Diana Rajchel

differently Wiccan: Contemporary, Urban, Integrated

How perfectly nice people contribute to rape and molestation (Triggerpalooza, kids.)

April 24, 2014 by di | Comments Off | Filed in Pagan Culture

A highlight of last month was the arrest of a well-known-to-some Pagan man caught in a child porn sting.

The brouhaha over Kenny Klein is wholly justified: we’ve had more than one neopagan hauled off for trying to persuade nubile men and women in their mid-teens into beds. He’s the first guy we all know for sure went down for kiddie porn for children under 13 and the intense discussion of these charges reveal, to our communal shame, how many warnings and complaints we ignored.

In response many decent people of neopagandom have vowed to correct our actions. Over the last month lots of energy has gone into discussing how our community behaves when it comes to sex and sexuality. We are all about solving the problem, we are simply going to the wrong information to solve that problem. Sexuality and sexual ethics is not and was never the problem in cases involving sexual violence. We all know sex with children is malevolent and wrong – those engaging in these acts definitely know that. No amount of vowing not to rape children will stop pedophiles of any religion or non-faith from raping children. It’s a pathology. Petitions and sexual chivalry codes don’t fix that.

In one festival announcement that bordered on being predatory in its own right, there was a promise to “screen all registrants” before camp. That’s a cute bit of PR – but since this is the first time Klein has been caught, he would have slipped right on through and endangered the children at that camp, too.

Instead of looking at our own behavior and how we as a community contributed and even enabled his crimes, we are looking at the behavior of Klein and those like him as though a new moral code will make a damn bit of difference to someone who willfully breaks moral codes already. The only thing we have the power to change is ourselves – and for the most part, every proposal of “change” has been something that would do nothing to correct this situation. (There are exceptions listed in the blog links at the bottom of this post.)

We all want to know what the signs of a child molester are. But molesters know what they are and they are clever. They hide. They manipulate. They make us feel ashamed for thinking such thoughts about them.

The only sure sign of a child molester? Victims. And that “victims” is almost always plural unless a concerned parent happened upon the first incident while already toting a shotgun.

Whether Klein is a “true Pagan” or not (and “true Pagan” are words of utter bullshit, by the way) makes no difference in the much more serious issue: we failed his victims. It is an aching, glaring reality in the hordes of blog posts out there: there’s lots of talk about how we had warnings about Klein, but only the victims talk about how they were (mis)treated along the way. Call it rape culture, call it Peter Pan syndrome, call it Pagan fantasy culture at its worst – but also, call it our fault for not listening, for not paying attention, for dismissing instead of investigating.

Yvonne Aburrow gives a good overview of this.   Her perspective is old school, what I was told in advocacy training. It also relies on people being better and more self aware than they usually are.

The problem with protecting our own vulnerable populations is that as a group we share a tendency towards denial of bad behavior.

In theory we’ll of course believe a woman who tells us she’s been raped. We’re good people. We know all about rape culture, that it’s real. We are beyond rape culture, right? The Goddess disapproves of rape and all that rape in ancient myth represented tales of war and patriarchal oppression. We are good Pagans! We uphold the Goddess incarnate in all women! Of course we’d believe a woman who was raped – and not even think to question the shortness of her skirt, whether we can see her thong or if she was making out with more than one guy around the fire last night.

But then real life happens: a woman tells you she’s been raped by someone you know – a guy you just had drinks with, a guy who’s on your trivia team, a guy who just helped you move.

Then believing her is a very different story.

Even after she gets the rape kit and the DNA proves something happened, you dredge up anything  that can make this not be so – even blaming her – to convince yourself you’re not the kind of person that would befriend a rapist.

Maybe she’s just trying to get revenge in a bad breakup, you tell yourself. You look for every fault she has. Something has to be wrong with her – because there’s no way you’d just let this happen, that you might have been a passive party to someone else’s violation. You’d totally know if this guy was sexually violent. Yeah, he says some weird things about women and gets kind of touchy but that’s just geek culture/pagan culture/weird social awkwardness, right? Just look at how she acts around her sexual prospects.

Or: look at how she wears baggy clothes and no makeup – why would anyone even want to rape her?

This train of thought is wrong – beyond wrong. It’s a complete moral failure.

Sometimes there are signs when a person is creepy. Sometimes there are not. Predators disguise themselves – fooling the people around them is how they succeed in their hunt.

You are going to get signals something is up, though. Sometimes those signs come from the predators.

But often enough, the signs come from the people the predator huntsand all too often, you may well bat those aside, not even knowing that there’s a neurological button in you that the predator has found a way to press, even at a distance. The button that makes you ignore what’s right in front of you. The one that makes you want to steady that rocking boat.

The predator counts on us using that automated response every time someone says “hey, something is wrong here.” In fact, after years of manipulation and cultural indoctrination, these responses can be condensed down to specific words and sentences that actually act as powerful triggers – that can shut our awareness to the off position. After all, it’s much easier to hunt when the other members of the herd are oblivious – and getting them to make themselves oblivious makes life so much easier.

So, when confronted with a rape-in-the-neighborhood situation, most people are programmed to respond with dismissal, identification or denial.

DISMISSAL

  • “Oh, he or she is harmless.”

Variations: “socially awkward,” “is from a different era,” “has some old fashioned ideas about gender,” “likes to push boundaries.”

  • “I’m sure it was nothing.” The person was upset enough to bring it up. It’s something.
  • “It’s just a [cultural] [tradition] [personality] difference.”
  • “I’m sure it’s just a personality conflict.”1

IDENTIFICATION

  • “Once you get to a certain age everyone thinks you’re creepy.”
  • “I just imagine how I would feel in that situation.”
  • “Men in this community are treated so badly. Their innate privilege/masculinity is questioned all the time.”

DENIAL

  • “He has a boyfriend/girlfriend… he’s really attractive…he’s so nice… why would he need to rape someone?”
  • “He IS your boyfriend/girlfriend. Why on earth would he need to rape you?”
  • “I know him. He’s a nice guy. There’s just no way this could happen.”
  • “I don’t know what I saw.”

MINIMIZATION

  • “You’re exaggerating.”
  • “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.”
  • “Maybe it was just a misunderstanding…” [once someone's genitals come out there IS no misunderstanding.]
  • “Stop being a drama queen.”
  • “You’re taking this out of context/blowing this way out of proportion.”

AVOIDANCE

  • “I don’t want to get involved.”
  • “I’m sure this would be better handled privately.”
  • “Think about who this would hurt if this got out.”

COMPLEX AVOIDANCE

  • “You should take this to the authorities.”

This one sounds like the right thing to say. It should be the right thing to say.

If you have ever had to watch a police interrogation of a rape or molestation victim, you will know why it is the deadly wrong thing to say.

1)Most rape victims are accused of lying by the police. Usually they are accused of it several times during an investigation. There are cases when a woman has had to ask for a rape kit multiple times before she even gets one – and sometimes she isn’t even given one then.

2)An absurd number of police officers have domestic abuse and sexual violence on their own records. Gender seems to make no difference in that. It is starting to improve as people are registering that high risk jobs have can have nasty neurological impacts that make people more likely to become violent towards their partners and children. But right now, chances are the police are not just part of rape culture but the upholders of it.

3)In a Pagan context, there are no authorities. Often someone speaks to you because they perceive YOU as the authority in some way – and given the state of crisis, it’s not a good time to navigate the psychological conditions that cause that particular projection.

ADDITIONAL COMPLEX AVOIDANCE

  • “Prove it.”

Therein lies the rub. There are many situations in which if a victim seeks legal recourse – say, going to the police and getting a rape kit – that it’s more dangerous to get the proof then it is to just suffer with what has been done. Most rape and molestation happens at the hands of a known person and it escalates over time. In its final escalation, the victim is murdered. The possibility of getting caught has caused more than one perpetrator to move up the schedule on that.

  • “Well, why don’t you confront him/her?”

This comes from “very special episode” acculturation. In TVLand, the victim is believed, the authorities are called and the perpetrator confesses to all crimes, maybe even vowing to change while being hauled off in handcuffs. More than one therapist has witnessed how much confrontation of an abuser doesn’t accomplish.

“Why didn’t you say no/put a stop to it?”

This is something about rape (not sex) education that has changed since my day in the 90s. I remember attending education workshops where it was explained how over eager teenage boys would use emotional manipulation to get sex. This qualified as rape at the time. Of course, now sex education involves pointing teenagers to the nearest anti-contraception church in the most dire need of butts for their pews. They don’t care how they got those baby members or what’s done to women in order to conceive them.

As many an adult child abuse survivor can tell you, people will refuse to believe you even when it happens right in front of them, the police or other authorities sure as hell won’t believe you and confrontation of the perpetrator does fuck all.

Actually, it does do one thing that’s sort of useful, but not so useful it justifies the therapy bills. I’ll get to that later.

How YOU can stop the cycle of denial, minimization and avoidance

There is a way to stop this. Every time you encounter a situation where someone reports the horrific, respond the same way: ask relevant, non-leading, non-judgmental questions. It will be very difficult to do. Most people’s brains are all wired up with rape culture/dismissal culture. It can take some work to undo that.

If the Pagan community wants to implement anything that will make a difference, it should be in creating a standardized procedure in how the victims are treated and how their claims are investigated. The procedure should be re-examined in light of new research about sexual violence every single year.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or woman, boy or girl, trans or traditional: treat any accusations of assault and violation exactly the same way.

What you must internalize about rape and molestation:

It’s not a stranger jumping out of the bushes. Rape and molestation happens between known quantities. The majority of murders are also between people that know each other intimately (not necessarily sexual intimacy.) Often sexual abuse is a component of relationships that leads to murder.

So what are the right questions to ask? What are the right things to say?

This can be a hard one. People that have been violated are usually in a state of shock that moves into denial. It can go for days or weeks. A lot of things you think you’d do immediately if the same thing happened to you may well not happen if/when it does happen to you because of the shock.

Level 1: If someone comes to you saying “I was raped.”

Questions:

  • When?
  • Do you want to go to the police?
  • Are you going to go to the police?
  • Are you safe?
  • Are you able to get somewhere safe?
  • Can you say who?
  • What do you need to see done?

Note: Any coven or Pagan group worth a damn will make sure that the victim has NO reason to run into the abuser. Even if you’re determined you’re “not sure” forcing these people to cross paths for any reason is an act of abuse in and of itself.

Level 2: Someone did something I thought was off.

Questions:

  • What did the person do?
  • Can you tell me more about the context?
  • What did you say? What did this person say?

Do NOT respond with a conclusion or dismissal. Promise to look in on it and make some observations yourself.

Level 3: Confrontation

Confrontation will never, ever produce positive change in the perpetrator. Many of those us who survived abuse are well aware that there’s a pretty high degree of narcissism among people who abuse, whether it’s children or adults, whether it’s on the emotional spectrum or whether it’s across the emotional and physical spectrum with the sexual spectrum as a bridge.

What confrontation will do is prompt a reaction.

A perpetrator will deny, try to make himself out to be the victim, try to slander or speak for his or her victim, try to justify the behavior and insist that it’s normal. A perpetrator will most likely use anger to manipulate everyone in the room.

What an innocent person will do is look horrified and ask for guidance in righting the wrong or offense given.

It takes someone with super strong grounding in a very healthy place to confront an abuser and get anything useful out of it at all. Whatever it is, it won’t do anything to change the abuser – it will only provide information that only a very well trained eye will know what to look for. Since abusers installed those triggers that will cause breakdown/backing down into the people they hurt, those people are the ones who should never, ever bother with a confrontation. All that does is open the door for the abuse cycle to restart. It is up to the community members to help their wounded properly. Alas, rugged individualism can only do harm here.

Rape and molestation are not one-off, isolated behaviors. They are pathologies. If you hear about a person abusing sexually once, you will almost definitely hear about a person abusing sexually again.

Also, what the fuck is wrong with the people that think an older man or woman hitting on or “teasing” girls and boys under 18 is a grey area?

Read these, too – they say it well, and add dimensions to this discussion not covered here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sermonsfromthemound/2014/03/silence-equals-death/

http://thespiae.oddmodout.com/2014/03/30/on-kenny-klein/

http://kvasiramongstthegods.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/a-huge-issue/

http://shaunaaura.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/of-pagans-and-predators-part-1/

http://shaunaaura.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/of-pagans-and-predators-part-2/

http://shaunaaura.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/of-pagans-and-predators-part-3/

http://shaunaaura.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/predators-4-amputate/

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pagan-musings/2014/03/31/pmp-sex-ethics-abuse-in-the-magickal-world

http://serpent77.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/what-can-we-do-now/

http://paganactivist.com/2014/04/09/pagans-mental-health-and-abuse/

http://www.polytheismwoborders.com/2014/04/you-will-be-heard-april-2nd-wyrd-ways.html

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sermonsfromthemound/2014/03/erotic-ethics/

http://www.plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/gsf.html

http://thehouseofvines.com/2014/03/31/hanc-culpam-maiorem-an-illam-dicam/

  1. This has been used on me too often to forgive. It almost always means that one person is behaving badly and people surrounding are too afraid to do anything so they let it go on, giving it tacit social support. []

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Providing you with an entire trigger warning post (the whole Kenny Klein fiasco)

April 22, 2014 by di | Comments Off | Filed in Insights

In the next few days I am going to be posting my .02 on the Kenny Klein scandal. Almost everyone in the Pagan community has heard about this already but there are people who follow my blog even though they aren’t Pagan. The synopsis: a prominent member of the Pagan community was arrested on 25 counts of child porn possession and distribution a few weeks ago. So what’s going to happen: the next post, or possibly series of posts depending on what I find that still needs to be said, will deal with:

Child abuse, sexual violence, gendered violence and emotional violence. For some of you, you’re better off watching Tangled on repeat.

The one piece I definitely have planned is, to some guilt-ridden minds, going to sound accusatory. I want to say “oh, no no, I don’t mean that,” but I do and I don’t, I will and I won’t. Violence isn’t something that happens on a scale, it happens on a spectrum – and if you don’t live on that spectrum, you can’t even be remotely conscious of how you may well contribute to it. Just like practicing a non-mainstream religion takes a re-acculturation process, becoming a person who deals with violence instead of ducking it in culturally prescribed methods takes a total relearning of self. Most of us have, for good or ill, not had cause to learn the other language of behavior.

It makes me glad I’ve turned off comments. I’m tired of people reacting. You read, you react in the moment. With what’s coming I prefer to see a response – I want to see you sit down and really think about what I’m saying before you answer it in any way, if you do at all.

I have had my energy elsewhere – finishing contracted books for Llewellyn (got one more to go) and promoting the book I printed with Moon Books. But I also waited to dive into the discussion for other reasons: I wanted to see what facts floated to the surface, and while I never pay enough attention to climb on to the illusion of Pagan celebrity bandwagon (we all know who Gerald Gardner is but most have no clue about Cybill Shepherd, for scale.)  But for the rest of this week, now that I’ve done all that hard stuff with scheduling book appearances and the like, this horrific story has my attention.

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Supplies: the complex thing about Mikey

April 22, 2014 by Diana Rajchel | Comments Off | Filed in Creativity
Women taking a course in car care, maintenance, and operation in Tallahassee, Florida

from Florida Memory Flickr Commons Archive

The complicated thing about Mikey is that I did have sounding boards who kept warning me to get out. But they were other types of crazymakers, other types of blockers. They wanted this predator cleared so they could get a better crack at me.

Mikey did make it clear to me exactly how bad the women I called my “best friend” for years was actually for me – how bad her intents towards me almost always were. She liked the idea of Mikey and me together. She thought his calling me at 6 am when he knew I needed the sleep was romantic, not the abusive that it actually was. She figured I would eventually relent to his constant demands I take care of him.

There were others, of course, but most just sort of rolled their eyes. They didn’t recognize what was going on. One girl who had a thing for Mikey was relentlessly jealous of me – I can only imagine how bad he would have messed her life up if I hadn’t presented a distraction. While I have no liking for her as a human being, she is a human being and deserved to be treated as one. That’s not how this  guy would have treated her.

My sudden onset illness, as frustrating as it can be, probably saved me from what would have been one of the most abusive relationship of my life and also ended a female friendship that I have only come to recognize as abusive.  The constant hiving and allergies forced me to be reclusive.

It’s normal to have these patterns when you come from a dysfunctional home. You have to recognize dysfunction at home before the rest of the alphabet falls into place and you get the correct read on things. It took me awhile to see the source of it. Now I see all of it.

Now I have friends who would spot that kind of madness and tell me so right quick.


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Supplies: the Creative Desert

April 21, 2014 by Diana Rajchel | Comments Off | Filed in Creativity
Orange mallow, showy desert flower, 05/1972.

from US National Archives Flickr Commons Collection

The creative desert is that uncharted territory. It’s the idea that just might work that people think are absurd. I’ve spent most of my life there, long enough to see rather a lot of vindication.

In high school, I went through a phase where I wrote letters to the editor all the time. Most of them were published – to the annoyance of adults who wanted that space for their own sounding board. In one of them, focused on the environment, I proposed that we mine landfills for recyclable material. At the time, landfill mining was unheard of.

My uncle read some of these missives of mine and had an absolute fucking fit. The landfill mining really sent him over the edge – it was just “absurd.” It’s far from the only thing he’s disagreed with me on where time has taken my side. Really, most of his attitude just had to do with me being female and his least favorite sibling’s least favorite daughter. I have to wonder, if one of his children had proposed it, if he would have taken offense to it the way he did with me.

Of course, now we have landfill mining.

Around 2003, the mass transit system in the Twin Cities was under heavy discussion. There was talk of building yet another highway that looped around the Cities. Thankfully people decided to move towards building mass transit inside the cities instead, helping to reduce car ownership and thus not just pollution but cost of living for city residents as they can. (It’s still necessary to own a car because of winter around here. However, using a car less is still pretty good.) I had posted on the Star Tribune suggesting they look into the old trolley system – there are still tracks and cars languishing in a corner of Dinkytown. Someone immediately posted a tirade about “pipe dreams” and “craziness” directed at me for daring repropose it.

Yet two years later the city had a feasibility study.

Last year, the mayoral election had installing a street car line down Central Ave. as one of its major platforms.

As I paraphrased before, new looks like crazy to dumb people. There are a lot of people who have tried to make me out to be completely nuts when not only am I quite sane, I’ve got a good sense for solutions.


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Supplies: My True North

April 20, 2014 by Diana Rajchel | Comments Off | Filed in Creativity
GOODS Chandra Deep Field-North: The Secret Lives Of Galaxies Unveiled In Deep Survey

from Smithsonian Institute’s Flickr Commons Page

True North is difficult for me because I made a conscious choice to operate without a navigation system when I was about 19. Before then, I was under a great deal of pressure to “plan my life.” My parents informed me I needed to pick a major, stick with it, stay at the same college if I could, should take no breaks from school ever … you get the idea.

My parents were setting me up to fail. They were using their map, one that went obsolete in 1969. When I pointed out that they had an obsolete map I got a lot of abuse and denial heaped on me. It was my mother’s “advice” that got me to pick the wrong school in the first place. She thought I’d “be able to study there, with few distractions.” Looking back I realize that she was insulting my work ethic and slut shaming me simultaneously. This conception of me was so outer-space and inaccurate that it took me years to process that that’s what she was doing.

Throwing away the navigation system completely was the only way to banish her influence.

My life – my happiness – improved almost immediately. The only true north my mother wanted me to have was her.

That’s not true north. That’s letting a narcissist ruin and run my life.

I knew for sure that leaving my family made my life better. It wasn’t total direction, but it was a start. Without the map, I still worked plenty hard. I still wound up on the dean’s list every semester. I still found a job even in economies with no jobs available.

But making that choice to abandon the map has had its problems. In graduate school I was hopelessly out of the loop on most of the reading. I had done undergrad in journalism. The MFA in writing was lit focused and most of my class had voraciously read all that stuff that just kind of bored me. I’ve missed so many opportunities as a writer I try not to think of them. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I’d just stuck out that Wal-mart job or applied for that program in Dubai my life would now have a grander, more interesting dimension to it.

The other part of this is that in writing, your True North shifts. I have already been published. I will have three books out by 2015. So what next? Those were my major, elusive goals.

Perhaps I’ll try writing fiction, going down the tougher road of getting that published.  Mostly I want to gather up my wounds and get them healed and then look for direction from there.

All I know for sure is that I want to live a life I truly enjoy.

 


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Supplies: 20 “in a perfect world” statements

April 19, 2014 by Diana Rajchel | Comments Off | Filed in Creativity
Duplex Corset 1/3 ca. 1885

Library Company of Philadelphia Flickr Commons Collection

In a perfect world, I would

1. live somewhere warm

2. travel freely and often

3. dance a lot more

4. be able to see friends often

5. have the perfect social/home life balance

6. be able to write without back pain

7. never miss gym time ever.

8. find a yoga class that is not one of those obnoxious “flow” classes

9. get my herbal certification

10. maybe finish grad school (?) feeling a little weak on that one.

11. go on a writer’s retreat at least once a year

12. have Tae Kwon Do/Aikido training

13. have a housekeeper I trusted to clean my bathrooms

14. live in a place where I could safely walk everywhere

15. live near a major airport

16. find a spiritual group that I work well with (coming to terms with of all things a possible Celtic-inspired role/explanation for myself)

17. be able to see the beach/ocean daily

18. wear pretty, comfortable clothing

19. publish some fiction

20. be cured of my allergies

… I have a pretty damn good life already. It’s just the internal noise I’m trying to correct.


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Supplies: the Goodies

April 18, 2014 by Diana Rajchel | Comments Off | Filed in Creativity
Goody Two Shoes; J. C. Williamson's gorgeous annual pantomime. 1919.

National LIbrary of New Zealand Flickr Commons Collection

I could get attached to…          Because                                                                                             How I could get that feeling myself

1. Travel                                         I want to see everything                                                              it’s travel. Travel is my favorite thing, right next to dancing and writing.
2. Attention                                 Yay, people are finally noticing me!                                       Write a list of my real friends and how we met. Most sought me out.
I must be moderately important!

3. Praise                                         I felt starved for it when I was younger.                               Look at my box of letters from true friends.

4.Money                                        It expands my choices.                                                                 Continue to find frugal/free things to do. I have a rich life that way.

5. The in-crowd feel                 I too have childhood nerd hangups                                          Look to my values. The in-crowd isn’t among them.


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Supplies: the Chorus of Woes: the most ridiculous complaint I’ve heard

April 17, 2014 by Diana Rajchel | Comments Off | Filed in Creativity
Exercising on the Beach

National Media Museum Flickr Commons Collection

What Cameron speaks of here is not the real Greek Chorus coming out to warn the hero (like the hero can even see them, anyway) but the one that we conjure in our heads … sometimes just to have something to complain about.

So, going through the questions – there’s one guy I’m picking on because he does so very much of this crap, and it’s all crap. When you tell him it’s crap and self-created he tends to throw temper tantrums. But gods help you if you try to talk about anything else but him. It’s enough that I avoid events with him at it now unless I am surrounded by people that will help me ignore him.

Most ridiculous complaint:

“Everybody knows who I am everywhere I go!”

Really? The grocery store? The post office? … .wait, aren’t you going to like, the exact same three to five places over and over. That’s not the price of fame. That’s being a regular and lacking imagination.

He’s actually a host of other similar ridiculous complaints/humble brags. I dare not get more specific than that.


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Supplies: My Positive Role Model

April 16, 2014 by Diana Rajchel | Comments Off | Filed in Creativity
Queen Rumania  (LOC)

from Library of Congress Flickr Commons Collection

Actually, I have so many positive role models it’s hard to pick one.

Right now I”m thinking of Dawn. Dawn decided what she wanted to do and did it. She has told me she has a no-drama policy. If someone is too prone to madness she drops them or just refuses to engage. She is surrounded by really great friendships and she is a great cheerleader to her friends and their creative projects. She’s an example of doing life and career right – with sincerity, based on real relationships rather than on relationships-for-a-reason.

So far, it’s worked quite well. I often refer to her as a fairy godmother. Don Fairy Godmother.


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Supplies: My Negative Role Model

April 15, 2014 by Diana Rajchel | Comments Off | Filed in Creativity
Gunmen going to Sing Sing  (LOC)

From Library of Congress Flickr Commons collection

Oh boy do I have a negative role model. Actually, I have at least three, possibly more. I’m going to hybrid them and pick things I’ve seen or heard from all of them. It’s like an archetypal negative role model. I should add that to my tarot deck – or maybe that’s what the Devil card really represents.

What bothers me specifically about the collective behavior is that it’s delusional, narcissistic … and really unimaginative. It’s the person that got upset that Mark Wahlberg went from Marky Mark to a successful career as an actor/film producer.

“So what, he can only do one thing?”

“Yes!”

Well, that’s bullshit. 

I am a more-than-one-thing artist and I reject this message.

************

There are the name droppers. “Oh I met this famous person whose name you don’t know and he just adored my painting/book/personal style. You really should go meet that person and see what it might do for me – I mean, uh, you.”

… or I could focus on sincere relationships with supportive people and not take into account their connections or fame unless I am encouraging them to use those for themselves in some manner. When it counted, my real friends helped me in the ways that mattered. My name dropped from a celebrity’s lips means jack especially since most people will remember the celebrity and not what the celebrity says unless locked in a good hate-on fever.

**********

There are the “suffering artist” stereotypers, and that one stretches far and wide. Most recently a well-meaning friend posted some biased, very poorly researched Thought Catalog drek to my Facebook wall that encouraged the idea that all artists – especially writers – have something wrong with their brains that turns them into depressed crazy people, the implication being that maybe if we didn’t right we wouldn’t go crazy.

The article enraged me on multiple levels. First, Thought Catalog is a cess pool of confirmation biased base shit. I followed it for awhile just to see what it had to offer  and it is one of the great shames of the Internet. Essentially it’s people who are great at expository writing and terrible at critical thinking. Second, anytime you imply an entire population is x/has x without evidence based research to support it (and this had none) then you are currying bigotry for some purpose. Third, it stigmatizes depression. Fourth, the article stigmatizes creativity. Fifth, it seems to fail to connect that when depressed people are in their extreme low points they aren’t creating. Creation – art therapy and upward – is the neural activity that gets people out of depressive loops. It’s not 100% but it’s a factor. To assume a writer is automatically depressed or will get depressed because s/he writes is just offensive.  Depression and creativity are both complex. But creativity is NOT  disease, is not psychological smoking that will lead to a disease and in most cases probably does not exacerbate a disease.

Writing does not do bad things to my organs, least of all my brain.

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There’s the whole special snowflake shit. Oh the writing life is so difficult. Oh, all good writing and creation comes from a certain self loathing. Comedy comes from self loathing. Oh, you can’t be healthy or seek healing and still create.

Every day of my life informs me that this above line of poison is absolute screaming bullshit. The times in life that I suffer are the times in life that I’m not writing. When I’m writing I’m getting progressively better and working on my issues has made me a better, more empathetic human being and writer. I can also be funny as hell – and it’s not centered in self-hatred. The self-hatred schtick? Blech. Boring and predictable.

We are not special snowflakes. Originality isn’t worth thinking about – enjoyment is what really makes a difference.  Writing really is like dating: nothing good is going to happen unless you find a way to have fun with it. The acclaim/flattery/critical praise is for people that would rather read reviews than go on to the next project.

In a way, my writing career does have something in common with my corporate career: in corporations I hated, I always stepped away from office politics and reminded myself I was here to do my own time. Writing is my calling – so rather than doing my time, when I’m dealing with attention-seeking colleagues, it’s really about having my time. That means not giving it to them by not indulging the rhetoric of the special snowflake.

 


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