field notes pt. 1 (06/16/2017)

these are being written after-the-fact. didn’t have a notebook yesterday.


 

Quite a day in St. Paul. Was at work around 4:00pm on the computer. Facebook messaging a comrade to offer her some thanks & affirmation when she let me know that the verdict came thru on officer Yanez. Not guilty on all charges.

Funny how we are taught to believe that progress – time – passage of years, decades – exist. Or hold relevance. There is absolutely no correlation between the passage of time and the improvement of social circumstances. None. A fictitious civil rights era is touted by the establishment today & folks are quick to rest when they’ve been told that we all have equal rights. So as soon as the little red notification (one new message) popped up, & I clicked that chat window, & heard the news – it was like stepping into a time machine. This is Alabama with Parks & Mississippi with Till. One can only hope that Philando – who suffered brutality as Till did – is as highly revered by the history books (& the masses) as Parks. At the very least he is revered by the masses of St. Paul – we’ll see about the history books.

Immediately after clocking out I messaged a few folks about getting down to the State Capitol. Juliette joined me – after a few moments trying to gather myself at the house we took off. Walked up to University ave & hopped on the light rail – of course, it was more packed than I’d ever seen it. I was expecting a ton of Metro Transit officers to be cashing in on the opportunity: so many young bodies, & people of color, headed to the capitol…you’d think they would have been very aggressive trying to ticket people on the light rail. Add more coins to their piggy banks. Luckily, the train we were all getting on didn’t have any bacon boys in sight.

Got to Capitol/Rice street station and wow…..the people. So many people. As Juliette and I approached the inside of my chest was searing – the heat of excitement, of belonging, of antagonism against the state. It was almost like a massive inferno and we were the orange yellow hot hot hot dancing burning combustion. Flames already licked and ate and swallowed each and every municipal surface & sent the group’s smoky cries for justice up to the heavens. But the smoldering coals and carbon-clad ashes upon which this fire burned were pure sorrow. Pure, loving sorrow. The flip side of love is not hate – in fact, I don’t think love has a flip side. But love certainly has a cousin, and a teacher, and a source: very often it is this indescribable sorrow that can only come from unimaginable tragedy. The necessary colleague and advocate for this sorrow is rage- A contempt the likes of which occupies the mind, the spirit, one’s entire life- a rage which replaces each and every cell with a disoriented sense of self. A collection of candles can do more than light a room: they can set it ablaze. And so we did.

To be white during times like these is, for me, a reminder of my own emotional disconnect from the lives of POCs. Rage, sure. Sorrow, yes. But it is a learned sorrow based on mutual personhood – not on mutual experience. I can try to relate to these experiences – I can listen to them but not experience them. I can try to understand – I can hear them out but never understand them. I can relate to the vision of the racially marginalized but only because of their immense efforts and outward cries. But despite seeing their vision, which must on a daily basis be hammered and hammered and hammered through the enamel of white supremacy – which has so thoroughly passed itself from our [white] ancestors to ourselves, & has engulfed the very surface of our brains – I do not see their day to day experiences. Not from their perspective anyway. But what I can see in our shared imagination is their hope for a future – the chance at a future. To be upset at racial issues when one is white is not a phenomenon with a single source or meaning, or legitimacy. Some white folks want to feel entitled to credit or they want to feel helpful & so they show up at rallies expressing rage. Outwardly. But who does this serve? In some instances it can be directed usually. But whites feeling offended after blacks are murdered must not be a weakening force for whites themselves. As we approached the scene I was deeply aware of my own rage and discomfort but struggling to know how to direct it. And of course the beautiful folks running the entire protest were more than gracious & offered some plain & simple direction for how everyone ought to direct their bodies. So as the sound of the crowd grew louder and the thousands of candles drew their light to the capitol I found myself fully aware that to add heat – hot, dripping wax – was a validating choice, but still a choice. A choice that I was privileged to have. So many folks don’t have the choice – death and extermination by police has been their lives since day one. But for me – & other white folks, however marginalized – the point is to be supportive of the movement while still realizing we aren’t oppressed. The point is not to feel threatened by white supremacy – though it is threatening. The point is to instead cash in on one’s own white privilege to CHALLENGE white supremacy, in whatever way is most supportive. The hot hot hot feeling in my chest was therefore being mediated by my little brain – listen, Ian, don’t act up. 


 

The most pathetic part about the ruling class – politicians, corporate & business authority, & the cops who protect them – is their fear. I cannot imagine the hell which must follow the life of oppressive elites – they walk the earth believing that they are good. That’s the thing with human beings – we all feel like the good guy. So think about how truly delusional it must be to put on that officer’s badge each day (or to pick up the lobbyist’s briefcase). They, like you & I, drink coffee and experience some conscious tumblings in their frontal lobes about the day. Each thought and belief of these monsters is just as down to earth and kind as our own – they want the best for their families. But they know not how very small and limited and white their communal families are. They have not the love or awareness of larger groups & therefore continue to draw lines in the sand. They do not know of their indirect injustices and legitimately think that they write laws, or keep the economy moving, or keep communities safe.

All they do is steal.

The cries against them are so viciously controlled and suppressed that the white elite seriously think of themselves as normal, happy, loving human beings. And at the day to day level these state players are happy. But in the mythological-theological sense these people are demons. They live off of the blood and tears and oppressions of millions. The lavish cloaks & suits they wear are knitted with threads of death, & the legacies they inherit are nothing but shame embodied. And yet they believe they do a service to the world by waking up to write laws and work in courtrooms. Can you imagine the dissonance? Can you imagine how it must feel to have tens of thousands of people – all of whom have much better shit to do – complaining at your doorstep?

The human brain has a remarkable capacity to reduce dissonance and it often comes at the expense of social engagement or positive emotions. It must be so pathetic to be a politician. Especially in Minnesota. It must also be so pathetic to be one of the petty thugs who protects them – a badge is surely more powerful than any drug, and the occasional affirmation or thanks that officers receive is enough to carry their ego generation through generation, and through untold shootings. It is so sad for them, aside the obvious fact that it is sadder for those of us in the working class. As I stood at the capitol amidst the many faces this was all I could think of. The capitol building is one of the ugliest things I have ever seen – yet, at this junction in our several-thousand-year-tenure on earth, most humans think of those buildings as remarkable. They harken back to the Greek days – and of course, state authority would be nothing without some cheap mockup of Greek architecture. The silly robes that a judge wears – which provide a real sense of security to the white majority – are just a Puritan minister’s robes. These ancient and blind forms of authority are the bread and butter to white people, who don’t even realize that the marble-clad building is a waste of time and waste of space. Theatre is a powerful thing and the lavish decoration of our state is nothing more than cheap theatre. What must it be like to still be in the audience? How must it feel to be trapped within the delusion of white supremacy? Even the words white supremacy are so jarring to the ear that folks who propagate it instantly shut down & enter a flurry of hallucinations, excuses, & legalspeak. It is a fascinating form of neurological disability – not an inherent one, but a learned one.

I watched the surveillance plane owned by the PD circle overhead over and over and over and I pitied whoever was flying it. I pitied whoever was responsible for attaching the stingray node to the bottom of that little plane and I pitied whoever analyzes the data, & whoever uses all of that stolen cell phone information to continue this police state. I pitied them because only a terrified and lost group of people would ever go to such lengths to surveil a group of loving people – a group of lit candles. How awful it must be to be a part of the State backbone – to live off of fear, saved only by a thin membrane of control – & to continue believing that you are a good person. I’m sure most demons know nothing of the hell they wield, nor of the ignorance they harbor – least of all, these demons have zero imagination that they can access or direct towards better things. Any criminal’ that you grab off the street (save those who harbor a lot of self-loathing) has good reasons for doing what they are doing. So it is easy to see why someone dolled up, socially accepted, & with pockets full of money and decent health insurance must legitimately believe they have good reasons for doing things. Unbelievable. They can’t handle the fear of equality – the illusion is easier. They instead must fly planes over us, they instead must send militarized police to control us, they instead must keep their friends close but their guns closer. What a hell it must be.


The speeches at the capitol were beyond powerful. The most striking moment for me was when Philando’s dear friend took the mic. He sobbed. He wailed. He bled each drop of love out of his heart & into the air, and the hot bright flame of his candle surely burned brighter than the sun. The smoky wails flew not only to the heavens but into us – and we burned with him. As soon as his speaking began countless eyes began to water, as if an actual smoke were agitating them. He sobbed and explained that Philando was like family – and that Philando had come over to his house, to use his own mother’s dinner plates to eat off of. They were family. As soon as Philando’s friend mentioned that his own mother’s dinner plates had housed many a meal for Philando I lost it. Food is love & to share it – to commune in it- is deeper than any other experience. We are each made of food, & the gift of togetherness-in-eating is what has built my very bones. Yours too. And Philando’s. Moments later the speaker broke down in screams, and in cries, and as I looked at the ground I knew God must be crying, because a single teardrop fell at my feet.

We listened to many more wails and cries – from many more friends (I have lost track of their names). And then we marched.


 

The Barbara Schneider Foundation – a brief summary

Most of the world, connected tightly by digital devices, fiber-optics, and touchscreens, is well aware that we have a problem with use of force by law enforcement. In fact it is not uncommon for the average person in the United States to be acquainted with someone who has been the victim of brutal and outdated forms of police training and often times also to have been a victim themselves. This is especially true for people of color, persons with brain diseases, individuals who do not conform to gender-binary norms – and if you’re several or all of these things, life in America is feudal. And it’s all over the news – every day there are videos of more shootings, more police officers being released despite having blood on their hands. You know it sucks. Everyone knows it sucks – not least of all the police themselves.

But despite the huge public awareness of the problem, there is very little discussion or awareness of possible solutions. Why is that? Certainly, for many people, the mistake is to assume that there are no solutions to the use of force problem or to police brutality. This is actually quite understandable. Why should the average citizen, who is pretty much voiceless and without any influence over the police, be expected to understand how to stop police-related killings?  In our western world the preference of media entities and of lawmakers is to stagnate any real progress in the realm of public safety or social equality, and subsequently tragedies continue to occur and the police continue to have suboptimal training. The police themselves (with the exception of some groups) have, without adequate education or funding or support, been absolutely unable to be the nation’s emergency psychiatrists, even though they are generally expected to be. But thanks to the federal and state governments there is no money or space for individuals with sickness, and the cycle of death and pain continues. The natural tendency of individuals at the level of the community, then, is to be upset – the media can make a lot more money by perpetuating and dramatizing that problem rather than helping to solve it. Those who remain unaware that this is a systemic issue of a lack of training continue to be upset with one another, and upset at the police, when disaster strikes again and again. It makes sense, even though it’s terrible. So it’s not surprising that the problem persists overall.

But there are solutions. Despite the fact that your local and state government have absolutely no time, money, or compassion for the individuals suffering at its own hand from mental illness, drug abuse, or personal crisis, there are a handful of individuals within that system who have helped to make some progress. And above and beyond that there are truly miraculous grassroots efforts to improve circumstances for individuals in crisis who have to face off with police – these are tiny groups of advanced trainers who teach law enforcement officials and police how to better handle these situations peacefully. Larger still is the contribution of individuals – doctors, nurses, social workers, advocates, community organizers, families, friends, clergy, artists – the burden continues to remain on medically unskilled persons to bear the emotional weight of their troubled loved ones. Out of these massive support networks, and the associated tragedies, a number of groups have emerged to offer the world’s most advanced training in crisis intervention. Various survivors of police encounters, police trainers and officers themselves, and other healthcare, emergency medicine, and psychiatric experts are the meat and bones of these entities, who are few in number but great in power. With great pleasure I am describing to you groups like Minnesota’s own Barbara Schneider Foundation – a nonprofit that focuses on the CIT model of crisis intervention.

I have spent some time speaking, teaching, and consulting with this group in particular about my own experiences. This past January I also wrote their director a brief proposal  that articulated my understanding of the work BSF is accomplishing and my small vision for how it might be improved. In summary it is my opinion from experience and academic training that the brain sciences (and particularly the areas of affective neuroscience, developmental neuroscience, and psychiatry) will in coming years offer a revolutionary and unparalleled set of solutions and strategies for communities and nations to address the issues of brain disease, extreme personal crises, and the psychiatric stability of the public. The World Health Organization is of the opinion that by 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disability on earth. I would rather not cite statistics on how many persons with mental illness are killed by police every year – just go read about it yourself. The brain is the source of these mysterious issues, and it is through an accumulated world history of powerful, personal, and sometimes tragic anecdotes, combined with new and nearly mystical insights into our own existence through the study of the nervous system, that will begin to alleviate the suffering of so many. This must start with basic empirical research at the level of how mental health crises emerge in the brain, in the moment, and in the world – hence, ‘3 levels of the mental health crisis.’

enjoy.

BSF PROPOSAL

-iv

Worshipping Politics

Politics. At 23 years old I don’t even know what that refers to…here are my thoughts on what the word denotes.

It has been my experience since birth that human beings participate in various behaviors – stuff like talking, assembling, organizing, making group decisions, and establishing power over one another. In the United States, these behaviors may be seen to fit into a kind of system. The “politics” to which I am referring in this tiny little note, then, is perhaps a system of behaviors related to modern democratic structures: delegation of absolute power to a small minority, the frequent trespasses and problems in the ruling minority,  municipal/state/federal elections of the ruling class, consumption of political material from the mainstream media by the voting class, etc. Whether or not these are actual behaviors, or an actual system, is TBD later — and to satisfy the biologically-oriented, the specific bodily processes that may be involved in political behavior will be enumerated later as well. But the biology of voting behavior is quite obviously a dead end — Mostly, I want to voice an uncanny feeling that strikes me whenever over-zealous constituents scream at the televised debates. I want to talk briefly about the creepiest part of politics by far.

I am talking about the fervent participation in politics. This is the nightly argument over candidates and policy for the duration of a 24-month election season. This is the individual who has a preference in “elected official.” This is the “I Voted” sticker, the quotation of politicians during significant events or memorials, the act of campaigning and canvassing, and the overwhelming acceptance of this system on the part of the individual. Some people choose to “not see politics” – and some see political forces, and the influence of political forces, at play beyond the specific “political behaviors” aforementioned.These are the individuals who might explain to you that federal government controls everything, and subsequently stress to you the importance of being very involved in the voting process. The following is an observation of mine about those faithful to the modern political infrastructure: as the perceived size, influence, and permanence of the US Government increases so does the perceived need to participate. Conversely, in areas of the United States where Government is smaller or less involved it seems that individuals feel less obligated to adhere to that system. Furthermore, it seems clear that in 2016 the majority of white Americans have no expectation that the Gov’t will go anywhere, change significantly, or disappear.

Is this strange? In 2016 it might be considered common sense that American citizens are involved in the political process. It might be considered common sense that the Government is there to make the rules, and no one would reasonably deny that the modern Political Machine does have tremendous power over the personal lives of most people. But the idea that ALL people participate in politics in one way or another, or that all humans bounded by the geographical regions of the United States have fair political standing or influence, is wrong. It is quite obviously the case that the current circumstance of politics are not a de facto state of being, and that not all individual humans personally affected by it are willing participants. So what are we working with? What is a system that claims absolute authority, ownership, and control of its parts? What is a system that is governed by theocrats, controlled by scripture, and judged by Puritan Ministers? It’s a religion. Our infrastructure, our laws, our legislative bodies, our voting system, and our law enforcement – and the faithful, unquestioning constituents therein — certainly comprise a kind of Church.

Each and every person in the United States, and many people outside of it, are locked in this Church. Being sequestered in this way means simply that decisions, living circumstances, and interactions, laws, social expectations, and most aspects of human life are at least somewhat affected the pews, the altar, and the available resources. This does not mean to imply that the Church has complete authority – Did I not just say in the previous paragraph that there are many people, and behaviors, that have absolutely no intention to participate? All I mean to suggest is that in the same way a Church might limit your range of motion, how much light you are exposed to, what type of music you hear, what you read, who you speak to, and how many experiences you might have, so too our political system inhibits and specifies what experiences you are allowed to have.

The Red vs Blue, conservative vs liberal, Bernie vs Hilary vs Trump vs Carson game is simply a war of faith systems. The most unfortunate repercussion of this is the incredibly narrow range of opinion between people. A quick and honest glance at the state of politics suggests to anyone with a clear head that all of our extremely lively, passionate, and “varied” opinions fall into a pathetically narrow spectrum – within the confines of the Church. The greatest scheme of all time may be this consistent ability of leaders & aristocrats to limit or channel the thinking of the less able. And even though the citizens of the United States (especially minorities) are brutalized by an ancient way of decision making, I would guess most are under the impression that the political machine is advanced and effective. But we are, in the context of any society of the future, perhaps more stone-aged than we would like to admit. Why are our standards for ethical political behavior so low? Why is it that after being trapped in the Church, people begin to believe the Church is the world?

Maybe it’s our toys. The glittering and gleaming advance of technology, particularly electronics, has given most wide-eyed believers the impression that we are leaps and bounds ahead of our biological cousins. Even within the scientific community there are those who firmly segregate humans from the rest of the animal kingdom on account of our spoken and written language abilities. Humans are so enthralled with the advent of the iPhone that most of them don’t seem to notice that homelessness, hunger, violence, war, and corruption aren’t going anywhere. We are even in a position where our one and only planet is being damaged on account of the rules of the Church. Off in the future our great-great-great grandchildren, if they get a chance to inherit this planet,are certainly looking back on our stone-aged morals, our brutish criminalization of behavior, expression, self, and race with disgust. Our most idealized version of fair rule and control is Democracy, which can be better described as “Majority rules.” There are other ways of doing things.

With the premise held in mind that our society’s political system is existent but not necessary, nor an expression of any natural or native human state, it becomes abundantly clear that this system is open for criticism. It’s a religion, and not merely in the theocratic sense. Even if Church and State (or, Church and Church) were separated we would still be living in a religious system. The Christian flavor of our country may eventually be replaced with better tastes, but the bureaucracy itself is also a faith system.

Are not polling booths like pews? Political rallies like sermons? Leaders, idols? etc etc etc

(It doesn’t help that half of the individuals in office wipe their butts and live their lives with scripture, either)

I’m done thinking about this. Hopefully at least some of this will make sense tomorrow.