All About Karen

It’s become the nom de ridicule to identify the generic white woman of privilege. Basically, calling someone “Karen” is to say that they are a demanding, arrogant, self-absorbed, and oblivious white woman who is not afraid to use her white privilege to gain what she wants.

Let’s take the situation in NYC’s Central Park, where a woman was walking her dog off leash in an area where she was not supposed to. A black man asks her to put the dog on leash, and she not only refuses, but she gets so angry that she calls the police and claims he is assaulting her.

It’s very clear, she was not following reasonable rules and she’s definitely in the wrong. Had she simply recognized that fact and complied with the rules, we would not know her name and she would still have a job. So, why not follow a simple request to follow a simple rule? Would this situation have unfolded differently if the man asking her to leash her dog were white? One can only speculate, but my hunch is that she would have either complied, or at least not called the police while refusing. But, because society has placed a higher value on her word as a white woman, she believes that calling the police and making a false claim will work and she can get her way.

This is white privilege.

A closer examination of this interaction reveals that white privilege has allowed her to not relate to the world in a fully developed and mature way. Humans go through several different stages of mental and emotional development during their lives. Hopefully, by the time one has reached adulthood, one has learned to be part of a group and accept that one’s wants and desires may not always be fulfilled. Living in a city with shared spaces means that one has to adhere to various rules in order that all may share in them equally. Her desire to let her dog run unleashed conflicts with the rules for that shared space. By exercising white privilege to have her desire met (to let her dog run unleashed), she has acted like a toddler who gets told no.

She has reduced herself with this false feeling of security, control, and power. Elevating her wants above rules that apply to everyone is to actually take her far below a developed and mature adult. This is infantilization by white privilege. When you have the ability to force your will not matter what, you never have to acknowledge other people or consider what they may need or want. Or, in other words, white privilege has allowed her to act like a spoiled, petulant child.

Like a toddler who’s only focus is on themself, she feels she is able to ignore what was a completely reasonable request and essentially throw a temper tantrum to have things her way. White privilege has allowed her to not behave as an adult, not respect those around her, and to be bad member of society.

So – what is she actually giving up by giving up her white privilege? She gives up the undeserved feeling of superiority but not much else. Granted, the concept of self is very powerful and is one of our most important mental health aspects. But a self that is built on lies is not a healthy self and is actually weak. What she gets without the ‘security’ of white privilege is a healthier and more adult relationship with fellow humans.

How to Respond to This Social Uprising

The US has been rocked and shaken to its very core by the events of the past couple of weeks. When I see what is happening, my first reaction (after the shock) is what can I do? With my history of having had heart surgery, the COVID-19 pandemic makes me extremely uneasy to be in large crowds. Under other circumstances, I would be out every day, as I am confident in my ability to handle myself in most crowds. But, in an era of an airborne pulmonary-afflicting virus, I just don’t think it is wise for me.

So, I’ve turned my energies to thoughts and writings, which I was already doing in regards to my art work and general reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic. But what kind of thoughts can I contribute to this conversation? As a white man of privilege, I can’t truly speak about oppression. As a gay man, yes, I have experiences with certain types of oppression, but they don’t truly compare to the issues at hand. What I can contribute, though, I hope, is some help in framing conversations for white people to have with each other about what white supremacy is and what it actually does to our society.

Living in an unjust and unequal society is dangerous and toxic for all of its members. It is hard, however, to see how that affects you in a negative way when there are some benefits that accrue to your position. Just because you get some benefits, doesn’t mean it is a system that is good for you overall.

So, I’ll be writing about these types of topics here and I hope that anyone who reads these pieces can follow along and appreciate I’m attempting to say here.

In a Place

Finding myself in a place
Where time doesn’t matter
But it keeps marching on
The world has stopped for most
Things still happen
The sun comes up
The winds change
Nature is still here
Even though we aren’t

The End of the World

It’s hard to shake that feeling – the world is ending.

American dominance of the global economy and politics – that’s gone now. When Trump got elected, we started this descent into irrelevance. How can a country that elects a lying, grifting buffoon be trusted to do anything right? We have seen it during the past 3 years in regular everyday affairs, but now in a genuine emergency, Trump’s criminal ineptitude is putting the nail in the coffin of American Exceptionalism. Donald Trump shows us that the only ways in which we are truly exceptional are stupidity and cruelty.

It’s very hard not to have anxiety and dread about this – endings are typically painful. When that ending is monumental like the sunsetting of a super power, and the rise of a more chaotic era, anxiety and dread about the future abound. Living in a time when our technology and industrialism can destroy life on this planet will only amplify those feelings exponentially.

Will the end of this era lead to the end of the world?

What I Miss

What I miss
I miss Jason’s touch
When our fingers intertwine
And the world becomes a different place
If only for that moment
I know
I matter
I am here

What I miss
Random
Bumping into
Not expecting to see you
Then seeing you
A surprise encounter
So good to see you!

What I miss
Kindness
Decency
Respect
Acknowledgement of my humanity
Being able to acknowledge your humanity
Competent moral leadership
Honest journalists
You not having blinders on
Me being able to take my blinders off
Your humanity
My humanity
Humanity

What I miss
Solid beliefs
The real deal
Hope
Going outside whenever
Stores
Crowded places alive with energy
Looking forward to tomorrow

That’s what I miss

Social Media is Poison

There’s that moment when you get that feeling of wanting to punch someone really hard when you are reading their social media post. It’s an urge to smack them so hard that their head spins into next week. Can you feel that surge of energy vibrating down your arms to your hands? What they wrote is so obviously ridiculous that it requires and demands an immediate response. You’re bristling and ready to pounce.

Why is that?

Sometimes people post things to get a rise out of their reader for pleasure, or to share their current feelings, or to manipulate their reader into either siding with them, or against them, and fuel an argument. This is about intentions – why is that person writing/posting that? What do they want from me?

I assume that infuriating things have been written for pretty much as long as we’ve been writing. The behavior is not new as provoking is a natural tendency that humans do all the time. Indeed, provocation is an important part of the maturing and learning processes we go through – how else do you determine limits if you don’t push them? That push provokes. How many times have you provoked a reaction in someone, who was ignoring or not paying enough attention to you, when you wanted their attention?

Combining the urge to provoke and the need for attention, with the dopamine high of the social media experience, gives you aggressive and demanding interactions. They play out in a digital ether littered with virtual salons of distrust, anger, and rage. The furious posting of links to back up or refute an argument fly back and forth. The anticipation generated by someone’s typing… makes your will focus and narrow on the instigator of your wrath. The driving need to slay them and bend them to your will fuels every keystroke. Every time you hit send is another blow against an enemy, whether unreal and imagined, or living and breathing. The dopamine buttons on your keyboard take you closer and closer to that mostly unrealized paradise of OWNING them.

In the earlier days of the internet, it was said that no one knows you’re a dog. Nowadays, it seems that social media turns everyone into a demagogue.

How to be Productive During an Apocalypse?

Focusing on my work is one of those things that has always been a semi struggle for me. I can have an excellent focus on my work, but it takes having a well ordered environment for me to get there. A good chunk of my work is done in my home studio, which is also my bedroom. I learned a long time ago that if I wanted to get something done, incorporating home/studio maintenance was an absolute necessity. Being in an ordered organized environment gives me the calmness that I need for that focus and the ability to create.

Now, this is not to say that I can’t function in chaos, it’s actually quite the opposite. Chaotic situations cry out for order and that makes my focus go into overdrive. Emergencies are a type of situation that I do well in, as I can quickly and calmly focus and figure out the best course of action. It is the demand to make order that gets my focus.

The current situation we all find ourselves in is something I have never encountered before – an apocalypse. (I don’t use the article ‘the’, but ‘an’, humans have encountered these kinds of events before and we will again after this one passes.) The similarities to the AIDS epidemic are definitely there, but that experience did not prepare me for this – the fear of just going outside or doing the simplest of tasks, like being around other people to do basic shopping. To say that this is overwhelming is an understatement.

The chaos has made me focus on the immediate needs – do we have enough food? Is the house clean enough? How do we pay bills? What precautions should I be taking? The never ending horror show of our government has been all consuming and unbelievable and has been putting me into an almost constant grief state. It is utterly unfathomable and stupefying to me that the things that we are witnessing. A chaos that is out of my control. While I’ve always been a keen observer of society, I’m able to separate the things that were out of my control and let them be. It took a while to nurture that ability and now I find that I have to re-develop it for a unique moment.

Going Outside

I’m lucky that I’ve got a good place to live – comfortable, pleasant, centrally located, and a small yard/garden. Being able to actually, physically go somewhere else, though, has become a revelation. The world is incredibly small. I don’t have places to go to anymore, and now my life is in an even much smaller area than before. No going out for pleasure, no going to Oakland to play hockey or see the boyfriend. No going to my studio at Gray Area. No nights out just to see people, live music, movies, performances, or anything else for that matter.
With no hockey, the only intense exercise I’m getting right now is bike riding. I’ve always enjoyed it and with the plague keeping everyone inside, it’s taken on that quality it used to have when I was little and first learned how to ride a bike – it was liberating and exciting to be able to go fast and go places more easily. Now, it’s a liberation from the gilded cage of home.

Grief

Grief

A while back in the hazy memory of a few/several/some days ago, I read an article, don’t remember by who, or from where, (who can remember things anymore?), but the author (some type of therapist/counselor) wrote about how the experience we are collectively feeling now is grief.  I hadn’t really thought what I was going through, I was just trying to get through it, what else can you do when the world falls apart?

Ever since, more than 2 weeks ago, I started getting messages from people and saw reports from reputable medical professionals that I know, I realized that all hell was about to break loose. My thoughts rushed into extreme preparation mode; I had just recently restocked our earthquake supplies and had a list in my head of almost all of our supplies at home.  Aside from certain things, my household is ready for about 2 or so weeks. Our water, though, would last about 5-6 days. It didn’t seem enough…BUT WAIT – I had to remind myself that this wasn’t an event that would destroy infrastructure, but people. Neutron bombs and viruses are as destructive as hurricanes and tornados, just in a different fashion.

Day to day has become a so much more involved effort – the hour wait to get into the grocery store (metered entrance, limited number of people in the store, 6 feet distance as much as possible) and the empty shelves. Consistently 20%-30% of the shelves are empty. And their hours are shortened, both by being open less hours, and reserving certain hours to those over 60. 

My roommates are definitely a blessing – when surviving becomes a more group effort you need a good group to be part of. Cooking together, watching movies, playing video or card games. Hanging out and talking, or just letting one another be in our thoughts as we all process this shock. 

Shock is too light of a word, this is something that locked me and froze me. And each day is *another* fucking bombshell, a continuous, ongoing shock and trauma. How does one peel oneself away from it? It’s coming to you live (and in color!) from the internet, directly to the palm of your hand, etched into your brain. The horror makes it impossible to think about anything else but how to survive.

And then I read that article and i started thinking about how immobilizing grief is – it’s a hole in you that you can never fill and sometimes it feels like it has swallowed you forever, disjointed and broken. There’s no stage for this grief, and no one alive right now has ever experienced a large die off in our species. How does one react to an apocalypse?

Light.Wav Festival

I got invited to join a really great art and technology festival in Sacramento called Light.Wav, happening on July 19th and 20th, 2019.
Festival Info
Tickets

It’s exciting for me to get another chance to show my installation Hive and to be included with such a talented group of artists and musicians. 

I’d like to thank the festival organizer, Alex Trujillo, for the opportunity and hope that we see you in Sacramento! 

Been mandala light box under normal room light, so the original image comes out.
Bee mandala under normal light.
Photo of bee mandala lightbox with the LEDs glowing red and blue in the dark.
Bee mandala with glowing red and blue LEDs in the dark.