Tag Archives | justice

Effective Positivity: Inspire All, Empower Only Good

EmpowerGood

Photo Credit: S. Braswell

People are not all equal.

That is, all deserve to be approached with openness, kindness, compassion, and the basics of humanity, but not all deserve much more beyond that. This is because there is such a thing as a bad person.

I was like many of you, once upon a time. I believed that everyone was inherently good, that many were just confused, lost, and that there were really no truly bad people. I therefore wasted my  energy in a lot of potential good, not actual good.

This is a tricky line to draw. People should be given the benefit of the doubt, and even those who make mistakes should be given a chance to show that they can be better than how they have been.

At least, in theory, it sounds reasonable. But, as with most credit-based systems in an open market, the potential for abuse is fairly high. (Check out our economy’s ledger if you need proof.)

I understand that “hurt people hurt people,” and I still believe in the majority of people being not-bad, even if they do things that harm others. But there is a small percentage (which equates to a large number, nonetheless) of people who truly are bad. Until this fact is acknowledged, these individuals will continue to cause serious damage to innocent, well-meaning, unassuming people, because bad guys understand and take tremendous advantage of the status quo ignorance.

Q: “How do you tell the difference between Good and Evil?”

A: “You give it power.” ~Marilyn Vos Savant

That answer stuck with me since I first read it in Marilyn Vos Savant’s column, one of my favorite go-to sections of The Washington Post when I was a kid. Its simple brilliant truth manifested itself through people I would meet and try to help throughout my life. The only caveat of this test is that by the time “evil” has been identified, power has been put into the wrong hands, and serious damage has often been done.

I was in a harmful relationship where I was once a Zen Ignorant – I was insistent that goodness was to be found in everyone. My perpetrator ex was simply confused because he did not grow up with the kind of love that I did. If I showed him kindness, compassion, patience, and encouragement, he would be inspired into becoming the same. Right?

What took me quite a while to figure out was that my ex understood, from very early on, my need to be fair and kind to others. So, he tailored his words and actions accordingly, and very effectively, to my detriment. This alone did not make him a bad person, though.

Not even did the fact that he knew to hide the things he did to me from the public and the law – any common criminal would do this, and not all criminals are actually bad people. (I know this because following our brother’s death, my surviving brother became a gangster. He did things that gangsters did, and felt the anger and lack of connection to his conscience during those years in order to survive in the streets. I get it.)

But my ex was not an adolescent/young adult who didn’t know better. He was not living in the streets, looking over his shoulder every second. He was not living in nor reacting from fear or violence. He was not mentally ill and needing medication, nor was he on drugs. Along with the lack of someday-pardonable reasons for his behaviors, what truly set him apart from a “lost/confused” person was the fact that my ex enjoyed causing me pain and seeing me suffer.

And this was made possible because I gave him power: the power to disconnect me from my own sense of worth and abilities; the power to flex his “paternal rights” through the court system as a means to continue to terrorize me for nearly a decade after I’d escaped him; the power to stay in this country and continue the cycle with other naive young girls.

Today, I am very mindful of whom I empower. I am openly kind to all that cross my path because I want to fill the world with whatever goodness that I can. But I do not empower everyone. The lesson on the dangers of empowering the wrong person is one of my greatest gifts from that dastardly period. My hard head about having a soft heart had to be split wide open to understand this. But yours doesn’t.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou

In retrospect, there were a lot of clues that my ex was one to be left slithering on the side of the road. If my mind were more open—seeing people as they were, not as I insisted they were (which was “good” and “nice”)—I would have recognized what I was dealing with. But it was fixated on ideals, and no fixation in our mind allows truth to clearly materialize.

Most people who do bad things are truly simply hurt, lost, and confused, some, terribly so. Help if you can, or walk away if you cannot. But keep this in mind:

Some people are just bad to the marrow of their bones.  It is not your responsibility to fix or help them, nor to even try to understand them. In fact, that you cannot comprehend, on any common level, their reasoning, is a good thing. Chances are, there is nothing to rationalize, for there’s nothing humane in the rationalization of seeking and finding pleasure in an innocent person’s pain. You just need to learn to recognize such individuals, and deal with them accordingly, as you would with any deadly serpent in your path.

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Life Code: Lessons from “Dexter”

Dexter

“Dexter: Harry’s Code” Scene (Photo credit: http://swishost.com/dexter-widescreen.html)

From the beginning, I loved the idea of Dexter’s character: A serial killer of serial killers.  Perhaps I am too elementary spiritually, not transcended above the idea of such a system of justice.  I’m not sure what it is within me that makes it gratifying, not horrifying, to think of someone killing those who kill innocent people, like my twisted sense of relief to know that child rapists often get killed in prison when their inmates discover the nature of the predator’s crimes.  I feel that somehow I am wrong to think this way, and I am partly ashamed to admit having a side comfortable with such brutality.  The fact that I am not entirely convinced that it is wrong to think this way, however, brings me to believe that my sense of shame is more a learned one rather than an instinctive one.  So, for now at least, Dexterity, it is.

I feel, though, that I am not alone, as “Dexter” was quite a popular show, and not just for his sexy love interest, Hannah McKay (played by Yvonne Strahovsky) in the latter half of the series.  I remember going into a department store and talking to a sales associate about the show when it was at the height of its popularity, and was told that the Henley shirts Dexter sported always sold out quickly.  It made me wonder if the general population was as dark as I was, or if Dexter was, in fact, not really a bad guy, despite the general acceptance that killing is a bad, bad thing.

What made Dexter’s “dark passenger” a welcomed one, I believe, was “The Code,” a set of rules that was taught to Dexter by his father before he passed away:

  1. Never get caught.
  2. Never kill an innocent.

This code serves Dexter well throughout the series, both for his objectives within the context of the show as well as for his likeability as a character from the perspective of the show’s fans.  His code perpetuates his survival and ability to carry justice in the most primal and efficient way.  Without it, his character and story unravel.

In real life, we all must live by codes.  The law has a set of codes, religions have their codes, and general society has its own code of conduct.  People teeter-totter, pick and choose among these different sets of codes to create a basket of their own, some with very full baskets, adhering to every code they know, others, with fairly empty ones.  The exercise of identifying one’s own personal code is important, I believe, because it forces one to examine one’s self, both internally as well as in relation to one’s world, with all the people and triggers in it.  This connects us with our sense of control and, more importantly, accountability, which is a necessary moderator for the sense of power that comes with control.  If there’s any ethical standard or quality control to be found, accountability is the sleuth for it.

I’ve always thought about this theory of a code of conduct, although I’d not labeled it, but I recognized its existence immediately whenever one of my unspoken codes was being violated – the protest rose in full form, from my thoughts to emotions, to the heat rising to head and my neck hairs standing up.  For whatever reasons, I was made to feel and think (and when I was younger, be physical) intensely, and people would see just a facet of me, usually the peaceable side, the side I give freely to everyone in my path; the other side, the one that says Dexter can be my best friend, must be earned.

So my code consists of a justice unfazed by whatever gruesome fate must be met by an individual who gleefully causes comparable pain and destruction of an innocent life.  Understanding this helps me come to terms with who I am, as Dexter had to come to terms with who he was, and to best focus my life in light of this.

My own personal code, in no particular order of importance:

  1. Seek truth.  Every good thing needs strong roots in truth.  Seek it within yourself first, so you can help others find it.
  2. Seek balance.  This is not about becoming homogeneous; this is about living life in such a way that you are truly happy and at peace inside.
  3. Seek joy.  “Face the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”  Walk towards and amongst the positive; shine so brightly that your light is contagious.
  4. Seek to grow.  Read, listen, learn, connect, record, reflect, venture, and think for yourself.
  5. Share what you find.  Contribute to the good of the world; let your knowledge be a platform for others to stand upon as they build theirs.
  6. Be kind.  Many people are hurting in the world, and your kindness may disarm their expressions of pain or salve them.
  7. Be open.  You don’t know everything.  If knowledge is power, and you need power to help or protect the powerless, stay open to keep learning.
  8. Be aware.  It is not enough to be kind or open alone. Know what you’re dealing with.  This is part of self-preservation.
  9. Be of service.  This is another way to contribute to the good of the world, and to honor #10.
  10. Be grateful.  Life has little meaning or joy without this.

Although not spelled out, Dexter actually did most of these things on my list, and I can say vice versa to his.  (Don’t be shocked – I’ll wager most of you can say the same thing.  😉 )

This code has been fairly consistent all my life.  Whenever I’ve failed to adhere to or protect it, it is like I’ve abandoned myself.  Spelling it out has helped me become more aware of it to maintain its integrity.

What about you? What is your personal code, the one that defines and directs the best of who you are and want to be?

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No Smoke and Daggers Allowed in the Courtroom

NoSmokeDaggersInCourtroom

Before we can have a true system for justice, we have to fairly define the parameters of what is okay vs. not-okay to do to others.

How many times have you experienced as or witnessed the victim, the person who had something deliberately and unfairly imposed upon them by another, having to defend him/herself after taking the hit, while the perpetrator went scot free?  Frustrating, isn’t it?  And yet it happens all the time.  Why the eff is that?  Because people are allowing themselves to be distracted by dramatic tones and fancy hand flourishes in the circus court of life.  In the hubbub, a dust storm erupts and the victim is shanked.

Real-Life Case 1:  Precursor Perpetration Accusation

  • A young girl is molested by her uncle, who is then fumingly thrown out of the house by her mother.  The uncle’s brother, the young girl’s other uncle, says in his defense, “The punishment does not fit the crime.”  And rumors circulate that the young girl shouldn’t have been wearing tight tops, etc.  Um,  who’s doing the molesting?

Real-Life Case 2:  Guilt Deflection

  • A couple enable their 30 year old son to live at home, not work, not go to school, do drugs, and verbally and physically abuse his baby’s mother.  The mother seeks consolation from someone.  The mother of the dysfunctional son starts spreading false rumors about the “helper” to isolate the girl and turn the rest of the extended family against the helper.  Who’s doing the enabling? Who’s doing the abusing?

Real-Life Case 3:  Internalized Abuse

  • A young girl is raised seeing abuse from her biological father to her mother.  Unrelated, kids are teasing her in school.  As a teenager, she falls into a sexually abusive relationship.  As a young adult, she covers herself by branding herself with tattoos and piercings because she doesn’t think that she’s pretty, and is ashamed of herself.  Who were the ones saying ugly things? Who are the ones doing hurtful things? 

Real-Life Case 4:  Broken System

  • A teenager is trapped into the sex trafficking ring, subjecting her to abuse by her pimp and rape by 40+ men a day.  She gets caught by the police and booked and treated as a criminal while her pimp walks.  Who is psychologically and physically abusing these girls and women?  Who is selling their bodies to be tortured, their minds to be broken, their lives to be shredded?

I could go on, and I’m sure you could add your endless list alongside mine.  That being so is a quizzical misfortune.

Why do people believe the hype against the victims?  Why don’t they think and act accordingly?

1. People are lazy.   They are emotionally too lazy to put themselves in the victim’s shoes, but if someone yells “Witch!”, they want in on the excitement, and so jump at the chance to chant along.  They are too lazy to think, so they let the also mentally lazy, but in power, think for them, and let’s face it, it’s a lot of work to confront perpetrators.  So much easier to start bopping on the head of a victim who is already subdued.  These forms of laziness are also forms of complacency.  Complacency inhibits individual growth and breeds all sorts of societal disconnect and dysfunction.  (Solution: Care, damnit!)

2. People are scared.  They are afraid of what others might say, or of what might happen to those they care about who are responsible for hurting someone else, over what is just and fair.  (Solution: Grow a fair pair!)

Sadly, the general population is often a goofy herd of individuals that go along with their faces in the arses of their fellow herd members in front of them, not seeing where they’re being led, bleating when they hear a bleat.  And to be fair, sometimes it’s hard to see in the midst of the sea of fluff and noise.  One has to be willing to raise one’s head and look beyond the herd.

How can we be sure we’re not becoming part of the problem in this mis-assignment of accountability?

Let’s use the hot topic of rape as an example for this exercise.  The options given are a sampling of those often grouped together in this case:

          “It is not okay to ______ someone else.”   {dress scantily, seduce, rape}

Let’s plug in our options now:

1. “It is not okay to dress scantily someone else.”   First off, you can’t “dress scantily” someone else (unless you’re the wardrobe manager for a Victoria Secret’s fashion show); “dressing scantily” is not what you do to someone else.  One chooses one’s way of dressing as one pleases – hopefully with respect to children and/or cultural considerations.  In any case, to say that “dressing scantily” is a criminal act against another, or the cause of a criminal act, is invalid.  NEXT.

2. “It is not okay to seduce someone else.”  This is true if you or the other person is in a relationship with someone else, on a moral sense.  However,  seduction implies the seduction target’s willingness to be seduced; otherwise, you’re just trying to seduce.  In any case, along with #1, this also is invalid as a case for criminal violence or instigation, as explained here:

Rapist2

3. “It is not okay to rape someone else.”  That is all.  The chart below, found circulating online, illustrates this point:

Image(Usable as template for “Causes of Victimizing Acts Imposed from One or More Individuals to Another”)

It is not okay to molest a kid, it is not okay to abuse your baby mama, it is not okay to bully a school mate, it is not okay to physically and psychologically torment someone and sell violations of their bodies.

And, it is not okay to ignore these wronging acts, and worse, put the victim on the stand, behind the bars, or on the gallows.

Be willing to care, to think, to be brave.  And if you already are doing these things, clear the smoke, blow the whistle, shine light in the shadows; make a case for justice, every day.

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