I remember as a kid, being at a gathering of relatives, and the subject of racism came up. Feeling in an evil mood, I very carefully led the discussion into sports. And proposed, carefully, that blacks were superior physically. Took about thirty seconds to start getting agreement. And then discussions of American history. And yes, it was quickly agreed that blacks would not have done the terrible things whites had done in regard to slavery. And then that the greatest, earliest civilizations were in Africa, and that the rest of the world had stolen their knowledge. WE were the natural geniuses…
Oops. Physical, spiritual/moral, and intellectual superiority, all in one package, all with about five minutes of probing.
In college, I was often the only guy in the room around a group of women often enough to try another experiment. Pull in my energy. Start apologizing for the evils of men: the wars, the violence, the domination and sexism. Why, the world would be a better place if women controlled it. Women have more empathy and wisdom. Even endurance and strength! The apparent differences in performance are all social constructs.
Two things became pretty obvious: one that it took about ten minutes to get those heads nodding. Second: I got laid a LOT.
And not to put too fine a line on it, I’ve also performed the experiment of being in a room filled with white people, and quietly, soberly being “forced” to admit that, well, black people have a long way to go…that most of us were…well…very good at, you know, entertainment and sports, and SOME of us were pretty damned smart (tears sparkling in my eyes. Pats on the back) but…well, you know…
And gotten the “oh, Steve, its all right. You’re not one of THEM. You’re one of US.”
And of course, the experiment of being in a room filled with guys, and gotten them to chuckle along with how we’re being really nice to let women consider themselves equal. But if they ever went too far, they’d reap the whirlwind…
Nods, agreement, and hand-slapping.
Done this with gays and straights. Christians and Muslims. Believers and Atheists, Liberals and Conservatives. Same damned result every #$%$% time.
Meaning: everyone thought they were superior. Everyone also blamed their opponents for thinking they are superior. Everyone discounted the humanity of everyone else, and everyone would be an oppressor given the opportunity.
There was no safety anywhere. I’d been hurt by everyone, rejected by everyone, offered safe harbor only if I lied and distorted…and knew that the instant I stopped agreeing, they’d turn on me.
If there is no safety in the external world…what do we do?
Octavia Butler said it: that the thing she found most troubling about human beings is that
- They have a tendency toward hierarchicalism
- They believe themselves to be higher on that ladder than others.
And no matter where you look, you’ll find this to be true. And it was easy to see the trap as the pendulum swung back and forth: oppressed becoming oppressors, and either exterminating their opponents, absorbing them, or being oppressed in return.
An endless cycle of misery. How to avoid either being oppressed OR becoming an oppressor?
How do you step off the carousel? And if you do…how will you survive? Because SURVIVAL, personal (death and pain) or genetic (sex and pair-bonding) are the two most powerful drives in human nature. They trump everything else 80% of the time, and people willing to put love or truth above survival are so rare they become heroes of legend.
How to find your way out of the trap?
By controlling the STORY you tell about the human race. Remember the five-step process:
- Love and nurture yourself. The story: “I am worthy of love and protection.” So long as you are in pain, or feel threat, you cannot help but thrash out in fear and anger. You’ll numb that pain with drugs or powerful negative emotions…or all embracing “love” that is actually a plea for mercy. Be strong.
- Love another human being. The story: “Love is the most powerful transformative force, and I can have lasting love in my life.” If YOU are not strong, you can give your love to someone who is, who needs that softness, and trade it for protection. We do this with equals all the time, trading strength and love even-steven. But you can also go Yin-Yang, finding someone with great emotional/intellectual/physical strength and offering them genuine affection and healing in exchange for protection. You stand together, and are stronger as a team than you would be individually.
- Understand human history without guilt, blame, or shame. The story: “Human beings are basically just creatures moving away from pain, and toward pleasure. Capable of great good and great harm. And the greatest sin is harming children, or using people as means rather than ends. We all do this at times. I commit to a different path.” This CANNOT be done unless you love and forgive yourself enough to look deeply into your own soul and ask why you have not achieved your dreams, broken promises to yourself, lied and distorted and blamed. Take responsibility. The instant you do, you will understand why history has been what it is. As long as you operate in the delusion that you are above this, that you have not been driven by fear and anger, not lied to yourself and others, you will hallucinate that “the other” group, whether they are defined by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, politics, wealth, or whatever are the “evil” ones. Grasp that the problem is in the mirror, but LOVE that reflection as well as hold it responsible, and everything changes.
- Find your tribe. The story: “though I may walk alone for a time, if I speak my truth, I will attract others who see and feel the same reality. They are looking for me now.” Don’t waste time arguing with trolls–they will tag-team you into exhaustion. Instead, support those who see the world as you do, and let those who do not go their own way, in peace.
- Win. The story: “If I clearly define success in my own terms, and it is aligned with natural law, victory is living every day on my own terms.” With compassion and consideration, by the same sense of fair play and sportsmanship you would like others to show toward you. But win. Be healthy, happy, and successful. NOTHING attracts attention like walking your talk with joy and power.
We invest enormous energy maintaining the separation. One of the most fascinating things that I ever learned was from the discipline of sexual magic. The cultures that look at this powerful force without winking and simpering (although there IS a lot of laughter and giggling and sighing!) say something to the effect that “the intensity of an orgasm is in direct relation to the amount of ego released at that moment.”
In other words, if you can remember your name, it wasn’t good sex. Or to put it another way, as in a nuclear reaction, when two particles fuse, part of the mass is released as energy. When two human beings fuse, the degree to which they release their separate identities is the degree to which they release the energy bound up in their egos.
We carry a huge amount of energy bound up in our labels and self-justifications, our prejudices and the lies we tell to protect us from admitting we have them, that we are often the mirrors of the very bigots we decry.
The secret to life is to just…be. As opposed to carrying all that armor, and separating human beings into categories of greater and lesser worth.
The energy released is immense, almost incalculable, similar to the energy released in deep creative thought, the “flow” state when a reader sinks into a book, or a writer dissolves into the story.
This is a new opportunity, to change the story that you tell about yourself, your partners, the world, so that you can achieve the only goal you’ve ever really had–to be happy. Everything else, EVERYTHING else, was just a means to an end.
And every time you resolve a duality, TELL THE STORY of how you did it, what happened, what you have seen when others either evolve or remain trapped at their current level…or most tragically, devolve under the weight of their lies. Tell the story to your friends, your children, your readers, the world. Every word is an action. Every action changes the world.
Lies are shadows, cast by our egos blocking the light.
Embrace the sun.