President Obama’s Win – The Death Knell of Conservative Power

It’s hard to believe the election is over. I feel privileged to be living in an era when so much change is happening, so much of it for the better of humanity. It’s easy to look at developing countries and the Middle East where people are so fighting so valiantly for really basic rights and believe that’s where all the action is happening.

But for me the US election was right up at the top there, too, although it’s manifesting in a far less violent way. America has always been at the forefront of the search for the kind of freedom that allows for a person’s rights to be respected and for their creativity and individuality to have the opportunity to flourish, whilst also contributing to community.

The balance is fine, and is a challenge for anybody to get even remotely right. In America, it’s constantly evolving as a social dynamic too. Whatever people say about this phenomenal country, nobody can deny that things are always on the move, which I think the results of this election illustrate beautifully.

Yesterday, once the results were in, CNN anchors and contributors started in like vultures on the gloom and doom. It was sickening. There was such an unwillingness to let the world celebrate something beautiful even for a day and to acknowledge what an extraordinary thing had happened. Richard Quest was like a dog with a bone about the stock markets crashing because Wall Street didn’t want Obama.

In fact, the crash had nothing to do with the election, it was a reaction to the drama in Europe, and by the end of the day it had slowed down significantly. But probably the strangest distortion was how everybody was saying that so many billions were spent on the election and nothing had changed. Everything has changed. The change in America is not about the logistics of a Democratic President still in power with a Democratic Senate and Republican Congress.

It’s about a fight for that balance in society, and for people’s rights to have it in their lives. It was about people waking up and realising how much they stood to lose if they didn’t fight. And because they did, this election has proved that the upsurge of conservatism in America was actually the death rattle of a way of life dominated by fear, greed and racism. If billions had to be spent for that to be achieved, it was money very well spent.

America will never go back from this point. The older, white conservative male Republicans, who formed the bulk of Romney’s supporters, are losing their power because minorities, younger people, and women are finding their voice. They’re passionate about their rights, passionate about their desire for a life of balance and a society that nurtures it. And unlike other countries around the world, they are not being imprisoned for it, or slaughtered.

And now they have a President who recognises that they embody the spirit of everything that once made America truly great. How can anybody say nothing has changed? Everything has changed. God Bless America for showing the world how to do it.

Advertisements

How A Young South African Racist Used Facebook To Further His Hatred

A couple of days ago I received an email with a horrifying attachment from a writer I met at a script writing workshop last year.  He asked me to share it with as many people as possible.  The attachment was a Facebook status from a young white South African guy ranting and raving about black South Africans.

The content is really obnoxious and vile and made me sick to my stomach.  I couldn’t see an ounce of humanity in what this angry young man said.  He mentioned the KKK admiringly.  That organization has always epitomized absolute evil for me.  I can’t think of it without feeling violent rage.  My thoughts about people who were or are members are not civilized.  I want them to suffer.

And that was my first reaction to the Facebook status post.  The writer who sent it to me encouraged me to help make it viral.  My primary instinct was to share it instantly, and to write a post here about it, to expose this guy and the disgusting level to which he has sunk.  Or possibly never risen from, which is more likely, given his age.

But I just can’t do it.  I don’t want to spread that evil any further than it has already gone.  I don’t want to be responsible for one more person reading it.  But also, my initial response came from anger, and although it was and still is justified, I’m not sure I should make it the basis for my actions.  When somebody declares war, does it help to throw missiles at them?

The thing is, making that guy’s post viral just gives him an audience.  And you can bet there are plenty of people of his ilk around the world with the same attitude, the same repressed anger, the same narrowness of mind, the same evil intent.  It’s one of the things about the power of social media that scares me.  Evil can spread like wildfire now.

“Don’t stroke what you don’t want more of” seems like pretty potent wisdom to me, when it comes to this incident.  I don’t want to see more racism, I don’t want to see more words that foster it.  But also, I don’t want to do nothing.   I could write to CNN and Carte Blanche (a South African investigative TV program) and send them the guy’s photo and his Facebook post.   But won’t that just give him what he wants?

Humiliate a bully or a person with latent psychopathic tendencies and you could just turn him into a monster with real power.  Whatever I do, I want to make sure that it helps to make the world a better place, not a worse one.  I want to see more love and respect, not less.

To download a sample of my ebook And What About Me? Am I Into Him? on how to get real love and respect and be real in relationships, CLICK HERE.

More Washing on the Line – My Love Affair with Italy

    A photograph taken of the Piazza del Campo in ...

I love washing hanging on a line. When I visited Italy I was entranced by sheets hanging out across streets or from window to window, nonchalantly billowing in the dappled breeze.  I loved that about Italy.  Although Armani came in at a close second, I’ll admit.

I remember the first day I saw that washing, in Siena, late summer, the day I fell in love with Italy.  I went to visit the Duomo, to feel the grandeur, and watch the old women in black who kneel for hours muttering imprecations to the Virgin Mary.  “ Madre, per favore, il mio sposo, mi ha fatto male per troppo tempo.  Prendelo, prendelo, Le prego.  Mi da qualche anni di liberta!” “Virgin mother, please, my husband, he’s done me wrong for too long now.  Take him away. Take him away.  I beg you.  Give me some years of liberty!”

Imagine: your husband dies and you wear black for the rest of your life.  Actually, imagine your husband drives you mad but he doesn’t die.  Then eventually the Virgin Mary answers your prayers, takes him off your hands, and you can’t even wear colourful clothes to celebrate. No wonder they mutter darkly those women.  The men don’t wear black or mutter in church, though.  I wonder why.

Well I steeped myself in grandeur and satiated my curiosity about old women praying, then it became somewhat oppressive.  So I went outside, giving fervent thanks to the powers that be that I’d shuffled those Catholic rules off .  To celebrate, I climbed the stairs which take you to the top of the part that was never finished, but which gives you the view anyway.

Italy does fill your heart in some unearthly way, I admit it. I stood for a while, drinking it in, Toscana in late summer.  Bells rang for someone far across a valley.

With my heart full I descended the stairs to a small cafe, with a couple of tables on the street.  I sat down in the late summer sun, drinking my coffee, nobody else in sight.  The air was still and it was very quiet, early afternoon; that time in Tuscany when everybody is doing whatever they do behind closed shutters.  Sleeping off a hearty lunch of pasta, gnocchi di patate, pollo arrosto. Chianti.  Pane.  They eat more food in one meal than I do in a week, those Italians, no wonder they need to sleep it off.

A solitary person or two strolled by.  A small slinky black cat with a paw that was half white, half ginger, came up to me and stroked itself against my leg.

I knew better than to lean down to it – that makes them run away – so I just let it do its thing.  Replete, I.  And there across the street was somebody’s washing, hanging out of the window, waving in the slight breeze.

My my.

Dirty Washing and Dumb Rules

Isn’t it a strange culture we have, built on rules that keep everybody separated from their natural joy?  The great lubricator of the system of rules is fear.  Keeps everybody worrying, keeps everybody down.

Fear of not working hard enough, fear of not being clever enough, fear of not making enough money, fear of getting old, fear of doing something wrong, fear of anyone seeing what you’re really feeling, fear of really feeling what you’re really feeling, fear of looking like a fool, fear of actually being a fool, fear of – okay, okay, I’m going to stop soon but there’s one more.

Fear of not being cool, and fear of letting your washing be seen hanging on the line.  The latter is a big taboo here in South Africa, amongst a certain class of people.  Who coincidentally revere the Italians.  They build villa-like houses with Italian marble everything, take Italian lessons, go to Italy for their expensive holidays.  Most of all they love Italian fashion, and buy their clothes in Milan, which makes all their friends think so much the more of them.

When those clothes are dry, and on their bodies, they are the ultimate status statement.  Yet when they’re wet, and on the washing line, fear of not being cool gives way to terror of letting your Washing Be Seen.  Even though we idolise Italians who hang their washing out to dry all over the place.

I wonder who made the rule up, who first decided it wasn’t cool for your neighbours to see your wet clothes.  It must have been one person, no?  Or could a whole nation one day have woken up, sat up in bed in a fright, and said in unison: ”NO WET CLOTHES IN PUBLIC!”

Of course wetness doesn’t apply to bathing costumes.  Which is a relief.  So they all sat up in bed and said their unison thing, paused when it struck them that bathing suits are made to be exhibited wet, and all said once again in unison “EXCEPT FOR BATHING SUITS!”.  Then they paused again as they thought that one through “EXCEPT WHEN THEY’RE NOT ON OUR BODIES!”

Some of the rules we live our lives by here are a bit absurd and meaningless. In fact, most of them are. We take them so seriously even though they rob us blind of all our joy, our capacity to be creative, to experience the new, to be happy and love each other, to spread our wings and fly.

And all the while we’re following them we’re dreaming about the good life, the free life, the untramelled life, the life we’re going to have when we’ve made enough money.  Until one day we die in our rule-bound prisons.  Oops. That didn’t go so well, did it?

Emilio’s got the right idea.  When in doubt about the washing – clean or dirty – take a nap.

Getting Rejected by Agents, Believing in Yourself and Not. Giving. Up.

Writing can be a lot of fun.  The world of publishing isn’t.  Well, not all the time.  Definitely not while you’re trying to get into it.  I guess any meaningful journey feels significantly lacking in anything vaguely resembling fulfillment now and then.

I’m looking for agents, so my book can be a real live one as well as an ebook.  Finding and  researching them to make sure they’re right for me is laborious and time consuming, but it’s exciting when I hit on one who seems perfect.  Which I did two days ago.  Daniel Lazar works for a New York agency, Writer’s House, and he seems straightforward, has a sense of humor and a big heart.

His bio blurb says “If you think your pages can make me hold my breath or miss my subway stop or even laugh out loud…”  I like that.  So I sent him my proposal – which I’ve worked on for weeks, editing, re-editing, thinking it’s just fine then realizing it’s not, throwing it out, starting again.  If I still worked on a typewriter my room would be littered with crumpled up rejects.

People say don’t invest in outcomes, don’t get attached.  What a lot of crap.  It’s impossible to write a book and not hope that the world will love and respect it and you’ll sell millions of copies and make it to the New York Best Seller list.  People who don’t let themselves have that dream are scared of disappointment so they shut it down.

Today I understand them a little better, although I still think it’s half living.  I got an email from Daniel.  So soon!  All agents say you’ll only hear from them if they’re interested.  My heart leapt – he loved my proposal and me, he wants to read the whole book, this is it, I’m on my way, New York here I come!  Heart thudding I opened the email.

It was from his assistant.  “Daniel asked me to reply…your project does not seem right…”.  Damn.  It’s like a mini-death, there’s no way I could prepare for how heavy my heart feels, and all the crucifyingly criticial crap that comes flooding into my head.  About my book being not good enough for a reputable agency, me being a ridiculously lousy writer, a dreamer without a hope in hell of ever succeeding…

But now I don’t feel so bad.  Daniel, divine as he is, obviously isn’t the right agent for me.  It doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there somewhere.  There must be.  Perhaps we’re moving towards each other already in ways neither of us is aware.  That’s how life works.  All I can do is play my part.  I’ve already sent to a bunch of other agents, and I’ll carry on sending to some every day.

I’m getting together with SEO Afficionado Vernon Chalmers on Friday to discuss my marketing strategy.  I’ve nearly finished the thriller script and I’ve started on the crime novel.  I’m going to carry on, no matter what, and hope like hell my fate isn’t like Van Gogh’s.  I might go mad and end up penniless – but I’m familiar with both those states so it doesn’t bother me too much.  At least I shan’t lose one of my ears.  Ha.

Getting your work into the world can be hard.  Some people are born into an environment that predisposes them to success, but many aren’t and part of the journey is developing a belief in yourself and your work.  The only way that belief can grow is through getting rejected, and learning not to give authority to the messages in your head that say the rejection means you aren’t any good.

The real enemy isn’t the world, or agents or publishers, it’s in your own head.  Conquering it is a fight, it’s one of the hardest things in the world.  But it’s the good fight, and the better you get at it, the more you stand behind yourself deep in your heart.  That’s when the world starts responding to you, duh.  There’s no way past the impasse but through it.  And it’s indisputable that you can only make it onto the list of people who might succeed if you don’t give up.

Fear of Success, Letting the Wild Animal out of its Cage

Attention please..three horses, put on their b...

Attention please..three horses, put on their best face! (Photo credit: jimmedia)

Writing or doing anything creative can be a real challenge, even if you aren’t doing it in the hope of earning fame or fortune or daily bread or any bread, or even just a bit of attention, even if you’re doing it just for yourself.  There’s something about it that’s scary.  Some kind of message in your head that you have to be perfect, you have to live up to an impossible standard that can’t be pinned down.  Pressure!

There’s something else, too.  It doesn’t cost anything materially to write, but the doing of it puts you at the coal face of your existence sometimes.  It defies logic.  The thing is, that part of you that needs to be let out, no matter what the mode of expression, is like a wild animal in a cage.  Keep it imprisoned and it either implodes in a way that impacts on you physically or you go a little or a lot crazy.  Well, let me speak for myself, it’s what happens to me.

I feel powerless, enervated and useless.  I get scared of life and people and I start debating the pointlessness of doing anything.  It’s a slippery slope from there, although the great thing about life is that I always get to a point where it’s unbearable and I’m provoked into crashing through whatever emotional or mental barrier is in the way of expressing myself.  Just do it! finally prevails.

What a relief.  Even if I’m not at all inspired and nothing of much sense comes out because my thoughts are all over the place and my focus is out of focus, the fear goes away once I actually start, get my hands dirty.  The pleasure of the doing is all that matters and my world view shifts in an instant.  Action is always easier to deal with, even if it’s challenging, than the debilitating debate should I shouldn’t I can I can’t I and what’s the point.  I suppose it’s because we only have power when we act.

I think the fear that rises up with non-action is pretty existential and getting beyond it can be a huge challenge. When you’re expressing yourself, even if you’re not doing a brilliant job of it, even if you tell yourself and the world you’re not creative, you have released some part of you that is authentic.  It’s you in the raw.  The first time we’re like that is when we’re babies.

We didn’t know it wasn’t okay to express ourselves.  But for many people their earliest experiences of being in their power were punishing, whether parents meant to punish or not.  Don’t be powerful is the most potent message visited upon children, overtly and covertly, by family members, society, religions.  We take all of that in at the time we’re most receptive.  It registers without our even knowing it, and becomes part of how we operate, how we respond to life.

I believe it turns into an inner, very ingrained expectation of being emotionally brutalized if we let that raw, creative part out and it controls us in adulthood.  Fear of success – If I let myself be powerful will you be threatened and attack me.  Will you leave me, abandon me – it can be hard-wired into every part of our being.  The weirdest thing is how we can be so unaware of it in childhood and adulthood.  All the excuses we make for not being able to do things – excuses that we believe – are a cover up for that immense fear.  But I’ll be annihilated if I let myself out.

Beliefs we’re controlled by are hard to dismantle.  I’ve tried so hard for much of my life to do it using my thinking brain.  It didn’t work.  I guess it’s because our thoughts aren’t what bond us.  Our emotions are.

New York’s Park in the Sky – From Dream to Reality

Image from http://www.thehighline.org

Pretty picture, huh.  No it isn’t some wild overgrown African city, it’s New York 30 feet above street level, part of a project which turned a disused elevated railway running through Manhattan into the city’s elevated park in the sky.  I love the American capacity to think and dream big and turn those dreams into magnificent realities.

In 1847 the City of New York authorized railroad tracks down Manhattan’s West Side.   It was a great idea, but it caused a lot of accidents between traffic and freight trains.  One of the streets it crossed, 10th Avenue, became known as Death Avenue, and men on horses, the West Side Cowboys, had to ride ahead of trains, waving red flags.

It got so bad that in 1929 the New York Central Railroad and the City and State of New York created the West Side Improvement Project, part of which was a 13 mile long High Railway Line 30 feet above street level.  It was designed to go through the center of blocks rather than over avenues.  It connected directly to factories and warehouses, so trains carrying milk, meat, produce and goods could roll right inside buildings without interrupting traffic.

It put the Westside Cowboys out of a job, I guess, but for everybody else it was great until interstate trucking made rail transport redundant.  The last train ran in 1980, pulling three carloads of frozen turkeys.

In the late 1990’s two ordinary guys, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, who lived in the area, founded Friends of the High Line to protect it from being demolished.  They had no experience in urban planning or dealing with the City, but they saw how gorgeous the line would be as a  public open space.  They ploughed through bureaucratic red tape and managed to get City support and funding to save a portion of the line and lay out a planning framework over the next three years.  And the project had wings.

In 2003 a design competition was held.  720 teams from 36 countries entered.  By now it had become an international project and Mayor Bloomberg had agreed to City funding for it, and the State of New York had come on board.  The team chosen included a landscape architecture firm, an architecture firm, experts in horticulture, engineering, security, maintenance, public art.

The first phase of construction started in April 2006, and by June last year it was complete.   2.3 km of self-seeded wild sections, others with lush lawns, benches and boardwalks, and others with more formal landscaping.  And a river runs through it.  30 feet above the chaotic traffic in downtown Manhattan.  And all because of two guys with a dream and the gutzpah to do something about it, to start even though they didn’t have any knowledge about how to finish.  And they had the patience stay with the dream until it had become a reality.

What a great way to step out of history.  If you let them, dreams will have their way.  The image below is what the line looked like before it was developed.  To learn more and see some really fabulous pictures on the High Line site, click the link: http://www.thehighline.org or either of the images.

English: New York Central Railroad elevated ra...

Image via Wikipedia