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Learned Helplessness in the Wake of Michael Brown

(this post is a rant - with profanity - followed by somewhat of a self-rebuttal. I’ve been learning a lot in the last few weeks, about myself, about my community, about what it’s like to be a person in this world without my opportunities. So read my rant, and then read my rebuttal, before jumping to conclusions about who I am RIGHT NOW. Thank you.)

PART I
8/21/2014 8:26 PM


Every now and then, I’ll see a facebook meme post about how rich, out of touch people will criticize people on food stamps or welfare for having smart phones. Or a designer bag. Or clothes that aren’t rags. And the meme states how bullshit it is for them to catch flak for not fitting a conventional picture of poverty. And that meme is right, because we live in an affluent nation that affords its people some luxury, but is cruel as shit to the underclasses.

And the thought occurs to me:

A lot of underprivileged people have smartphones.

SMARTPHONES. Internet connections. Google. Apps. SMARTPHONES are now so cheap that PEOPLE in POVERTY are sometimes able to afford them.

Start USING them.

Google shit! Research healthy diets! Study how to make cool stuff. You have so much POWER in your hands and you are letting the status quo tell you that you DON’T and I’m not going to stand for that shit anymore, if you want to make a better world then start using your fucking Android brand Magickal Compendium of Human Knowledge and Networking and BUILD THAT BETTER FUCKING WORLD.

It is NOT because you CAN’T, it is because you DON’T.

Entitlement is our BIGGEST COLLECTIVE DEMON. It is the ENEMY of INTELLIGENT and HONEST WORK and it is holding ALL of us BACK. It’s holding ME back, I’m an entitled fucker and my life was spiraling out of control until I realized what I’d been doing and how I’d been thinking was destroying me, driving me to a deep, dark depression in which I lamented how goddamn difficult and unfair everything is all the time.

I see hella poor people on the bus texting, playing games and shit, I know, I do it too, but if you’re in a fucked up situation and you resign yourself to it, that’s IT! It’s OVER! You gotta wake up and start using the tools you’ve got to lift yourself outta that shithole society seems to think you belong in! It’s not on me! It’s not on the police! It’s not on the government! It’s on YOU to overcome the obstacles life has put in front of you! Whether that’s through getting involved in politics, community outreach, learning law and passing your goddamn Barr, learning how to code, how to produce and make music, how to rap, sing, dance, perform WHATEVER, you can do ALL of that online and for FREE and if you have a SMARTPHONE then the only thing stopping you is YOUUUUUUU

MIT OFFERS FREE FUCKING COURSES ONLINE, FOR CHRISSAKES

Is it FAIR that you were born into a disadvantaged situation? That you were born with a cultural handicap that society won’t help you with? That you have to put up with a constant barrage of subtle and blatant racism, sexism, or harassment?

No. It’s not fair. But the universe is not DESIGNED to be fair. It will take your loved ones away from you. It will deny you opportunities. It will mash you into the dirt and then have someone laugh at you as they pass, and you will never see justice done for most awful things that are done to you! It’s a VICIOUS, VIOLENT place filled with VICIOUS, VIOLENT people, whether they commit those acts through gunfire and their bare hands, or through political earmarks and social oppression, that is LIFE and it’s cruel to ALL beings, even those with insurmountable wealth and power, even those with everything they’ve ever desired handed to them.

Every time you point a finger, no matter how justified, no matter how many years of oppression and inequality have built up to YOUR situation right NOW, you are GIVING THE POWER AWAY. You are GIVING THE POWER TO FIX YOUR SITUATION TO THE PEOPLE YOU POINT THE FINGER AT. You are saying, YOU did this, it’s YOUR responsibility to fix it, and you know what, maybe it is, but has that shit EVER WORKED IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND?

Has any oppressed group of people EVER pointed a finger at their oppressors and the oppressors fixed shit right up for them?

They’re not GOING to. So GET your asses involved, WORK for the betterment of your community, LEARN from the internet, don’t just use it to fuck off and kill time, EMPOWER YOURSELVES AND THE CHANGE WILL CASCADE AROUND YOU.

Here’s how I see most people’s three options:
1) Mobilize a social movement - Become an activist for change
2) Start a violent revolution and kill everyone you disagree with
3) Keep whining until the day you die a miserable, bitter death

My two FUCKING cents. I’m white, so throw it away if you want to. Tear me apart, call me insensitive, whatever. I’m gonna cook you a bunch of free pancakes tomorrow no matter what you look like, who you work for, how you identify, because divisiveness is NOT WHAT WE NEED RIGHT NOW. CLIMATE CHANGE IS BRINGING US TO AN EXTINCTION EVENT, YO, WE COME TOGETHER OR WE ALL DIE OUT. Straight the fuck up.

PART II
8/21/2014 10:50 PM


Learned helplessness is a two way street.

I just wrote a massively passionate rant about how it makes no sense for a class of people to have access to smartphones and then not use them to help themselves.

And I linked some of my more aware friends to it, seeking their opinions. But before they’ve had a choice to respond…

It is also MY problem, and MY sense of entitlement that fueled that rant. *I* have a sense of entitlement about living in a peaceful world, and I spent that entire rant pointing the finger at underprivileged people for not doing more to help themselves.

Most of what I said, I stand by. Actually, all of it. I have compassion for the downtrodden, but compassion should not manifest in softening the truth. Empowerment lies in spreading awareness and affirming the power that lies in each and every one of us, DESPITE the harsh realities of the world. So lying about reality does favors for nobody - but it is incredibly cathartic.

But again, a lot of the sentiment and tone of that message was rooted in my own entitlement and sense of helplessness. You know what I do to help people in my immediate surroundings on a day to day basis?

Not a lot. I often bring an extra dollar or two on my way to the bus stop in the mornings so that, if anyone asks me for money, I can help them out a bit. Beyond that, though…I’m very jealous with my time and energy. I sit in my fifth floor apartment, working on music, goofing around on the internet, trying to block out and ignore the world around me, trying to focus on me and what I want and my goals.

But I live on the Delmar Divide. I live at the intersection of Delmar and Union, right smack dab on the precipice of one of the most notorious dropoffs in property values in the damn world. I live in a community that is symbolically divided, and I stroll to the bus stop every day, head held high, feeling good about how I’m only *slightly* suspicious of every person I see.

I remain introverted and quiet. I bottle myself up, afraid of how people will see me, or what their assumptions about me are based on the color of my skin. I do not make an extra effort to reach out. I noticed that THIS morning, when I made a mental note about how softly I said ‘good morning’ to passers-by compared to how jovially I greet folks that look and dress like I do.

*I* have as much responsibility for the problems in this world as any other individual human being does. And I possess talents, skills, and an extroverted energy that, if I could confront and come to terms with my fear of my fellow man, I could be using to make my IMMEDIATE COMMUNITY a better one. One more unified, and friendly, and familiar with each other.

Tomorrow, I will be heading out to Ferguson to cook pancake art for their community. Completely free of charge. We will accept donations and immediately forward them to a community outreach program. And I feel, so, goddamn, good about doing this.

But it makes me realize. This isn’t going to be an isolated event. This isn’t some publicity stunt for me. This comes from somewhere real, that old idealist I spent most of this last year trying to kill in cold blood so that I could get where *I* wanted to go. There is beauty and power and love all around all of us, in each and every one of our communities, and there is constant potential for change and growth with every human being you meet. 

So I’m going to keep doing these events. I’m going to go down to businesses in my immediate vicinity - there’s a barbershop on my morning walk that I’m thinking of in particular - and I’m going to walk in, and stop being afraid of my racial identity, or how others will perceive me, and I’m going to introduce myself and I’m going to ask if I can cook free pancakes for people there.

And if it works, and makes the world a better place, I’m gonna keep doing it for the rest of my life.

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