Archive for power

Clarifying Guilt

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2010 by 99ppp

I’ll describe guilt as that uncomfortable feeling that one has gone against one’s conscience, at least that’s what ideally it should be. Yet that feeling can expand into situations where that unease  can erode our principles and undermine our values.

We begin to form our moral foundation from the discipline of our parents . We defer to their ethical experience, and believe that they have a greater hold on what’s right and wrong, what’s fair, and so on.  Parents become the primary agents of culture, teaching us how to acclimate to societal norms..As we age, though, we could see that they are only human, they make errors, and perhaps their moral compass was calibrated to their environment and times. “Because I said so” becomes an increasingly weaker argument, and solely a declaration of power. In fairness to parents, often they are simply attempting to keep us from repeating the mistakes they made. Often ethical transmission may be simply an attempt to validate their principles. That does not stop the questioning, though as the universality of teen rebellion can attest. We begin to challenge our parents assertion of what’s ethical and fair. We may look within, to our peers and the wider popular culture to get our new cues on how to behave.

Breaking customs appears to be one of the greatest difficulties within families since they are often the rites that are considered unifying. My mother used to get fixated on dates, on one particular occasion there was a silly family altercation simply because someone else forgot Mother’s Day and didn’t call. Now I didn’t believe in  recognizing these “greeting card” holidays (and still don’t) , but did it to appease her. When I found out about this conflict and my mother’s righteous indignation, I immediately declared I would no longer recognize those holidays, since they were now becoming a potential source of conflict. My mother suggested I cared less about her if I didn’t, I responded I didn’t like my feelings to be dictated by the calendar.

Enter religion. I was taught on the importance of God at home and in school, and was told that without that religious guidance I would go astray. I was skeptical, and felt that I could infer some of the rules of the Bible intellectually (I was raised Roman Catholic), and didn’t feel that was needed for it to be sent down by God. I get the sense that guilt drives much of religion, as we must carry the burden of Adam’s original sin, making us responsible for decisions we didn’t make. I confessed to a priest only once, and never again. I can see the use many people can get some peace of mind  from it, but couldn’t see how this man could give me absolution.

Guilt cues us in to violations to our values, ethics, principles, and agreements. However, I began to feel that it is unfair to hold us accountable to principles we didn’t pick. Often guilt can simply be a response to seeing a loved one get hurt after some act or expression. We often believe we’ve hurt the person, but it can be just as likely that the person hurt themselves by projecting expectations onto us, and holding us responsible for surprising them in an unpleasant way. Nonetheless, we feel bad, call it guilt when perhaps it’s simply a fear of alienation. To fulfill expectations we didn’t agree to condemns us to reaffirm existing culture instead of engaging and participating with it by questioning, examining and challenging it when it fails to resonate with us. We become agents of conformity. We can erode the confidence to form our individual principles and become spectators to the ever-shifting tides of ideas that make the amorphous blob of mores and customs we call culture.

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Oprah’s hollow Mea Culpa

Posted in Culture, Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2008 by 99ppp

Oprah’s Mea Culpa sounds hollow

Oprah Winfrey, the queen of talk TV, claims she’s gotten off the wagon after tipping the scales at 200 lbs. due to some thyroid condition and food addiction. She’s gotten enough publicity from her weight losses and gains, that her little revelation sounds like an attempt to place herself in some sort of underdog position. This can be effective for everyone to forget her billion dollar media empire.

We usually don’t write about celebrities here, but Oprah is an exception. as she carries incredible influence in popular culture. Her backing of Barack Obama was instrumental in making his candidacy credible and visible to many people when he was relatively unknown. Her book club often creates best-sellers.

You see, Oprah needs to appear more accessible to the common woman. I’m not suggesting that she gained the weight purposely, but it is very difficult for me to feel too much compassion towards her, considering that she has access to the best personal chefs and trainers.

I have little doubt that she’s has difficulty with food. The problem is that she’s appealing to other’s compassion by labeling herself a “food addict” and claiming some thyroid condition gave her a fear of working out. This from someone who made a public display out of finishing a marathon. Her trainer got a best selling book out of the deal, and doubtless that her O magazine is full of tips on “how to lose weight.

Here at 99ppp we are getting into better shape and managing to deal with the struggles that go with it. We can sympathize with Oprah’s inconsistency, yet we have to cook our own meals, and train with our home equipment (resistance bands and yoga mats) and videos. We have no access to Oprah’s resources (chefs, gyms and trainers), so any appeals by her to saying how hard it is, sounds very hollow to us. I prefer to read a blog post from average folks dealing with their struggles, than the one of a billionaire using a sensational headline to sell more magazines.

“I’m embarrassed,” she writes. “I can’t believe that after all these years, all the things I know how to do, I’m still talking about my weight. I look at my thinner self and think, ‘How did I let this happen again?’ “(from Link above)

Yes… she’s embarrassed.. so embarrassed she decided to publish a feature article about it. I don’t know about you, but if you are so embarrassed about something, wouldn’t you keep it to yourself instead of trumpeting out to the world? Of course, she’ll now work on losing the weight, having the thyroid and food addiction as an alibi if she fails, and painting herself as an underdog whose battled all odds if she succeeds.

Winfrey writes. “I was so frustrated I started eating whatever I wanted – and that’s never good.”

That narcissism is indicative of a decadent society faced with its overindulgence. Many have little time to cook, opting for cheaper fast food. Healthy food gets more expensive, yet Oprah surely can afford it. Not to mention in-house cooks/chefs to prepare delicious meals. What befuddles me is that so many viewers perceive Oprah to be “one of them”?

Is Oprah responsible for her Guru status?

Not fully, but she certainly doesn’t discourage it. She appears to have developed a Messiah Complex, attempting to save everyone. The onus lies on her viewership who could place greater scrutiny on her values and so-called lessons.

She hopes to get started with her upcoming “Best Life Week,” starting Jan. 5 with an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” during which she is expected to talk candidly about her weight.

Her weight gains and losses give her content for her increasingly vacuous show. Her “candidness” seems like a calculated attempt to position herself as an underdog, one of YOU, which is quite difficult for a extremely wealthy person during a economic downturn.

I don’t question that Oprah genuinely believes that she has great information and lessons to pass along, sometimes she does, shifting her materialistic “Oprah’s Favorite Things” episode this year into “How to Have the Thriftiest Holiday Ever” showing some sensitivity to these troubled economic times. Nevertheless, it’s best for more people to think for themselves, choose their own books,  and frame their own reality. Whether it’s Oprah or some other celebrity attempting to bring wisdom to the “clueless rabble”, it’s high time that we develop our own individual critical skills and maintain an open mind, while tempering it with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Oprah’s show reminds me of a great scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, but I doubt very much that she’d make similar declarations as Brian below. [vid 1:05min]

Responsibility: Duty, Blame or Power?

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Relationships, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2008 by 99ppp

The word “responsibility” is fascinating, especially the context and the spirit in which it is used, primarily in three contexts that often interrelate: duty, blame and power.

Duty

Responsibility as duty can restrict the psyche from reflection and contemplation. Duty and obligation often suggests a standard of behaviour, right and wrong, that hasn’t been formulated by the individual but simply by regurgitating the mores of the prior generation, convention or tradition. When someone wears traditionalism as some badge of honour I become extremely skeptical, since it suggest that the person hasn’t examined the “traditions” enough to formulate their own opinions. This is not to say that there aren’t good values that come from our human past, and yet to say one is a “traditional” says little about one’s values and suggests one hasn’t examined them fully.

Some take more than their share of responsibility, so they take on much more duties that they need to. They can deny any chance for those who simply pass it off to get their shit together and stop being dependent. I believe most people don’t want to be dependent they just have lost confidence in their ability to act, and simply look to someone else to take care of things. This is what happened during the Obama campaign, where this particular person believe that the fact that Obama has been voted in would magically solve all their problems (see vid below).

Often the phrase “This is how I was raised” is used to justify behaviour and morals that haven’t been examined by the individual. It often comes from a distorted admiration to some authority figure, often parents or the larger society. This is an example of either empowering oneself of responsibility from one’s opinions. When I hear “This is how I was raised” I often translate it as “I haven’t taken to the time to examine the values I was indoctrinated with(even if well intentioned) . It is easy to simply obey the morals of another instead of constructing a personal sense of ethics. To question everything can plunge one into an existential dilemma and it is understandable to wish to avoid that. Yet the cost of avoiding it can leave one feeling a nagging sense of helplessness, especially when the voice of a suppressed personal conscience increases in volume and contradicts what we are taught to believe.

No one can guilt me without my permission. Any person who says to me, “You are making me feel guilty” is a person who hasn’t taken responsibility for their own conscience. They have embraced someone else’s values without examination. Guilt can be a useful emotion when it is a violation of our own personal standards and principles, and not someone else’s, as long as one doesn’t wallow in it.

Another form of responsibility as duty is “I am only doing my job”, in other words, simply doing as one is instructed. This is a difficult one since one’s livelihood can be in jeopardy if one disobeys. Personally, I previously began to see my job as an opposition to my personal ethics and I was having trouble sleeping and began to get aches and pains in my body. Then came the breaking point and I quit, and all the pains went away. Stress places the body and mind in continual survival mode and can exact a heavy cost on people: anxiety, heart disease, hypertension, depression, substance abuse and so on. This question has no easy answers since people are being pulled in two directions, have bills and families to feed.

Blame

Many use the word responsibility to lay blame unto others. By using the word in this matter, ironically dissuades many people to take more responsibility. You see, we have to allow for people to make mistakes. If we easily forgive mistakes,  share our insights on how to improve things instead of finger pointing, those who try to evade responsibility will use it to learn instead of mindlessly escaping them. There are those who claim to take responsibility as a lever to gain more power. Since I have greater responsibility than you, then you should do what they say. This is why it is easy to point fingers at politicians. They make all kinds of promises to gain power, suggest that the problems entrapping the society will be fixed without any discomfort. I found it interesting during the Obama acceptance speech, that when he mentioned there may be sacrifices to stem the expectations projected onto him, the crowd became temporarily silent from the boisterous jubilation. Obama was already feeling the pressure of being anointed as “a saviour” facing the current economic crisis.

During times of war those who commit atrocities such as the killing of innocent lives and are later confronted by a barrage of questions, often pass the buck once again by saying “I was just doing my job” instead of looking into their conscience. They believe it absolves them from looking deeper into the actions they take with a more critical eye instead by following blindly the orders of others. Here “I am just doing my job” translates into “The person giving me the orders is responsible”.

When we refuse to take responsibility for our actions over and over we tend to lose respect, and trust from others. We also start losing confidence in our own abilities in the things we do and continue to pass the buck unto others and yet continue to learn nothing from our own experiences.

Power

Responsibility can be power. Response ability, the ability to respond..To avoid it can make one feel powerless, a paper boat in a tsunami, where we are directionless in the currents of circumstance swirling around us. It would be facile to say we are directly influential in everything that happens to us, but often we underestimate our ability to cause effects. I elaborated further on this on the “Fat acceptance” post earlier in this blog.

I am in full agreement that each of us could take greater responsibility for our lives, this I say in the spirit of compassion and advocating people empowering themselves instead of passively waiting for others to help them. Unfortunately, many have used the term “personal responsibility” as a blunt weapon to demonize those who are in difficult position and suggest that their situation is fully of their own doing. This is using responsibility as analogous to blame, not power.

One way to pry blame away from responsibility: To feel responsible for everything one does, but not responsible for everything that happens to us. This may first seem like a paradox. Allow me to elaborate.

Humans are fallible. We aren’t capable to predict exactly what results our actions may trigger, but we can’t allow that uncertainty to paralyze us from action.We will fuck up. But that’s ok, if there is a sincere recognition of the error. There is conditioning we may need to emancipate ourselves from. Prejudices and fears that cloud our ability to see clearly. Pressures we may have felt from others. We have to be cautious though, to see them as influences and not excuses, since it may lead one to place blame on circumstances and simultaneously disempower ourselves from the ability to act. We can see them as obstacles to move around instead of walls that paralyze us.

Blame, duty and power relate to time as well. Blame (past), duty (future), and power (present). To live closer to the moment, it is best to frame responsibility to the present.

[Obama supporter referred above]

Untitled

Posted in Anti-War, Culture, Love, Philosophy, Poetry, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2008 by 99ppp

Are we searching
for what is common,
or what is right?
The struggle we fight,
The power we crave,
The EGO we feed.

The constant slave to a system
that feeds the machine of greed.
The new religion

Consumption, destruction.
We fill a void
Indulgence,Opulence
What a waste we create.

The constant slave to a system
That feeds the machine of greed.

Is our spirit lost ?
The battle, the war
Over mind, body and soul.

The constant slave to a system
That feeds the machine of greed.

Do we follow the masses?
Do we stand alone?
The system is failing
It can no longer sustain

The pursuit of love,
The pursuit of happiness,
The pursuit of acceptance,
We seek from others
Have we lost touch
with our own voice?

The constant slave to a system
That feeds the machine of greed.

NO LONGER A SLAVE
Scream,
Just scream
Scream out loud
Find YOUR voice