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Russel Brand on addiction, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Justin Beiber, and Miley Cyrus.

[link to the original article]

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was not on the bill.

If it’d been the sacrifice of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber, that we are invited to anticipate daily, we could delight in the Faustian justice of the righteous dispatch of a fast-living, sequin-spattered denizen of eMpTyV. We are tacitly instructed to await their demise with necrophilic sanctimony. When the end comes, they screech on Fox and TMZ, it will be deserved. The Mail provokes indignation, luridly baiting us with the sidebar that scrolls from the headline down to hell.

But Philip Seymour Hoffman? A middle-aged man, a credible and decorated actor, the industrious and unglamorous artisan of Broadway and serious cinema? The disease of addiction recognises none of these distinctions. Whilst routinely described as tragic, Hoffman’s death is insufficiently sad to be left un-supplemented in the mandatory posthumous scramble for salacious garnish; we will now be subjected to mourn-ography posing as analysis. I can assure you that there is no as yet undiscovered riddle in his domestic life or sex life, the man was a drug addict and his death inevitable.

A troubling component of this sad loss is the complete absence of hedonism. Like a lot of drug addicts, probably most, who “go over”, Hoffman was alone when he died. This is an inescapably bleak circumstance. When we reflect on Bieber’s Louis Vuitton embossed, Lamborghini cortege it is easy to equate addiction with indulgence and immorality. The great actor dying alone denies us this required narrative prang.

The reason I am so non-judgmental of Hoffman or Bieber and so condemnatory of the pop cultural tinsel that adorns the reporting around them is that I am a drug addict in recovery, so like any drug addict I know exactly how Hoffman felt when he “went back out”. In spite of his life seeming superficially great, in spite of all the praise and accolades, in spite of all the loving friends and family, there is a predominant voice in the mind of an addict that supersedes all reason and that voice wants you dead. This voice is the unrelenting echo of an unfulfillable void.

Addiction is a mental illness around which there is a great deal of confusion, which is hugely exacerbated by the laws that criminalise drug addicts.

If drugs are illegal people who use drugs are criminals. We have set our moral compass on this erroneous premise, and we have strayed so far off course that the landscape we now inhabit provides us with no solutions and greatly increases the problem.

This is an important moment in history; we know that prohibition does not work. We know that the people who devise drug laws are out of touch and have no idea how to reach a solution. Do they even have the inclination? The fact is their methods are so gallingly ineffective that it is difficult not to deduce that they are deliberately creating the worst imaginable circumstances to maximise the harm caused by substance misuse.

People are going to use drugs; no self-respecting drug addict is even remotely deterred by prohibition. What prohibition achieves is an unregulated, criminal-controlled, sprawling, global mob-economy, where drug users, their families and society at large are all exposed to the worst conceivable version of this regrettably unavoidable problem.

Countries like Portugal and Switzerland that have introduced progressive and tolerant drug laws have seen crime plummet and drug-related deaths significantly reduced. We know this. We know this system doesn’t work – and yet we prop it up with ignorance and indifference. Why? Wisdom is acting on knowledge. Now we are aware that our drug laws aren’t working and that alternatives are yielding positive results, why are we not acting? Tradition? Prejudice? Extreme stupidity? The answer is all three. Change is hard, apathy is easy, tradition is the narcotic of our rulers. The people who are most severely affected by drug prohibition are dispensable, politically irrelevant people. Poor people. Addiction affects all of us but the poorest pay the biggest price.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a reminder, though, that addiction is indiscriminate. That it is sad, irrational and hard to understand. What it also clearly demonstrates is that we are a culture that does not know how to treat its addicts. Would Hoffman have died if this disease were not so enmeshed in stigma? If we weren’t invited to believe that people who suffer from addiction deserve to suffer? Would he have OD’d if drugs were regulated, controlled and professionally administered? Most importantly, if we insisted as a society that what is required for people who suffer from this condition is an environment of support, tolerance and understanding.

The troubling message behind Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, which we all feel without articulating, is that it was unnecessary and we know that something could be done. We also know what that something is and yet, for some traditional, prejudicial, stupid reason we don’t do it.

• Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton, is petitioning for an inquiry into UK drug laws: sign here.

 

Russel Brand on…

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“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

-Nelson Mandela.

“Overcoming po…

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Thoughts on Macklemore’s Same Love

I get my hair cut at a local barber shop. I’ll give you the short story – much like my short hair – as to why: the barber is a friend of my sister’s who does killer hair, and I don’t want to afford the inflated price of a women’s cut even though a man’s is a quarter cheaper and requires similar enough skill. Like I said, this is the short version.

The barbers are enjoyable to be around – they are always recounting stories, talking about their dogs, laughing it up, and taking great pride in their craft. I don’t know how each experiences it, but, to me, it feels like a friendly gathering in the shop. Not your typical Aveda salon experience.

The conversation turned to Macklemore the last time I was in for a cut. There was an analysis and comments about his craft, his rap ability, his skin color, his celebrity status, his being a local, and, of course, his song Same Love.

To be forthright, I do enjoy Macklemore, and I get teary-eyed every time I listen to Same Love and watch the video. I wouldn’t classify myself as a superfan, and I don’t think he gets a free pass just because he raps about social justice and white privilege. He is not the first (and certainly not the last) to rap about social issues and how backasswards this country is on many issues related to equality and equity. Here’s my analysis of this matter: I absolutely believe his being a white guy rapping about such issues means that he has the ear of more people across this country. It’s safer, for some, to believe the white guy who looks like you than the Black guy who you clearly don’t identify with, which subconsciously (or not) nullifies his voice and experiences. There’s a lot to unpack. And guess what: we, as a country, need white folks to talk to and educate other white folks (and folks who are more prone to listening to other white folks) about inequality and inequity. And we need those white folks doing the talking to point out to those who are listening that folks of color have been saying the same messages for generations. Separately and together, let us discover, unpack, and unlearn all that has been ingrained.

Now, everyone at the barber show fell on a different place on the love-apathetic-hate spectrum regarding Macklemore. There was one comment that day that really stuck out for me and, after ruminating on it for a month, was what compelled me to write this post. I cannot claim to have a verbatim memory of the statement, but it was something like this: “I just can’t take any song seriously that starts out with ‘In the 3rd grade I thought that I was gay….’ ” The other guys gave him a dismissive you’re-just-homophobic-and-that’s-why-you-hate-him remark. I spoke to my perspective about the meaning and significance of the song, irrespective of Macklemore himself and it being a rap song. Nothing seemed to budge this man’s position.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about that moment. Save three or four white folks (including myself), everyone else (a solid majority) at the shop was a person of Color. Now and even at the time, it seemed like such an open door to tie the struggle for marriage equality with that of countless civil rights, social justice, and human rights movements. I remember so vividly a professor’s fundamental view – informed by many before him – that our liberation is tied to that of others’. How could I have better addressed this man’s comment in a non-threatening way that would not dismiss him? 

As you likely noticed, my response quickly lifted to the 30K view — far too distant for a comment with a magnifying glass at sea-level view. So, let me take this opportunity to talk about those lyrics, the ones he specifically had a problem with. They first verse goes like this:

When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,
‘Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-k, trippin’ “
Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she?
Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.
I remember doing the math like, “Yeah, I’m good at little league”
A preconceived idea of what it all meant
For those that liked the same sex
Had the characteristics
The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, aw nah here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago
I don’t know     (Source)

Those first few lyrics are about a little boy’s thought process, which led him to a fear-filled conclusion that he is gay. From my vantage, there are two important points of discussion: the boy’s (1) thought process and (2) his reaction.

(1) His thought process was based on ignorant tropes of what gay is and how it ‘happens’.

  • ” ‘Cause I could draw” = Gay men are unequivocally artistic! Only gay men are artistic!
  • “my uncle was” = You can catch gay-ness like the common cold! Not only is gay genetic, but you’re 100% likely to get it if you’re related to a gay man! [A note on this last statement: see The Paradox of Gay Genes article to start your reading and continued discussion and analysis re: genes and genetic expression.]
  • “and I kept my room straight” = All gay men are very neat and tidy! Only gay men are neat and tidy.

Let’s say we just polled men that identify as either 100% gay or 100% straight across the country, or even just in Seattle. I assure you there would be enough men on either side of the coin, if you will, to disprove any one of those statements. This little boy was relying on ignorant, all-too-often unchallenged stereotypes of what is and is not ‘gay’.

(2) His reaction was filled with fear so strong that it brought him to tears. Perhaps it was because he feared what would be done to him, as a kid who is gay. Bullying, ostracism, suicide ideation, etc. — these are hard realities. Perhaps, and more probable, it was because he picked up on a strong view that gay plus male is not good, not welcome.

Those first few lines set a very strong tone and understanding of the ignorance and pervasive anti-gay messaging ingrained in our society, communities, hearts, and minds — especially for young children. Bigotry is a human-made condition.

This is the same bigotry that said Black and African Americans were three-fifths a white person.

This is the same bigotry that assumes a person with an accent or different dialect is stupid or in someway cognitively deficient.

This is the same bigotry that assumed women are incapable of making decisions about their own body, their minds, their vote.

This is the same bigotry that institutionalizes and (over)medicates entire populations of people because they do not fit a mold created by a for an even smaller population.

This is the same bigotry that still calls marijuana a gateway drug, thus perpetuating a criminal (in)justice system around its use and distribution in order to create an even cheaper, nearly invisible labor force to exploit.

This is the same bigotry that thinks reparations and an actual on-the-record National apology for the genocide of the true, first Americans is a joke.

All this bigotry ties together so neatly when you sit and think about it, take it in.

You may not like Macklemore, and you may not like rap music, or perhaps you just don’t like Macklemore’s rap music. But don’t turn your brain off to the context and purpose of those words, whether you like how they are packaged and delivered or not. Stay open, stay analytic, and make the link between your struggle and the struggle of others.

We have to change us
Whatever God you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up    (Source)

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Being Called In

During my graduate studies we often spoke of ‘being called in’ as an alternative to ‘being called out.’ Here’s a recent example in the media that started from Kal Penn’s tweet in support of Stop and Frisk. Notice his response at the very end. There is always hope.

“I’m an introvert, not socially awkward.”

One of my roommates and I sat around the kitchen table about a month ago, discussing introversion. “Oh, but you’re just so good with people, ” I confusedly said. Her quick, kind reply was simple, “I’m an introvert, not socially awkward.” 

Light bulb moments certainly make one notice the capacity their brain still has to develop. 

Check out this article on signs that you may be an introvert.

Raising Bars and Neglecting Others

TO: Seattle Business Magazine

FROM: Rebecca Roy

DATE: July 16, 2013

RE: Raising Bars and Neglecting Others

 

For years, I have enjoyed reading the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ issues. Having worked at a couple of noted companies myself, I find intrigue in seeing the growth, innovation, and creativity in the greater Seattle area.

 

Celebrating the amazing folks in our business community and all they are doing to facilitate incredible, inspiring working environments is essential. While we praise those folks for setting higher standards, I would like us – the folks who care about creating, expanding, and sustaining an incredible business community – to remember that many other bars are consistently neglected.

 

A larger, more public conversation has been brewing over the past few years in particular about a certain nearly non-existent, although no-brainer policy of businesses. Friends, family, and colleagues, we all want to know where the conversation and movement is regarding Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave. As studies mount, both domestic and international, about the benefits of such policies, it is hard to believe that Seattle has not yet caught the bug.

 

Common fallback responses I often hear when I ask about Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave are that it is too costly or that the company already abides by federal law. With responses (and logic) like those, Seattle Business Magazine would be ranking the dullest places to work! Nearly everything that sets our ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ mentions apart are their desire to achieve more than the status quo (e.g., federal standards) and find a way to make it work (i.e., afford the monetary cost). The businesses we annually celebrate for promoting cultures based on values that transcend the 9-to-5 grind need look no further than their own rhetoric to encourage enacting in-house Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave policy.

 

Related to Seattle Business Magazine, I am curious, what role will you play in this growing conversation and movement? Many others and I would appreciate articles in our up-coming subscriptions on the topic.  We would also love to see some sort of recognition among the 100 Best Companies for those who are taking steps forward (and/or who are not) in this and other arenas.

 

I look forward to reading about the newest batch of ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ recipients, and hope to see a continuation of excellence and commitment to being the best. May each step forward open new doors to bravely and confidently walk through.

 

Sincerely,

Rebecca Roy

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