Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Man’s Livelihood: Lifestyle

There are many ways to tell a man to mind his own business, few are ever effective and fewer men ever take heed. Reminding full grown adults that friendliness is never an invitation for advice on lifestyle or moral standing is rather tiring. Perfect strangers feel not only the need but also the entitlement to give unsolicited advice on how individuals should change their lifestyle in order to better fit into the rigid standards that are set by the world.

The world is designed for prude, straight, white, thin women and white football jocks that have the physique of Greek gods. Ironically, this same world is not designed by such people nor does majority of the world fall into any of these rather rigid categories. Pray you satisfy this rigid criterion and you successfully walk the impossible line of being prude and being comfortable being nude, the world is at your feet awaiting your command. The world praises and rewards in plenty those that fit the stereotype of he
alth, beauty and success. But should you defy the world’s stiffly set standards, society will make you pay harshly for it.

Individuals that society makes pay harshly for their existence are fat, black, disabled, gay women. The world can be cruel when you are a woman, the world is crueler when you are a black woman, but the world is cruelest to fat, black, disabled, gay women. This is not to say that other people don’t have challenges but individuals that fall into the above category often have some of the most challenging experiences as a collective. This is with regards to access to affordable and accessible education, access to public facilities, access to affordable medical care, and social experiences.

The lack of access for this group of marginalized people often manifests itself through micro-aggressions. Micro-aggressions are everyday, verbal, non-verbal and environmental slights and snubs whether intentional or unintentional which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. How do micro-aggressions manifest themselves in the lives of fat people, sexual, and homosexual people? How do these micro-aggressions affect their lives and livelihoods and how can the rest of us minimize the traumatic experiences of fat, sexual, and homosexual individuals?

Fat Bitches vs Fat Acceptance
One cannot dispute the importance of health, wellness and self-care nor can one ever over-stress their importance. However, this importance does not warrant social-media harassment, stalking, or emotional and physical abuse to those that APPEAR to disregard their importance. The experience of fat people in the 21st century is traumatic. Not traumatic in the way the that wars and abusive relationships are but traumatic in the way in which they influence fat people’s lives and livelihoods. It is a widely accept principle and concept that the body shows signs of stress and ailment when it is unwell. Some of these signs include weight gain, change in skin tone and texture, and other features that qualify as disabilities. I believe that there is a common misunderstanding or misconception about the physical appearance of the human body and how it relates to the body’s wellness. Some features of the physical body are considered indicative of ailment when they are not.

The consideration of certain physical features as sings of neglect instead of cosmetic features as well a disregard for individuality is the reason behind some of the most violent online, emotional, physical and mental abuse against fat people. Society seems to believe that people are fat because they do not eat well, exercise or take care of themselves, despite evidence to the contrary and their personal everyday practices. Fat people are condemned harshly for “not doing anything” about their weight. The reality is not all fat people are unhealthy and lazy, and not all fat people are obese. Even if they were obese, this does not warrant unsolicited and violent commentary based on their fatness.

There are reality TV shows based on obese people’s lives, one of the conclusions we can reach from watching these shows is that the body is not designed to be obese. Not only that but the world is also not designed for obese people(you only have to look at aisles in shops, airplane seats, the space between two tellers in a shop, the size of chairs in public spaces etc.). The fact that the world is not designed for obese people, does not mean that obese people do not deserve access to facilities, resources, and a livelihood. Nor does it mean that they deserve to be showered in insult daily. Fat people deserve access to gorgeous clothes and its OK if magazine cover stars have cellulite. Bodies have cellulite and stretchmarks in their natural state, and fat people aren’t so because they don’t take care of themselves.

At the end of the day there is nothing that one “has to do” about their weight. You are the weight that you are at whatever time... and you can deal with that however you see fit.... if you see fit. People gain and lose weight for various reasons and that’s all there is to it. Nobody has the right to insult anyone based on a physical appearance that the other did not choose.

Fat acceptance is actually an entire blog post in itself.

Writing and starting conversations about the The Infuriating Culture of Catcalling as well rape culture is essential. While these conversations are essential it is also important to have conversations about sex and sexuality as well as how society sees sex and sexuality and how these factor in societal gender roles (read Women and Sexuality in 2017).

Sex work is considered illegal in most parts of the world. It is difficult to find the cause and effect when it comes to sex work and human rights violations. It is not clear if sex work is illegal because of the human rights violation the field is currently notorious for or if sex work is notorious for human rights violation because of the absence of law governing sex work.

Conversations about sex, sexuality, and sex work are more than just a plea to people to not shame anything they don’t prefer but also acknowledging that sex work is a vocation that a lot of people follow and then laying the groundwork that ensures that those who choose a life in sex work can do so in an environment that is safe.

There is no shortage of evidence of violence against members of the LGBTQ community. Scores of individuals die every year due to an individual's of community's idea of morality, religion, spirituality and personal preference.

Marginalized or not, we have to treat each other better than we currently do and we absolutely have to do better by marginalized people.

The aim of this post is to get people to be more intentional and aware of the consequence of their words and actions on marginalized group of people, and that people ALWAYS keep in mind that society, as a collective, has no real insight on any individual’s physical well-being, emotional state, mental health condition, or religious preferences. One’s necessities and one's means of securing said necessities (their livelihood) is influenced by a myriad of events and circumstances that are out of their control. No one knows all the secrets of the universe, so no one can really claim moral or intellectual high ground or know what's right for everyone.


Friday, January 19, 2018

A Man's Livelihood: The Parenting of Self

It’s always my aim (new year or not) to read more books, particularly non-fiction. I’m currently reading Steve Biko’s “I Write What I Like” in candle light because living in Rural KZN means you could be the only one in your neighbourhood without electricity. And even though you do electrical engineering there is nothing you can do about it but condemn the government and manufacturers of electricity meters to hell.

I’m in the process of reading “Fear-An Important Determinant in South African Politics” and I’m feeling a frenzy of emotions.  Justified anger because “if white people could be cruel enough to cow the natives down with cruel force and install themselves as perpetual rulers in a foreign land, then anything else they do to the same black people becomes logical in terms of the initial cruelty.” Melancholy humour at his surmising that “Hitler is not dead, when I turn my radio on, when I hear someone in jail slipped off a piece of soap, fell and died I say we have been lied to: Hitler is not dead. He is likely to be found in Pretoria.” Steve Biko’s conviction that black people have no reason to aspire (and assimilate) to whiteness and the subsequent reasons for his conviction effuse me with a sense of empowerment. My mental space also has traces of hopelessness and determination from reading The Guardian’s “OprahWinfrey: One of the world’s best neoliberal capitalist thinker” earlier.

With all these emotions in mind I imagine my inner parent is frantically trying to stabilise my emotions and maintain a semblance of calm. Trying to keep me from falling into a hopeless depression because of the dim lighting and Biko’s renderings of black suffering. On other days, my inner parent must keep me from falling hopelessly in love with perfect strangers or making a fool of myself in front of the one I love. At times, she drags me out of bed at dawn for a morning jog or spin class because health is wealth sand she wants that coin. She bullies motivation, determination, and perseverance out of me because “Baby girl, we have a vision! Get on with it.” Almost always, she reminds me that fear, self-doubt, and anxiety shouldn’t take up permanent residence in my life because SHE WILL NOT HAVE IT!

I’m convinced that my description is overly and unnecessarily spiced and peppered but it’s a true description of how my mental space feels. I think that successful adulting is the ability to successfully parent yourself, which is manage this frenzy of emotions. One can imagine the mind is a control room much like the one on “Inside Out”, with the inner parent being neutral (albeit stressed) being that is responsible for overseeing one’s emotions. The emotions being underlings that have varying degrees of dominance and rebellion. I believe that everyone has different combination of dominant emotions and those emotions have dominance of varying degrees.
"You are the most qualified person to be your parent. You have insights about your mental health, endurance, physical health, and access to resources that nobody else has and are thus the most qualified to successfully parent yourself."
The combination of dominant emotions and the degrees of intensity of those dominant emotions is the reason or manifestation of individuality. According to an article shared by Puja Mondal, differences between individuals may be explained by the facts of heredity or nature, environment or nurture, and training. The article goes on to discuss how race, sex, heredity, maturity, as well as social and economic status are the top 5 factors that are considered causative of individual differences. This can be interpreted to say that these facts (facts of heredity, nature, nurture, environment, and training) are the top five facts that determine the dominant emotions (or character traits).

These dominant emotions or character traits in turn determine what is most important in one’s life (i.e. the necessities of one’s life) and consequently one’s livelihood (one’s means of acquiring the necessities of life). Individuality (less barriers to entry, glass ceilings, and oppression) is the reason that everyone isn’t burning their fingers with solder, or prying over spreadsheets, or covered in paint.

Taking care of oneself, one’s ability to solve their problems, one’s anxiety, one’s motivation, and one’s interpretation of a happy life is different from the next because every one of us has a different combination of dominant emotions and even if they were the same, they are of varying intensities. I am convinced that keeping this in mind would spare us a lot of judgement and unnecessary self-criticism.

I for one, I am easily inspired by other people’s success stories, but the same success stories that inspire me can easily throw me in an emotional slump when I think of how much my peers have done and compare it to how much I have done (which easily amounts to nothing). An awareness of my emotional space, the dominant emotions in my emotional space, the subsequent monitoring of the dominant emotions, and grooming of emotions that positively contribute to my growth could deal with said emotional slumps. Doesn’t it make sense that if you introspect regularly, that you are more likely to be aware of negative behaviour (read: action and personally unwanted consequence) and thus be able to change it?

So, going forward into 2018 (yes, some New Year, New Me BS) I aspire to not only read more non-fiction but also to introspect regularly as well as edit and redirect my actions and reactions.

As I was preparing to write this post I remembered a Humans of New York video (here) I’d seen that stayed with me (this sound so preachy) as I was looking for it I found this one below. It's one of those of things that kind of break your heart but is also eye-opening. Maybe it will speak to you like it  did to me and help clarify how the same thing can mean different things to different people…. See you in the next post. 


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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Man’s Livelihood: Defining Livelihood

Source: Grist

The second semester of 2017 birthed the series of posts that I will be publishing over the next few weeks. This series will explore the definition of livelihood, how individuality (or personhood) is linked to a happy life, the factors that influence what a happy life looks like, as well as a few stories and lessons I learnt during this time.

 A Man’s Livelihood was born after countless hours spent with some of my guy friends (and their friends) and experiencing their silliness and brutality when they alone (alone because, majority of the time I think of myself as one of the guys). Despite the fact that I think of myself as one of them, they complained that I asked too many questions at the most inconvenient times. Gladwil (the person I hung out with primarily) complains that I say things aren’t supposed to be said, he also swears he will sue me if I don’t give him credit for the series (which I won’t). The behaviour of the guys I spent time with made me wonder what motivates people to do the things they do.

To understand why man does the things he does, I think it’s important to first understand what we are born with. I would like to say we come into this universe with a purpose, but there is no evidence that points to the fact that we are born with a purpose or a destiny. What we could conclude though, is that we are born with a desire to live. And while I believe that we are born to live, or at least with a desire to live, this is not to say that children who were/are still born are born so because they have no desire to live or that they do not deserve to live, I think understanding this aspect of birth and life requires spiritual and biological enlightenment that I do not possess. I realize that I ought to tread carefully when talking about life and loss (especially that of infants), that I ought to go about it in a manner that is not insensitive and callous. I also realize that some of the statements that I will make do not apply to all infants, but they form the basis of my conviction about what we are born into this life with.

One of the things that are a testament to the fact that children are born with a desire to live is their innate knowledge and understanding of health and comfort. Evidence of this knowledge is an infant’s ability to suckle a mother’s boob at birth, their unceasing screams when their diaper is soaked or muddy, their slumber when they tire and screeches of hunger.

The desire to be well fed, well rested and clean are secondary to the desire to live since they enable an infant to live/stay alive. Only later do children develop coping mechanisms; mechanisms that enable them to deal with neglect, malnutrition and other challenges. If you have children of your own or in your family you have probably witnessed a child’s panic when their faces are (accidentally) covered by a blanket. They’ll wrestle with the blanket until they have uncovered their faces or proceed to wail when they don’t resolve this problem themselves. I cannot say that their panic is due to the fear of death but it’s safe to assume that they panic because they see the darkness as a threat to their ability to live.

Hunger and fatigue can be life threatening, they can set in motion a set of biological events that can lead to death. However, a wet diaper does not have the same potentially life-threatening consequences that hunger and fatigue have, but one can imagine how uncomfortable it can get. Darkness in itself is also not life threatening, but it is not enjoyable. This is evidence that the things we need aren’t always directly related to the things that help ensure that we stay alive. Considering the behaviour of infants we can conclude that we are born with a desire to live happy lives, with health and comfort being the bare essentials of a happy life.

"Livelihood a means of securing the necessities of life..."

The behaviour of infants becomes relevant when you consider what the definition of livelihood is. Livelihood is defined as a means of securing the necessities of life, synonyms of livelihood include salary, income, upkeep, nourishment and subsistence. Taking the definition of livelihood into consideration, the question then becomes what are the necessities of life? The behaviour of infants infers that the necessities of life are a myriad of things that are not always related the body’s ability to stay alive; although the necessities of life definitely include food and clothing, these are not the only things that are essential.

Livelihood is therefore, not merely a means of securing the necessities of life but the means of securing the things that help one live a healthy and comfortable life (a happy life). My sister argues that my interpretation/definition is flawed and I’m being unnecessary, let me know if this definition makes sense and if you agree or disagree in the comments section below.

In the next post (The Parenting of Self) I will look at what a happy life looks like as well as the factors that influence what a happy life looks like. Subscribe below so you can get a notification when the post goes live :).


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