Slavery in America

I went to see a film called The 19th. Knew it was about something important but not exactly what. Now I know. Seeing The 19th was like a splat of cold water in the face and a stabbing pain in my heart. Seeing what is going on in great number without any of us knowing was like living writer Hannah Arendt’s  “the banality of evil,” the experience of Germans living next to concentration camps and not seeing them, intent on leading “moral” lives. Are we the same? Is there something good about our ability to turn a blind eye to what might alarm us? There is a bit of comfort in denying what is going on until we too fall into the pit. The 19th Amendment has to do with how we run our prisons, their purpose and means. Nothing said about the effect on prisoners.

US prisons are cells with bars, everywhere enclosed spaces watched by often violent guards. The experience for prisoners is one of fear and aggression, hopelessness, boredom and work. There is no training for the future. There is only now. Recidivism is high when the prisoner is released. It is different in Germany where prison is an open place full of teachers and inmate-students, people acquiring important skills and speaking about emotional problems. German recidivism is low. Treat a human as worthy and that is what get. Treat that person like an animal and their behavior follows suit. Would you expect anything else?

Those who wrote the 19th Constitutional amendment after the Civil War were mostly men of wealth and means. The 19th, seemingly well-intended writers kicked slavery out the front door and snuck it in the back. It said that no man could be forced to work for free (or for pitifully little) unless he was in prison. That statement is like a Trojan Horse with bells on it. You commit a crime or are reported to have committed one and you are transferred to the work gang..

This intentional parasitism did not come out of nowhere. Early America grew wealthy on the sale of tobacco , cotton and sugar raised by slaves. Slaves build great mansions for white folks including the White House where they served. Slaves built colleges and slave labor supported these institutions partly built to train missionaries who would to out and Christianize the “natives.” Among the slave-created and salve-supported schools are Harvard and Princeton and Brown and William and Mary and University of Pennsylvania and Columbia and Rutgers and Dartmouth.

Extracting free labor is the fastest way to make a fortune. You rise on another man (or woman’s) shoulders, ignoring their sweat and tears. You labor them an inferior race that does not much feel pain. At one time US jail was associated with making license plates. Now inmates make almost everything in almost every US corporation. Big business receives Federal tax credits for employing inmates in excess of millions yearly. Business is not complaining

The United States Government is the primary guilty party in formulating a slave-based operation. The Federal corporation, UNICOR sets working conditions and wage standards for working inmates. Prisoners are said to work an 8 hour day for wages ranging from .23 cents/ hour to 1.15/hour. Due to the inflated cost in prison of making telephone calls and of purchasing items in the commissary, many prisoners leave jail in greater debt than when they arrived.

Here are some of the companies using slave labor: Whole Foods, WalMart, whose company policies clearly state “forced or prison labor is not tolerated” but get around this restriction by using a 3rd party for almost every item in the store . There are Farms with inmate labor who work under a blazing sun without adequate sunscreen, food and water. There is Victoria’s Secret where South Carolina inmates replace “Made in Honduras” tags with Made in the USA. There is AT&T which laid off thousands of telephone operators who were union members, to increase their profit. They were replaced by inmates who work in Call Centers for approximately $2 a day. There is BP which, after spilling 4 million barrels of oil in the Gulf Coast, used African-American inmates to clean it up instead of the local community of out-of-work fisherman. Other prisons using inmate labor include Microsoft, Nike, Honda, Pfizer, Saks 5th Avenue, JC Penny, Macy’s and Starbucks.
When inmates come before the parole board praying for release after 5 or 10 or 15 or… years of stifling imprisonment and imposed labor, reviewers pay little attention to their work time or to their good behavior. These appointed judges usually revert to the crime which brought that person to jail in the first place and on that basis answer no. The parole officer seems proud of his moral position. He lacks awareness of how prideful behavior becomes abusive.

Prison as a correction institute has been turned into a “tough on crime” torture zone by elected officials who think that repeating this slogan will get them elected by fearful voters. Those in prison have little or no time to spend with their children depending on how far the prison is from their home. When they meet, they are divided by a wall of glass and speak through a phone. Children are not embraced. Prisoners are deprived of almost all that makes life worth living.

Prisoners are beginning to rebel against their slave condition. They want reasonable wages and respectful treatment. Those who recently went on strike to call attention to their mistreatment were seriously beaten by guards, many thrown into solitary confinement including boys as young as 14, a sure way to make them grow insane. The prison’s intention is to break the spirit of its inmates and force them to turn the the wheel of outside profit.

How can slavery go on under our noses without our knowing it? We do not know it because the corporations which use inmate labor do not want us to know. Slave labor spoils their image. We might think twice about buying something made by unpaid or barely paid inmates. We might ask questions and learn that most people are in jail because they lack money for bail as do their relatives. They have not had their time in court, have not been convicted of any crime.

Many think that our prison system is itself a criminal event. It is clear that a functioning society needs no jail. Instead, it needs to create a place to help those who fail and fall between the cracks. Such people need psychological support and job training, not punishment. They need patient models who demonstrate how to live in society, something you cannot learn in a cage. They help inmates learn to get close to people, rather than feel helpless and enraged. This approach for those who fail in any way, would benefit us all.


Don’t Put On a Happy Face

It’s interesting, the publicity campaign for my book always puts forward the idea of making yourself and your family happy while leaving out the entire middle part. It is like climbing Mt. Everest by helicopter. Actually nothing gets climbed that way. Happiness it not achieved by helicopter science. This ad campaign misses the entire gist of my recently published book Unloved Again. The message of Unloved Again is that you are programmed during your formative years of childhood by childhood experience, not by words, to make yourself (and ultimately your lover and your children) to be unhappy. Unloved Again shows you how to get out of this “program.” Climbing this mountain requires that your unconscious motivation, your fear and drive become conscious. Then, you can move away.

You can’t stop doing something if you do not know what it is. You can put on a happy face and do the same old thing. Publicity has joined the central idea of our “avoid feeling pain” society, that pain must be avoided from the start. Putting this foremost as your intention, is following a path to nowhere but where you are. Pain serves a purpose for man and beast. Pain tells you that something is wrong and needs your attention, that something needs to be changed. Pain is vital to finding a path to happiness.

Seeking a quick fix means that that you are going to have ever more of it. If your behavior is hurting someone else, you have to admit their pain. If someone is hurting you, you have to feel and know it. When you tell the person who is hurting you to stop, you have to recognize that they have heard you by what they say and do. If they do not stop hurting you, the next step is up to you. It is your choice whether to go or remain a suffering beggar.

Those who think that their speech has not been clear enough, or who think due to some personal short-coming they need to beg and beg again, that they need to make sacrifices to win the other person’s love, that they have to learn to grin and bear it, these are the ones with a smiling face behind which their painful heart is sobbing, these are the ones whose self-condemning cause them to lead a hurtful life.

Note your pain clearly. Tell your partner about it. If the one who hurts you is too angry or condemnatory to do anything about it including punishing you for speaking, you need to get out of that situation, not just for the moment but for good. If you are too frightened to make the change, if you do not know how to escape , there are organizations that help abused partners get out, not to grin and bear it. Do not give up. Seek help. Get clear and strong. Move on.




How to Develop Courage

Many of us have not developed enough courage. By enough, I mean courage that carries us through when we meet a frightening obstacle. We weren’t taught how to develop courage by parents who lacked it or were bullies who needed our submission. We shake in our booties when courage is required to face something or someone who disagrees. We run from the scene and take drugs to suppress our feelings.

After a lifetime of doing what we are supposed to do as was dictated by parents who were cowards or bullies, we are well acquainted with helplessness and fear. In my book Unloved Again, many people are overwhelmed by the fear of taking a new position with their lover. They are afraid to be known. Expecting doom for not going along with the other’s program leaves them no place to be themselves. They feel like failures but are relieved at having survived the latest encounter. Their reaction to the bully is thought to be life-threatening because the internal child which I call the frozen child fears being extinguished by the internalized parent the freezing parent. The frozen child shapes the adult’s lack of courage and even causes them to choose partners who are dangerous. The negative life of childhood lives on.

But what are we to do who were raised by bullies, or cowards, or people who had no time or interest to introduce us to the path of courage? It is interesting to think of American Indians before being destroyed by ravaging and land-hungry conquerors. They had  ceremonial rites to develop the child’s courage and to induce spiritual visions. The child  remained alone on a remote spot for days, with fantasies of being hurt or killed by roaming beasts until these passed away as mere thoughts and wilderness in all its manifestations was seen as a  relative and friend.

We adults need to create time to witness our fears, to live through what we fear the most ’til we get to the other side. If our fearful vision is not easily erased we need to do the feared thing over and over again until objectivity is accomplished. We “moderns” are overly trained to heed our feelings as representing a true reality rather than resurrecting an ancient fear or need.

I was raised by a linguist who was a critic. Nothing I ever said was said  was well pronounced or ideationally correct. I was subjected to  one loud and angry attack after another. I became a very soft speaker if I spoke at all. Better to not be heard. Years later, I wrote for a local paper. Writing a column felt to be distant from me.  However, even here there were reactions. Readers sent me letters of hate when I spoke about seriously misguided parents who had sex with their children as acts of love. My editor called my highly disputed column a success.

At one point, my cabin was full of visiting family which left me no place to think and write. I heard that Connie had a place to rent from a friend. I met Connie, now my deepest friend, in the garden to Pacem in Terris and asked if I could rent a room. She said please come back at 6 to discuss it. I had no idea that she had a secret plan when I entered The Dove Cottage. Saw a bunch of people sitting in a circle looking at a script. One handed me a copy. I was going to give it back and flee. My adult mind said nothing doing and made me stay. There weren’t enough actors so everyone got a part. Mine was the tiny part of “aunt.” I rehearsed every single day fearing I would forget the lines or say them at the wrong time. My father teased me cruelly about my venture into acting. His tone and speech indicated that I would be a flop.

But I wasn’t a flop. I remembered my lines and said them on cue. I emerged after the play was over to see my mother learning on the creek wall next to the playhouse, I thought she laughing at me but it turned out she wept with pleasure. Slowly, slowly the idea was emerging that I could speak and be heard. I was bullied into further developing this notion when a friend said, “Get a radio program.” I went to the local station, WTBQ and said I want to do a program called “Mind’s Eye” To my horror they agreed.

Well, this went on for a few years, me puzzling aloud about human behavior, even interviewing guests.  Now I am almost totally devoid of  the fear of speaking out. Developing courage takes practice, a lot of it.

Dreams Always Have a Message

She had a terrible painful dream. She was with her now deceased husband looking young and vital. He was rejecting her for being unloving. Said he didn’t love her anymore. Suddenly she was plunged into her greatest loss which returned her to the grief of childhood with rejecting unloving parents. Then she  was on a subway train, in a car with no destination.  He got off at a stop and she followed him. He pitied her and gave her a large heart shaped pin and filled with precious stones: rubies and sapphires turquoises. She said, give the pin to the next woman that you love. He didn’t take it.

She awoke in a state of misery. Felt abandoned.

She remembered how she changed into an angry martyr as her husband became increasingly deranged by frontal lobe illness. She treated him with the same hostile, rejecting behavior as her mother regularly did to her. Even her voice changed into that cigarette deep tone of dislike.

She had given into the internalized persona of her hateful mother and critical father, each time to come back to herself and apologize, each time renewed with a husband who said, “I take the good with the bad.” But to mistreat a dying man she became two women, the woman he loved and the one he detested.  Oh noooo. Her hateful parent-self was not forgiven as if it ever was. When not experiencing “splitting,” he hated that part of herself and loved the loving. Now the two selves stood apart.

Why did she dream it? Yesterday, she had been critical of her gardener’s aggressive and speech disabled son. He was deliberately disobedient. Took hold of her binoculars and ran off to use them where they could easily drop and break. He banged into her with his water bottle until she yelled at him to stop. She set rules in an angry voice which didn’t work. He enjoyed getting her goat.

The dream was telling her that that the mistreating part of her would never go away. It showed her how it created her greatest loss.

The heart-shaped locket filled with precious jewels was not given to the attacking woman she had become when terrified by his debilitating illness. It was given to the woman she had mostly been before. When she offered it to give to the woman who came next, that woman was herself. It was that part of herself he deeply and completely loved. The pin was heart shaped because it represented his true love for her.

Every dream is trying to tell us what we need to know and do. Every dream attempts to bring us to the land of love.

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First You Crumble

I just did a little bit of a mourning dance feeling emotionally black. Got kicked out of a newspaper for mentioning my book at the bottom of my blog as self-serving. Had not looked at their rules before I did this and so uninformed. I felt the sadness of loss. Felt angry at myself for stupidly following another’s advice with insufficient understanding. Whose fault? Mine alone.

After losing something you value and to which you attach some aspect of your welfare, feelings of loss will happen. Anything we care about leaves a hole in the self when it is taken away. That hole is experienced as depression.  Feeling angry at the self for being stupid is something else. Self-attack is not a necessary accompaniment of learning although some think it so. They say “no pain no gain.” The philosophy of suffering becomes an excuse for mistreating  yourself, your lover, your child, …employee, anyone you want to  “learn” something, Sadistic behavior usually is usually learned by undergoing your parent’s mistreatment. The way out of self-hatred is to take a position which says no to the impulse to harm self or other. It is a stance which says, “I’m not going that way.” You need to put a period on your history of mistreatment. Look at your childhood experience  in order to consign it to  the past.

What happens after a person you love dies? This is a mighty hole to go through. You have to feel sad. In the experience of mourning, you become unmotivated, are in an arrested state. You read books of fantasy that take your mind to a nowhere place, you read books whose themes occupy your mind. You socialize with people who care. They bring food which you eat together while sharing memories of the deceased one which make you laugh and cry. You go back and forth, empty then full then empty again until you no longer are preoccupied with your loss.

You are in a crumble. That which once held you together is no longer available or  possible or no longer works. It is necessary to go through the maze of loss until suddenly you find yourself outside. You remember the loss but there is distance now between you and it. Some still weep at the time of the loved one’s birthday, smile when remembering their wedding day, and other times of joy. It is a mighty emotional house cleaning remembering the good and weeping about your loss.

It is a bad idea to think you must mourn forever, that you should never have another lover or mate or spouse to prove that you love the deceased. To think that the loved person would not let you love again does not represent their love for you. They loved you and wanted you to be happy then and now. Your love for them does not end because you now love another.

Hooray for the crumble. Crumbling is a falling apart of the old way so that a new way of thinking/feeling/being is created by the force of life.  Every time we move onto something new, we have to let go of the old or to stand on its shoulders. We lack a thing/behavior to cling to. We have to find our balance. We have to find parts of the self to develop and to see aspects of the world we had not seen before. Growth is a process of loss and then gain. We have to move into a warrior position in the world of love and understanding.

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Do We Like to Be Hurt by Our Lovers?

No. For those who choose hurtful lovers and friends, pain is neither pleasurable nor the end point of what the seek. Seeking abuse is associated with being hurt in childhood and regarding the pain inflicted as the payment for the hoped-for love…. even if the love does not come, now. There always is a future loving in their mind. Accepting hurt as payment for love makes suffering reasonable. It puts love in your hands if you only finally do “it’ right, whatever the parent’s seemed for focus even if ever-changing. You can blame yourself for failing at achieving it forever.

Our sense of love is shaped by childhood experience.

if our parents often made us afraid of them by words or deeds or both, we tend to feel fear. The odor of fear we exude is a kind of perfume that we wear. Our scent of fear turns the bully on.

Sometimes, fear is so great we are afraid to try to gain love from the negative figure we would adore since punishment comes soon after. Such people may lead a reclusive life. Some seek therapy to help them leave the compulsion to regard pain as the price of love.

It is frequently misunderstood by us and those who observe it, why we chase people who make us afraid. We are drawn to those who will make us victims but rarely or never  admit it. Our adult mind has a blind spot when it has to do with the domination of our childhood. It is the “frozen child” that the adult cannot know or even admit that draws it. Our weak adult mind lets the child take over and conceal its pathological motivation.

Some people are afraid when there is no cause, just a cold wind blowing from childhood. These are the lucky ones since once the relationship is established they find that there was nothing to fear. Some of these people will work like hell to make the person act abusive in order to establish the necessity of their being afraid. If it is not possible to arouse and turn the lover into a victimizer, their emotions will turn off and they will leave that person as not “right” for them. They need to be with someone who bullies and mistreats although they do not say it.

Then there is the second group which will seek and find someone of whom they should be afraid and stay. Their fear is totally called-for even though they spend eons of time telling themselves and even their friends that they should not be afraid of this person, that the abuse is not so bad and they probably deserve it, They announce that they love him/her anyway no matter what.

People who choose an abusive partner may remain otherwise functional but many do not. Take the story of  Hedda Nussbaum who gave up her job as a magazine editor, abandoned her friends, became unable to leave her apartment especially after her appearance fell apart with breaks and bruises, who hid there with her young children who  witnessed her abuse. She was supported by her lawyer boyfriend. She focused on whether he’d be nice to her this day, dreaming helped along by smoking the marijuana he provided.

Sometimes the evening started out OK but that usually did not last. He was driven to brutally beat and damage her. Her children watched the man break her nose, her ribs, tear this part of her body and dismember that. Smoking helped her live in the fantasy of a better night. It helped her disconnect this night right now from yesterday’s abuse and the coming abuse tomorrow.

When the abuse is physical, it often is progressive, first bad words, then starvation, then a slap in the face then broken nose, then shattered bones, then a failing heart due to injury, fear and grief, and eventually death.  One of Nussbaum’s children was killed by her abuser, lying ignored in the bath tub while she existed in her beaten marijuana haze. How people hated her when all of this came to light. For a while, the legal system blamed and jailed her. It was only after they began to understand the deep meaning of  chronic “abuse” that she was seen as its victim rather than the perpetrator.

All who find and cling to an abusive partner are living in the past. They remain the futile and frightened child attempting to win their cruel parent’s love. To recover from this, their childhood view of love must be surrendered. If they think they cannot do it, they need to seek professional help. A therapist will help them develop an adult self. They need to free themselves of reliving their masochistic “frozen child’s” struggle to win the abusive parent’s love.

It is a struggle for a once abused person to become an adult. A woman said after reading my book Unloved Again, that she has to learn to deal with her inner child in a reasonable way, to help and get along with it. I answered “no.”  You cannot make a deal with the past. You cannot cure the past. You should not experience yourself as half past and half present. “Past- is- past and…ne’er the twain shall meet” as the Scottish folk song says it.

We are not to deal with the traumatized “frozen child” as if a now- existing part of self.  To dedicate self to helping the inner child is to surrender to the past as you have always done. Your adult needs to separate from your “frozen child” and “freezing parent,”  to treat them as memories. You need to learn from the past but you cannot learn if you are living in it. Then the experience is all “now.”

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Setting Limits

3monkeys (2)It is vitally necessary for you to set limits when dealing with a person whose treatment of you is unacceptable. This applies to your children, spouse, friends, associates, strangers.  Say the other person is standing too close for comfort. They are uncomfortably in your space. You have to move away and if they come to close again, ask for breathing room. Say the other person wants you to give them something you would rather keep. You have to say no to their request. Say the other person wants to have sex with you and you do not desire it. Especially for women, no means no. And in fraternity parties, do not drink yourself insensible. For strangers met in bars, be careful of substances put in your drink.  You are not looking for date rape.  You can think of an endless number of instances where the other person’s need and intention is not your own. What are you to do about it?

Some people think that saying no is the easiest thing in the world. They have good self-esteem. They think that what they feel counts. They take a position from within the self, not in response to the clamoring of their tribe or even to just met strangers. They know and accept that they must set boundaries.

You can tell that your setting boundaries is reasonable if you can handle the other person’s reaction to your saying no. If you are overly worried about their disappointment or reactive rage, your boundary setting is compromised and especially if you are too afraid to do it. People who are outer-directed are controlled by their fear of the other’s reaction.  They will honor the other’s behavior and dismiss themselves. They are run by the other’s expected reaction without testing.

Mario Martinez, an expert in the mind-body interaction and student of centenarians (people living to 100 plus), finds that the inability to say no is associated with a poorly functioning immune system. Mind and body are one. The way the mind reacts to external invasion is the same way the T-cell count responds to internal infection. People who are assertive about their rights, have a far better T-cell count and are less likely to succumb to invasive microbes. For example, their body rejects the spread of the Aids virus longer than those who cannot set limits. They are healthier and live longer.

Imagine that. You have to be able to stick up for your rights with friend or foe to do the same internally. You need to recognize when a person is invasive and not excuse it with  compulsive humbleness probably learned from having invasive parents. If you are able to do this as an adult,  as a child, your parents considered your feelings and considered that you have rights in their treatment of you. You learned to  listen to your feelings and to analyze the situation before coming to a conclusion. You are not reacting on automatic pilot. If you did not learn this as a child, you have to practice. This is the way self-esteem grows.

To be able to set limits is good for the environment and good for you. Self and environment are one. You can’t injure one without injuring the other. This includes injuring the invasive person who needs to be stopped by giving in. Health is pervasive and continuous. Sickness is the same.