“But human beings are not trash. We are the civilizing force on the planet.” ~ Chris Offutt, “Trash Food”
I came across a couple of articles this morning that stirred the fire-pot … you know, that liquid lava center that lets you know when something has hit nigh on “what breaks your heart, what makes you angry” — two questions that help you get right at your innate motivation.
The fire-stirring articles are about class, wealth (or the lack of it), poverty (in financial terms, cuz there are a whole lot of ways a person or culture can be impoverished), and internalized shame and thus internalized oppression … and likely a lot of other potentially debilitating conceptions that get laid on thick in a Bully Culture.
The whole issue also points to a certain wealth of spirit, and considerable creativity, among other things, that enrich otherwise seemingly (financially and materially) impoverished grounds. As a much-used proverb notes, necessity can be (and often is) the mother of invention.
But let’s get right to the fire-and-ire, lava-stirring articles … so perfect on this Aries New Moon day, should our fiery passion need constructive focus.
First, in her Salon.com article, “Too Many Limes” (about Gwyneth Paltrow’s SNAP challenge), Mary Elizabeth Williams shares some of her own experiences, and quotes from Chris Offutt’s moving essay in the Oxford American.
Williams points to how Offutt’s piece zeros with laser-focus on, “… the way we impose so much shame on poverty and the way people living in poverty eat.”
Offutt, for his part, shares in a stunning (as in evocative, truth-speaking, well-written) Oxford American essay, “Trash Food,” about an encounter that stirred up a hornet’s nest of internalized conditioning — internalized oppression — around class, poverty, and shame. He writes,
“My behavior was class-based twice over: buying used goods to save a buck and feeling ashamed of it. I’d behaved in strict accordance with my social station, then evaluated myself in a negative fashion. Even my anger was classic self-oppression, a learned behavior of lower-class people. I was transforming outward shame into inner fury. Without a clear target, I aimed that rage at myself.”
We know, by now, that these things are really important, because they speak to the very internalized conditioning — the very toxic and potentially crushing conditioning — that runs like a malefic, soul-consuming virus through a bully-centric culture, in which empathy-lacking bullying behaviors are normalized. There’s a cost to that; an enormous one.
And stories like these are vital now, too, as so many of us do the hard work of shucking free of the internalized conditioning that distracts or diverts us from the expression of the gifts that we bring innately into this life, the gifts we are and thus give just by being.
Those gifts, that soulfulness, kindness, humaneness, and empathy are so often brutally damaged — and they are for most people in a bully culture that basically normalizes and celebrates nasty, abusive behavior and makes gods of the Seven Deadlies (you know, pride, envy, greed, and so on? More on those coming up.).
But particularly for those who are different from bully culture norms: the sensitives, the empaths, the artists, the nonconformists — too many gifted ones and their gifts go by the wayside, buried under the sense of worthlessness that was piled on them early on.
“Nevertheless, history is fraught with the persistence of treating fellow humans as garbage, which means collection and transport for destruction.” ~ Chris Offutt, “Trash Food,” Oxford American
Many of you will relate; I know I did, and do. I remember more than one instance of that right-to-the-core “you’re not good enough; there’s something wrong with you; who you are is deficient … not enough” shaming that had its roots in Bully Culture toxic norms, including class-based elitism and the hubris and lack of empathy that are so often a part of it. And then feeling even more ashamed and angry that I’d ‘let myself’ feel ashamed — as if to be ashamed of where you come from, of who you truly are, is one of the worst forms of disloyalty and betrayal to tribe and self.
And so the toxic-loop ensnares us. Sociologist Brene Brown has written and spoken about how shame is lethal, and how healing the shame and reclaiming the courage to be vulnerable, can restore more than one person’s sense of worthiness.
My mother used to tell me, “Not everyone is as resilient as you are.” I sometimes felt irritated that I had to be as resilient as I have had to be in my life, yet her comment is true.
For those who aren’t, for whatever reason, as resilient, or who didn’t have the blessing of a true believing mirror in their lives, their gifts are lost to us.
And that’s a heartbreaking national and global tragedy.
Thankfully, there really is a Great Turning underway, and with it an awakening and a stepping out and a speaking truth of some of those misfits, sensitives, empaths, artists whose gifts and medicine and humanity — that gift of humaneness — are more needed now than ever to alchemize the toxicity that leads us collectively over the chasm’s edge.
For everyone who does the difficult and sometimes brutal work to wake up (to the toxic patterns and indoctrination), to decondition, to embody the gifts and the virtues, to speak the truth (however imperfectly and awkwardly), to share their gift, to stand for who and what they truly are — who dare to fly the freak flags — they, we, you help to open that portal a bit wider, raise the tide a bit higher, so perhaps more of those who would otherwise be lost will find their way.
Here’s to ya. Seriously.
Big Love, Jamie
I invite you to visit and read Mary Elizabeth Williams’ articles — here and here — and Chris Offutt’s essay in the Oxford American here.
Featured Image Credit: Fiery Lantern. Photo courtesy of Myriams Fotos, Pixabay.
April 18, 2015 at 4:40 pm
Well said. Shame is a nasty bugger indeed and a rather toxic thing that does a great deal of damage in the world. It is a symptom of that bully culture we all live in, where people seek to use shame to control others or to try and elevate their own selves.
April 18, 2015 at 4:41 pm
Truly spoken, I.B. And I know that your writings, too, help shed a light on it as well. Thank you for that. 🙂 Blessings, Jamie
April 18, 2015 at 5:19 pm
Wonderful article Jamie.. yes I remember well the shame of bullying. In school.. At Registration on a Monday, when everyone handed in their dinner money.. And we were allowed ‘Free’ dinners because I was the eldest of five, and my Dad was on a low income… He was never out of work and worked very hard.. But Many of the Girls I was at school with in our ALL girls school very well off by comparison.. I never had the full school uniform and often in assembly the head would single me out and tell me to go to her office for not wearing the correct Summer uniform. Yet she knew darn well our circumstances.. I used to try to hide on the back row LOL.. so as she wouldn’t spot me.. ( I had the uniform, but it was home made not standard ) Red Gingham with a lace collar which my mother had thought made it pretty 🙂 That lace collar and the press-studs instead of buttons got me into more trouble 🙂
I had a pair of shoes which lasted me the whole four years.. Which were second hand to begin with, stuffed with cotton wool and when the sole got a hole in I was elated, thinking I would get a new pair.. No my dad mended them.. 🙂
These things all add up to that feeling of unworthiness.. And the bullying at school because you didn’t quite fit. to the Class most were from..
Many thanks for sharing.. Enjoy your weekend.
April 18, 2015 at 5:24 pm
Thank you for sharing those stories, Sue. I get ‘goosebumps’ reading it, witnessing it with you. And now here you are, inspiring others, sharing your gifts, helping to alchemize the shared-field. 🙂
I can think of a collection of these sorts of moments from my life, for sure. And even several from years and years ago that featured another kid’s shaming and humiliation … I can remember them as clearly as can be.
And here’s an irony — all of that ‘frugrality’ is now known as being ‘eco-conscious’ and reducing our eco-footprint via reuse, repurpose, recycle! 🙂 Ahh, the irony of it. Highly recommend Chris Offutt’s piece in the Oxford American (I link to it). I’m still really sitting with it. Thanks for visiting and for being who you are! Love, Jamie
April 18, 2015 at 5:27 pm
Thank you, Yes I was going to come back to it.. As I flit around WPress 🙂 in a mad dash of catching up for half an hour 🙂 x Many thanks.. Hugs Sue
April 18, 2015 at 5:28 pm
I know that feeling. 🙂
April 18, 2015 at 5:28 pm
April 18, 2015 at 7:12 pm
Thank you for again, bringing it all home Jamie. I worked for many years as a Social Worker and saw extreme poverty first hand. I also saw desperation, abuse, trauma, negativity, paranoia, addiction, cynicism, grief, etc. I could go on and on. I learned that I have plenty, but could also relate to my clients’ pain and the ancestral cycles of abuse and overall dysfunction. During some tough times in my life ( one is happening now) I learned to live with very little and humble myself in ways my ego detests. I think my recent lower cost diet contributed to my current health woes. Fresh organic fruits and veggies do not come cheaply! Looks like more of my budget will be going towards healthy food and that is a good thing for me going forward. I was not satisfied eating so many carbs, but made due as one must when there is no other way. Fortunately I will have a little more money to spend from now on.( or so I hope!)
Gwyneth Paltrow seems to become less conscious over time. I read the article you linked and a few others about her online recently. Kinda wish she would disappear, but she is providing a service. Our country’s obsession with celebrity is ridiculous and a “diversion” from making tough choices about values as a nation and culture. She drives the point home.
I also grew up with wealthy kids and while we were not poor, we certainly did not measure up to the consumerism of our affluent peers. I found most of those kids to be shallow and wonder if they remained that way as adults. So much of this issue is political and I shy from going there as a blogger.
The more I get to know Jamie, the more I appreciate you <3
April 19, 2015 at 4:03 pm
Hey there, Linda. Thanks as always, beautiful soul, for sharing your insights and story. I appreciate that. It’s powerful to have the experience (rather than folks who might live in a more isolated bubble and have just ‘concepts’ of others’ experiences, if any thought of it at all), as you’ve shared with your work experience as a counselor, and your experience with radically humble living (that’s what I’ve taken to calling those cycles in my experiment!).
I too grew up sort of in the middle, working class turned self-employed parents in a local culture that made strong class (more than race) distinctions on ‘better than, higher then, less than lower than’ strata … the insurance salesman was better than the guy who got his hands dirty … that sort of thing. But it’s like the air you breathe … just ‘how it is’ until you’re older and see it from a bit of distance and more maturity. But sensitive kids feel it … the slights they/we experience and also the cruelties experienced by some of the other kids. It all turns out to be an education. 🙂
And it’s insightful about the type and quality of food and diet available (which is why I appreciated Chris Offutt’s article so much, because of what he writes so beautifully about from a couple of different angles).
About Gwyneth (per the Salon articles), my sense is that she seems sincere enough, though maybe has had more privileged experience that wouldn’t give an awareness of how others live. And as you said, perhaps she’s helping to bring some broader awareness.
I’m with you on the cult of celebrity … part of the consumerism marketing machine to keep people in perpetual discontent and ‘want want want’. May all of these points of light in Indra’s Net serve to illuminate and create the shift!
I’m hoping that you find yourself feeling more and more well! I appreciate you, too. 🙂
April 18, 2015 at 8:28 pm
I think, as you said, that it is important to have the courage and admit it’s vulnerability or to to have the courage to make a mistake. Thank you very much for this highly interesting post.
April 19, 2015 at 3:46 pm
You’re welcome, Martina. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for visiting! It’s interesting to think that vulnerability can be a strength, and stir courage as well! Blessings, Jamie
April 19, 2015 at 10:55 am
Jamie, It seems to me that shame is the great killer of hope. You have written a fine piece that gets to the heart of its ruthlessness. And yes, it is a weapon of social control – a mostly primate thing, although not all primates use it. Bullying it is!
April 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm
Greetings, Michael. Thanks for visiting and for your comment. It’s true, isn’t it … that shame (and its partner, humiliation) seem the great hope-killer. We can see that vein weaving its way through generations, cultures, history. So it’s wonderful that more and more stories get shared, more people connect these threads, and choose something different (or to experiment into it, anyway!). Blessings to you, Jamie
April 19, 2015 at 2:48 pm
Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
Going along with the recent themes of money, abundance, sharing, and courageously, unapologetically creating and living into a new paradigm, Jamie sheds light in even more of the complex nooks and crannies, including the ways we — as individuals and as a culture — often internalize and even perpetuate the ,shaming and attacks on what Jamie calls “those who stand.” In a world that tells us only to value certain things in certain ways — and to treat humans (and the material realm, including our planet) like trash, the greatest potential for liberation and change comes from recognizing the manipulative, disempowering messages for what they are and then, consciously, choosing to break free and chart new territory.
How DO we choose to treat others and our Earth? In which ways do our gifts find acceptance and thus enable us to serve in bigger ways? How can each of us hone courage, clarity and compassion so that what needs offering finds receptors in a broken world?
Thank you, Jamie, for continuing and expanding this important discussion as the old structures continue to fail and crumble. Opportunities await for those who can find their way through the rubble — or find ways to build cairns from shattered foundation stones. Love and blessings!
April 19, 2015 at 3:41 pm
Thanks for reblogging the post, Laura. I enjoyed your intro-insights, too. I love the notion and metaphor of building cairns from shattered foundation stones, creating from the rubble. So many of us are experimenting our way into these new ways of being and living, which is a wonderful, high form of creativity and engaged spirituality in itself. Love, Jamie
April 19, 2015 at 2:53 pm
Thank you for your deep and thoughtful post. I’m wondering if you know about the upcoming “Coming Interspiritual Age Conference” in our area. If you would like me to forward information to you, please drop me an email. Even though we’ve only recently connected via blogs, I think this would be of interest to you.
April 19, 2015 at 3:38 pm
You’re welcome, Joanne, and thank you for sharing the information about the upcoming interspirituality conference. Looks interesting! I’ll send along a direct email for more information, per your invitation. In the meanwhile, be well! Blessings, Jamie
May 13, 2015 at 4:42 pm
Thank you for this excellent post! My life has been a struggle to survive with debilitating internalized shame, sense of inadequacy, and lack of security; all resulting from being born into a family of sociopaths. Learning about psychopathy has been most significant in understanding why I have been made to suffer for certain aspects of my disposition, which actually are qualities, and affirming to myself that I am not at fault. Through my blog, PsychopathResistance.com, I share information that may help others whose self images have been distorted by the personality disordered to see themselves in a much better light, and hopefully, take action to protect themselves from abuse.
May 13, 2015 at 4:49 pm
You’re welcome. I’m glad you resonated with the post. And thanks for sharing the information you do through your own blog, drawing from your own experience with narci-paths and other Very Toxic & Difficult Personality Types (VDTPs). It does leave scars. Thankfully, as we find and share the information, we can disentangle from thos VTDPs and perhaps light candles for others, too. Thanks for visiting Sophia’s Children and sharing in the comments! Blessings and Be Well. Jamie