Wednesday afternoon I was on a Zoom Open House with the Harold Remis Film School. This is a comedy film school attached to The Second City in Chicago and I’m trying to figure out what to do next.
During the question and answer session, someone, who was in the middle of a gender transition, asked about safety.
The question made me feel a bit wiggy, and there was also a hesitation from the panel from the school. There was a sense of uneasiness. I think the issue is that we didn’t really know the questioner’s definition of safety.
Safety is a really big question these days. The word is bandied about liberally, and yet it seems that we all have different definitions for it.
Oxford Dictionary defines safety as “the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury.”
There are two sections in question:
- Being protected from or unlikely to cause
- Danger, risk, or injury
Let’s look at “danger, risk, or injury” first.
For me, I think of this as either an attack or an act of negligence.
Attacks can be physical, or psychological, or other ways that are meant to hurt me. I do think actual intent is important. People are not perfect, we have a lot of goober in our noodles whether it was a bad childhood, a trauma, or mental condition. All of us do dumb shit, we hurt people on accident and have to apologize for it. We say things we might not mean out of emotion.
Intent is important because if it’s not, the message is that we are expected to be perfect. None of us can live up to that. It’s irrational to expect us to.
Negligence is not doing your due diligence while living your life. Not taking your employees health into account. Not engaging your brake properly when parking. Texting while driving. Not wearing your mask into the grocery store. This is fuzzy as well because we all have different ideas of what “due diligence” is.
Many businesses are run in a cost/profit way. After all, if the business can’t survive, they can’t hire people and they can’t provide whatever it is they’re providing. Having someone on the payroll who isn’t producing is considered a threat to the company, including all of the employees and customers. They think “I need someone to do X” and they hire someone to do X. They think “I don’t need anyone to do Y anymore.” And all the people who did Y get laid off. It can feel very utilitarian. Most companies have opportunities for people to change jobs, but many people either feel like they are unable to change, or they’re unwilling to change. Does their layoff constitute an injury?
Many parents who have children in the military often believe that the leaders of the team have a responsibility for the safety of all the members in the unit. Yet, they go into combat. They have missions to win. That’s the purpose of the unit in the first place. The leader is responsible, but only up to a point. It’s more important to have the mission succeed. Sometimes people don’t come home. Does their death constitute an injury?
Things to think about, and there are a lot of them.
The first part of the definition is “Being protected from or unlikely to cause”.
When we look at the earlier two examples, we can see that even this phrase is open to interpretation.
I think that it all depends upon the circumstances, and whether it’s reasonable.
Let’s look at zoos. In the United States, we do everything we can to provide for the physical safety of the citizens in the zoo. There are signs and fences and walls and containers and paths and rules. If you follow all the rules, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to be eaten.
On May 19, 1987, three boys snuck into the Prospect Park Zoo after it closed. The found their way into the polar bear enclosure. One of the boys was killed. The zoo was sued for having dangerous animals in it. It’s a zoo, that’s where the dangerous animals live rather than in our backyard. Is the zoo guilty of not doing its due diligence?
In many zoos in other countries, security guards are assigned to us Americans when we visit the zoo. Why? Because zoos in other countries don’t put up as many barriers as we do in the United States. They assume that people are smart enough to not get in the cage with the lion. If someone sticks their arm in the tiger cage and it gets bitten off and the person dies, it’s considered suicide. Americans are so used to pushing the responsibility of their own safety off onto others, they can’t be trusted to do the smart thing. Is the zoo guilty of not doing its due diligence?
In our current culture, the idea of safety has gone to extremes.
- If you do not believe what I believe, you are attacking me and I’m unsafe.
- If you say something I don’t like, you are attacking me and I’m unsafe.
- If you don’t agree with my life choices, you are attacking me and I’m unsafe.
- If you don’t make me the center of every gathering, because I’m a special snowflake, you are attacking me and I’m unsafe.
- If you make any mistakes on social media, I will take it personally, you are attacking me and I’m unsafe.
- If you are a man/woman/hobbit/whatever, and members of your group have done anything wrong in the history of humankind, you are to blame. Your existence is an attack on me and I’m unsafe.
- If you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or a “Karinist”, you are different than me, therefore you are attacking me and I’m unsafe.
- You made a weird face as I passed by due to a fart. It’s personal. You are attacking me and I’m unsafe.
- If I feel unsafe for any reason at all, an attack is happening to me and I need to scour social media to figure out what is making me feel unsafe.
- If I feel unsafe for any reason at all, whoever is in my presence must be the culprit and they deserve to lose their job. In fact, I’ll make sure of it. I feel unsafe.
The reason I felt wiggly on that Zoom call with the film school when that person asked about safety is because whenever anyone brings safety up anymore, I feel unsafe.
I Feel Unsafe
I’ve told most of these stories before but I think it’s important to understand them in terms of safety. I have either been involved, or had friends involved, with someone else’s sense of safety create unsafe conditions for other.
- I used an improper pronoun for someone on Crackbook. Someone took it personally and, even though it wasn’t her pronoun, she attacked me, both in person and on Crackbook. Who is actually unsafe?
- A group of women got together and created a Crackbook group to bully a single man. They raged at him and tried to get him banished. When I talked to some of the women, they gave arguments about other men, not the man they were attacking. They held him responsible for every bad thing ever done to them. Who is actually unsafe?
- I was in a cooking class. 16 of us, 2 women, 1 transgendered person, and 13 rambunctious men. The teacher had her hands full and in fact several pieces of equipment were destroyed. The transgendered person didn’t get the attention they thought they deserved and sulked in a corner. A week after the class I got an email from the cooking school telling me that the teacher had been fired because of the sulker. Who is actually unsafe?
- A bad teacher and all of his students surrounded me while I was on the ground and pointed their fingers and screamed at me “You suck! You’ll never be any good!” over and over. And they thought they had the right. Who is actually unsafe?
- I have PTSD over the bad teacher incident and I’m very open about it at work. I have to be because I scream when startled. Loudly. Someone at work believes that getting into groups to shame, blame and bully someone is an appropriate way to change a person’s behavior. Do you think I feel unsafe?
Damn right I do.
The problem starts when people have a victim mentality. Here is how the rational seems to go:
I feel unsafe/scared/victimized.
Because I FEEL that way I must actually be victimized.
Therefore, I’m a victim.
Victims have no power.
Since I’m a victim, I have no power.
Leaders/Men/Politicians/Whoever have all the power.
Because of the extreme differences in power, I am justified in using anything I can in order to gain power/feel safe/feel less victimized.
Since I’m powerless, and you are powerless, we can get into a group and be stronger.
But since we are all powerless, even as a group we are powerless because 0 + 0 = 0. No power.
As a powerless group, we are justified to do anything we can in order to gain power/feel safe/feel less victimized.
It’s appropriate to bully, blame and shame anyone we want as a group. They have all the power and they deserve it.
The man who was ganged up by that group of women bullies? They saw him as an all powerful “leader”. He facilitates a weekly dance. So powerful.
The teacher who got fired? She didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, she did awesome considering the makeup of the class.
The teacher and students who attacked me? I was a brand-new actor, just putting my toe in.
The person who attacked me for improper pronoun usage? I can barely remember people’s names, let alone their pronouns.
And the work situation is on-going. How do I work with someone who might attack me at any moment?
The Flaw of Logic
There is a flaw of logic going on here.
I feel unsafe/scared/victimized. Because I FEEL that way I must actually be victimized. Therefore, I’m a victim. Victims have no power.
People feel a lot of things. Things happen in our past that create infinite loops in our brains. Things keep happening to us that remind us of those things and those feelings. Sometimes those things are traumas that we may never get to resolve.
An example is this post here. I keep finding myself involved with people with victim mentality. The things that happened to me, actually did happen to me. Since I have PTSD, I tend to get into a cycle of thinking about these things and being angry about it. I was victimized. Yes. I feel victimized. Yes. Am I a victim?
Things have happened to me, yes. But I still have agency. I still can choose my own actions. I don’t have to let my past define me. And yes, it’s hard because of the fucking PTSD. But I keep finding my way back.
Being a Victim vs. Being Victimized
We have all been victimized at one point or another. We live in a world of flawed individuals. There is always going to be something that annoys/upsets/hurts us. We can’t get away from it and still live. But this is temporary. We do what we have to do to continue on.
Being a victim, labeling ourselves a victim, is putting a permanent label on ourselves. If you say “I am a victim” you’re saying that’s who you are, deep down inside. If they were to divide us into teams for volleyball they might say “Victims to the right and People who own their own agency to the left” and you would go to the right.
But, that’s not true is it? It’s a lie. If anyone with victim mentality thought that was true, they wouldn’t be running around in groups bullying, blaming, shaming, and attacking people. They do that because they think that doing that will make them feel less victimized. But it doesn’t work, does it?
No, it doesn’t. And that’s because people with victim mentality have taken on the identity of a victim, and that’s permanent.
The irony is that that identity is also a lie. The truth is that we are all powerful beyond imagination. The lie is the idea that we are victims.
The Delusion of Victimhood
Are there victims? Oh yes. People get killed, or robbed, or raped, or kidnapped, or tortured. It happens every single day. And it’s not right.
That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the people who have convinced themselves they’re victims when they aren’t.
In my examples above, the actual victims in the scenarios were the ones the people with victim mentality went after.
And that’s not right either.
People have committed suicide, been institutionalized, or like me, have their PTSD flair up, because powerful people have deluded themselves that they are victims and use it as a justification for their own violence.
And make no mistake, getting into groups to bully, blame, shame, and attack, is violent behavior. It would be kinder to just kill the person. That’s how bad it actually is.
Your refusal to accept your own power doesn’t absolve you of your responsibility when you misuse it.
Safety is a big issue. A much bigger issue than most know. And the biggest safety issue is the violence done by people in victim-mentality.
I’m getting riled here. I have been victimized.
But I am not a victim. My power lies with my ethical core and my belief in my own power. My power lies in my ability to put down what I think in words. My power lies in my ability to choose for myself.
I hope you find your power to do the same.