Use Your $, Use Your Power

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Do you ever feel so angry, depressed, stressed, or sad that all you want to do is eat candy and online shop? Or have you gorged on Mcdonald’s fries before blowing half your paycheck at Macy’s?

If you did exactly that, then, guess what? Everything went according to plan. Companies make serious money by manipulating, and preying upon our emotions and, more importantly, how we react to them.

Here’s an example: you’re in the mall and glance over at the window of Victoria’s Secret. Realizing that you are never going to have legs like the ones on the (touched up) model, you experience a wave of self-loathing wash over and darken your mood. Luckily, Auntie Anne’s is two stores down, and you convince yourself that a pretzel with honey mustard will surely put you in a better mood.

It’s pretty simple, actually. You felt a strong emotion and, instead of addressing and processing it, you took the shortcut to feeling better by indulging in a sugar, fat, or shopping high. Eating unhealthy food and shopping feel good in the moment, but soon after the dopamine release bottoms out, you’re still stuck with the original source of your pain, discomfort, stress or [fill-in-the-blank].

(In case you weren’t already aware, companies purposefully use advertising methods to make you feel inferior and to make you feel not good enough. However, if you buy product X, you will then be pretty/thin/stylish enough to be loved and a worthy human being. That’s generally why you feel pretty crappy after reading a magazine or watching tv.)

Alternatively, let’s say you deal with the emotion in the moment. You take a few minutes to pause, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and focus on the feeling and where it’s coming from in your body. You experience a cathartic release through mindfulness, and the well of emotion starts to slowly subside. In this way, you’re taking back your power, and simultaneously freeing yourself from the control of corporate manipulation.

In a calm state of being you’re able to think more clearly and rationally, and use your dollars wisely. Wisely in the sense that each penny you spend is a vote. A vote that supports a specific company, organization, and set of values. Where, and how, you buy products and services is, in my opinion, equal to, or perhaps more powerful than casting a literal vote (not to say that you shouldn’t vote, because you DEFINITELY SHOULD). However, spending money is the equivalent to voting. Every. Single. Day. This is especially true in America where corporations wield unfathomable sway over our laws and elected representatives through lobbying and political donations.

By purchasing a product or service from any given company, you are either supporting or rebuffing that company’s policies and practices in terms of the wages and benefits it provides to its employees, the level of corporate social responsibility (or lack thereof) it exhibits, its environmental practices (or disregard for), its political spending, and the kind of individuals it hires and places in leadership positions.

Therefore, when you spend money, spend it consciously and in support of companies and causes that align with your personal values. One great place to start is Better World Shopper or Buycott, and check out this site for more ideas. Research local farmers markets and try to shop at local establishments whenever possible. A slightly higher price is worth the extra money that stays in the community instead of going straight into the pockets of millionaires.

Or, you can take it one step further, and really stick it to the man, by saving your money! Reduce your consumption by buying used, buying less, or not buying at all. Ever since I  made the conscious decision to not buy any more clothes or unnecessary things for my house, I’ve felt a delicious sense of  freedom and am motivated to declutter and get rid of things that I just don’t need anymore. As a result, I have fewer items to clean and maintain, and I have more time to spend with the people and activities I enjoy now that I’m not shopping in my free time.

If you have to buy new clothes, check out Poshmark, Ebay, or Etsy; for furniture and other house hold items, local thrift stores always have a lot of great options, as do Craigslist and Freecycle. Not only will you be saving a ton of money, reducing your environmental footprint, and getting more unique items, but you will also be putting money straight into individuals’ pockets, instead of corporate coffers.

The good news is that once you stop buying stuff and eating healthier, it gets easier and easier to form new habits that will leave you feeling happier, less stressed out, and with a bigger figure in your bank account. Not only that, but you’ll also be voting in support of your values and community and freeing yourself from the dangerous cycle of consumerism.

Imagine if all 323 million of us Americans bought like this? We could change the world.

A Case for Nonresistance in the Age of Resistance

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Abigail practicing nonresistance with both her sign and hat in September, 2017

Before you accuse me of taking the Trump administration and its policies too lightly, take a moment to consider the word associations below:

Nonresistance:    Using existing forces to create/inspire, using what you have;                 acceptance, malleable, limber

Resistance:  Fighting against, going against the flow; denial, brittle, stubborn

Resistance in 2016-2017

“Resist” – a firecracker of a word that entered the vernacular of this country the dawn of November 9, 2016, and quickly became to symbolize the movement of Americans who took offense and alarm at Trump’s rhetoric. For those actively taking action against Trump and his administration, it has become a way of life, and a uniting rallying cry for myriad causes, activists, artists, and ordinary citizens. However, despite all this, I would like to make the case for nonresistance in the face of great adversity that many of us experience on a daily basis. Perhaps, with another glance over the words above, you may begin to understand what I mean when I call for nonresistance over the urge to resist.

Over the past few months, I, along with like-minded individuals, have gone through a flurry of emotions since we woke up to the news that Donald J. Trump had beaten Hillary Clinton to clinch an electoral college win. What started with tears, and a dark sense of foreboding, quickly turned to horror, disbelief, and anger, as his rhetoric transformed into policies and our fears morphed into reality. I myself participated in the Women’s March, Climate Change March, and attended multiple rallies on Capitol Hill. I wrote letters, made phone calls, and posted defiant messages on social media. I resisted. 

There comes a point though, when perpetual resistance becomes exhausting. None of us have the time to attend rallies every day, and, unfortunately, my D.C. senator cannot cast a vote due to the fact that the District lacks official statehood (my theory is that the Republicans won’t vote for it due to an overwhelming Democratic-leaning demographic in the city). While our court systems are doing a stand-up job of slowing down and diluting many of the policies coming out of the Administration, citizens do need to play an integral part if our Republic (and non-majoritarian democracy) is going to survive. And this is where we can practice nonresistance.

Gandhi & Nonresistance

I find my inspiration for nonresistance (or passive resistance, civil disobedience, and nonviolence resistance)  from Gandhi and the principles he practiced in India when fighting the British occupation. Some examples of nonresistance include strikes, boycotts, fasts, sit-ins, and work-ins. It also refers to (and I love this), the disruption of established patterns of behavior by the creation of new ones. While I won’t dive too deep here into the details of his tenets, the links above provide a fairly comprehensive look into his philosophies, and I would encourage you to read them if you have the time. I will, however, provide a modern update to nonresistance in the Trump era, and provide some concrete actions for you to take starting from the moment you finish reading this post.

Nonresistance & You

For some, nonresistance may mean switching where you buy groceries and clothes from big box retailers that contribute to pollution and degradation, to local, sustainably-sourced, products. Or, perhaps it means saying “hi” to your neighbors instead of casting your eyes to the side when you walk by them. It might also take shape in the form of self-care, making time for meaningful social interactions, and volunteering for an important cause. While nonresistance has the prefix “non” in it, rather than not doing something, be proactive in what you pursue and in it, seek a higher purpose. For me, it means, staying positive and hopeful; reading, educating myself;  donating to organizations with which I share similar values; and creating this blog. Here I’m able to express my artistic side, amplify my voice, and foster connections.

Nonresistance also means staying true to one’s values; despite harmful, new Trumpian policies, and always, always setting an example of empathy. I do this by thinking to myself: what would I do, or how would I feel, if I were in their shoes? Indeed, to understand is to forgive. 

Another way we can exemplify nonresistance is by refusing to hold ourselves to diminished standards for our words and actions, and treating others with love, kindness, and compassion, despite how our President chooses to act. Nonresistance also requires us to tell the truth, even if others may call it “#fakenews”.  As Gandhi explains, each person possesses part of the truth. I don’t hold a monopoly on the truth, and neither does the President. And, although I hate to admit this: even Trump’s truth is his truth, as much as my truth is mine. Share your truth by sharing your story. Facts can be argued with, but your personal experience is watertight. No one can tell you what you lived through wasn’t true. Sharing your truth will most likely necessitate more courage than will spouting off statistics, but I can guarantee that it will be much more effective in touching others on a personal level.

In closing, I want to encourage you to find ways to practice nonresistance. I’d like to tell you that it will be easier than resisting, but, despite its name, it will most likely require more effort than holding a sign at a rally or making a phone call to your representative (but don’t stop doing that either!). Nonresistance calls for us to go inwards and ensure that our personal words and deeds are of the highest moral caliber. It insists upon creative new solutions, human connection, and truth and love above all.

In nonresistance,

Abigail

 

“Born a Woman” (2017)

“Born a Woman” (2017)

October 16, 2017

Dear Women of America,

Kindly take note of the following guidelines to ensure strict adherence to our traditional, family values.

Abstinence is the only way for young ladies to stay pure for their future husbands which means you don’t need to know how reproduction works or how to prevent STDs. And birth control? Definitely not. It promotes “risky sexual behavior” which we’re no longer paying for. Indeed, your boss will now decide if their religious beliefs are more important than your health (they are).

Yes, ladies, that’s correct: no sex education, no birth control, and don’t even mention the word abortion. What if the fetus is a boy. We’re not risking losing him. Which is why abortion is now a no-go for most of you. We’re quite proud of ourselves for outsmarting the Supreme Court and shutting down clinics by passing laws to force them to close due to the new costs, restrictions, and a lack of doctors. Count yourself a murderer if you get one after 20 weeks.

In case we didn’t make ourselves clear. To avoid pregnancy, your only option is to avoid sex altogether. Why would you think that you deserve to have sex “without consequences” like the men? You can’t be trusted to make these types of lofty decisions. Only a man’s brain can comprehend these type of complex choices about a woman’s life. Silly girl, your body’s not yours.

Remember marital rape? Illegal nationwide, unfortunately, since 1993, unless you live in these states, where you lucky wives get to be the object of your husband’s desire whenever he may want it. We still can’t believe that in 1974 you were allowed to get a credit card by yourself. We’ve never trusted you with your money, ladies, and we still don’t. We know you’ll just spend it all on shoes.

Now that that’s settled, and you’re right where we want you: pregnant in the kitchen, cooking us dinner and then ironing our shirts, hope you’re not expecting to have an affordable birth (hope your husband makes a lot of money!) or survive long enough to hold your child in your arms. How’s that for pro-life?

However, if you do manage to live through labor, and not die of preventable causes, you better be ready to get back to work as soon as possible. We’re not going to pay for you to stay home to recover, or to get to know your baby in the first most important months of their life. No, mom, you’re doing it alone; your partner’s not going to get any paid time to help either. Everyone knows that men don’t want to have anything to do with domestic, girly stuff like babies or cleaning.

Please stay home and out of site when breastfeeding as well. We only want to see breasts as sexual objects, not be reminded about something so gross as feeding babies. Save us all the horror of seeing breasts used for their biological purpose, would you?

And speaking of breasts, remember women, keep those nipples covered in public. Just because we can buy magazines of topless women at 7 Eleven, doesn’t mean that you have a right to take off your shirt or bra, just because you feel like it.

In conclusion, my dears, do not let us hear one word of complaint out of your dainty lips about the aforementioned rules; it’s not our fault you were born a woman.

Sincerely,

The Patriarchy, U.S.A.

P.s. In case you forgot who’s in charge:

  • 80% of the United States House of Representatives is male.
  • 79% of the United States Senate is male.
  • 100% of United States Presidents and Vice Presidents have been male.

(Photo credit: Catherine Lampi)

 

“Words Kill” (2017)

Mixed media collage on canvas.

Words Kill

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” goes the saying that most of us have heard innumerable times, if not uttered ourselves. Yet, this, in its very core is fake news. Whether we (conveniently/naively) like to claim that words are empty and meaningless, the truth is just the opposite. Words translate into policies, laws, and, at the daily level, body language, facial expressions, and dialogue.

My inspiration for this piece is threefold: It starts with the rhetoric coming out of the current Trump administration, mixes with the rage and sadness I feel about how the most vulnerable among us are being treated by those in authority, and ends with the rise of the Nazis in Germany.

Indeed, genocides begin with words and end in murder.

The Jewish Holocaust began with three letters strung together: pig. Jews were first called “pigs” by the Nazi party and painted as being “the other”; somehow intrinsically different than the other German citizens. The words were then transformed into laws limiting Jews’ (as well as those of the Roma, “mentally unfit”, and homosexuals’) rights and freedom. They were stripped of their ability to own businesses, marry non-Jews, and even made to change their names to be more easily identifiable as Jews. Culminating in concentration camps and the decimation of entire Jewish populations, the Holocaust was permitted to happen and millions lost their lives.

Words can empower and enlighten, or they can create borders to divide and cage bars to ensnare. I wanted to use this piece as a reminder that our words have power, tangible power. Let us not be careless with our words, lest we harm another.