My Most Valued Posession

I was on the train, and a young black woman was solving some math problems on the seat across from me. She dressed femininely, with a purple skirt, and little white flat shoes, and this big gold ring that kept flashing as she worked through her problems. But, the part of her that carried the most life was her face which was unsmiling, set in deep concentration – real concentration. When I watch actors on TV work through “math problems,” I can tell they’re not really thinking. But this woman, she was thinking.

She had this curly hair that took up so much space – it was as if her hair was standing up on end because it was electrified by her immense brain. In that moment, it seemed *so important* – to her, to me – that what was ever in that head of hers got out onto that piece of paper.

She had so many markers of the type of person who is asked to hold it all in, exhibited by her femininity and her blackness. I suppose, narcissistically, she reminded me of myself a bit – or, that part of myself that sees things that I am asked to keep hidden. We sat there on this train, me watching her, she lost in her math, as two young women with brains in working order. But, for how long? What would happen to all those things we were unable to get out of our heads?

I was born in England and lived there from 1984 to 1990, the six years which spanned the mad cow disease epidemic. As a young girl, I learned how the disease would create holes in your brain that would drive you to insanity, then death. Since then, I have always had this fear of losing my mind in that way, and feared it could occur randomly at any time.

My mind is my most valued possession.

I thought that once when I was meditating. I would give anything else I own up to protect my mind, but at the end of the day, that’s all it is. A possession. Something to be used to its full capacity while I have it, but ultimately something I will lose. We don’t get to keep any of our possessions forever.

My grandfather is dying of Alzheimer’s disease, and I worried that it would be terrible to see him because his essence would be gone. But, when I saw him last, I didn’t see that. Instead, I saw something shine through him in spite of his crippled mind. If I have any sort of faith, it’s that there is some part of us that runs deeper than our possessions – some part of us that cannot be brought, or fixed, or lost and that all the things we cling to are not really who we are.

And yet, while I still have my mind, I want to use it. If I was diagnosed with mad cow disease tomorrow, I wondered, what would I do?

I would spend the rest of my life getting all these things I’ve seen out of my head, and down onto a peace of paper like that young woman.

I spend a lot of time writing about race and gender, not because race and gender are particularly important, but because they provide a lens to answer the question “why do we, as humans, do horrible things to each other?” That is the question we need to answer! Race and gender are useful because they have already been explored by many great minds, and provide deep insights into the experience of the oppressed. Yet, if we end up in a world where all genders and all races are equally represented in all areas of society, but we still have oppressed classes (the poor, the felons, etc.) then we will have gained nothing. The study of race and gender cannot be ends to themselves, but rather a springboard into the deeper workings of our humanity.

We need additional work to explore the mechanisms of the oppressors – we need people who oppress people to write about the experience of oppressing people. This is something I am deeply curious about, but have come to no definitive conclusions.

I think that status, and the role of status, is essentially the key to understanding it. I think status is *the* most important thing to people after they get their animal needs met. A great exploration of this with respect to the prison system is in Violence by James Gilligan. That book changed how I thought about the world.

Status is a false god, though – love is the important part, but very few people really get that. At least, I don’t think they get that until they’re pretty old or nearly dead. Most people in the US sell out love for status (wondering how? Just watch any romantic comedy ever.) It’s not their fault though.

People in the US are dealing with a deep level of objectification. The study of the sexual objectification of women can shed light on this, but again, we cannot stop with the understanding of the sexual objectification of women. We have to dig deeper, and see the material and mental objectification of everyone. Racism is another form of objectification. And, by objectification I mean we value the *objectness* of a person, not the *subjectness*. When we are interested in a person for how they look, what they do, what they can do, what they think as opposed to *what they feel* or *what their lived in experience is like,* I think we are valuing their *objective status.* Instead, we must learn to value their *subjective experience.*

Because, that is not only the most important thing – it is the ONLY thing. Our lives are 100% our subjective experience, what else is there? Everything objective that exists is filtered through the lens of the subjective to achieve its value. Yet, we ask people – all people, all genders and races – to violate their own subjective experience to enhance their social status as an object. How insane is that? How perverse is that? That is the deepest sin we commit against humanity, and no one ever calls it out, and it is a tragedy.

I need more space to write out these ideas – I can’t support them as well as I’d like, but I want to get them out.

I also think that we need a serious exploration of the role of technology in our society.

My generation, the millennial generation, had grown up with ubiquitous access to information. But, what have we seen? We have seen anger, and trolling, and horses fucking women, and killings, and just the basest of human behavior come bubbling to the surface. We have ripped the bandage of politeness off of society, and found a festering wound underneath.

So, where do we go from here?

I think the millennials have no fucking clue, but we are the ones tasked with solving this problem. How will we raise our children not to be traumatized as we have been? How do we brace them for this onslaught of images into the darker parts of the human psyche? We need to talk about that.

Censorship is not the answer, and will only make things worse. How can we accept humanity, in all it’s broken fucked up ways, and work on progressing it forward? How can we take this world of objectification, and move it into a world of subjectification?

I’m not sure yet. I want to think on it more, while I still can.

Sex and Not Sex

It’s ok not to have sex. It’s ok not to have sex even if you get turned on, and it’s ok not to get turned on at all. It’s ok to not be able to find a partner to have sex with. It’s ok. It is all ok.

However, to me, it often seems like it’s not ok. In the words of Andrea Dworkin:

In Amerika, there is the nearly universal conviction – or so it appears – that sex (fucking) is good and that liking it is right: morally right; a sign of human health; nearly a standard for citizenship. Even those who believe in original sin and have a theology of hellfire and damnation express the Amerikan creed, an optimism optimism that glows in the dark: sex is good, healthy, wholesome, pleasant, fun; we like it, we enjoy it, we want it, we are cheerful about it; it is as simple as we are, the citizens of this strange country with no memory and no mind.

To not want sex is highly suspect – a sign of poor health, either physical or mental. It is counter-evolutionary! After all, the human race relies on sex. However, we also only ever use the “naturalness” argument to justify *having* sex, never not having  it.

While having sex is undoubtedly a human urge, there are also times it is natural to not want sex. In animals, we see sex drive decline during food shortages or other times of high stress. Additionally, it is natural for humans to age out of high sexual desire – with menopause being the most obvious example. However, there is never any discussion of sexual normalcy with respect to low desire during menopause. In this case, we have produced a bunch of *unnatural* medical interventions to help women extend the life of their high sex drive, and to help men maintain potency. Which isn’t to say any of this is wrong – I just mean to point out that our culture’s investment in sex is far deeper than an expression of “natural” human urges.

And, despite our overt obsession with sex which seems to be getting worse, American are having less sex than ever before: ( which is apparently extra true if you’re white or Asian ( or if you’re young (

What’s going on here? Let’s start with the assumption that humans are not broken. For me personally, this has been a big assumption. Nearly all of my relationships have ended after a period of sexual anorexia due to my own lack of desire, of which I am always deeply ashamed. Usually, my partners have encouraged my belief that there was something wrong with me, because it was more palatable than considering that there was something wrong or undesirable about them.

But, what if there’s nothing wrong with me? What if there’s nothing wrong with us?

Then, we perhaps we are having less sex because we are in an environment that does not foster our sexuality. All of that porn, and all those tits, and asses, and slutty halloween costumes are making us less horny even if we pretend otherwise. Despite our nation’s declining sexuality, I only ever hear my friends talk about HOW GOOD their sex life is. Public displays of affection are on the rise, as are sucking face facebook photos. We may be having less sex than ever before, but we certainly feel need to publicly project the rare occasion when we actually “get lucky.”

Thanks to the internet, by the time the average American loses their virginity they have probably seen many depictions of sex without ever experiencing it. Not many accurate depictions, of course, many pornographic depictions – with big hard dicks, big hard tits, blonde heads, and hairless chests. They have seen sex that judges 99% of the public wordlessly by excluding them. Pornographic culture conveys the message that sex is not for you to have, only to watch – a message it is within the industry’s best interest to foster since less actual sex and more virtual sex leads to more profit.

In this environment, sex becomes about ego reinforcement rather than connection. People care more about being one of the “sexual haves” than they do about seeing the deep truth about who their partner is. People care more about having sex with someone beautiful because it reflects their own perceived worth back to them, not because they have an innate appreciation for this beauty. We have become isolated from each other through our own narcissism.

I remember once, some guy was going down on me, and I said “I feel like I’m going to cry,” and he said “Don’t cry!” He didn’t care how I was feeling, he cared about “being a good lover.” My crying would contradict that in his head, so he said “STOP STOP STOP” when I tried to connect my authentic experience to his. After that, my body froze up, and we ended our sexual relationship soon afterward. However, nothing was *wrong* with me. My body was protecting me. As soon as I realize that the person I am with doesn’t care about my experience, my body refuses to cooperate. When I was younger, I have tried to override it – but now I understand it’s saving me. I have wasted years with people who didn’t give a shit about me, and my mind may not have been willing to admit it, but my body knew and wouldn’t fuck them.

Our bodies are saving us from this culture. This culture is toxic, and our minds are ignoring it, but our bodies know it and they are refusing to play along. Sex without connection is not worth it, sex where we are resented by our partners is not worth it, sex we do not enjoy is not worth it. It is better to be abstinent. Our minds pretend to enjoy it, but the body doesn’t lie.

Fame and the New Society

We are beginning to live in a world where fame is starting to become more important than money. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. Several factors, I assume, made this possible – not least of which is food security. The world creates 1.5 times as much food is needed for the human population, although many people are malnourished due to distribution problems (see here.) Still, for many people in the West, the needs of *survival* have been met, so different needs begin to take priority.

There are a lot of irritating side effects of fame becoming the new source of currency, in particular, an increasing amount of noise as people cry out for attention. However I think it is also the beginning of the next phase of human existence (not to get too sci fi on you.)


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – food supply is “Physiological” aka the red block.

We have solved problems that have been defining humanity for millennia, so now nearly all of American society is operating within the top 4 needs. “Safety” is still an unmet need for many Americans, particularly the homeless, but an ever increasing percentage of the population is primarily concerned with the “Social” and “Esteem” levels of need, which is exactly where fame lies. I expect, and hope, this obsession with fame will spread as increasing numbers of the world population have their physiological and safety needs met.

If fame becomes a big enough, money may become a thing of the past. Eventually. We’re a long way off, but people already work for free – on wikipedia, in open source, and contributing articles for journals. I write this blog for free, for the benefit of both my readers. Working for money has ceased to be a way to generate respect in the community. The richest people in the US are beginning to be resented by the population, and historically, high levels of resentment have not been sustainable. In the past, they led to revolution and revolt – but there is no need for things to get so violent in this technological age.

We have non-violent means of shaming people at our disposal, which are used regularly. With the rise of fame comes the rise of image, and maintenance of that image. If it becomes shameful to be rich, it will be a complete game changer for American society. I doubt, however, our consumer mindset will disappear. At its heart, American consumerism is really about purchasing social status. The marketing of objects is usually the marketing of identity -“buy this, and you can be that.”

We seem to be drifting toward an online identity, where the actual objects we possess are less important than the image we broadcast via the web. One the one hand, it seems more artificial, but on the other hand, it frees us of many of our material ties. If you could be a rich nobody, or a poor yet well respected celebrity, which one would you pick? (You can’t pick both.)

Back in the day, wealth and fame went together, but that link is being broken. The internet is essentially the exultation of the every-person so no longer will you have to be rich to get famous, and fame is no promise of wealth. This is one short step from money being de coupled from power, which would be astounding.

Sure, rich corporations can buy congress – but at the end of the day, congress relies on elections, and fame has the ability to trump cash. Right now, money is often used to *buy* fame, but someone who already had fame wouldn’t need it necessarily.

We may actually be at the start of a culture transcending money in many ways, yet it is unlikely to produce a utopian paradise. Resource scarcity will be replaced by attention scarcity, where we battle each other for the spotlight. Our physical manifestations will become less important as we build up these hollow online personas, and yet it is still a step forward – but toward what? What is our ultimate self-actualization as a society? I can’t answer that, but I do have faith in it.

White People Gotta Write About Being White

You know, how sometimes people of color write about their experience being a person of color in American society, or whatever society they live in? (I live in the US, so it’s usually America.) White people gotta do that, but with respect to being white in American society. Or Peruvian society, or Somalian society, or whatever.

Now, whenever I say that to my friends, I often get the response “But, most writing is written by white people. We already have too much writing written from the white perspective – why add to it?” to which I have TWO retorts.

1) Most writing written by white people is written with the *assumption* of white ubiquity – aka, most white writers think that their experiences with respect to race are *everyone’s* experiences with respect to race. (This is a big problem right now in feminist circles, for instance – or so I hear, I’m not in those circles.) Or, perhaps more accurately, white authors don’t even *think* about race because it’s not usually causing them the type of problems it’s causing people of color. Calling out an experience as a *white* experience, it is actually *less* racist than writing from a “universal” perspective when the author is white. White people don’t have a universal perspective, they have a white perspective. Let’s be honest about it.

2) There hasn’t been a lot of thought, at least that I’ve come across, about what it’s like to *be white.* According to Louis Ck, it’s great, but I think that our culture has currently caught a PC Privilege-owning mind worm where you can’t admit there is ANYTHING wrong with being white because zomg, it’s clearly SO MUCH WORSE to be NOT WHITE. You can only say, “I admit my privilege” as you keep sipping your caramel macchiato. But, like – that’s wrong. I hope when we get racial equality, everyone doesn’t end up living the current “white” experience. And, the things that suck about being white are *totally different* from the things that suck about being black.

Would you like to be a slave owner?

I’m guessing 99.9% of people reading that said no, and the other 0.1% are into BDSM. That means, on some level, it sucked to be a slave owner. BUT BEING A SLAVE WAS WORSE! I’m sure it was.

The point is not to say who is the biggest victim, the point is to end slavery. To end slavery, you need to know why some people choose to have slaves.

When black slaves were emancipated in America, what was their model of success? White slave owners. It proved *very difficult* to end slavery, and we still really haven’t, we’ve just replaced it with different types of servitude. Better types! But, on some level, we still view a person’s success as proportional to the number of people he or she can control. CEOs, for instance, are right at the top. College students with 100k of debt they need to pay back? They’re the new serfs. We may not be as awful as we once were, but we have a lot of room for improvement. To understand this hierarchical mindset, we need to understand slavery – both, from the slave’s and the slave owner’s perspective.

Anyway, back to the contemporary experience of being white. A little while ago, I wrote about Asian fetish. I *totally* missed the boat on cultural appropriation. I assumed it was just a *physical* preference, but talking to a few of my Asian female friends revealed a lot more going on. Often, white men make assumptions – and feel entitled to explicitly articulate those assumptions – about Asian women’s personalities, or tastes. There was added complexity around a woman’s specific cultural heritage, and one of my friends who is an immigrant from China said she believed that she was subjected to a different beauty standard than her culture’s, and found it offensive that other races set the standard for Asian beauty. On the one hand, I wasn’t really qualified to write about that topic, but on the other hand, I’m glad I did because I got to talk to people about their experiences.

One thing that was interesting, however, is that a lot of my white female friends liked my post. I had written something that had reached them – and, I think what it was, was the discussion of how critique of beauty culture often implicitly reinforces typical beauty culture. Slim, white women are sometimes seen as status objects, and this position as a “status object” is often read as a form of privilege when in fact it is much more complicated than that. Without confronting the true complexity behind this privilege, a white woman cannot hope to truly understand herself.

More generally, I would argue that the entire concept of white privilege is complicated in a similar way. What is it that the white race is most privileged to do? Oppress other races. Is this a form of privilege everyone else really wants? Are we lucky to have that?

Even more importantly, how are white people dehumanized by this privilege? White women have access to some amount of power through exhibiting conventional beauty – as do conventionally attractive women of other races. However, these women exercise this power at the cost to their own humanity; to get any amount of money or control they must allow someone to objectify them.

What is the cost white people pay for oppressing other races? To eliminate racism, white people will *need* to understand that cost. When people like Louis CK talk about how great it is to be white, they pander to a politically correct audience, however, they also reinforce the notion that white people benefit from racism. It’s time to move beyond that.


Have you ever been accused of having too much ego, or being too egocentric? I certainly have! Many times.

And, you know, the people who told me that were right in a way. The times I have been the most depressed, for lack of a better word, heavily correlated with the times I spent the most energy introspecting, thinking about myself, and ruminating on everything I did wrong. Unfortunately, after being accused on being egocentric, I simply ruminated too much on how egocentric I was. To try not to be be egocentric starting with the idea “I am egocentric, and this is bad” is, unfortunately, by its very nature deeply egocentric. It is very focused on who “I” am, and who “I” want to be.

Also, accepting someone else’s evaluation of this can be dangerous. Sometimes, when people say “you are being too egocentric” what they actually mean is “you are being too inconvenient.” Often, for instance, oppressed groups of people are encouraged not to feel angry about their oppression. I took a class in non-violent communication with a black woman, who was careful about expressing frustration because she didn’t want to be another “angry black woman.” But, black women in America have plenty to feel angry about! And, it is possible to use pseudo-spiritual language to oppress people even more. “You have too much ego, you care so much for these little slights when clearly someone just made a slip of the tongue when talking to you. You will be happier if you just let go of some of this anger, and don’t stress out about every little comment someone makes.”

(On a side note, I *hate* the idea of “letting go” of anger.)

I disagree that a black woman who represses her anger is letting go of ego, however. I think a black woman who endured a racist remark, and hid her anger, would be embracing her ego. Not that that’s “bad” per se – sometimes it’s necessary – but she would not be expressing what she feels, in the effort to maintain a good image either to herself, or to others. To be or nor to be an “angry black woman” – both paths are full of ego. However, people who don’t like to face the repercussions of their own racism, or sexism, will gladly tell black women not to be “angry,” and if they can clothe it in hippie, new age-y type language to give it more credibility, so much the better.

In fact, I don’t think it is very useful for someone else to tell you you have too much ego, because to attack it directly like that is to play right into the ego. “I don’t want to be an egocentric person,” is a trap from which we cannot escape. The very desire itself stems from ego.

Perhaps a better question is, “What have you wanted to do, but been able to, because you were preoccupied with your self image?”

One answer for me is dance! I love dancing, but I care so much about what other people think of me, I will sometimes not do it. Even when I’m alone in my room, I’ll start to dance, and then sometimes stop because I am ashamed at how “badly” I dance. Even though there is no one else there, to think of myself as a “bad dancer” is so painful I will avoid thinking about it by avoiding dancing.

Another answer is meditate. Often, when I am meditating I get up with thoughts that approach something like “I can see so much!” Sometimes it’s not so much a thought, as a feeling of excitement, that stems from a sense of “this means something about me.” It throws me out of wherever I was, and starts me down a path of thinking about myself.

And, in a way, that’s ok. There is a lot of culture there, that I’m carrying. I exist in this facebook world of self promotion, and I don’t want to just cut it off or cut it out of me. It’s how I relate to my friends, it’s how I connect with the people around me. It’s part of what will enable me to understand pain other people are going through.  It’s important, but it interferes with some things I’m trying to do. I don’t really have a good solution. My current plan is to keep trying to do the things I’m trying to do (to dance, to meditate) with the hope that eventually, I’ll just get bored. I’ll stop being interested in thinking about what this means “about me,” and just do them.