I’ve just finished reading The Princessa: Machiavelli for Women, by Harriet Rubin. The book looks at powerful and outrageous women throughout the ages who left their mark on history, and points out the similarities in the strategies and tactics they used to reach their goals. It celebrates women’s unique gifts – passion and intuition, sensitivity, and cunning – and urges us to use them to claim what we want in our lives.
From the foreword:
This book is about war… not the bloody kind, not the kind provoked by Caesar’s hatreds or Sun Tzu’s deceits or Napoleon’s egomania. It’s about the wars of intimacy, where the enemy is close enough to hurt you, betray you, oppose you, whether it be a spouse, boss, client, parent, child. It is about war as a route to power…
In every encounter, one person always has more command over the situation than the other – and may contest you for the things you want. If you lose, you lose your struggle to have a better, fairer, nobler, and sweeter life. Most of us have had no way to express the fight that we keep locked up inside – all those unreached desires – except through tears of frustration or grief, anger, depression, silence, and submission – all of which can mean instant and irrecoverable losses.
I found the book rather timely, as I’ve been pushing myself to move from talk to action, to be the change, and to look for partnerships with others who want to work together on spectacular projects that bring more love and light into the world. In this process, I’m coming head to head with men of influence and power, and uncertain of the role I play here. In a sense, I’m trying to figure out how to be a woman in a man’s world… and then shift that world to the one I envision. It’s disorienting.
One one hand it feels like people want to help me succeed. Plenty of good will, advice, support. On the other, it feels like every time I empower myself a little further, gain a little more confidence, I find myself being tested. Dark forces show up to misguide, manipulate, confuse, divert. It seems all too easy to be pulled off my path, to be convinced of the value of some shiny object or another, to be told who I am or what I should want, all which lead to a loss of clarity of my own reality. (And by “dark forces” I don’t necessarily mean other people, but the darkness inside that is designed to derail – impatience, martyrdom, self deprecation, arrogance.)
As if dealing with these challenges weren’t enough of an effort in and of themselves, having to do it as a woman makes it even trickier.
In many of the conversations I’ve had lately about female energy and leadership, there is a story I’m hearing about what the world will be like if/when more women assert themselves in society. There is a particular story that I hear, mostly from the mouths of men, who tell it with a combination of anger, disgust and fear. In the story, women rise, wrestle the power from the men, and then rule the world as men historically have, while leaving them somehow subservient, stripped of worth, empty.
In my mind, this misses a huge point in what female power is all about, how it’s energetically different than the male-dominated energy, and why women in positions of leadership and inspiration operate on a playing field that is fundamentally different. The story of a world of powerful women does not look the same as a world of powerful men.
I believe in a non-zero sum kind of world, where women “winning” doesn’t mean that anyone loses. In fact, just the opposite – we show that a world of abundance is possible where outcomes benefit all people.
In Rubin’s book, she describes it as “besting surpassing winning.”
She says most women can’t win – not because they’re incapable of fighting strategically, but because no one wants them to win, often including the women themselves. Winning typically means someone else has to lose. But besting is better than winning, because your win does not humiliate the other or rob them of their dignity. Rather, winning is accomplished by achieving the best, offering a clear and inspiring new record (a collective epic win!), a new level of performance, which then serves to motivate everybody.
We demonstrate that our win is everyone’s win, and we model the behavior we want to see in the world.
Ultimately, this isn’t even really about women verse men. Plenty of the men in my network have a deep sense of the possibilities in a world dominated by love, respect, mindfulness and integrity. But it would seem this mentality is still a stretch for many to believe. As I go from expressing my views safely via this blog, to actually stating them directly to keyholders of ‘the system,’ I’m coming face to face with the dominant paradigm, where corruption, coercion, manipulation, and asserting control are the MO.
I’m finding that as I attempt to describe and live a different world, I’m confronted with old power struggles that will take time to unravel and diffuse.
Only a few short weeks ago, I was at lovely dinner with some colleagues and a potential business ally.
The man was successful, by any typical measure, and well aware of the shifting world we’re transitioning towards and the opportunities it suggests. He, like many intelligent people today, wants to pioneer the transition instead of be left behind, and is looking to be a part of the world being constructed by the visionaries and edge riders.
As we enjoyed our appetizers, the conversation turned to the underlying drivers we believe are influencing the shift – the implications of a globally connected species, the self-empowerment of women, the rebalancing of planetary energies, the reacquaintance of our species with healthy emotional intimacy, and the spectrum of feelings we can choose to allow ourselves to experience when we reconnect with our deeper spiritual selves.
He looked directly at me across the table, in the company of the other dinner guests, and said “I’m not going to fuck you.”
I quickly scanned my backlog to see if I had given an invitation, or if discussion of my body were in any way on-topic during polite dinner conversation or business dealings.
I wondered what reaction he’d hoped to illicit from that comment, either from me or from my friends.
I thought to myself, perhaps it’s too disarming to speak bluntly about love and vulnerability in the company of a strategist, and the only assumption to be made is that I wanted to take him to the sack.
Or perhaps it was a power play, a way to signal to the other man at the table that *he* was in fact the alpha male here, that *he* was in control of….. something.
I can’t claim to understand all the games men play. Not yet, at least.
In a state of puzzled amusement, I simply blinked blankly at him and took another sip of my wine…..
Fast forward a few weeks, and I’m reading this book, and the author describes a scenario of a man and woman at a dinner table that had enough similarly in pattern to give me pause.
The man basically says, “I get the feeling you’re brittle, that you’ve been hurt by men, and that you break. And to complicate things further, we’re attracted to one another.”
The author goes on to describe this play as one to make the woman distrust her own knowledge of herself, to be made small through seduction or rejection, and to then conspire in her own destruction.
It makes me ask, both for the sake of other women in this position, but also for anyone challenging the dominant belief structure about “how things work,” how do we go about recognizing these bids for power and neutralize them?
The book calls the women who learn these techniques the “warrior princessas.”
They are both lovers and fighters. They have no need to deal in command and control structures, in aggression, negotiation, compromise. They revel in their emotional lives, in expressing joy, pleasure, and concern. They express their desire with a diva’s virtuosity. They express a kind of love that creates a solidarity between themselves and everything else in their lives, a transcendent love that implies unity among all. A kinship with every person and object on the planet. There is no “them.”
Rubin suggests a method for “besting” is to play against the tensions of people’s aggressions, fears, and assertions of false authority.
She claims all tensions of a strategic kind are governed by four principles:
1. Intensity feelings
Sink deeply into the emotions you feel, whether they be from pain or from desire. Think through your body and abandon all notions of revenge. Demonstrate what Gandhi called ‘ahimsa,’ or refusal to harm others. Be tenderly alert to the vulnerabilities that will be exposed by those in the old system who choose to shift. Lovingly express heroic expectations of them, acknowledging the strength and generosity that could become more prominent features of their character, when they are ready.
We know that change is painful and will incite attack, and old paradigms will not go down without a fight. Can we have the courage to invite suffering, loss and even humiliation, rather than showing our ego is more important than our goal? Can we embody elegance as we steward in new worlds?
2. Incite others toward a big goal or cause
Rosa Parks’ bus incident was symbolic of a larger war for freedom and civil rights. The goal isn’t just about a personal victory, it’s a much bigger vision for the kind of world filled with decent people, something morally and emotionally better than what exists now. When we talk about the opportunities of social technologies, the promise of a peer to peer culture, the liberation of people’s hearts and minds to pursue their own dream — that is the vision that inspires me.
I had my ‘a-ha’ moment about our ability to change things when I realized the awesome power of networks. This understanding is floating in the collective consciousness and resonates with many, many people. If we are clear about what we stand for, our tribes will quickly find us. Push aside ego, jealousy, and sells-righteousness, and instead be guided by your clear and simple truth.
I’ve found the message of freedom an irresistible one. It’s a message of human agency, of personal sovereignty, of the ability of everyone to follow their bliss, and be supported by a loving network of friends who nurture each other’s conscious evolution and spiritual growth.
3. Invalidate and refuse to accept predominant beliefs
Those that bear the trappings of authority don’t necessarily own authority. Your boss controls your job, not you. Let desire be the guide. It is unnecessary to directly fight power. Instead oppose it by disbelieving in “prevailing” power, and acting as if “your side” has already won. Gandhi didn’t directly fight the British – he acted as if the people of India had already won freedom, and merely had to get the British to acknowledge it.
What if you behaved *as if* the world you want was already in existence? If you behaved as if you had your desires? Would that convince others you have them too? Instead of expending energy fighting against something stronger and unbeatable in a head to head combat, simply disengage. As Bartelby said, “I would prefer not to.” Let others be mean-spirited, vengeful, and cruel. Be vulnerable and allow yourself to be hurt. Continue to be open and truthful where others remain hidden. Our strength is in our convictions and the need to hide nothing. The worlds we are building can and will be done in the open.
4. Engage in blocking or slowing down
Blocking means you act in order to deter the authority’s progress away from his or her own goals. The dominant crumbling paradigm is about self-preservation. There is no inspirational message in it… it is simply trying to preserve the house of cards from toppling. How exhausting. As we the change agents suggest new ways of living and being, we find the most confrontational among us are usually just scared, and seeking to control everything they can. They are frightened by what we represent moreso than us ourselves. And it is fine. Let us become the total embodiment of those fears – femininity, creativity, kindness and openheartedness. When they experiment with this other modality of being, where vulnerability or weakness is shown, they will find no attack. Instead, we infuse them with the courage to change and inspire them with stories and possibility and art. In the world we want to create, no one has to lose anything — we all gain more.
I found these principles interesting, in that it’s how I feel I intuitively already operate. The book goes on with various sections about strategy, tactics, subtle weapons… I admit I’m kind of turned off by the language of the book. Even as it speak of leading from love, it feels a bit too calculated. But, the main message is that we acquire power simply by understanding the existence of love as the best strategy in war.
If we want to change anything for the better, for the benefit of all, love is the key.
I aspire to be a brilliantly disruptive princessa, to demonstrate that these new socioeconomic and cultural paradigms we’re establishing are already here, and to live them. I’ll show that we can in fact live with love in our hearts and to not abuse the vulnerabilities of others when they’re exposed. We can know our deepest truths, can align ourselves in thought word and action, and find allies and collaborators with whom this ethic resonates. And we will birth universes and bring magic into the world together. It’s already happening.
So to the dear gentleman from dinner, if you are reading this:
You’re absolutely right. You are NOT going to fuck me.
AND we both have tremendous value to offer the world and each other, and it can be done in partnership, without a contest to determine who is stronger, who will seduce the other, or who will inflict hurt or pain. I decline playing with you in the old control structures, and instead invite you to explore this side where we can respectfully engage in creating something far greater than ourselves together, and to be friends in the process.
I am a woman. I am embracing my power. The world I’m after is more of a playground than a battlefield, an aesthetic, a form of performative art. In it there is intimacy, play, exploration, freedom, creativity and innovation.
If you want to play, you know where to find me.
image found at http://katipunan09.wordpress.com/analysis/love-and-revolution/
monika hardy said:
love this Venessa:
In the world we want to create, no one has to lose anything — we all gain more.
imagining you have seen this graphic.. but if not.. very fitting…
I was one of the lucky ones. My father always told me that I could be a powerhouse in anything I wanted to do because I was a woman. And he was right! You can, too, and everyone can win in the process. 🙂
Reblogged this on SpeakGossip.
Venessa Miemis said:
thanks for sharing!
Absolutely magnificent. Thank you, Vanessa. These considerations of power — what it means, what it feels like to embody it, responding to the emergent injunction I’ve felt in recent months that the time to step into a fuller embodiment of it is NOW — seem to be ripening in the collective lately. I feel the pulse of this emergence. The landscape changes every day, more points of light shining unapologetically, as far as I can tell from this surveying point. I see my networks lighting up. I see women feeling the internal shift that accompanies the dropping away of obsolete programs (esp perhaps the beauty and worthiness tangle) and beginning to install better software. It’s unstoppable. Those who accept the invitation wholeheartedly, who do not resist the changes at hand, will sidestep unnecessary suffering and find themselves models of a new way of being, living invitations. Indeed, “If we want to change anything for the better, for the benefit of all, love is the key.” And all the help we need to gracefully release old ways of compensating for the felt lack of the power of the Self drop away as we consent to allow ourselves to genuinely connect to the real source of power.
I appreciate the strategic perspectives though. They offer helpful correctives for the transition from one paradigm to another.
Many thanks for your beautiful and true work!
Venessa Miemis said:
Ooop, I’m sorry I spelled your name incorrectly 🙂
Love your writing, Vanessa. This is particularly resonant. It is in the spirit of this that I write the following:
I’m imagining your graphic designer is an ardent Ron Paul fan because the accompanying illustration is a blatant rip-off of his ID [http://tinyurl.com/7kz4eo3]. Not that Ron Paul would be the kind of guy to sue you over it misuse, however, you don’t seem like the kind of person to purloin his logo either (now, especially, that it is no longer unwitting).
Venessa Miemis said:
i actually had just done a google search for “revolution love” and found the image. attribution at bottom of post. i don’t know the origins of the image/artist.
Erica Glasier ♥ (@EricaGlasier) said:
I’m not sure the ‘revolution’ graphic isn’t already fairly widespread. Google “revolution love” & you get a many versions.
Venessa: hopefully the gentleman meant “in a business sense”
This is from Cracked, so it’s meant to be funny, but I thought it had some interesting viewpoints: ‘5 Ways Modern Men are Trained to Hate Women’ http://www.cracked.com/article_19785_5-ways-modern-men-are-trained-to-hate-women.html
You rock! I’m so with you. The open hearts community is coming alive.
Thanks for writing this amazing piece. Glad your recent sojourn was so enlivening. 😀
As I began to read, I got triggered. My first reaction was anger. A quick scan of past hurts, the mental ticker tape all the times masculine power “dominated over” my female presence in dishonoring ways: ick.
Next up was sadness: the “war” metaphor. I flashed back to years ago as our company leveled up into nicer office space. “What do you want to name your new War Room?” my colleague asked me excitedly. I told him I wasn’t at war with anyone: my job was deal-making. I’d build strategic alliances in my peace room, thanks very much.
One day, I left home one morning to hop the train, with a perky “I’m off to war!” instead of “I’m off to work!” and in that instant I knew I’d hit my limit, and that my environment had become too combative for me to deny.
My Freudian slip had revealed a Gordion Knot, and it was time to move on.
I spent some time healing from adrenal fatigue. I spent some time cleaning off the ick that had covered my personal compass. I spent some time treating myself like a pregnant lady, which seems to be the only socially-endorsed circumstance under which a woman is given free rein to care for herself on every level. I spent some time writing index cards of all the business I knew how to run, and then was terribly disinterested in running them in any existing molds of how to do so. I did have touchpoints of virtuosi teams I had been on. Peak experiences, superfluidity, expansion beyond limits.
And so I started inventing from what felt good.
What would it look like, feel like, taste like, touch like to not subsume any part of me? To function in a living enterprise that equally honored intuition and intellection? Where all of me deeply mattered? Where what I was really good at (truly) was what I was deeply honored and valued for offering?
Where feelings are valid input points that reveal edges that truly matter, that are core to success of the enterprise. Where you pause to inquire into the gut response you are getting at each stage, and you receive a higher and better outcome for your attention and diligence to all perceptual inputs.
Where creation is a dance, is fun, is play, is Work. And where Work brings health, wealth, love, and perfect self-expression. Where you can be “serious” about Work without being “solemn” about it. Where when things feels heavy, you check in with your compass to see which way feels lighter and brighter and then you know that is the correct course to take.
And this isn’t all Pollyanna bullshit. This shit works in our traditional metrics of margins and P&Ls. And finally our studies begin to reveal to our rational minds what we intuitively already know. Happy people outperform repressed people (hi, Zappos). The environment that impacts your feelings is built as much by people as by real estate (hi, Joie de Vivre Hotels). Human-centric works. (Hi, Global Renaissance! What up, Occupy Everything.)
And so I’m in this new playspace, and it’s quite a ride. And lots of people want to come along. They’d like the ride tested first, if that’s okay. It doesn’t seem quite “done” if you don’t mind us saying so. And I understand this response. New can be scary. Just look at the Wright Brothers. Not everyone wants to go first. It can involve some crashing.
And I understand how this emergence may feel woefully unfamiliar to some. You may expect a battle, and instead you are being met. And being met can be misinterpreted as being mastered, and a fear response of a burst of bad behavior can be forgiven, where appropriate to do so: where the intention is to be at the same level; different and equal, a true mutuality of partnership.
So when I meet men in particular, but sometimes also women, acting out of the old alpha paradigm, I ask myself this:
“Is this person authentically attempting to meet me where I am? Are they perhaps activated into an old ‘the best defense is a good offense’ pattern? Do they have the potential to play at my level or not? Are they a match to my mojo? Are we in the same frequency?”
Because once you see where you want to stand, you’re only looking for people who can walk the same ground.
Sometimes people are using their old “winning strategy” after the shift, and it’s an old habit they are shedding. And othertimes, this is who they are, the level and perspective they play at, and it’s hard-coded, baby. So just bless those folks and move on. No need to waste any energy here.
As for me, some days I feel wise, which is awake to myself. So I say to me, “Find your wise company. Your wise money, your wise fellows. Choose the game. Find some players. Make up new rules together. Everybody level up.”
And for all the prior hurts from the Alpha system: I offer only this: radical forgiveness. Alpha had its time; it served its purpose, we gained a lot from it, and we are playing a new game now with new rules.
Wholeness. Multi-dimensionality. Union. Synergy. Different instruments within a composition. The flute isn’t jealous of the banjo. The different instruments are unique, discrete, and better together. Let’s get the jam going.
This is new, this co-arising. This high complementarity.
So let’s go together. Let’s learn new music together.
This is how I’m playing.
Of activists, it’s been Eve Ensler who’s inspired me most of late with her recent appearance at the opening session of Skoll World Forum, being a breath of fresh air amid the self-stroking hyperbole which keeps social action within the comfort zone of the conference circuit.
Where our own work has focussed in Eastern Europe it’s the Femen activists who many see as the only local group with balls.
The day after International Women’s Day in Ukraine Oksana Makar was raped, half strangled and set on fire by 3 men. Two of them released by police are believed to have high political connections. Used and thrown away, as the disempowered often are.
The alpha males with their presumption of control are just as much of a problem to those of us men attempting to build a more compassionate and just society. Those like my deceased colleague, whose life ended in his efforts to raise awareness where disabled children were being neglected and abused, by those who saw them as a profit maximising opportunity.
He was fucked. We both were, by our own governments who hijacked his work to serve up as their own, albeit with the primary cause airbrushed out. In the last few months of his life we’d spent most of our time being stonewalled by the alpha mentality of development agencies and their corporate partners. He died because, without payment for his work, he was unable to afford urgent medical treatment.
It’s solidarity which seems so lacking in this risk averse, yet dog-eat-dog world of social innovation. Irrespective of gender, there’s great need for those of integrity to level their gaze at the alpha predator and let them know in no uncertain terms that they’re not free to gratify themselves by consuming others, neither their bodies or the creation of their minds..
BTW, It was both the metaphor of war and a real war, which the colleague I refer to above used to address the Senate Committee where Barack Obama and Joe Biden served before they were elected to government The final paragraph from his message reads:
“Thank you for your time and attention to this. I and others will look forward to hearing from you. I hope we continue to realize ever more fully that outside the box and inside the box have only a box in the way. We outside the box know quite a bit of what’s going on, many times in exquisite detail, perhaps in ways that those inside the box can’t quite as easily access if at all. We are grossly underfunded in favor of missiles, bombs, and ordnance, which is about 100% backwards. Now, with even the US Pentagon stating that they’ve learned their lesson in Iraq and realize (so says top US general in Iraq ten days or so ago) that winning hearts and minds is the best option, I and others shall continue to think positive and look for aid budgets and funding spigots to be opened much more for people and NGOs in silos, foxholes and trenches, insisting on better than ordnance, and who understand things and how to fix them. We can do that. We can even do it cost-effectively and with far better efficiency than the ordnance route. Welcome to our brave new world. Except it’s not so new: learn to love and respect each other first, especially the weakest, most defenseless, most voiceless among us, then figure out the rest. There aren’t other more important things to do first. This message has been around for at least two thousand years. How difficult is it for us to understand?”
Harlan T Wood said:
Thanks Venessa. Damn, I’m so inspired by the way you share yourself so deeply and vulnerably in public. Actively inspired, like I’m starting to do more of it, and you’re one of my heroes in this realm.
There are harsh realities and power games that we bump up against as our vision, projects, and stature become world class. I am starting to hit some of these myself, as I come out of my cave to share my projects and visions. It’s frakking scary to be vulnerable. Thanks for your courage and inspiration.
atlasphere (@atlasatlasphere) said:
Brilliant, thoughtful and touching. Having reflected on many of your same insights, I can relate to your journey. I look for clues to de-reify my own beliefs, examining my own thinking is the key, by asking, what do I believe and why do I believe it? Krishnamurti says, “we must free our mind from its desire to find a result.”
I found an interesting read about decoding masculine energies; King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine by Dr. Robert Moore. The key idea, that dazzled me, is that patriarchy is an expression of the immature masculine, competitive, controlling, domineering and so on. What men need is not to become more feminine, but rather more masculine, an energy that is both strong and calming. We too as women, must embrace a mature expression of our love and compassion, and to stop cosigning bs. Brene Brown writes that “the most compassionate people have the best boundaries”; a difficult task given the many hats we wear, to stand our ground, to center and breathe.
Yet another concept I marvel at is from The Culture Code, by Clotaire Rapaille. A uniquely American trait is that we have not grown up, because, we did not ‘kill our king’. We are in perpetual adolescence, seen blatantly in politics; not a far step from the sandbox to the boardroom, is there? It is no secret that we are a country falling over itself to be young, wearing youth as a mask, while powerful women are routinely called hags. How do we embrace all these conflicts?
And finally, my own wisdom, ultimately, we are responsible for our own choices, nourished by the confidence of knowing our own minds. Notice who is moving towards us, offering help, and support. Pray for enlightenment, to see the truth of the situation, not limited by our frames, perceptions, and will. As we each learn to unwire that giant red button, from the inside, then we can stand in our true power.
Ring that bell, all day long, dinner table guy!
Jennifer Sertl (@JenniferSertl) said:
Venessa, I read Harriet Rubin’s book the year I started my business in 2001. I think it should be a gift to all 16 years olds. I live in Rochester, NY where Susan B. Anthony did such great work helping women get the right to vote. We have so much work to do to claim and articulate our own voices to ourselves – let alone the world. I think keeping the brave courage of those who came before us, continuing to write and be introspective in our own voice claiming, and modeling both beauty & intelligence are ways we can keep making progress for our own daughters etc.
Thank you for letting us hear your voice and reminding us use our own.
Janet Brent (@JanetBrent) said:
wow. I just.. don’t even get the connection from the conversation you describe to his lewd comment. I definitely want to be part of this new world/vision/shift and consider myself riding the edge (hey, I rejected my Western upbringing after all and now live in a third world country poor community.. majorly downgraded my life. and oh, I’ve never owned an iPhone).
My way to deal with these shifts is to just say ‘to hell with it!’, as evidenced by my brazen cross-continental move.. and to find like energies and completely disengage by people who might not vibe with me, like the dude. I surround myself with feminine energy (in this day and age they are most likely females, but that’s not always necessarily the case, nor should it be). Even my boyfriend is in touch with his feminine side… he’s the one who gardens and makes mala beads/jewelry (while at the same time being an expert filipino martial artist instructor).
My insight (or actually my boyfriend’s insight; he’s amazing by the way) is that the masculine will become feminine. The world will turn upside down. Basically, the powers will change and women/feminine energy will rule. But as you said, not “rule” in that sense that others lose, but that we all win and share abundance! It WILL happen and it will be beautiful. That’s what I truly believe, but I know it takes a hellof a lot of faith. The East will also rule the West.. Politically/economically speaking, that’s already true with China. But spiritually speaking, the revival will be in the East… My intuition feels its correct. And MY insight to add upon it is that the pyramid, the money symbol, the power symbol and the way Western goverment works is of course very masculine. Turned upside down and the triangle becomes feminine… The triangle point faces south and becomes a symbol for feminine/fertility/womb… dare I say divinity?
I think leaving the West actually has left me from all those power plays that you talk about. I experience none of that here. My mission now is to live as authentically as I can.
I was curious whether Princessa didn’t talk about laughter as a tactic, because that’s the response I thought most appropriate in the situation you describe. Apparently not, but I found that in the same author’s more recent book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Mona-Lisa-Stratagem-Women/dp/B005Q6U36YThe Mona Lisa Stratagem: The Art of Women, Age, and Power, there is (appropriately) a chapter entitled:
As you gain more confidence in yourself, you will be more ready to laugh at such childishness—not contemptuously, but with earnest amusement. Because even better than being able to shrug it off (as several have suggested here) is being able to laugh it off.
And if your dinner companion was self-aware and mature enough to really begin making the transition from dominance to cooperation, he would be able to respond by joining in your laughter at his gaff, and even bond with you a bit over the laughter. Laughing at yourself, especially in the company of sympathetic peers, is a wonderful way to grow.
I do not consider your comments a rant. My first exposure to your excellent analytical skills and writing was on a topic in which I have great interest – decision making. In forty years of my experience working with people in all levels of business, government and non-governmental agencies, I have yet to hear of such a blatant and ignorant utterance as that of the man at the dinner table. No matter how successful by measures of power and wealth, the man at the dinner table is a failure, obviously somebody to be avoided.
Laurence J. Victor said:
Whether one is visibly female, minority, or crippled they are handicapped in relationships with people who don’t really know them. This can be especially frustrating when one’s deep intentions are blocked by a simple prejudice – and, probably by evolution, such slights hurt more, personally, than the more powerful (but less obvious) barriers. Many can easily get so caught up in resisting the prejudice that they lose sight of their deep intentions. I, personally and at this time, am confronting personal/family crises that make it nearly impossible to concentrate on what I really want to be doing. Today I look back and realize that such tensions have been present in my whole life, and I believe in the lives of most people. Our instinct to survive dominates us in these days of continuous and multiple stressors.
Although a white male (short, but with 2 PhDs) I feel with you as you attempt to negotiate with persons of power in areas of contemporary reality. I must state my belief: that those who oppose establishments are part of the whole system of contemporary reality. Emergents work to create a new reality. So, we will encounter many who may verbally support emergence while being engaged in furthering their cause (whether it is establishment or resistance). I have infrequently encountered establishment power, but – over decades – I have experienced attempts to-guide-me or straighten-me-out by those deeply involved in their anti-establishment causes and totally unable to consider what I might offer to complement their work. If I am valued it is because they perceive me fitting into their scheme.
The four principles re strategy are applicable; but to what level of strategy. They imply a fight for power-over (to control the scene) rather than a power-to-create (although this is also expressed as vision). Two quotes: “old paradigms will not go down without a fight” and “It is unnecessary to directly fight power. Instead oppose it by disbelieving in ‘prevailing’ power, and acting as if ‘your side’ has already won.” Both imply a limiting context. Consider that there are two ultimate endgames: replacement (metamorphosis) or transformation (fight to win).
I am not saying we can avoid resistance and some conflict – the accelerating polarities make it inevitable. Polarities are arising at all fractal nodes and forums for conflict resolution are disappearing. We emergents may need to struggle just to keep open our options for emergence and eventual replacement. To believe we can convince many others to even envision as we do, let alone change significantly, may be very dangerous given the increasing power and resilience of established orders (who have already adopted P2P and networking – read Castell’s “Communication Power”) and our time constraints (re multiple Earth Changes). To attract others to an emergent alternative reality is different from asking one to change roles within an old reality.
I force myself (actually I am addicted) to delve deep into the dangerous happenings, local to planetary – far deeper than what the progressive media gives, let alone mainstream media fairytales. I don’t normally experience this “negatively” emotionally, but just as information about alternative contexts within which we will emerge. By plumbing the depth of danger I realize the true magnitude of our task which drives me to explore positive alternatives commensurate with our real challenge.
No rose colored glasses, but when I accept that significant transformation is impossible (long argument postponed) I am open to discover awesome untapped potentials that can fuel and augment emergence/replacement beyond the visions of most contemporary activists and visionaries. We must imagine beyond Big Pictures. An enzymatic augmentation to synergy makes viable what top visionaries today deem as unlikely or will take centuries. But, so long as one believes in the possibility of convincing others to risk changing for visions they have neither time nor inclination to adequately study, one will not be able to devote time to study metamorphic alternatives.
We must be cautious in attempting an ideal that contradicts “reality”. If we imagine a future Humanity in harmony with Gaia in analogy to a healthy and viable multicelled organism such as ourselves, we must be aware that all is not perfect. Some say that life is a successful hack. Most cells die and some go astray. A significant percent of humans are sociopaths whose brain structure makes it difficult for them to experience empathy and they are able to act affecting others with no concern of collateral damage. They are often highly intelligent and creative. There is evidence that the competitive system in corporations and governments filters sociopaths to the top. Normal means of communicating and negotiating do work with sociopaths.
Although accelerated metamorphic emergence and replacement is possible, the endgame with global corporatism (both collapsing and accelerating with resilience) presents a very real challenge. I believe there are meta-strategies that can succeed without direct confrontation with establishment power that would suppress emergence.
“the opportunities of social technologies, the promise of a peer to peer culture, the liberation of people’s hearts and minds to pursue their own dream — that is the vision that inspires me”, and inspires me as well. These are the essential tools, but we also need emergent processes and objectives for using these tools.
There may be times when “fighting wars” may be an appropriate tactic – but winning wars may be a dangerous long-term strategy. At least we need dialog on this issue.
Creating viable platforms for metamorphic emergence is the current challenge, and without those platforms little will happen. And I expect most emergents rightly to be concentrating on this objective. Others are needed to explore how those platforms may be used and improved. Unconscious or loosely examined visions of use of P2P and network platforms configures the platforms to work best for these (possibly limited) visions. But, what if the visions are incomplete and the platforms inadequate for what are needed.
What type of “educational processes and systems” can prepare an exponentially growing population of activists to use the platforms? This system must be beyond our contemporary best. I believe O4L&L4O (organizing-for-learning_&_learning-for-organizing) is a process/system needing apps as much as those for new economic or governance systems. What do we do if we discover that the very best of our contemporary educational processes/systems/theories are grossly inadequate?
If one considers the endgame re Earth Changes (including Climate Change) one realizes that it will require knowledgeable and competent active participation of most of our planetary population. This uplift must be our objective – and realize that it is not impossible, but quite achievable. Furthermore, imagine the new tools and technologies being utilized in collaborative synergies by an augmented growing population. If our next Humanity is not to be a new elite controlled “civilization” the uplift of the whole population is essential.
In summary, it is some humans fucking other humans that is our challenge. And, this is not some game that all will necessarily end well, eventually. Today, more than ever our Crisis-of-Crises is a complementarity of Danger/Opportunity. Maybe we need to explore the extremes of danger to be open to discover the viable extremes of opportunity. Our personal challenge is how we mere mortals can survive/thrive emerging in this vibrant chaos, without letting feeling good about ourselves and what we are doing be both a necessary and sufficient measure that what we are doing is adequate.
Scott Lewis (@jazzmann91) said:
i found one in canada: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=axS-QdUkMqk#!
One of your better posts, Princessa 😉
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If you don’t know the book Women who run with wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes it’s worth a read. It is about women reclaiming their power. http://www.clarissapinkolaestes.com/
Christine Capra said:
Great post Vanessa!
I reposted it at barelycivilized.net
Kirstin Falk (@kmfalk) said:
I love this post, and you were able to articulate so many things that I am feeling. I would love to help you in any way possible. Have you read an old book called the Quest of the Warrior Woman? It is really old but so worth checking out.
Thanks again, this was such a thought-provoking post.
The Intentional Workplace said:
Formidable post, Venessa,
Your dinner “companion” illustrates another example of the ways people communicate and act in the face of shifting power arrangements. Of course we can never really know what was on this man’s mind, but his boldness and the context suggest to me that it was coming from the alpha male thing – the assertion of power (which we understand is not real power but the desperate unconscious grasping for power).
The Tibetan concept of “fierce compassion” comes to mind. How women (and men who consciouly embrace this understanding and who realize that the “power” they now hold has been based on the systematic dehumanization of their own needs and real feelings.) We must have compassion and take action at the same time. Anger has value as an energizer but has to be tempered with life sustaining emotions.
There’s isn’t much evidence to suggest that throughout history power holders have willingly conceded power to the disempowered. I think its critical for women (as well as other marginalized groups) to understand that this is a critical time for action. And there will be fallout.
i have been trying to figure out how to be a man in a “man’s world” my whole life …
decided it’s better just to be human
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Dionne Lew (@DionneLew) said:
Venessa I wonder if there is only 1 way to interpret what he was saying to you? Could he have meant he would not ‘do you over’ in the business sense, strange as it may have been to use the language that he did and in public?
I haven’t read the book yet so this may be addressed, but neither women nor men are homogenous and responses to power vary widely within as well as across genders?
A closing observation – those who seek to work with edge-riders are themselves edge-riders. The ability to generate ideas is a strength – no less so the capacity to spot and implement them.
What I enjoy about all your posts is your frankness and your capacity for honest and self-reflection. It’s refreshing.
Carmen A. Medina (@milouness) said:
Thank you for writing such an incredibly powerful post.