Mantras vs Activism

Mixed race businesswoman practicing yoga in busy urban crosswalkRecently, I shared a video of Brene Brown challenging us to deal with the issues of race, class, gender etc. A contact responded and in her message she explained that she was very poor and now very wealthy helping others because it makes her feel good and that she believed there was “no lack” in the world. She concluded by saying that there was too much division and that we should all just focus on unity and love. My response is way down below lost in a thread on my profile so I decided to give it its own space as the message is important. Also, marginalised people get that kind of response from privileged white folk a lot and we are tired of it. The fact that none of my activist friends responded to it was evidence that it is a stale argument we don’t have time and energy for really. I did respond and I am documenting the response in a separate post because as stale as the argument is, it is real in the minds of the people who have elevated themselves from one challenge and believe that circumstances are purely a matter of personal choice and can be solved with a great mantra. Systemic oppression, invisible violence (see Dr Sarah Malotane Henkeman) and intersectionality are safely tucked away in their blind spots while they laze around lapping up the fortunes of privilege believing it is all earned and deserved.

I was not entirely sure why she decided to share the first two paragraphs of being very poor and now being wealthy so I could only assume. What I assumed was that she was arguing the fact that she attracted all this abundance to herself miraculously because of her belief that there is no lack. It follows that having such a belief was the reason she made it from rags to riches and that her white privilege had nothing to do with it.

As we all know there are many such stories. Many people all over the world have the rags to riches narratives and the Annie story is real for many people. It is most inspirational indeed. There are also many, many victims of child abuse who make it out against the odds and live powerful lives assisting others. There are amazing women who were left for dead by their husbands after a round of blows to the head and they make it out there somehow. The rags to riches story comes in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps many of the Muslim men and women being tormented, kicked down a staircase and burned alive will also have a rags to riches story of sorts in America and other place in the world.

However inspirational these individual circumstances are, I do not for a single moment think that it releases us from the reality of systemic oppression and violence. I surely don’t need to explain that. Systemic oppression and marginalization of black people, gay people, Muslim people, women people etc is a reality that does not disappear because a few people beat the odds. Even in the thick of apartheid, my father after being dispossessed of his land, the vote, education and and and … made it out and became a millionaire and I grew up a wealthy kiddo. I was though still coloured, denied the education the white kids were getting, not allowed to live where I wanted or set foot on the beaches of the privileged and not allowed to vote. There were others with even less privilege than my father with that story too. When a white person makes it out of poverty it is a very different matter – your backpack of privilege tops up and is maxed or close to maxed again!

Instead of saying “oh WE made it out so all you poor ones have to do is practice abundance and then do things that make you feel good,” we took to the streets and took action until Apartheid was abolished. Now that it is, we still have many wealthy black folk and marginalised people who don’t have the backpack of white privilege but we realise apartheid is entrenched in the system. These numbers of wealthy people who were favoured by the abundance mantras as was suggested are but minuscule compared to the majority who live in inhumane conditions through the deliberate systemic maintenance of apartheid. You are free to chant abundance mantras and if you feel that is enough so be it. Others of us are taking action and dealing with the invisible violence that no amount of mantra will change because the structure is set up in a way to privilege white people, male people, straight people, Judeo-Christian people.

This very respondent was very active on social media a while ago protesting against the Christian ethic when she pursued the dark goddess Lilith and I assume she found a way to own self-expression through her abundance mantras. Many women protesting more serious concerns in the world like the right to live are also black and also gay and also Muslim have less in their backpack of privilege. The recognition of that is what motivates me and activists of social change to do more than sit in a corner chanting a mantra. When I look at my backpack I see how easily certain things came to me and that leads me to understand the need for action. It makes me realise that as much as I want to believe that my mantras are powerful, the reality is that life is that much easier for me than a child in Syria, a black girl in Nigeria, a Muslim woman alone on a train station in America, a Sioux man on the reservation harassed by the right white. The list goes on – my backpack of privilege is pretty decked relatively speaking and I have the space and luxury to chant mantras and believe I have a superpower.

While I am chanting mantras I will also break the silence and speak and speak and speak my truth and challenge a system that hands out these backpacks of privilege based on race, class, gender etc. I do this not because it makes me feel good but because it pains me to see the agony and suffering of visible and systemic violence. I do it because my own mantras of calling for peace and harmony have brought me to the light of knowing that (in the words of Ida B Wells) “The way to right the wrongs is to shine the light of truth on them”

Michelene Dianne Benson
#privilege #systemicviolence #whiteprivilege

Unto each their own unique journey

The journey of life is a very unique one indeed.  Our life stories are filled with intricate details, adventures, personalities, circumstances and histories.  The purpose and the meaning of our lives is viewed through all of these to create even more unique flavour to the journey.  There are so many people we can relate to as they share experiences, thoughts and feelings very similar to our own.  Then there are those who we listen to with absolute puzzlement and we wonder how this person operates and where they come from.

In the self development and transformation journey, we each have our own unique course to chart.  Perhaps the most important starting point is willingness to take any journey at all.  Whether we are willing or not life continues to happen all around us and we get swept along by the force of life.  The willing traveller chooses to be part of plotting the course and greets each adventure with intrigue. They see the events of the past, the present and the future as being uniquely designed to bring about every experience, opportunity, failure, loss, joy and sorrow that was required for the growth, healing and transformation of their soul.

The unique course has its own pace, content, duration and intensity.  No journey is more than or less than another.  A journey is only more than or less than itself – meaning, the choices we make will determine how much we enable and participate in a  journey or how much we disable, retard and disembark from a journey.  In honest reflection, most of us can say whether we are participating in our journey or whether we have disembarked and look on with yearning to the horizons of where we might have been, could have loved, should have known.

There is no template course to follow.  No tried and tested sorrow-proof map.  There is no straight line to the treasure because even the treasure is unique.  The answers that provide one with salvation offer another no great help at all.  The insight of one counts for naught to another.  Unto each is their own unique journey…

My own kind

swan tribe

Born into a particular nest

Struggling and striving to fit in with the rest

Believing there is something amiss with me

Faking a life and inventing my happy

A voice rises up from deep within

Wild courage partners to start the journeying

Battles and perils you begin to brave

The soul within you commit to save

Scarred and battered you plod along

At last you hear the melody of your own new song

A kindred soul fondly welcomes their own

How beautiful the strange duckling has grown ….

Michelene Dianne Benson

What’s trending – my heart!

I am celebrating a wonderful sense of freedom starting today I guess.  For the longest time I have felt shut up and constrained by my many thoughts about what matters.  My prison of constraint was self constructed I realise.  I paid an awful amount of attention to what I should do and how it should be done.  The well-meaning teachers of branding and marketing with their supposedly brilliant advertising models took me on a journey to far far away from my heart intelligence.  Even when my meticulous nature implemented their flop proof instruction I was haunted by a sense of uneasiness.  It just did not feel right.  I lost my flow. I lost my feel and felt less in touch with the life of me.  The demands of the business environment nearly had me strangled and my poor throat chakra was gasping for life.
In this competitive economic climate,  where everyone is scrambling to the imaginary “top” we call “success” there are many who claim to have the road map.  I believed them and for some silly reason I can’t quite recall I was somehow part of a race I had no desire to be part of anyway.  Everybody was doing it – or so it seemed.  I did not want to get left behind and I certainly did not want to lose out.  There I was, unconsciously part of something and satisfied by the notion of being part of it – whatever “it” was. I proudly plonked my Linked in addy to my signature feeling I was in the game.  I made sure I kept most of me off this profile.  I excluded all the things that would upset “them” – meaning the ones who decide.  I followed the rules of social media networking by fitting in!  My creativity and spirituality was beautifully whitewashed so that I would not upset, scare or confuse “them”.  I toddled off to create a blog space on this blog where I allowed myself somewhat more self-expression.
I did some personal work on values with the Barrat Values group a while back.  It was then I realised that leaving your values and passion in the car park (or on your blog) and morphing into something is simply not sustainable.  Perhaps I know why I started this madness.  My NGO/development and transformation/creative/humanitarian values based self did not think itself to be of value in the competitive business sector.  I thought I had to go undercover and fit into their world.  In the NGO sector I lived myself fully.  In the corporate world I had to take on a new persona so that I could bring my scarce and critical skills to this environment but maintain the status quo.  And sing it with me now – I was dying inside!!!

The business and economically driven environment is perfectly suited for many people.  I have worked with them and loved them.  The development sector types like myself can add tremendous value to the business world as have I.  This is not about right of wrong.  Both have their value in the grand scheme of things.

The freedom I am celebrating is a result of giving up the notion that an individual needs to become a certain way before they can add value.  Owning and expressing myself fully, taking back my values (and my profile) means that I will not follow the road map I was given.  I will instead follow my higher intelligence which is my heart.  I use the term heart intelligence deliberately.  To follow one,s heart is not about recklessness as our lesser evolved thinking led us to believe previously. Heart intelligence is a body of work which is an ever growing wisdom at this time in our evolution.

Following my heart is only possible now that I have given up the crazy fear that bullied me into thinking I had to do it their way in order to succeed at their game.  While I have done lots of self work to arrive here it is in a single moment that revelation occurs and my revelation went something like this “What am I doing in this crowd?  This is not even my goal and the little ego boosts I get here so short lived.”  And with that, I was out.

The most amazing thing is – since that moment the flow started again.  Calls from colleagues, people saying they need this and that skill and my name popped up, odd meetings with individuals I have never met but there is an uncanny synchronicity in our stories. In short, I find myself in lovely places.  Yes – altogether lovely – not a business term and who cares?  It is a term from my higher intelligence which is guiding me in unimaginable ways to these lovely places. I am not out of business sector.  Not by a long shot!  I am out of the illusion that I must conform.  To the degree that a business is evolved, I will have altogether lovely experiences with them.

Now let me give expression to my change manager self too and leave you with a note on the walls of this maze as is my custom friends

Be sure your heart is not left out of whatever it is you are trending!