Tale Spin

I think Darwin might cry a little if he could see where competition has taken us.


We live in a world where power struggles are more common than social empowerment.

Some describe the corporate world (and by extension many aspects of society) as psychopathic, because of what a person is required to do to gain power, favor and advancement. Ruthless contest requires a person to be ruthless. And with a prize at stake that is so highly valued by so many people, why wouldn’t the competition be fierce?

I think Darwin might cry a little if he could see where competition has taken us. Ronald Fisher, on the other hand, would probably shrug and point out all the long, frivolous tails.

Psychopaths, though, fuck. That’s pretty shocking, right? Well, it might have been, but it isn’t anymore. We seem to have digested this theory, accepted its relevance, and moved on to doing the same thing we we doing before.

I imagine power is seductive. And I think it corrupts. Does it corrupt in the pursuit of it or in the achievement of it? I think the whole damned thing is corrupt.

Power over is not healthy. And no matter what any person leads you to believe, there was a point in every child/teen/young adult’s life where (s)he felt powerless because someone with more authority exercised power over him/her. That might be a big thing. That knowledge might be a very big thing.

There are as many people who have no idea that some in position of authority use their status to fulfill their personal agenda as there are people who choose to consciously use their authority to get what they want, what they feel they deserve.

Are there as many people who choose to forgo the scarcity route and seek power from within? I honestly don’t know. I can tell you this, though: the number of those who seek power from within are difficult to calculate because they are quiet, unless they choose to publicly stand up and help to empower members of society who feel powerless.

Leadership and Legacies

I saw abundance last week and I can’t get it out of my mind

Thinking about leadership and legacies. Thinking about the different approaches to both. When someone is in a position of leadership or authority, s/he can approach the role from a position of scarcity or abundance.

Scarcity says: I am worried about me and mine

Abundance says: I am thinking about a community, a whole, a big picture

When you go into a role with an agenda that centers around yourself, you make certain choices. People who depend on you often get lost because of these choices. This cannot be eradicated, even when leading from abundance, but it can be greatly lessened. Historically, high powered positions have often been approached from a standpoint of scarcity. But I saw abundance last week and I can’t get it out of my mind.

Many who voted for Obama in his first race assumed that he would use his position of power to fix racism in America. Many were disappointed, disillusioned even, when he didn’t. Why didn’t he push this agenda? After his impassioned candor about the issue during his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, it’s clear that President Obama cares deeply about the violent racial divide in America and the history behind it. He didn’t, as suggested in an article I read, change “in days”.

Obama spoke knowingly about grace in his eulogy. He is a man of wisdom. A man of vision. He is on his way to leaving a legacy that will positively affect an entire country. And it’s because he approached his role from a place of abundance.

I can only imagine why certain people would resist voting for a non-Caucasian president. Or a non-male president. Or non-heterosexual president. Or… It’s fear, yes. But of what? Fear that the personal agenda of those leaders would seriously conflict what is already in place? Fear of upheaval. Chaos. The unknown other side where personal agendas may include oppressing groups that have not been oppressed. And a leadership agenda that doesn’t include oppression at all is a completely different universe for many people.

After watching Obama’s passion last week, I wondered what would have happened if he had decided to push his personal beliefs throughout his presidency instead of remaining neutral. I imagine it would have been setting a poor example for future “different” presidents. I imagine that he was well aware of the precedents he has been setting, not only as the first black president in USA, but also as the first non-Caucasian president. If he forced his personal passions down the throats of people uncomfortable with change, it would have given those people a bad taste for change. It would have given them a reason to justify shutting down future change.

Obama could have chosen to remain neutral at this funeral. But I think, instead of becoming overwhelmed by tragedy that hit closer to home than any other (I think they all hit home, and I’ve seen evidence of this in facial expressions and body language during prior speeches in response to tragedy), Obama is thinking of what comes next. Without the heavy role of President on his shoulders, the weight of an entire nation filled with many races, religions, cultures, etc. each with its own nuanced hardships and benefits, he can focus on issues that deeply matter to him.

Consent To Bear The Weight Together

Consent is a gender-neutral issue.

Last year, a group of male students developed a nail polish that females are slated to wear to detect drugs in their drinks. It was criticized as a non-empowering tool. The students cared enough about the safety of their female friends and loved ones to seek a solution. We have to remember that they were coming at the issue from their perspectives.

Rape is not okay. But it’s a difficult subject to talk about. The enmeshed issues are complicated and rooted in centuries-old beliefs. Resolutions are equally as complex and they will take time.

Friday, The Globe&Mail reported on a recently completed study that focused on looking into effective solutions for preventing rape. Almost 900 female psychology student volunteers participated. The experimental group of college and university students took a 12-hour educational course which offered some options about how to handle an unwanted sexual incident, specific to date rape issues. From what I read, this course focused on discussing boundaries, learning when and how to say no, and how to recognize coercion. And how to use physical force when necessary. The control group was given brochures.

Do I think this strategy of educating females is effective? The numbers in the study speak for themselves. The girls were followed for a year after the study and reported incidents of completed rape, attempted rape, coercion, attempted coercion, and nonconsensual sexual contact. The girls in the control group, the ones who were given brochures but not the 12-hour course, reported about double the incidents in most categories. For example, the females in the control group reported 42 incidents of completed rape in the year after the study, while the girls who took the course reported 23.

That was the completed rape. There were 55 incidents of attempted rape (40 from the control group, 15 from the experimental group), 110 incidents of coercion (62 control, 48 experimental), 170 incidents of attempted coercion (103 control, 67 experimental), and an incredible 305 incidents of nonconsensual sexual contact (184 control, 121 experimental).

When you add up the numbers, a total of 705 incidents happened over the course of a year in a group of 893 female college and university students. What do you think of those numbers?

Completed rape sounds pretty sterile and unoffensive. Very clinical and arms-length. Rape is a violent act. Rape is not sexual. Rape is perpetrated by someone who sees the person they are raping as less than. Rape is real and messy and traumatic. 23 incidents of rape in one year from a sample group of about 450 women is not okay. Something about this method of rape prevention is missing.

The most shocking numbers to me were the coercion incidents. It tells me that coercion is not something we can reduce by teaching women boundaries or assertiveness. The use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance can be covert and slipped into dynamics rooted in a culture where both men and women are taught, on many levels, that women are objects. Coercion plays on a person’s fears. Coercion is wrong. But it’s one of those things that is often not seen in the moment.

So, should we come up with a new 12-hour course to address coercion? Fuck ya! And let’s invite the boys to join.

Why don’t we have a course for boys and men? I don’t think that’s the right question. I think we should ask, why aren’t we including boys and men in the conversation? To effectively address the issue of coercion, we need to look at difficult questions about consent. Consent is a gender-neutral issue.

Let’s make courses about the intricacies about consent mandatory in all schools, starting no later than grade one, gradually working up to how this applies to sexual relationships when it’s age-appropriate.

If we do that, about five years later, we’ll be dealing with the root of the issue.