how could there not be benefit from black Americans seeing the world—not just Paris but Caracas, Rabat, Seoul, Warsaw, Jakarta—and returning, indelibly changed?

I currently cannot imagine a better way to both free a black American from cultural stigma and expand their global perspective than to leave the US—not permanently, but longer than a vacation. And I wonder what negative effect could possibly lie beyond that horizon.

March 11, 2015

Ten Points for Prosperity

  1. The power, influence and resources necessary to improve the world—and your world—is held by a few rich, powerful and influential people.
  2. These people, overwhelmingly, are male. They also happen to be mostly white.
  3. When they extend their influence and share their resources, they do so to those who are most familar (and similar) to them.
  4. Whether these people are racist or not, this practice qualifies as institutional racism.
  5. Fun fact: despite much “knowledge” to the contrary, there is no scientific evidence of any human difference based on skin color or hair texture. There is only one race; the human race.
  6. Most of what is considered to be race-specific is actually culturally or environmentally acquired. These behaviors can be learned.
  7. Knowing these facts, many have improved their situation by studying and adopting the language, behavior and practices of a better-situation. Some do so on-demand, retaining their first culture. This is referred to as “code-switching.”
  8. Code-switching reinforces the inappropriate advantage of the power-holder. Adopting their behavior restricts prosperity in diversity.
  9. True, scalable and diverse prosperity is most successfully achieved by the collective commitment of disparate communities to elevate prosperity through their own means, free of assistance and in a way that works specifically for them. Oppression cannot be ended by the oppressor; it must be ameliorated by the oppressed—preferably in love, which breaks the cycle of hatred.
  10. Looking at the lessons from the experiences of others, including those currently holding power, one must work to develop prosperity for self and for those like self. I am the catalyst for change in the world—in my world.

March 10, 2015

Something Big

It’s not that I fall in love too easily, because I’m not falling in love with people, but that looking at someone long enough will yield something I find admirable, novel or incorrigibly cute.

I consider this a virtue, not a flaw. Yet perhaps my greatest foundational dissonance arises from this facet of my being: I live—half expecting, half hoping—for others to see me and find me charming, novel, or noteworthy. Perhaps when I was younger, when youth is its own attractor, this worked—certainly it brought me to where I am today. But as I grow older, I perceive my value as diminishing; I see fewer people falling in love with me.

Expanding outward, the people who I will always consider most like me—the people who grew up like me and to some extent look like me—don’t have a good reputation either. This bothers me. They live, they smile; they struggle, they persevere. They win some and lose some and live and die and love and hate; what did they do in their life that made them less endearing to others? They had little, they have little, they’ll likely end with little; is their material domain the reason for their ostracizing?

If so, what can I do to expand their material domain? How can I raise their social worth to a level that gives them a level opportunity to be assessed, rather than being an exception to a general consensus—as I often feel I am. Making it personal again, how can I raise the reputation of those like me, thus increasing my opportunity to be loved again, just for being me?

This is the first problem I want to take the time to get right. I’ll take the time to talk through the problem, ensuring its definition is accurate. Then I’ll explore ways to address the issue, hopefully using the most effective solutions toward righting the situation.

Something big is what I’m after now, what I’m living for.

March 7, 2015

Taking the time to get it right

As in previous years, I’ve selected a theme for 2015. Most years I’ve grasped this concept quickly and with little editing, but this time I’ve had to work a little harder, taking the time to get it right.

In the later stages of last year, I was nearly certain it would be “Digital Monasticism.” I was experiencing a distillation of interests, a sinking of things that were frivolous combined with a increased desire for things of substance, that seemed to be leading to an accepted withdrawal from popular circles. I felt okay with it, though, because of the technological tools that were at my disposal.

A generation or two ago committing one’s self to the pursuit of truth or justice or betterment was an isolating affair; most occupations would take too much resource to allow for your pursuit, and most societal arrangements were too distracting. In this age I am given a laptop, a portable work device, to work on the internet, a globally accessed medium, recognizing that what I do—and am paid well for—can be done anywhere, at anytime.

For example, I’m in Ireland right now using said machine with no issues. My manager lives here; we usually meet each other regularly via video conferencing. The difference between now and the usual is that we have a few more unscheduled conversations and we get to share a few meals. For me to do my job however, there’s little difference if I’m in Dublin, Ireland or Dublin, California—or Dubai, for that matter.

I also have this Internet. Unlike those of old who sought to understand more fully, I really do have access to a tremendous amound of material that will be useful in the pursuit. My time would be better spent in restricting, rather than procuring, what I’d need to study. And with this trusty old blog I can document my findings. Twitter and Medium, among others, may have some involvement it the publishing process as well.

But in discussion, both conversational and therapeutic, I came to a fork in the proverbial road of my thought: If I had to choose between a clear and concise understanding of truth or a deep and effective understanding of others, which would I choose? The few people I surveyed in this all chose the latter, and I understood their logic. I wondered if I was losing something, something that kept me connected to humanity. I ultimately decided that conservatism would be my approach for now, and that removing myself from the world, being seen only by the works I publish would be more extreme that conservative.

And so I wrestled with the slogan for 2015. I knew what I wanted, but I needed a new approach. This was more work that I had previously given to the tradition, so it was a bit off-putting. Even so, In fits and spurts, I mulled it over, contemplated the extrication of monasticism from what it was I actually wanted.

In the meantime, I’d long adopted as a professional motivator one of Twitter’s core values: Be Rigorous, Get it Right—and the more I thought of it, the more it really was what I wanted. I wanted to do what it takes to get things right; correcting my perceptions, my actions and so on .

So this year I’ll be taking the time to get it right. I’m already better for the time I’ve applied thus far.