Monthly Archives: September 2014

Papa’s Got A Brand New Miracle Detector…by David Fee

I was reading a review yesterday about an upcoming drama on British tv. I’d like to quote the opening sentence in full: “Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, just when everything’s at it’s most wretched and pointless, the universe will shift slightly, put this thing together with that other thing, and suddenly deliver something you weren’t expecting, had never even considered, but which, now it’s there in front of you, strikes you as so right, so inevitable and so mysteriously preordained you can’t help thinking – maybe things aren’t that bad”.

I don’t know about you, but I want to watch that drama (which happens to be about two fellas who, as a hobby, go metal detecting) before I’ve even read the rest of the review. But more than that, I want to inspire people to write that kind of opening sentence to a review about something that I’ve done. Yes, I am one of those damaged children who can’t just settle for a life of making a mess in my nappy (diaper!), making lego monsters, making love, making money, making a will, and then making like a dead person. I want to influence the world. For the better. I want to shape it as it spins round to meet the bit of me that can touch a part of it. My fingers to the clay. A shape that is “so right, so inevitable and so mysteriously preordained” that it lifts a fellow human being’s spirit and helps them to find new meaning in the universe. It seems kind of sad to have this wonderful privilege we call Life, and not to try  our damndest to do that. To try and leave things, even if only simple moments in time, better than we found them.

However, despite those worthy sentiments, I’ve lived long enough now to have nearly had that desire battered out of me, on numerous occasions, by the usual culprits. Failure, rejection, disappointment, bad luck, bad timing, invasive cynicism, creeping bitterness, lack of talent…and too much time spent playing solitaire and sudoku on my iphone. They’ve all had it in for me. But then someone goes and writes a sentence. It could have been your sentence. Might have made me laugh, or cry, or think. And it doesn’t have to be the greatest sentence in the world, but suddenly I get that little kick of inspiration to knock me out of my comatose stagnation phase into a moving forward phase.

And it is in the moving forward that the miracles happen. So I am grateful to you people, whoever you are, for doing that for me. But I am also very proud of myself. For one thing, and one thing only. I refuse to stagnate. I keep getting up. And don’t let that sound like the depressingly limited view of life it might do. Because those miracles that occasionally manifest themselves after the getting up, even those very tiny moments of magic, can be so glorious, so shining, that they light the way forward. Over a whole new terrain of challenges, problems, difficulties. And potential solutions. Potential magic. Magic that only you and I can discover.

So I’m looking for miracles people. I’ve got out my miracle detector again. That’ll be me, down on the beach, headphones on, in a world of my own, looking for miracles. And that, in itself, is a miracle.
Cartoon of a Guy Using a Metal Detector - Royalty Free Clipart Picture

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It’s a G thing by Neale Christy

Good morning. And, in case I don’t see you, Good afternoon, good evening and good night. (I love Jim Carrey!). I’ve spent a large portion of the week that was listening to rap music. And what I’ve learned is there’s nothing like some good gangsta tunes to cut to the core of an issue. Oft criticized for being a bit “samey”, this week has taught me just how diverse the collective rappers’ body of work actually is.

 

“She look good, but I know she after my cheddar/ She tryna get in my pockets, homie and I ain’t gon’ let her”

— 50 Cent, Wanksta

 

 

I for one am thrilled at 50 (AKA “Ferrari”???) finding time in between busting caps and grindin’ hoes to rap about something real. Like good cheese. Given how cut-throat the rap world is, it must have been very difficult for him growing up, cultivating an appreciation for artisanal cheese-making (‘cos you just know he’s all about that hand-made cheddar). I feel for the kid, but I’m happy that he’s reached a level of success that allows him to proclaim his love for dairy based snacking without fear of judgement. If we wanted to be overly-critical, we could point out that cheddar is a pretty meh cheese to hype, but, given that he’s got girls trying to hang onto his pocket like that creepy guy from Prison Break, his exposure to the world of fine cheeses has understandably been a little stunted.

 

“She got a big booty so I call her Big Booty
— 2 Chainz, Birthday Song

 

 

People get quite agitated with 2 chainz, but I’m at a loss as to why. If your female companion has a “big booty” then what, exactly, do you suggest calling her other than “Big Booty”? “Her actual name,” you plead? That’s obviously not gangsta, you square. (Is “square” still an acceptable insult for a straight up G?) Also, I feel that people don’t give Mr Chainz enough credit for his expert use of capital letters here, illustrating perfectly that Big Booty has, in fact, become the young damsel’s name. Disproving, once and for all, the notion that proper grammar isn’t street.

 

“Don’t knock me off my high horse, what I do is my choice
I’m high as the scoreboard, bitch look up at my points

— Lil Wayne, Trippy

 

Weezy F baby seems like a confident fellow and it’s great that he’s standing up for himself and his human right to choose. More cynical commentators may point out that his understanding of the idiom “sitting on your high horse” leaves a bit to be desired, but the “confusion” has obviously been used intentionally to reiterate how what he does is his choice, man! These are words to live by.

Regardless, It’s clear he understands how a scoreboard works and it’s nice that he’s chosen what can be quite a limiting medium to point it out to his pet dog. It’s also sweet that he doesn’t reveal his pup’s name in the song, obviously as a means of protecting her from the harsh glare of the papparazi, which I’m sure she would appreciate. If she wasn’t a dog.

 

“She fell in love with the martian
I said you too down to Earth”

Lil Wayne, Wowzers

 

Wayne Jr, again, dropping truth bombs on an unsuspecting public. You would think that inter-planetary romance has no place in rap music, but Lil Tunechi clearly illustrates the folly in that way of thinking by reminding us that the themes of “unrequited desire”, “rejection” and “complications caused by distance” are timeless ones, that almost anyone can identify with. Shakespeare-esque stuff, really. I feel great sympathy for the young lady character, stuck on Earth whilst her martian lover flits about the cosmos, rebuffing her advances. However, I also can’t help but empathize with the martian character, who puts on a tough-guy facade but who is clearly only using his strong words as a defence mechanism, rejecting her before he can be rejected himself, subtly admitting that his home on Mars may mean him being alone for the rest of his life. Really moving stuff.

 

Reading through the lyrics of some of my favourite rap ditties, I was struck by two somethings. (Figuratively of course. I know I may come accross pretty ghetto, but I don’t actually live in the hood). The first is that rappers are fortunate that they talk too fast for people to hear what it is that they’re saying all the time. Cos they lyrics be dumb. But, secondly, after a little period of quietly judging myself, I realized how much I really do love rap music. How much I love the rhymes, whether complex and surprising or vulgar and sexist. How much I love the spine warping bass-lines. How much I love the ridiculously over the top music videos.

 

And, since no conversation about rap music could be complete without a little racial stereotyping, I think it’s important that I point out that my love of rap music is in spite of me being the whitest person in all the land. (Ok, THIS guy is actually the whitest person in all the land. But I’m probably a close second). And what better to show off my “whiteness” than by making a list!

 

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The afore-mentioned White List

*quickly googles things that make someone “white”

  1. I’m quite partial to the mini shampoo bottles one gets from hotels. Miniature foods and miniature pets are also pretty neat. So are bonzais. And mini-golf/putt-putt. Pretty much all miniature versions of things.
  2. I like using a fork to eat sushi. We have evolved beyond the use of sticks as cutlery.
  3. I have been known to have fights over games of monopoly.
  4. I have one dance move, which I whip out most Saturday nights at the discotheque(s?) until people realize that it is, in fact, my only dance move.
  5. I sometimes clap at the end of particularly moving movies or sports games or advertisements featuring talking puppies.
  6. I like Coldplay. And Katie Perry. And Macklemore.
  7. I have a jo (Boy, that turned a bit racist rather quickly. Thanks for nothing, Internet)

 

In my mind, the thing that most people who like it relate to in rap music is the attitude. That swagger. The 4 minute-something escape from your life that it offers you, where you can pretend that you have the confidence to do and say whatever it is you want, because there’s no-one more impressive than you. You’re invincible, says rap music, and it’s this infectious sense of FIGJAM (Google it, it’s a little naughty) that I most enjoy plugging into. That, and the ability to laugh at just how ridiculous I would be as a rapper. Nale (pronounced Nah-lay). Tell that pig and that cow I’ll go ham if there’s beef. Word(s).

Reclaiming My Music … A. K. Carroll

IMG_1660First, the apology: Yesterday was my birthday—for this I do not apologize (or apologise). Yesterday I did not blog—for this I am truly sorry. I went running and met with friends and taught a class and attended a class and participated in all sorts of eating, drinking, singing and celebrating, but I did not blog. And really I meant to.

Second, the deliberation: Having caught myself up on the most recent posts of my fellow contributors, I see there is no single conversation to engage with, no one line of thought to pick up or put down or derail, as the case may be. Independence, music, power, balance–where do I begin?

Third, the confession: I sometimes have a difficult time blogging on a schedule (as evidenced by my tardy posting). It isn’t that I forget, but rather that I freeze. If inspiration has not stuck in my allotted seven days of “think time,” I sit staring at my keyboard waiting for my fingers to do something magical. I want my posts to be both witty and profound, memorable and meaningful. And sometimes they are. And sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are the mere musings or memories of a human living life, little pebbles of pondering plopping into the great sea of thought.

Fourth, the entry: This is what has come after my period of pondering.

I have never been “a music person.” I know people who are “music people” (both those who self-identify and those who don’t). I have enjoyed music immensely and am mesmerized by its capacity for attached meaning and its ability to remove my mind from my body. Music can suspend me from reality, transport me to times and places and moments I thought I had forgotten. It can stir a fire in my soul, put a wiggle in my walk, bring tears to my eyes. It is powerful. Sometimes too powerful.

I used to keep music on constantly. Never a particular kind, whatever popped up on Pandora or Spotify or was sitting in my car. I listened to music while  running and commuting, washing my dishes, answering e-mail, sometimes even while writing (though I find this a challenge). But sometime last winter I stopped listening altogether. It wasn’t really a decision. It was a necessity.

Months before, I had suffered a significant loss that affected my life in ways I never would have anticipated. It was heart-wrenching and destructive and life-changing and transformative. But first it was devastating. And so was every song that surrounded that period of my life, no matter what the genre or subject matter.

Music is incredibly evocative, and for too many months the only thing it evoked was the rejection and remorse that filled my heart. Everything I listened to made me sad. Songs about love, songs about loss, songs about joy and anger and hope and regret. All of them depressed me, either because they were too far from my reality or too close to it. I’d been through heartache before. I’d been rejected before. I’d been ignored and discarded and lied to before. But never like this. Never with so little resolution and so many empty promises. So little closure. So much false hope.

And music of all types only served to remind me of my situation; its healing powers backfiring one track at a time.

no-music

For a long time there was silence. (There was also NPR and jazz and yoga, but mostly there was silence). And the silence was cleansing. And the silence was deafening.

Earlier this year, I began to bring music back into my life, forcing myself to listen to songs I once enjoyed, acknowledging the fact that they would never be the same, that I would never be the same and neither would my experience of the music that came before. I’ve gone back–way back–back to songs that carry no promises or ties or connections or disappointment. And I find that this is surprisingly hard, that most of my life I have intentionally and unintentionally been hanging hopes onto harmonies and reading my own longings between lyrics. And music, with all of its power and permanence, has taken on my associations.

There will be a day when it will be easy, when whole libraries of albums will be have been redeemed by new experiences with people who speak truth and live love and share peace. It is already getting better. There is already so much more. But for now I go slowly. It may be easier to pick up the “new” than it is to redeem “old.” Most relationships are like this, no matter what their nature may be. But I am in the business of restoration in all areas of life. Starting with my music and reaching on from there.

http://destinationsanfranciscoblog.wordpress.com

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“Pushing” Produces The Opposite of Change – by Mikel O Azure.

It is part of a normal psychological development curve that we start out ENTIRELY dependent on whoever cares for us from birth.

Our first “world view” is adopted from those carers – we think what they think.

At some point in our development we start to have our own thoughts, our independence is just peeking out at the world a tiny bit.

So far so good, what happens next can make the story into a war story, a totalitarian dystopia or into a heartwarming “getting of wisdom” story.

The outcome primarily depends on how the carers respond to the little person’s clumsy, often messy first expressions of their (Survival necessary.) independence.

A lot of adults have a huge identity investment in their little humans. These parents unconsciously or consciously consider their children to be merely extensions of their own will and identity. Such parents often say their controlling, bullying behaviours towards their children are from concern or pride or because their child is somehow inadequate and needs to be “straightened out”. That kind of nonsense.

Now if you think about yourself for a minute you may notice a trait that all humans share at some level – when someone “pushes” at us we have a survival trait kick in – some kind of “push back”. You know what I’m talking about?

The physical first – there is a very fundamental physical survival reality that evolution has coded into our genes and into our nervous system – the human who is balanced on two legs has a better change of surviving than the human who is laying on the ground – when the predators come, or the huge branch falls from the tree above. Balanced on two legs is safer – on the ground, on your side or your back, or even on all fours – more vulnerable, you can see less, you respond slower, your throat is easier to bite…..you get the deal – the people who were better at staying upright survived more often to pass on their genes.

So now, if someone pushes at you, even with one finger, your body instinctively leans into that push, we push back, to keep our balance, to aid our survival. If you don’t believe me, try this experiment some time, say to someone who is standing opposite you, “Hey place the palm of your hand against mine.” Then hold out your right hand with your palm facing them. When they put their palm up to yours, gently press into it – see what happens. Most people press back, very few just let you press their hand until its up against their chest or they loose their balance. They don’t think about doing it, we just are designed to keep our balance.

Oh!, if you do that experiment you’ll probably discover that when they push back, YOU will push back harder – even after I’ve warned you about that possiblity. You see how that spirals – you push, they push back, you push harder, they push back…….does this sound like any pattern you recognise in the world?

Turns out that most of us have the same kind of “push back” instinct on the emotional and identity level as well. For a similar reason – to keep our identity balance, to not allow others to push us over and dominate us – which is fundamentally unhealthy and dangerous for us.

Now how this applies to that little human experimenting with their emerging capacity for independence? Carers and parents who do not allow that independence to be expressed, who push at it, clamp down on it, penalize it, those parents are doing at least two things – acting out of their personal survival instincts – which is the opposite of putting your child’s needs first and secondly putting their child in the position of having to “push back”, such parents are forcing their children to surrender their independence or forcing their child to reach for more independence much too fast for their not fully developed nervous systems to manage safely.

It is a pretty simple and basic reality – we don’t like to be pushed because being unbalanced is bad for our survival, when we are pushed we find some way to push back.

If you want people to change – pushing them is a bad method, it tends to produce a hardening of where they currently stand, they push back to keep their balance and so, your attempted change method has now made them MORE firm in their original position.

In relationships and communities we can appear to produce change by pushing…when we push and others co-operate and behave as we wish them to behave. But it turns out that this is only the appearance of change – the external behaviours change but the internal attitudes actually go in the opposite direction AND the moment you stop pushing (Say you retire, or you die, or you get sick, or you move further away…) the external behaviour goes back to what it was, or worse (Rebound effect from all the energy you’ve pushed into them.).

Even if you can’t see it, anyone you push, is pushing back, somehow, somewhere.  Pushing does not produce actual change.

I hope I have connected the elements of this rambling blog enough that they seem related. They sure seem related to me. 🙂 Somewhere in here “balance” is a kind of synonym for “independence”.

Leadership and compassion based education are far more effective ways to invite change in others and in communities than some kind of pushing strategy. At least those two strategies honour a person or a communities independence which is a value I want to see in my world.

Freaking scary…By Abner Perez

First of all, I want to apologise for my absence last week. It was just due to business. I’ll try not to let it happen again. Second, you all share all these cool pictures and I would love to share some too, but I’m writing this entry mobile-ly, and the app quits every time I try to upload an image! I promise to do it next week.

Third, well, enough said about independence, or never enough maybe, but I would like to share something that is bothering me lately and probably you can throw some light into my darkness. Music writing and performing is what I chose as my career and for many years it worked that way. Music took me to places which I never imagined, introduced to so many fantastic people (Indeed, I’m part of this blog because one of those encounters), it made me feel top of the world and not too mention all the self confidence that it provided.

Recently, I became the Coordinator of Specialisation for one of the most important Schools of Music in a University here in Ecuador. So, I’m becoming an artist of administration and at the same trying to focus in teaching songwriting and music business. And I love it so far, but it’s making me quite anxious in a way that I didn’t expect. I feel that In order to improve my productivity, I need a more strict routine!

After a decade of fighting against routine and trying to be an ambassador of creative ways of living, looking for inspiration by traveling and questioning every ‘status quo’, now I’ve designed a colourful excel with a weekly routine which it will help me to never miss my blog entry again! I stare at it and it makes me feel really awkward! Is it the inevitable effect of aging? Is it temporal or is this how is gonna be the rest of my career? Is this it? Is there another way? Is routine one of those fallacies that are actually needed? Is this as bad as it feels? Have you felt the same or is it just me exaggerating.

And… I’m sorry, my blog entry time is over… Time for reading! 😦

Big Dream, Little Dream by David Fee

I’m glad to see that we’ve reached the kind of mutual comfort levels that allow us to hurl gratuitous, friendly personal abuse into the Blogusphere. And in that spirit let me tell you that Neale has the attention span of a gnat. Which, as you know, is the tiniest member of the Silent G family. Even after the first week he was emailing me to ask if we had to talk about independence for a WHOLE month. Please humour him my fellow Bloggees. He is but a young ‘un, who’s cognitive functioning is still in it’s formative process. I am sure he will emerge from his cocoon, before our caring elderly (!?) gazes, into fully formed SERIOUSLY butterfly-full adulthood, before  you can say: “I’d like to begin my dissertation with….whoah, did you see the size of that Gnu”.

Gnats

Actually, I’m personally very happy for the distraction, and it might be the time for us to un-indepent (sic) and freewheel for a week, before Abner flies us off in some other direction a week tomorrow. Starship “It’s A Small Word” should be a vessel sensitive to changes of movement in the Galactic Winds and to it’s own internal dialogue. Ahem.

As has been pointed out, Scotland chose to remain a part of the UK. Which is both the end and the beginning of the story. For me and many others here. A large proportion of people in Scotland are motivated to try and rekindle democracy on this part of our island. They won’t be settling for the version that is little more than a  luke warm, watery, nutrionless broth, and which has been served up for far too long. It’s unclear how this will happen at the moment, there are a few wounds to be licked first, but I’m quite sure the will is there to make real change. It’s been a pivotal time in Scottish history, and I’ve had my cynical attitude to the possibilities of political progress, well and truly kicked into touch.  Although it is true that progress has been made much harder by our choice to keep the Status Quo.

Status Quo: A very British 3 Chord, 12 Bar Blue’s Rock Band since the day of the Dinosaurs

Amanda and Maz both posed questions about how much we should interfere in the environment, and in other people’s worlds.  Good questions. My head is a little bit foggy right now, but this much is clear. We should not, we cannot really ever, force change. Even if that change seems irrepressibly right to us. And nor should we allow change to be forced upon us.

The narrow road, the long journey, the only way through to whatever it is we seek, whether it be “independence”, or “unity” or “peace” or “democracy”…. is honest dialogue, patience, and a sense of humour, born out of real relationships. A failure to find a way forward will always and can only be a failure to make good connections. And the good news, for me, is that we never have to wait for someone else to make connections on our behalf. We can start ourselves right now.

And as Neale brought up the subject of music, I feel totally justified in spamming you with a song I wrote a couple of years ago about a boy who had a dream then lost a dream. Then got it back again. G’day.

https://soundcloud.com/feetunes/big-dream-little-dream-mastered-mp3

 – David Fee
ps…A very happy birthday to Pooran, Marzieh’s mum. Skype you later!

Music makes the people come together. Yeah.

Good evening, blog reader people. We’ve had some fun, over the last 3/4 weeks, haven’t we? Our smorgasbord of writers have learned us many a thing about independence, what it means for their countries and how it could/should look on a personal level.  Independence isn’t really a topic I’ve thought about too often in my twenty something years on planet earth, but it’s nevertheless been interesting reading my fellow It’s a small word (trade mark sign) writers’ views, even when those views are different to mine. (That said, Mikel is a big stupid head and the smart play is to just ignore everything he writes in the future).

The event that initially sparked this whole discussion – Scotland’s potential independence from the UK – was finalised on Friday morning, with the Scots being a little naughty and voting NO, foregoing the whole independence thing. (Incidentally, what is the past tense of the word “forego”? One would assume it would be “forewent” but come on. That just sounds ridiculous). Whether or not the vote is a good thing, I’m not sure. But I did think it was an interesting (playing fast and loose with the word “interesting”, I’ll admit) illustration of independence in action. Sometimes people acting independently don’t make the choices you want them too. Sometimes they’ll make choices you didn’t even realise were options. And sometimes they’ll just say “no thanks” to the idea of independence altogether.

This evening I’m going to further illustrate the power of independence by not writing about independence. (The pedants amongst you will point out that, since I’ve already written nearly 270 odd words on the subject, this isn’t much of an illustration. To those people I say… clap. clap. clap) Instead, I wanted to speak to you about some new music I downloaded completely legally and definitely not through use of a torrent this week. Not about the music itself (Twin Atlantic’s Great Divide, if you MUST know), but about the importance of music in so many of our lives.

A guy named Nick Frost wrote this post on getting married to music, which you should totally read just for lines like

“Don’t be ridiculous. Music is openly polygamous. In fact, the entire world is engaged in an ongoing orgy with music! Somedays, you’ll even have passionate soirees with multiple genres. So casual.”

The reason I like that post so much is because it gets us laughing AND learning. Because music is weirdly important, right? To everyone. Even people who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves MUSIC LOVERS have those playlists for when they want to get amped or when they want to hate themselves at the gym or when they want to have a good cry over that guy from Grey’s anatomy who died. There are countless songs in my collection that are linked to a person or a place or a moment, often times transporting me back to the Neale that I was when I first fell in love with them. I’ve heard music described as the audible murmurings of one’s soul (how deep is THAT for the start of a new week) and there’s a lot to be said for music’s ability to speak for you when you don’t really know how to speak for yourself. And, if music really is your soul’s voice, it’s easy to see why so many of us end up bonding over music. (Daaaaaayum, guuuuuuuuuuurl, this my jam! THIS MY JAM!!!!) On a basic level, it lets us know that we’re not alone. That other people think and feel the way we do. And that’s quite nice.

 

Influence and independence

Zayanderud

Zayanderud

I’ve been thinking about influences our society, relationships, and circumstances have on us and our decisions and how it’s related and if it’s related to our independence. Unless we live in seclusion, we are bound to be influenced by our surroundings, but I don’t think that we have no control over it to the extent that it deprives us of our independence. I think we choose most of the circumstances we are in and the people we live with and are in relationships with. So, we choose those we are influenced by. Even if we consider the influence society and family has on us at a young age, although it may not be easy to discard these effects at an older age, it isn’t impossible. We all come to age and state our independence by letting go of at least some of the beliefs we have inherited from our parents. So I don’t think to be influenced is to lose your independence.

To say that I’ve learnt from my society or my family to hate and discriminate is not acceptable to me, because as an adult you could choose to open your eyes to reality, and to learn new things, and to discard and unlearn the negative and wrong lessons you’ve been given. If you still hate and you hold those wrong beliefs, you’ve decided to do so. I know that some people grow up in environments that give them the freedom to view the world in their own way and others are taught nothing but one certain point of view to things. And that makes changing and seeing the world in a new way very, very, very, very….difficult for the second group, but it’s still not impossible. And if there is always the option of changing and choosing, then, the influence is not to the extent to deprive us of our independence.

Angel One

IMG_1660I noticed when I woke up Wednesday morning that Abner’s Tuesday post had not yet made it to publication, which is the only excuse I have for being so late with my Wednesday responsibilities. That and I was busy critiquing essays, teaching a workshop, and attending classes that are supposed to make me a better writer, which should at some point benefit this blog. At least that’s my rationale.

Still on this topic of independence. I suppose we could set up camp and stay here quite a while. And it is a fine place to stay, as this is an issue that has so many layers and facets and perspectives to consider. The one I want to look at, though related to the posts of my fellow contributors, is in large part a follow up on last week’s blog.

I have recently begun following Star Trek. (The reasons why and the impact this has had on me deserve their own post, maybe a whole series of them; but for now you need only to know that it is significant.) Still in the first season of The Next Generation, I cannot help but read this issue of independence into many of the episodes I view and vice versa. Most recently I watched “Angel One” (S1E14), an episode in which a fine team of Starfleet personnel beam down to the female-dominated world of Angel One in search of survivors from a freighter that was downed years prior. Unwilling to follow the customs of the Angel One’s female leaders, the four male survivors have spent the past seven years living as fugitives in the wilderness of the planet. They have taken wives from among the native people and established a small sort of rebel society. When the members of Starfleet offer to take them away, to take them “home” in a sense (a term that is rather subjective when one is living on a space craft), the survivors refuse. Not long after, they are found by the leaders of Angel One and are sentenced with death as punishment for their rebellion. In this dire moment, our Starfleet heroes again offer to take the fugitives away, to save them from death, ostensibly to grant them the independence that they lack on the planet of Angel One, but the rebels refuse rescue.

Only minutes before their execution (47 to be exact), there is a point at which Commander Riker, the leader of the Starfleet “rescue” team insists that the survivors go back with him whether they choose to or not, an assertion that Commander Data points out is against the Prime Directive, a guiding principle that prohibits Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations. That is to say that Starfleet, in this particular situation, cannot force the survivors to do something against their will. They cannot impose their own values or ideals onto the fugitives. To this, Riker replies, “I realize that Mr. Data. [But] I’d rather face a court marshall than live with the guilt of leaving these people to their death.”

Away_team_kneels_before_Beata

Starfleet officers Data, Yar, Riker and Troi

Now from what I have read, this is arguably one of the worst episodes in the entire Next Generation series, but bear with me as I do some gleaning. (Like I said, I’m only in the first season, I don’t have many storylines to draw on yet). Sexism aside (and this is a very sexist storyline), what struck me about this episode was the question of independence, the question of human responsibility (that of Starfleet and Commander Riker) vs. the personal freedom of the fugitives and their right to follow through with their own executions. How the episode ends is irrelevant. My question is, how much responsibility do we have to interfere with the actions of others (thereby thwarting their independence in one way or another)? Is it ever right for us to say “No, you cannot do that thing” or “Actually, you must do this thing,” regardless of what the individual (or group) may want? (What they may even have the right to do).

Deflecting from personal to corporate independence seems a little un-American of me (Americans being so very protective of their personal rights, for better or worse), but I think I’m making up for it by circling around the question of interference (something Americans seem to do quite often, again for better or worse). In the past couple of months I’ve found myself diving into more and more conversations about human poverty and social justice, (specifically in the United States and more specifically in the Bay Area, but also more broadly, as this is very much a global issue). They are hard conversations to have, in large part because there are no simple solutions to the issues of inequality, addiction, destitution and injustice, no easy roads to the restoration of a society that is ultimately broken, no matter how wealthy or glamorous or powerful it may seem. Even when we attempt to bring relief to these situations of need (and I mean that in every sense of the word) we often end up perpetuating cycles, reinforcing systems that are broken, enforcing the dichotomies of the haves and have nots, the greater and lesser, the educated and ignorant. Relief is not enough. Awareness is not enough. The solutions, I’ve been told, need to be made at a systemic level.

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A few of the fugitives of Angel One

But how far do we go? How much do we interfere with the systems that are in place, especially the ones that were created to ensure the independence of the individual? Do we have a right to interfere? To “beam” someone up or out or over as it were in order to save them from self-appointed peril? Commander Riker posits that his desire to interfere with the fugitives on Angel One is born out of his own (arguably selfish) need to be free from guilt, but couldn’t it just as easily be born out of his awareness of the consequences of his personal choices? (In this case the choice to interfere or abandon).

I get stuck on this question of “the greater good” vs. individual independence, of when it is okay to interfere and when interference does more harm than good. Interference may save lives, satiate hunger, or prevent abuse, but it could just as easily undermine social structures, create dependencies, or perpetuate cycles. There was no easy answer on Angel One (at least not initially),  and there is no easy answer here on Earth. It is a question of right, and a question of responsibility.

 

*Unrelated, but of interest to me, Patrick Stuart (as Captain Jean-Luc Picard) ends this episode with a hoarse voice that can scarcely utter an “Engage,” which is the exact state he was in when I last saw him in London.

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Imperfections and Fragility Abound.

I was wondering what I would add to my comments about Independence, then I read what Neale wrote (Thanks Neale for giving me a kick off.), which I disagreed with before thinking too much, then once getting the old brain machine turning over I knew why I disagreed and then I knew what I would write.

Neale stated emphatically that independence is “A false construct”. It may be a false construct, depending on how you are constructing your concept of ‘independence.

So my construction of ‘independence’ starts with a negative – there is no such thing as “perfection” in the classical Greek origin of that concept. (Supporting that is a whole other blog entry.)

Following from that – there is no such thing as “perfect or absolute independence”

Old and worn and beautiful, perfection isn't important.

Old and worn and beautiful, perfection isn’t important.

However, saying something is not perfect or absolute is not the same as saying it is not real and has qualities that distinguish it from other realities.

Imperfection is a quality every real thing shares in, so an imperfect ‘independence’ is as real as that imperfect chair you are sitting on, or those imperfect eyes you might be using to read these words.

Neale seems to have mistaken ‘influence’ from external sources for ‘control’ from external sources and reasoned that therefore no-one can be independent OR perhaps Neale assumed that even moderate influence from external sources renders independence less than pure and that only an absolute independence deserves to be called ‘independent’.

I said in a previous post on this topic that my favoured philosophy – Existentialism – states that all Being is Being-in-Relation, or as the poet put it “No man is an island.” In at least this much I agree with one of Neale’s assumptions/observations – we are all influenced by others, sometimes consciously, often unconsciously.

Right at the end of his blog Neale stated that “independency….is just another form of control.”

In some settings I think that statement cannot be disputed – the cleverest social manipulators have been know to use the appearance of independence in unimportant choices to mask a larger and covert lack of choice in the realm of politics and economics.

It has been argued by others that the consumer culture of rich Western Nations is one such manipulation – give the middle class lots of things to buy and an endless range of consumer choices and tell them that is the meaning of life, so they feel independent and powerful because they make so many (Unimportant) choices, while politically and economically the super rich and hidden oligarchies of The West can run things to suit themselves.

When Companies in the US are given the same rights as human beings, but not the same accountability in law, its easy to see that perhaps this idea is not simply a nutcase conspiracy theory.

Yes, the desire for independence can be used against those who hold that desire. As can any good aspiration.

At the entrance to Temple's in Kyoto is the fresh running water to wash yourself with.

At the entrance to Temple’s in Kyoto is the fresh running water to wash yourself with.

Fresh rain water is a great thing, an essential thing, you can still be drowned in it. The fact that someone can use fresh water to kill you does not tell you about the qualities of water, it tells you about the qualities of that person.

So it is also for ‘independence’ – it can be manipulated but that does not tell us about the qualities of ‘independence’ – it tells us about the people doing the manipulation.

Human independence is not absolute but that does not mean it is not real or significant.

Human independence can be manipulated against its own aspirations but that does not invalidate independence, or we would have to invalidate most good aspirations as they all share this quality – all can be misused, twisted, undermined.

My construction of independence is that it is a deep, real and fragile reality.

A reality that it is always imperfect, as are all real things.

A reality that can be malignantly and profoundly manipulated by the few against the many, a quality most good aspirations share.

Nursing was my first career and I had the privilege of being present at the births of babies who were no relation to me and of caring for whole wards of brand new little human beings.

They were frail wee souls. Imperfect in the most irrelevant ways but imperfect all the same. Easily hurt, easily harmed and pretty much entirely subject to other people’s influence but it never occurred to me that this made that little new creation unreal, unimportant, easily discarded.

These Carp are beautiful and they require plenty of care to keep them healthy.

These Carp are beautiful and they require plenty of care to keep them healthy.

Indeed the opposite was true.

My response, the same as most people’s response to new born babies, was to feel that I was in the presence of something very important, to hold that newborn little Being was to feel awed, to feel protective, to feel careful and especially gentle and caring.

Seems to me that the frailty, imperfection and vulnerability of ‘independence’ might warrant a similar response – motivating us to protect it, to guard it, to care for it, feed it, be watchful for dangers to it….you get the idea. 🙂

Peace,

Mikel.

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