The idea of a David and Goliath struggle appeals to many, and many love playing the underdog, and being of the counterculture group. This mentality exists throughout groups of activists working for non-profit organizations of many kinds, particularly on the politically left, liberal side of the spectrum. This mentality is often extremely harmful to the causes and utterly counterproductive to actual efficacy when fighting for causes.
The simple fact of the matter is that Big Business is here to stay. No one is going to take down Big Business. Maybe a company here or there will fold, and most likely be bought out and never really disappear anyway, but Big Business is here to stay. And since big businesses like Nike provide millions of jobs worldwide (or has done so since its inception in 1968) and help to keep our global economy up and running, this is probably for the best. Whether it is or isn’t ideal—by whomever’s standards—is irrelevant to the fact that it’s true. And since it’s true it is what we have to deal with. We don’t have to see Big Business as the absolute enemy though, just an existing structure that requires reform. I know many people think they’d like to overthrow Big Business, and some or even many U.S. citizens think they’d like to start a social and political revolution that would perhaps violently overthrow their current governmental system. For them my advice would be to study history so you might actually have some idea of what you’re actually talking about instead of just mouthing off about thing you feel strongly about but don’t really know anything about because you haven’t actually researched it (a practice that’s been painfully common in Western society ever since the Baby Boomer generation, a generation that actually believed sticking flowers in guns would have some sort of effect on police and military force, and that sleeping around with everyone and taking copious amounts of drugs would actually somehow be a good thing for the structure and functioning of our society). If you studied modern history you’d probably change your mind about wanting total revolution or any kind of governmental overthrow (modern history is considered as being from after the Dark or Middle Ages of the 5th to 15th Centuries, after the fall of the Roman Empire, to the modern times; there’s early modern history and late modern history). If you studied modern history you’d study a great deal of colonialism and see what problems happen every time a society experiences massive social upheaval of a change of government; in brief: total chaos, civil wars, mass murders and rapes. For a very modern example, look at Somalia, which hasn’t had a functioning government in years. (Watching the film Blackhawk Down, a dramatization of a true story of a battle from the early 1990’s, would give you an idea of what happens in places with no functioning government. Spoiler alert: a local warlord controls people by starving them out, and many people—natives and U.S. citizens—die horrific, bloody deaths.) That’s just something to consider before moving forwards with any plans of political upheaval or the overthrow of existing institutions. If you still want to do it after that, then at least you won’t be completely uninformed about it.
So, working with the idea of reforming the existing structures we have, instead of fighting against big businesses, activists could approach them about diversifying into new, environmentally-friendly business ventures. For example, they could approach manufacturers of paper products about eventually switching from tree-based paper products to bamboo-based paper products.
Bamboo grows much faster than trees do and could be farmed for paper goods. Paper goods are biodegradable and these goods could include cardboard boxes, cardboard for packaging, stationary papers, printer paper, gift cards, toilet tissue, and much more. There’s a great deal of unused potential with this idea, and whichever company made the switch from tree-based paper products—which support the destruction of irreplaceable eco-systems and releases carbon into an already overtaxed atmosphere—would stand to make a great deal of money from it. And their PR campaign for it would be fantastic. Their pro-company propaganda—and anti-their competitors propaganda, all truthful propaganda in this instance—could make them look like public heroes for the environment, and therefore the security of future generations. They’d also retain a strategic advantage over other companies that might try copy their far more ethical business model by being able to—truthfully—claim they were the first to do it. Companies that become the first to do something always retain an advantage, which is why people often refer to certain types of products by the brand name of whomever made the product first. Examples of this include iPhone for Smartphone, Xerox for copy machine, and Laundromat for a public, coin-operated launderette.
Furthermore, to grow all that bamboo would involve being able to get some farming giant to look into that new business venture—or for the paper products company to go into the farming business. Since vast farming lands would be needed for this venture it could be an opportunity for a company to diversify into the growing Vertical Farming market. (The company Sky Greens is an example of this.)
Vertical farms create the opportunity to essentially stack farmland space, making farming take up far less land space by growing upwards instead of outwards. And since these vertical gardens are enclosed environments it would easier to reduce pesticide use and control contaminated water run-off from these farms...
Social activism is like a club. It gets elitist and people only want to invite certain people to join. Case in point: environmentalists have long seen their cause as a politically Leftist one which automatically dis-included the politically Rightist, as well as the religious, particularly Christians. They have long seen the Rightists and the Christians as their opposites and adversaries. Rightists and Christians often are the adversaries of environmentalists and conservationists, however, this may be in large part due to how Leftists and secularists have treated them. They have not been inclusive, they have not invited these people to join. And they have almost completely ignored the many Christian scientists who know that climate change is a fact. And in America they’ve completely ignored that the biggest conservationist president in U.S. history was Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican who loved hunting big game such as bears, horse riding, and went on safari to Africa for one year, largely with the intent to hunt lions. A truth like Teddy Roosevelt doesn’t fit in with the typical environmentalist narrative of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, even though he very famously founded our national parks system, dedicating bast swaths of land to preservation rather than development because he was a hunter, an outdoorsperson.
A much better approach—unless one plans to overthrow society as we know it and exterminate their enemy, which, besides its ethical problems, historically speaking, has never worked, ever—would be to have an inclusive attitude. To get politically Rightist people, to get hunters and fishers, to get on board with conservation just as Teddy Roosevelt the rough riding bear hunter was. To go so far as to address fans of the hit U.S. TV show Duck Dynasty to care about the environment and conservation efforts by using the (truthful) angle that if we don’t conserve wild lands then eventually there will be no duck hunting grounds or ducks to hunt. This approach hasn’t been taken because people today are far too preoccupied with trying to control and change others and their lifestyles and to mold society to how they think it should be rather than accepting and appreciating differences between human beings who are each leading the type of lifestyle that is right for them.
If we put the same amount of energy into trying to find common ground and work together towards goals based around scientific facts as we do into arguing all the bloody time we could actually get a lot done instead of constantly fighting while actually accomplishing very little—while the world burns and the end date of when we can turn all this around draws ever nearer. Atheist and Christian scientists alike look at the facts and admit that climate change and global warming are a reality. And in one documentary I watched, Years of Living Dangerously, Christians, when talked to about the issue by a Christian scientist who put God and Jesus language into everything she said about global warming, saw the reality of it. It was not hard to bring them on board on the issue once their God was put into the language instead of being left out—a common complaint of modern Christians. Most environmentalists won’t put the Christian god into the language—even to say it like, ‘Christian scientists believe this’—because they don’t want to. It goes against their little unofficial club’s rules. This means that millions of people who might help in the fight against climate change are not being utilized because of ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality that may in the end prevent us all from making headway with conservation legislation for so long that we all die here on a burning planet. And Death being the one big equalizer only then will people finally see that there was no ‘us’ and ‘them’, there was only all of humanity, and we all should have worked together.
I wasn’t trying to write about social issues, or add to this blog, at this point, especially given that since I began college (in my late 20’s) I’ve come to see how hard it actually is to research and get to really know any issue or group. However, some of my recent work to simply better-educate and inform myself is very topical right now.
I wound up posting about it to friends of mine…
“As you may have noticed, I try to be fairly middle-of-the-road and pragmatic rather than partisan about social and political issues (not saying I'm inherently successful at this, I'm saying I try). Currently I'm looking into the liberal assertion that no gun owners, especially white male gun owners, have stopped any crimes in the past 10 years. So far, my research seems to be saying that that's actually a lie. If so, it would mean I can't trust the liberals to not lie anymore than I can trust the conservatives to not lie. (They've made assertions such as that Switzerland requires all citizens to have guns, which isn't true, and that Honduras banned citizens from having guns which isn't true.)
I think we're all getting caught up reacting to memes, shock articles, etc. that promote of pre-existing views but that we're not researching for ourselves to see what we're being exposed to is actually true and what isn't.
Long story short: Every Needs to Think for Themselves, and frankly not trust the interests of any group, even those they're a member of and/ or have supported for years.
Please do your own research people, be informed, and think for yourselves. (Anyone who won't frankly shouldn't be allowed to vote.) Thanks.” (Facebook post of mine.)
One Facebook friend and fellow college student (though in her 40’s, getting a second degree) responded by saying the “good guy with the gun” is an image that is shoved down our throats but very rarely ever happens. But mass shootings are an almost daily occurrence in the U.S.
“The point to me here is that if a popular meme and other things say it NEVER happens and it actually does than liberals (traditionally more my side politically) are lying to me as much as conservatives. Besides that what I'm finding so far is that actual experts on things like Criminology, gun violence, and many types of crime statistics in various countries around the world are saying stricter gun laws do very little, especially since criminals get illegal guns. What does work is making a society more of a community, bringing family...
It’s quite noticeable that as people get older they acquire a confidence in their own opinions that may or may not be warranted, not unlike the youthful self-assuredness that many teenagers experience around the age of 16 (which, incidentally, accordingly to my Astrologically-inclined mother is some Saturn or Capricorn influence that comes at that age—a sort of false old wisdom).
As an example, I rented a room from and lived with a friend who’s from the Baby Boomer generation. He was concerned about rent being late and gave me what he thought was helpful advice about job-hunting but was actually condescending and completely out of touch with the modern times. When I told him about all the e-mails I’d sent and online applications I’d done while looking for work he spoke of going into a place and talking to the manager; I said if you did that anywhere these days (or for about the past 15 years) they referred you to their paper application, or later their online application, or in-store electronic kiosk application. No one got to talk to managers anymore. He talked to me—very politely but totally ignorantly—in a way that suggested he thought I was a lazy child who didn’t really want to find a job. In truth I’d been looking for work diligently for about three or four months at that point, and I was 28 and had been working since I left home, so I really didn’t appreciate being talked to like that. There simply weren’t any jobs. And all the old recruitment agencies like Manpower had gone from general places that would give you temp work to places that would only take college-educated office professionals.
When he was in his 20’s it was the 1970’s. There were some economic strains but the economy was, by and large, strong. There were many manufacturing jobs that hadn’t been outsourced overseas yet, the dollar was stronger, rents were cheaper, cars were cheaper. People could actually work at a minimum wage job and put themselves through college...
When it comes to social problems there’s really always one simple solution: build community.
Through community centers, churches (even secular ones like many Unitarian Universalist churches, or organized gatherings of atheists), recreation centers, neighborhood associations, Elks clubs, even gun clubs what we need is more community building. That is the foil for everything from drug addiction problems to violent crimes. All of society’s problems would be reduced by creating more community everywhere. A part of why this is is because it creates more of what you have naturally in a small town: a lack of anonymity and therefore both support, and accountability. When someone’s going through a hard time, when someone’s house burns down, the community in a small town gets together to support the person or family in need. And people know who you are and your dirty little secrets get known so people can’t get away with as much and they know it—my dad used to tell me that when he was a kid growing up in the then still pretty small town of Portland, Oregon he and the other kids in his neighborhood couldn’t sneak the fruit off someone’s tree without someone noticing and telling their parents.
In that community of my dad’s childhood any woman who needed a babysitter had several other women nearby that she knew whom she could leave her kids with for a few hours, if a man was known to beat his wife grandpa Collopy and some other good men from the neighborhood would go confront him to stop it, and even the hobos living under bridges would call out to strangers to leave the neighborhood kids alone.
Instead, what we have today is a society that, globally, moves farther and farther from accountability...
Why do we become our issues? Why do we identify as them and identify others as theirs (e.g. pro-gun/ anti-gun, Christian/ Muslim, Feminist/ Humanist, etc.)? And when does this happen?
As kids we can see beyond all our differences and still make friends. Money, religion, geography, and other details are erroneous to our inherent desire to go forth with good intentions. (though, admittedly, many children have bad intentions as well and we all start of fin life inherently selfish and self-centred and have to be taught to compassionately think of others as needed). When does this change? Maybe at 18 when we gain the right to vote? Do we then change to think of ourselves and others as our/ their issues? Do we think, “They voted for/ against that issue?! I can’t be friends with them anymore! I can only be friends with the same opinions on the same issues!”
I’ve though t of this with the pro-choice/ pro-life—anti-choice debate; if someone is pro-choice from a place of heart, of not wanting women to die of unsafe illegal abortions as many women do around the world every year, getting disembowelled by unsafe, illegal abortions, and someone else is pro-life from a place of heart because they believe foetuses are babies then why can’t the two of them be friends? Friends whose caring for others manifests in different ways?
Must we beat each other over the heads with our opinions like cave people with clubs? Maybe during elections, although intelligent, diplomatic, well-researched, statistically factual discussions with respect for different views might prove more effective. But if we get aggressive during elections then why not go back to being friends afterwards? Why not see that as an understandable competition, not unlike regional sports competitions, and go back to civility after the battle is over? If we all argue with each other tonight we should remember that we all still have to live with each other tomorrow.
And we are not our issues. We are not a political party, we are not a religious view, and we are not our relation to others, e.g. someone’s wife/ husband—that would imply we didn’t exist before we married that person.
We are our underlying personalities shaped by the natural forces of our life experiences, which lead us to lean towards some views and away from others (e.g. if our sister has a crisis pregnancy and gets an abortion and is happy and relieved, or if she gets an abortion and feels sorrowful about it, this will partly shape our views on abortion, but only because we’re both coming from a place of caring about our sister).
We are not our issues and we do not make friends with other peoples’ issues; we make friends with the people themselves. As long as the people around us have an underlying goodness about them and their basic belief is to respect everyone’s rights and be kind to others then there’s no reason to not be friends with them all.
I recently saw a TV show where renowned adventurer Bear Grylls took actor Stephen Fry on an adventure in mountain climbing and camping. Partway through it, as they were taking a break and sitting by a stream looking at a gorgeous cathedral of nature all around them, they began to ask existential questions. Grylls is a liberal Christian who is married with children; Fry is an Atheist/ Humanist (someone who thinks we have all the capabilities to solve our own problems) who is gay and lives alone. They talked about believing or not believing in a Higher Power, higher purpose, and whether or not there’s a heaven after life where one can see their deceased family members. Grylls wants to see his dad after he dies; Fry said he could certainly understand that but for him his beloved grandfather lives on in his own mind and memory and he has part of that person with him all the time and doesn’t need to believe he’ll actually see him again.
Then they went back to the adventure (the physical one rather than the mental one). It was a lovely and wonderful conversation, and was an excellent example of exactly how adults should approach situations where there are differences in opinion and belief: by conversing and taking an interest in understanding others’ views rather than arguing and trying to ram their opinion down another’s throat and dominate and control others and get into fights about it that lead to wars.
We need to greet each other as people and not issues.
The overriding attitude in our society is to hang onto things, people, past memories, and old beliefs that have already been proved wrong by time, science, and our growing understanding of international apology forgiveness (like U.S. Vietnam veterans going back to apologize and help find and remove the land mines). I’m someone who’s never believed in hanging onto things. I’ve always had strong beliefs about letting go. For example, if someone dies, I make sure to get rid of all their stuff, photos of them, etc. It’s very important to not hang onto them or live in the past.
This is also largely why I’ve never wanted to own property or almost any material possessions. All I have is all I actually need. Possessions own people, keep us tied to one location or an obligation to carry insurance policies, pay for repairs, pay for maintenance, and ultimately have very little freedom. When you rent the landlady/ lord has to send someone to fix things and if your neighbours cause problems you can leave.
I’ve talked about this kind of stuff with a few people, most of whom weren’t very receptive because too much of their ego and identity was tied up in what material things they had, or the false sense of security they provided. A friend of mine once recommended the book The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, which I read and loved and would recommend to everyone if they can read it open-mindedly (it’s largely Eastern but has Christian overtones, but the basic information could be used by anyone, even Atheists if they took some things as concepts rather than literal information).
I would invite everyone to really think about what they have and why, and try to remember what really matters in life: not possessions but people and experiences. Of course I don’t keep photos of fun times with friends because I think it would keep me from hungering as much for new experiences with them. Life isn’t in photos, it’s right here, right now. Are you living it?
In traditional Buddhism there’s a story where the Buddha sat under a bodhi tree for many days and nights without stop. So many days he would have died from thirst, if not hunger, which logically informs us that the story is false, the story is aggregated, or the story omits some detail about him having some sort of canister—a bowl or cup of water, or that perhaps some nice person kept quietly bringing him water. Of course he still would have needed to stop meditating periodically to pee. So I already know, logically, that something is false in this story. The story goes on to say that a demon visited him and sent temptations to try to sway him from his noble journey. It also says he defeated the demon’s armies with nothing but his virtue, but doesn’t go into detail about how one supposedly deflects an army with virtue. This is another falsehood as demons do not exist and is a logistical nightmare since virtue isn’t technically a weapon whereas armies tend to have swords and other weapons. This story seems to have been mimicked by Christians in their Temptation of Christ story. Although both men could have had their own separate but similar journeys, especially if we suppose that the barebones spirituality in every religion is the truth, under all the dressing that is specific to different cultures or was added by men (or women) seeking to gain power over populations of people.
However, nothing about these men’s lives was written down in their own time periods; followers of their religions relayed stories and principles about them many years after their deaths. In fact I doubt if we even have any hard historical evidence to prove that either of them ever existed. So we naturally have to take all things any religion or other source tries to make us believe with one enormous, gigantic grain of proverbial salt.
Never the less, if I focus simply on the bare teachings of spirituality, and ignore all the rest, I am gifted with many basic principles and plans of action that make my life easier, more peaceful, and more honest.
Personally, I grew up in rural Oregon, in a forest near tiny towns almost no one has ever heard of. So at my core I have this sense of small town ethics; your word and a handshake are more reliable than a legal contract between two city kids in a big business, partly because your very small community will hold you to it and if you betray your word everyone in the community will soon know and no one will ever trust you again. Ever. As such I find the general corruption in society, from the highest political level to the small chain stores ripping off customers by overcharging for cheap, chintzy merchandise, completely offensive. And I hate how often I have to get my own hands dirty with their kind of dishonesty to survive within a system that dishonest people have created (which is part of a concept sociologists call “anomie”). I’ve long been pursuing Buddhism, and other avenues of spirituality, to counter this and largely to get more fully back to my real self rather than try to let an outside belief system change me. This does not contradict Buddhism as one of its essential teachings is that we all have goodness in our hearts and must reawaken it. The answers in Buddhism are often found within yourself rather than outside of yourself.
Although it may come across as cocky for a student of spirituality so early on their journey to be offering any advice about it my intention isn’t to be prideful or boastful here, it is to help anyone who feels a need for more spirituality in their own lives. I think many people will resonate better with and understand better the thoughts on this journey made by someone who isn’t that much farther along than them on the journey than the words of some expert on it. I also want to emphasize the importance of using critical thinking and not just believing whatever you’re told, which is something that religious and spiritual leaders rarely if ever do, so sure are they that they have or have found all the right answers.
My spiritual journey has largely been about finding places who were intellectually and ethically already along the lines of my preexisting sense of right and wrong. For example, I was raised by two parents who were very pro-choice, largely because they’d grown up when abortion was still illegal in the U.S. and girls and women often died from illegal, back alley abortions. I could never knowingly and willingly join or support a religious community that is against a woman’s right to choose as it would betray my ethics. The community would have to either support a woman’s right to choose or accept that it, like many other decisions, must be left to its individual members. I also couldn’t be involved with a group that actively discriminates against people based on their gender, race, or sexual orientation as this too would betray my sense of ethics; that all people are born with equal value and deserve to be treated with dignity and fairness. I already knew that this meant that two of the main Middle Eastern religions—Christianity and Muslim/ Islam—would not be a spiritual home for me, although I would partially adjust that view when, in my early 20’s, I found out about liberal Christianity.
In my explorations of Buddhism, reading many texts and interpretations from many different sources, and visiting four different Buddhist places, ranging from a more traditional temple with Asian monks to a Christianized churchlike temple to a secular, very Westernized Buddhist meeting place, I have begun to come to my own understanding and interpretation of Buddhism. To me this is an essential element of any spiritual or religious journey: making it our own rather than just losing your will and allowing yourself to be brainwashed by some outside person, force, or group.
There are, as with all religions, several different variations on the same thing. In Nichiren Shoshu, Japanese, Buddhism, it’s customary to eventually buy an altar to put in your home and put offerings, especially of rice, on it, I believe daily. And in my experience, if you explore the possibility of joining them, you’re expected to try to convert a certain amount of people per year and to make a pilgrimage to a certain area in Japan—a trip you must pay for out of your own pocket. If you have faith, turn enough members, and are pure in heart the Universe will supposedly find some way to provide you with said money. My heart loved the feeling of their meditation practice, chanting nam myo-ho renge kyo. It would be very boring to me for the first 10 minutes or so but for the next 20 minutes or so it would be very relaxing and calming, even though I didn’t know what it meant (and looking online for a translation didn’t make it much clearer as each syllable seems to hold a few different interpretations of meaning). However, my logical mind clicked in and interpreted this: the temple makes money selling altars (besides that that’s materialistic, which Buddhism is not supposed to be, besides that I’ve always been a minimalist and wouldn’t want some altar and other gear to lug around with me through life). Turning new members is a pyramid scheme like most religions do to keep making more money, if you don’t get the money for the pilgrimage they’ll claim that their religion isn’t at fault but your heart just wasn’t pure enough so try again. My experience was that the temple-goers, though very nice people, seemed more concerned with trying to get me to join and being the one who got me to join since they literally have a quota for how many people they’re supposed to turn per year, than they were with me, my spiritual needs, or any emotional support someone might be seeking from joining a religious community.
The first woman I talked to on the phone, who was white, to ask if it was okay for a non-member to just show up for a service kept making it abundantly clear to any other members that she talked to me first. She was my first contact, and therefore if I joined she would get the credit and the added number to her annual quota.
I thought if I ever went on a Buddhist pilgrimage it would make far more sense to go to India, where the Buddha, Prince Sidhartha, was from and where Buddhism was actually founded. Nichiren Shoshu came along about 1,000 years later and supposedly had visions and went on his own spiritual journey to found this new form of Buddhism, which made brain think, hmm, either he was a very spiritual person or he found a way to get followers and their money.
I was troubled by the beads and the book we were supposed to use during the chanting services. All temple members had a string of beads that were steeped in symbology. There were a certain number of beads, some stood for your mother or father, and they were to be held a certain way (in a figure-8), with the mother bead on one side and the father bead on the other while chanting. I would often hold a string of beads that a temple member generously let me borrow (practically shoved into my hands and forced me to use because they seemingly believed it actually had some mystical powers). It reminded me of a rosary as used by Catholics and seemed far too materialistic for Buddhists, besides that I found it hard to fathom how any adults could believe it had mystical powers. Furthermore, we’d break from chanting to read passages from their religious text—which was written in Japanese with English transliteration for pronunciation but without being translated into English. I found this very Christian or Catholic as well, although it is perhaps just a common human religious practice. It didn’t bother me except that I wouldn’t join a religious community where I didn’t actually know what I was agreeing to because it wasn’t reliably translated into English. I believe I would have had to purchase a copy of the book, which I didn’t really mind, except that it would mean nothing to me because I don’t speak Japanese and although I love languages I’m not good with them at all and wasn’t interested in having to pause my spiritual growth for maybe 10 years to learn an Asian language (yes 10, being as bad with languages as I am) when other religious communities had everything translated into my language already.
The main services were performed in a large room like you’d expect in a church and had an altar that was gorgeous, decorated with very large black objects with beautiful gold calligraphy in Japanese script (or symbols), and much more. It was beautiful but also very materialistic. And I didn’t even see any statues of Buddha anywhere. It seemed much more about worshipping Nichiren Shoshu and giving his temple your money while being brainwashed than being about the Buddha. And the thing is, in Buddhism there is no belief in god or gods. Buddhism, traditionally, doesn’t claim to know if there are or are not gods, nor does it claim that the Buddha was the only Buddha that ever lived or that he was divine. It says there were other Buddhas before him, have been Buddhas since, and that Prince Sidhartha was just a man. He was a man who was awakened to a great truth after going through a life of luxury in the palace, and then a life of asceticism (denial of all worldly enjoyments) before being awakened to the “middle way” of Buddhism. To bow to a statue of Buddha is not to say you’re less than his holiness, it is to say you’re paying homage to a great teacher whose teachings help you to see the path to your own enlightenment—your own awakened state. So I felt very uneasy by being around a version of Buddhism that seemed to be worshipping a single person. In my humble opinion much of their practices seemed very unspiritual, worldly, materialistic, and not what I thought Buddhism would be about. (Although some of this I would not be able to articulate fully until years later when I’d done more research into traditional Buddhism from the source: the Buddha in India, rather than some other guy centuries later. However, it should be noted that the Nichiren Shoshu practices might just be more inherently Japanese. As Buddhism—or any religion—migrated it was altered by the preexisting customs of the areas it entered, especially as this would make it easier to convert the people in the area. This is why those preaching Christianity decided to take over the pagan winter festival where green plant “essences” would be taken indoors for preservation over the winter, and a feast held to lift peoples’ spirits, a.k.a. “Christmas”.)
I don’t know if all Japanese Buddhist temples are run this way, I just know what I experienced at that temple. It was my introduction to Buddhism and it turned me off Buddhism for years.
I was born in the 1980’s, when women in TV and film were still usually secretaries in police stations, nurses, mistresses of politicians, stay-at-home moms, and general helpless females waiting to be rescued by men. The shift in the portrayal of women in entertainment since then has been extraordinary. It’s been amazing what we’ve seen since women started working more and more as producers. The simple exploration of women’s bodies, women’s lives, and the minute personal details that are portrayed in shows like The L Word (produced by Ilene Chaiken), Weeds (produced by Jenji Kohan), Orange is the New Black (produced by Jenji Kohan), and the non-cable Two Broke Girls (produced by Whitney Cummings) is absolutely extraordinary to me. It’s nearly therapeutic seeing women’s lives portrayed honestly and without shame. And in Orange seeing women’s nudity often portrayed in very non-sexual ways (such as women pre-soaping up in a line in a shower room so they can shower in 30 seconds before the drains start spewing up black sledge).
Some people complain about shows like this and the lifestyle choices they may promote, which is at times a valid concern with entertainment forms, however, these shows are much less about promoting any type of lifestyle than they are about being honest about how people really live. The tradition with human storytelling has for centuries been to create fantastical tales, i.e. to lie. These shows—and many other cable greats like True Detective—just stop dressing up stories about people. They stop adding a nobility that people usually don’t have and are instead portraying people in exceptionally honest ways; here we are, faults and all. No, these characters aren’t perfect, and neither are our viewers, or anyone else.
I was amazed when I saw a scene in Weeds where the lead character, Nancy Botwin, is in her bathroom shaving her legs. It was amazing to me to see a TV show portray this very real part of women’s lives. Something that shows made by men miss. It was amazing to me that when I thought it I’d never seen this portrayed before. I’d seen many, many scenes with men shaving in TV shows and movies but only one other seen with a woman, in Girl, Interrupted (based on the book by Susanna Kaysen) when the lead character wants a razor to shave her legs and is taken aback by the fact a psychiatric nurse is required to watch her the whole time. But we didn’t actually see her shave, we only saw her in a bathtub being handed the razor. Scenes like this really show the intimate details and experiences of women’s lives which heretofore have long been censored, either intentionally or simply by omission—the act of making women invisible and instead showing a male fantasy in public.
In an episode of Two Broke Girls one of the lead characters, Max, is very vocal about her displeasure that her boss has raised the price of tampons dispensed in the bathroom of the diner where she waitresses. She protests it by buying many tampons on sale and offering them to customers for free until her boss finally caves in. That this would even be mentioned or a tampon shown on TV (and this was network and not cable TV) was amazing. The shame associated with this perfectly normal (if weird) bodily function is extraordinary and sickening. Even today fully grown women are embarrassed to go to the store and buy tampons or pads because they feel like the cashier and any customers around will know they’re menstruating. As if it matters, as if anyone cares, as if everyone’s judging them for having a normal bodily function that they can’t do anything about (without taking potentially very dangerously high doses of prescribed artificial hormones that is.) No one experiences shame and embarrassment when they buy any other normal hygiene products like toilet tissue, shaving cream and razors, shampoo and conditioner. I really feel good about what shows like these are doing for women, for normalizing women being honest about who we are and how we live, for normalizing and validating normal, real female experiences of life.
The scene in Orange is the New Black where one of the lead characters, Red, is complaining that the women in prison steal all her phallic-shaped vegetables for use as dildoes is both hilarious and wonderful; it shows women that it’s normal and healthy to have the physical desires that came hardwired into our bodies. It says, no you’re not the only one who feels like that. No, you’re not a weird, disgusting, shameful, freak. You are just a human being, living in a human body, which was programmed a certain way. You’re actually very normal.
It’s strange how we females are taught about the unpleasant, inconvenient, and dangerous things that come with having a female body (periods, cramps, potential rape, potential denial of access to abortion even when our lives are in danger) but are rarely if ever talked to about the good and pleasurable things. To this day this kind of blunt, unromantic honesty about female sexuality is still largely taboo. Growing up you’re warned about periods—how your body will leak fluid and probably have cramps and be in pain. You’re told that this will also cause wild mood swings, although only some women experience that. Women in my family don’t and for the longest time I thought the mood swings were just a myth, or an emotional reaction to a normal bodily function that’s been shamed and in Christian mythology attached to the notion of punishing all females for destroying human paradise, as in the Eden myth written by men to control women. But hormonal mood swings are the stereotype used to discredit all females.
You’re warned about men trying to force themselves on you, warned about rape, warned not to trust male gynaecologists (my mother was sexually abused by hers as a teenager in the 1960’s when there were no female gynaecologists available to her), and lectured on how to keep any teenage boy ever dated from getting us alone with him or having sex. You’re told how to tell him to go take care of his own desires by himself and that you’re not obligated to help him with those needs, even if he tries to guilt-trip you into saying you caused him to feel that way.
Beyond that you grow up seeing almost exclusively male-centric portrayals of sexuality, which all imply that females have no sexual desire and don’t masturbate. That’s for “dirty” and “violent” males, and not mature and in-control, “nurturing” females. Almost any female desire is portrayed as existing for men only or for romance and reproductive purposes only.
You’re not taught that you too will have sexual desires and that that’s okay. You’re taught your body will periodically leak blood as your uterus convulses violently but you’re not told you’ll leak sexual lubricants. So it may come as a real surprise.
The first time this happens your reaction will likely be along the lines of, what the holy hell is my body doing now?! As with periods if your mother didn’t warn you ahead of time. You’re not told that female bodies on rare occasions experience a kind of female ejaculation with loads of clear, silky fluid coming out either. You’re not educated on anything to do with your female body as it relates to actually enjoying your own sexuality.
It’s about damn time that women were in a position to start portraying all aspects of women’s lives honestly. Like on The L Word when Kit gets pregnant by accident, thinking that as a menopausal woman it wouldn’t happen, and she doesn’t want another kid, so she gets an abortion. Then in Weeds Nancy asks her gynaecologist if she does abortions because she’s considering getting one. Her gynaecologist passes no judgment and says she can make another appointment for whatever she decides. Meanwhile, her gynaecologist is being followed and harassed by anti-choice religious fanatics who routinely threaten her life. On Orange is the New Black Dayanara gets pregnant by accident and first tries to pursue abortion before deciding to keep the foetus. This is all good—it’s a realistic portrayal of women’s actual, real experiences. As is women talking about how frightened they are of pregnancy and childbirth, or for some women, how much having children has never appealed to them—which was touched on in the network show Bones, based on a series of books by Kathy Reichs. But oddly lack of desire to have kids in women is still largely a taboo subject—amongst women. Most men are very accepting of it and tend to think it’s your life, your body, and your choice anyway, and if you’re not married to them it doesn’t really affect them. But as time goes on and society continues to progress I’m hopeful to see more honesty about how many of us females don’t like kids and don’t want to have any—something that’s often judged very harshly by women but is simply just another part of the full range of collective female experience.
In one book my mother had, titled something like ‘Woman’s Body: an Owner’s Manual’ (I no longer recall), the author expounded on the chances of you being raped—how common it is, how violent, the likeliness of contracting a Sexually Transmitted Disease and an unwanted pregnancy, how likely it was that you’d suffer vaginal tearing and even permanent scarring and loss of sensation from the violence of penetration, and many other interesting facts about rape. She also went into gynaecological visits, and what to expect from having a speculum inserted in your vagina—a somewhat phallic instrument that goes in and is then essentially cranked a little, not unlike a car jack, to open your female insides so a doctor can get a flashlight, look around, and reach instruments in to take cervical scrapings—a wholly uncomfortable experience to say the least. She said to be careful because some doctors weren’t thoughtful and didn’t warm the speculum first, and that some were rough with their hands as well. And in general, being female was a horrible minefield of vaginal disasters just waiting to try to destroy you. At no point did the author, who considered herself a pro-women Feminist, stop to mention that occasionally nothing bad happens to you or your genitals. In fact, most of the time nothing horrible is happening to you or your genitals. And although it’s important to be warned about the dangers and uncomfortable changes that come with growing into a woman, it is not all bad.
In fact, I read elsewhere (probably in one of my mother’s many sex books that we kids weren’t supposed to read) that penises have 400 nerve endings (less some sensitivity for men who’ve been more or less butchered with circumcision) whereas the clitoris has 800 nerve endings (hence it usually shouldn’t be touched directly), and that’s not even including all the nerve endings in the vagina. This would suggest that women’s bodies were actually made for pleasure and not pain, which would be very logical given that sexual pleasure is an excellent lure to keep a species procreating, which is all nature really cares about. Whether it’s germs, viruses, monkeys, tulips, blueberry trees, or humans, nature just functions in favour of propagation. (Propagation without thought whereas very fortunately we modern humans have given it more thought and invented latex condoms to largely thwart the viruses and the unwanted
You’re not told how much pleasure your body is capable of experiencing; how extraordinary the tiny, refined clitoris is or how amazing vaginal sex feels—whether with a man and his penis or a woman and her hands or toys. Or perhaps vegetables for those who are so inclined, or are so desperate (I’m not judging here, it’s not my business).
In The Hunger Games films, based on the books by Suzanne Collins, we see a female action hero—Katniss Everdeen—portrayed in a way that female action heroes rarely if ever have been; able to be very glamorous and very strong and capable. This is a far cry from the few and far in-between action heroes of my childhood, like Ripley in Alien (and its sequels) and Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. Both of them were excellent characters and I have no complaints, but it’s good to see that sometimes women can be feminine and still be strong; they don’t have to be “like men”. I know characters like Ripley and Sarah Connor challenged what a woman was or could be but the vast majority of women do feel feminine so it’s good for them to see examples of strong but feminine women. Katniss was also very unusual in that the character is, above all else, an extremely practical person who isn’t prone to gossip, or other negative girlie stereotypes, yet she is still very much a girl. It’s very good to have some female action heroes whom more females than us in the minority can relate to. And unlike in the first Tomb Raider film our heroine isn’t made to look strong next to mostly weak male characters. Katniss is surrounded by strong, powerful men, some of whom are her dear friends, and she still holds her own as a strong person, whether hunting with her bow and arrow or showing up a corrupt government in a beautiful, glamorous dress on a stage.
This is a much more realistic and ironically historically accurate portrayal of the vast majority of women than we’ve seen in decades, even centuries. Throughout history most people worked on farms in very small communities. Women toiled away on the farms working constantly. If her husband left to go hunting she had to keep a rifle to protect herself and their children and run the farm in his absence. If he died she had to take on running the farm. The myth of women as helpless, incapable, big girls prone to the whims of useless gossip and wasteful fashion is a very urban, and socially manufactured notion. Given this, it’s not surprising that when women were fighting for the right to vote in the United States women and men in rural areas were much more likely to vote in favour of women gaining the vote whereas those in urban areas were far more likely to vote against it.
As for voting, consumerism is a form of voting; every time you buy a particular product, a certain brand, or watch a specific TV show you are voting with your consumer power. Every time you buy something, watch a video on YouTube all the way through, or Like something on Facebook you’re voting. Every view these TV shows and films gets is a vote in favour of a world where women are treated more like the real, actual people, rather than anyone’s fictional idea of us.
I remember one time I was talking with one of the professors, who’s also a Dean, at my college about the organisational behaviour class she was taking over. I said that when I’d taken it before the professor and I had agreed about what motivates employees: treat them with respect and be reasonable about the hours they work and give them fair financial compensation for it, like CostCo does by giving good hours, good pay, and time off as needed. To my surprise she didn’t seem to agree and instead said something about how a lot of research has been done to try to figure out what will motivate employees. It was only later that it occurred to me that the other professor, a man, was from a working class background. He only later decided on college and ultimately an MA from Trinity College Dublin. This woman Dean, however, had spent her whole life in the upper classes. So if your expectation is to automatically get a good job that may or may not involve much work, get paid well for it, have health coverage from it, and be allowed vacation time and a fair amount of sick days then what myself and the other professor talked about wouldn’t apply to you since you’d always been guaranteed that an employer would treat you well and give you good compensation, for work or just for showing up. The majority of people, however, struggle to be treated like human beings by their employers as they majority of people throughout the world are working class or low-middle class people. They are the backbone of every society and have been throughout history yet they typically have never gotten fair compensation for this.
A few years ago I briefly worked at a grocery store owned by a large company that’s bought up many formerly local grocery stores and let the stores keep their original, regionally-friendly names. They seemed to think employees were all criminals and the store should be run as a kind of minimum-security jail. They had cameras everywhere and company policies included that you couldn’t enter or exit the building through regular doors during your shift. You had to use a key card and scan in and out of certain doors only. Your bags and possibly your person if you had baggy clothes or a jacket were subject to search at any time without any provocation.
Police officers in America can’t search your backpack or purse without a warrant unless they see something illegal in plain sight in it. But the company reserved that right over you. The police couldn’t violate your basic Constitutional right to not be search (if they did anything found would be inadmissible in court) but this company could figuratively burn the U.S. Constitution. They had a whole system for anonymously ratting out any fellow employees you saw stealing, and a reward system for it as well. I was working under 40 hours a week there so I wasn’t considered a full-time employee and therefore wouldn’t be eligible for any health benefits or vacation time or any other benefits. And as long as I was deemed “in training” they didn’t even have to pay me minimum wage. This is what working class America under the Capitalist corporate regime is like—unlike the Capitalism my dad dealt with when he got a good-paying job at an industrial plant and worked there through the 1960’s and 1970’s because companies back then still had real American values.
Meanwhile, I heard that at Costco they paid people more than the bare minimum wage, let them have days off when needed for sickness or family events, or maybe just an employee’s birthday, and they saw more profits because there was less employee turnover, fewer employees calling in for sick days, and less employee theft. If you treat your employees like they’re your prisoners rather than your team members they will endeavour the passive-aggressive retaliation of theft. If you treat your fellow human beings in a decent way they will reward your diligence for their care with good, loyal service for years to come (generally speaking).
But the Dean was way too high in the job stratosphere to know or understand this. How do you motivate employees when they’re guaranteed good treatment, pay, time off, and benefits no matter where they work? Oh my, the horrors of rich people problems, how I wish I had them. Please rich people—give me your problems!
The world looks very different when you’re a straight, rich person I suppose, especially if you’re also white. This is the same Dean who thought I was being ridiculous when I didn’t like that one of the plays our Performing Arts department wrote and performed had no social issues in it. She said, well everyone must decide for themselves how involved they want to get with any issues, while some of my classmates had nothing more on their minds than the next board game they could play and next night out drinking. As she knew, we in the West benefit from the slave labour of sweat shop factory work. That’s how clothes, electronics, and almost everything else we buy comes to us. Yet she, and many people, really do think none of us has to be aware of social issues. So apparently many people think it’s okay for us to rob the world so we can live comfortably, but then we don’t owe the world anything. Some people think we can just take and take and not give back.
That being said, this Dean had done volunteer work before and was generally nice to everyone. But I found her sense of thinking spoiled rich people have every right to vacuous disassociation from the very global social problems they help to support appalling. And I couldn’t help but think that some of us have to care where society is going because our own survival depends on it; blacks and other racial minorities, gays and other sexual minorities, the working class especially women. We have to care and fight all the time just for basic decent treatment, like getting equal access to jobs, and pay. And some of us care even when the issue doesn’t affect us personally just because it’s the right thing to do.
Well, for that I suppose the only explanation is that evolution doesn’t go at the same rate for each and every animal here on Earth. Babies and toddlers are completely self-focused and essentially behave as sociopaths—they care only about themselves and what they want and lack empathy for others. A part of becoming an adult is thinking of others—other people and the larger, independent community, of which we are all a part. Some of us grow up but some people just get older. Yeah, I know what they’d say: that last statement is offensive and it’s just that they have other priorities. No, they have self-involvement, and my statement isn’t offensive, their lack of concern for others and the larger society in which we all live is what’s offensive.
Represent All Women, including the childless-by-choice, and our experiences.
Foster an attitude of Accepting Men, and their positive and negative experiences with women.
Promote a pro-choice/ pro-life alliance and other solutions to move away from all the pointless fighting in society.
Unite political Leftists and Rightists in a common struggle against environmental destruction.
Promote tolerance related to ethnicity, race, nationality, religious affiliation (or lack thereof), (biological) sex or gender (identity), and other differences, such as social class or physical ability or disability, and bring awareness to the validity of bisexuality, with a focus on moving society forwards, in one place.
Arguments are not sought, only discussions, and to challenge the reader to think critically and form their own opinions.
Written by an author of several books.