Sorry to break it to you, if The Self & The System haven’t already? The problem is not out there it’s in here. The turquoise plastic pen that I have stuck in my mouth is definitely reminding me so. As is my MacBook and my Walt Disney Little Mermaid notebook, my plastic covered diary and both my iPhones. Do you think I’m consumptive? Do you think one body shop purchase might save me from hell? Probably not. Who am I to judge the objects that I have failed to evade purchasing. God yes I am the system. I am a disrupter hopelessly complicit in the system, in a post-truth world with no singular narrative. I’ve had the same computer now for nearly 4 years and it’s is hard even now to energetically extract my karmic input into the slave labour of the human supply chain caught up in an autocratic communist system. Thus is the power of post-truth. Everyone is lying even me. Even my little gaslit self.
If stop my endless criticism of self for a moment. I have to be grateful for my minute roll and calling in this entire system. You see it isn’t my calling to be an ethical shopper of the year, nor is it my calling to reconfigure and design such as thing as a sustainable computer. I’m here seeding consciousness so that somebody else might catch up with me. What would be even better is if my writing this I contribute to the manifest destiny of an ethical MacBook. Because aesthetically I love mac along with its lack of malware. I’m an Art & Design Historian somewhere back there in the realms of linear time.
You see we are coded, coded with objects, with ideas, with programming and even unwanted processing abilities, that are designed to keep us safe. Designed to keep us compliant, designed to keep us complicit. This was never so clearly pointed out to me as when someone didn’t understand the concept of decolonisation. I was in South Africa at the time. That the whole idea of decolonisation was both absurd and bizarre as it would leave us all living in mud huts. That there was nothing world going back to. I remember my incredulousness at this idea, that everything that was ‘behind’ us must be worthless, otherwise, we would have taken it with us. Even now I’m not sure how I feel about that? The real problem for me was, is that the person who was speaking on this had only ever experienced a colonial existence and therefore had no understanding of any other way of being in the world. That only the progress of modernity mattered on the failing path of a utopian future.
This is how we embody the system we take our view as the worlds and dismiss the things that question it. You must listen very hard now and watch out for cultural appropriation in the quest to find yourself. You see all the tools we need to disembody the system are right around us. You might want to argue about it very intently, yet I promise you they are. They are in your stories, your ancestors, your land and some might say even your language or lack thereof it. You see if you look for all the the things that you aspire to and indeed what it is that you feel you are missing that is what the system has taken. You have every right to take it back. This is where sovereignty lies understanding and perpetuating the legacy of your very own personal worth and of course, that is personal activism.
I’ve probably been saying this while holding a joint and putting the world to rights since about 1998 when Fight Club seemed to capture the mood of a generation. Is it any wonder why Xennials are so fucked up? I still get really excited and explosively joyful when I watch the end scene of that film. At the same time very curious about Helena Bonham-Carter’s particular role given her inclusion endorses the artistic aristocracy. Hypocrisy lives everywhere. (Just in case you hadn’t noticed). Do you need me to critically unpack this further?
All sorts of things seemed to appear when I start to explore the systemic. For the last 30 mins I’ve been watching Brad Pitt on YouTube talking about his career. Brad was one of my favourtie actors right up until Angela Jolie happened. Even here in a flat in 2020 it came as a bit of a revelation that my flatmate and I might be on the different sides of Team Jennifer and Team Angela. Luckily about 20 years has passed for passions to subside. It’s moments like these that you glad that time machines don’t exist and that we can’t walk through them, or god only knows where that discussion might have ended up. Anyways what has all that got to do with The System? Sadly everything, from the media you consume, to the films you like or even the books you read. Like Girl Interrupted for example. What might cause someone to end up in a mental institution and at what point did that become glamorous? Or indeed necessary in society? After all it was quite clear the main protagonist wasn’t nuts. That the system she was being asked to operate in was, even the nut house.
Culture and The System has been portrayed in literature and art for a very long time. We only have to look to Dickens, Oliver Twist or even Great Expectation to see how The System or societal pressure dictates how our lives may or may not work out… Before that Jane Austin with all her matchmaking prowess. Until we get all the way back to Asops Fables. Stories about the way things are, rather than how they should be. They all relate to the stories that we tell ourselves, endlessly. More than this, the stories that we tell ourselves to build an anti-human system based on control. How did I get from Fight Club to this? Hmmm curiouser and curiouser. Do you have a smouldering pile of ikea furniture sitting outside your apartment, that you blew up during a psychotic break down? Recently I’ve been getting more and more interested in Shamanism and not for the ways you think? Why the fuck I would presume to know what you think is a little beyond me… More than this given that I write about trauma a lot it is probably highly probable that I might at some point reach out to grab hold of the idea of shamanic illness.
So yes Shamanic illness. Guess what? Your ancestors are fucked up. Your geographic location is fucked up? Your relationship to land is fucked up? Your relationship with wealth is fucked up? Your relationship with family is fucked up? Your relationship with yourself is fucked up? And you are surprised that you are ill? It’s fucking obvious isn’t it? We are so controlled and dependent on The System that we outsource our own liberation to the next well meaning movement of our time. That some governmental organisation might actually skip to our aid and look to ‘fix’ everything that is broken. Yet they can’t because what is broken within that system is broken within us. Why would you outsource your power like that? We are the ones we have been waiting for and yes I still retain the right to stand with a joint complaining about The System.
Is Generational Healing confusing you? Why exactly are people out marching for equality 150 or so years after slavery? Trauma is inter-generational. The inequalities and injustice of slavery have never been fully healed. Why did slave owners get compensation? Yet the newly freed slaves didn’t? And why has this never been addressed? Ah I think you’ll find it’s something called systemic racism. Just because you ignore something it doesn’t mean it goes away. So here we are witnessing a nation demanding the generational healing it should have received 150 years ago.
I work with systemic trauma. Maybe this is a good opportunity to explain exactly what that means. I believe that overall we live in an anti-human system. If your looking for references why not ask your nearest essential worker about their day to day lives? You can ask a woman what it is like to feel silenced? You can ask a person of colour what it is like to live in their body? (Ask for consent for the conversation first and remember enthusiastic consent is the only form of consent that is acceptable) You can ask an immigrant what it is like to be treated as ‘foreign’. Speak to a disabled person what it is like to be discarded or for the old to be abandoned. These individual stories are important, relevant and pivotal at this time. And Yes Black Live Matter.
If you preference the book of an academic or a well respected figured over the personal stories of your locally marginalised ask yourself why? Why do we trust the published, the legitimised over our neighbours and friends? Published and legitimised by who? and what? Why do we value the opinion of a Oxford Don over a Cape Flats Builder? Where does your reasoning come from? In what way have you been prejudiced in your thinking and why?
You’re carrying the weight of institutions and ideas that you have never actively consented to be part of.
Even if something can be reasoned does it mean it’s justified?
Ideas of race are non-scientific invented by the powers that be in order to keep us separate. Our institutions and governments are built on a race based fantasy. You inherited these systems and you have been forced to accept them as your own. Paradoxically even though the system is based on unconscious bias the impacts of non-scientific belief systems are very real and have measurable impacts on the demographics affected. Systemic racism demands that you believe that people of colour are inherently disadvantaged as result of ‘race’ rather than by systemic racisim. The system is of course narcissistic in it’s characteristic gaslighting of it’s participants with lies and propaganda. It is the most extreme tool of oppression. The idea that any human is superior or lessor based on any physical attributes, belief, creed or ability is of course anti-human.
That is why systems of governance are very much about keeping you stuck, as we wage war within ourselves and against each other. Information overload is designed to bamboozle you. To stop you from taking any concerted action about most things.
All my personal questioning has led me to the understanding of collective systemic trauma that affects everyone in the system. Yet negatively impacts the quality of life of those marginalised by the system. The privileged have a responsibility go on a decolonisation journey to understand how our choices impact everyone in society.
We can’t reason with the unreasonable. So for me the far deeper question is what do you feel about it instead? Is whats happening out there on the street inhumane? Is what happening to you and your family unjust? Are you finding it hard to survive in anti-human society? Are you bamboozled by the cognitive dissonance of what is presented and what is actually happening? Have you found a way to reconcile that?
In my work all I ever do is listen to stories, powerful deeply unique stories. There is no one size fits all solution to systemic trauma because it is all so deeply personal. How I was treated in school is very different to how you were and so we draw different conclusions.
I wonder what would happen if we listened to each others stories. Personally I feel that the systemic racism that occurs across the western world is abhorrent and that the best solution that I have is to continue to discuss and explore systemic trauma in response to that. I care about people of colour or whatever politically correct term, we are using this this month to identify people, people who are actually more than capable of identifying themselves.
You see experience has endlessly taught me that I don’t get to pick someones descriptive, pronoun or identity. When it comes to the classification of people we are only every following guidelines and ultimately how someone chooses to identify is down to them. If you really want to talk about race, you can ask someone how they self-identify. You might find that they don’t even identify with colour. Lets face it I’m a white person that wouldn’t use white a my first descriptive, that’s white privilege at work in case you didn’t get the memo. You see white identity is normalised inside the white system this = whiteness.
In the last few weeks I have been on the most extraordinary journey with The Red Tent Doulas. All based in birthing and story. I never knew that birth stories could be quite so powerful if shared with intention. What is more generationally healing than a story about birth? Your own birth. The birth of a movement or a nation? What are our origin stories? That tell us who we are and the ways in which we were brought into this world? What’s your birth story? You might be very surprised at what you find here. It’s not sugarplum fairies and the stork. Did you know that in the UK a black women is 5 times more likely to die in childbirth that a white woman? That’s 3 times higher than the US’s known statistics on the matter.
Isn’t it interesting this is a uprising starts with death and a grown man’s cries for his mama. What would it take to heal this injustice for one family? What would it take for this injustice to be healed for all families dealt the same brutal state orchestrated execution. What would it take for us to heal all the people involved in those stories? What would it take for the trauma not to be catching? Could we heal a community? Could we heal a nation? What would it take to heal three continents that the story triangulates round? Only to find that we’d excluded all the places in the world where slavery and colonialism have co-existed for millennia. This affects everybody and we can only heal together. We can only heal in community. Where it is safe. Where we feel safe, heard and loved. The answer is in listening to stories.
In the healing circuits we say continually that healing is non-linear. I believe the only reason for this is that we have not been allowed to heal. That our emotions have been disregarded as non-fact. That our humaness has been denied in order for us to fit into a system that values our profit making abilities more than our innate human gifts. We have to change everything about ourselves to undo this reality as it stands at this moment. I’m asking you step beyond individualised trauma here.
I’m asking you to build a bridge between the relational, the generational and systemic. That the way that we relate to people how we treat one another gets passed on. We are all equal we are all valuable and we are all worthy of each others love and respect. To step out of this we have to move beyond our own pain. As someone with privilege I need to use all the skills I have to minimise harm and utilise the resources I have to support those who are highly vulnerable at the hands of the oppressor. Which happens to be, me, someone who is complicit in an oppressive system. Yup don’t look away now. The problem is you. We are complicit in a system that is designed to traumatise.
We are all fucking traumatised, have been traumatised and there is just no way round that. Life happens we get told shit by our primary 2 teacher and it sticks with us for life. Unless you’ve been working at the challenge or have a remarkably put together family, you are more than likely quite fucked up and even if you aren’t that’s probably traumatising on its own. Guess what nobody can ‘fix’ it except you.
You literally have to be the change that you want to see in the world and commit to it if you ever hope to make any significant difference in how you feel. It is still ok to be radically flawsome in all of that too.
Trauma is real and many of us are dealing with its impacts every single day. For a long time, maybe a decade I’ve known that trauma lies at the centre of almost every life disruption. That we are living in societies and systems that spend most of there time gaslighting us then act surprised about trauma. All Trump and Boris are doing is making it very clear that both our governmental systems and our leaders are very unwell. You’d be insane to heed either of them. Yet here we are having conversations about bleach and staying alert hopefully to stories about drinking bleach. We are living in extreme times in every way. There are nearly 35,000 dead in the UK and the government keep telling us they are doing a good job. Did I mention the gaslighting? If we were in a personal relationship like the one we have with the state, we would have all been institutionalised years ago. There is a reason why the Scots are known to be aggressive. We don’t like being lied to.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg as to a whole host of things that have been de-humanising us over time. A baby is born and your back at work after 3 months. Bereavement is treated as an inconvenience rather than a personal tragedy. Cardboard boxes are deemed an appropriate disposal method for a human life.
Work-life to has now been radically altered, maybe never to be the same again as people move away from the traditional job and god forbid the idea of the commute (Cause that was healthy). Interdependence seems to be the word of the year. As the anti-human agenda of the, capitalist system truly begins to sink in. Capitalism is a crock of shit that is designed to keep us stuck on the hamster wheel of hell for all eternity. Where is the life in that?
Beyond this and natural disasters, humans can be truly ghastly to one another. Religious wars, Colonialism, Capitalism, Genocide and then there’s just day to day murder and torture. Never mind the minor issue of global poverty and inequality that drive the whole negative cycle. People feel shit they do shit things in desperate attempt to go to better places or something as simple as safety. It’s remarkable that in the times that we are living in that adrenalin fatigue is a real illness and we aren’t even running away from lions. We are simply working so hard that we aren’t able to look after ourselves. That even with all our improvements, we are burning out trying to keep up with an unreasonable system that treats us as human-robot there to fuel production and profits.
Off the factory floor, the impacts are massive; breaking down families, breaking down tribes, polluting communities and driving us to social and planetary emergency. As a species, we have been through a lot. In the last century, we have developed technologies that are capable of bringing armageddon in the haze of perpetual war.
All of this stops when we begin to take control of our trauma. Hurt people hurt people. We need to heal our hurts rather than inflicting them externally. It’s all about truth and reconciliation.
I’ve been pootling about my social media, doing my best to make it structured and coherent. This weeks theme is self and as I was navigating my own anxiety when this blog title popped up as a theme to explore. I was obsessing over my social media numbers, post insights and website stats.
I got thinking about the pretty ones and that fact that there is no way round it. The prettier ones get more action. Then I thought I’m lucky I’ve got a good face. Even if I don’t do my best to maximise on its ability to perform. Then I realised what a weird unfair advantage to have. That it is indeed an unfair advantage. Now I’ll be clear I’ve been using my social media to promote my anti-aesthetic as a way to question the system. It’s a political stance. Then I had to think about it, the advantages of having a symmetrical face. It’s biological programming that takes us way back beyond the history of humans and made me consider Jordan B Peterson and his take on hierarchical structures that are inherited via genetics. That the system goes far beyond the trauma of consciously choosing. The System is deeply subconscious programming that is embedded in our DNA, not just our thought systems. Scientific or non-scientific.
We exist within structures that are bedded in our very genetics, that goes beyond infrastructure, accepted practices and even our very DNA. Social Media and particularly Instagram perpetuate as the system that has led me here. Writing. That on a very deep level. I am the system. I am genetically biased as to who I choose to share my sex life with. I’m biased as to how my trauma plays out in society and that even as much as I like and want to deconstruct myself. That there are some things I have yet to break down in myself. That I am the system no matter what. Even if I might want to reject it. That accepting myself as am; there are some things within myself that I am unable to change. That these might be the definitive lines of separation consciousness.
That then makes me question on a what is the self? Where do our choices of individuation play out in the development of character or even the curatorship of an Instagram profile? That’s a very funny thing to learn about ourselves. That we have inherited the systems we operate in and I wonder where that leads us at this current crossroads of humanity. Who am I? Who are you and what have we inherited? More and more this seems to be the conversations that I have been left with… the conversation that we couldn’t have with the people nearest us. The trauma we have inherited. In fact, in many ways this is how my long-form conversations came about. That I have been resolving all the messiness of the world. Starting with conversations about our parents. Those things that we can’t resolve around them that we have to console to resolve in ourselves in our choices. What I see more and more, what drew me to the Systemic Trauma work that I do is it is unlocking the inherited and see what is not our responsibility. We did not cause apartheid, white privilege, capitalism or even eco-anxiety we inherited it. It’s not ours and we don’t have to carry it. All we have to know is that we can put it down.
We have to put the burdens down to move beyond the system.