Pairs of Opinions You Probably Shouldn’t Get to Hold Both Of:

*Before US election*
Person:
 Calm down, there’s no way someone that bad could actually get elected.
*After election*
Same Person: Calm down, there’s no way he’ll actually be that bad.

Person: I don’t see color–race has nothing to do with how I judge or treat people.
Same Person: *Finds it very important to play racial-Nancy-Drew upon meeting someone whose race they cannot read immediately. Almost as if they are uncomfortable not totally seeing color.*

Person: Why are people talking about racism like it’s still a huge problem? We have some issues, but it’s not like we still have Klan members marching in the streets.
*Sees Klan members marching in streets* 
Same Person: Is this really the time to be fixate on subtle, casual forms of racism–there are literal klan members marching in the streets!

*On white people who repeatedly mess up on race issues*
Person: They’re not doing perfect, but that’s because they haven’t had opportunities to learn this stuff yet. Instead of passing judgement, we should take time to patiently educate people.
*On investing in educational opportunities for groups who have historically and continually been denied access*
Same Person: This should be about personal merit.

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8 Tips for Better Self-Care (The True DIYer’s Health Care)

Has your physical or mental health been less than stellar lately? Well if you believe in personal responsibility and self-reliance, there is only one real explanation: inadequate self-care. Once you come to terms with the fact that no one else is going to care for you, enjoy these eight tips to step up your self-care game!

Relieve stress with a personal spa day!

Have you been feeling constantly on edge? Is it because you work two full-time jobs surrounded by annoying coworkers and still seem to have no money? Is it because you have a chronic disorder in which your brain keeps getting stuck in freakout mode? Or is it because you haven’t been treating yourself to enough bubble baths?

The third one is definitely worth a shot! Just fill up the tub with warm water, put in your favorite bath salts, and turn on some slow jams. If it’s not working, just keep trying! Crank up the volume. Crank up the temperature. Make bigger bubbles. No one said relaxation was gonna come easy, right?

Kale!
Turns out that the ultimate superfood is the cure for everything! Have digestive issues? Incorporate more Kale into your diet! Feeling periodic bouts of exhaustion and dizziness? Drink some Kale juice! Have a tumor? Cover it up with some Kale* leaves! Pipes leaking? Stuff some Kale in them! Distracted by harassment at work? Stuff some Kale in your ears!

You’ll feel instantly better just knowing that you’re making spinach-eaters feel inadequate!

*Only works with true Oreganic™ Kale, produced exclusively in Oregon

Practice self-massage!
Experiencing back pain? Foot pain? Kidney pain? Eye pain? Existential pain? Most pain can be relieved by working through all those little knots in the muscles! If you don’t want to hire a specialist to give you a massage, you can do it all by yourself! Just work your way down the body, moving your hands in a circular needing motion, making sure you are avoiding all joints and hitting all of the tight spots. Especially ones those right in the middle of your back.

Can’t reach those? Well clearly you have not been going to advanced enough yoga classes.

Sleep more!
Looking tired? You should really be getting some more sleep! Sleep can do wonders for your metabolism, immune system, and personality, so you really should be sleeping like there’s no tomorrow! (Except there is a tomorrow, and it’s probably the deadline for a bunch of things that you should already be done with, so you better not sleep until those are finished.)

Just turn off the lights, relax, and avoid thinking about of all the time you’re wasting. Make sure you schedule your alarm to allow for 5 complete sleep cycles, but definitely not 5.5.

And make sure you get up early enough to do some decent contouring, so you don’t end up looking tired (remember, you want people to ask “do you even sleep?” based on your completion of an excessive workload, not based on your face)!

Buy leggings!
Nothing screams “health” like brand-new booty-hugging leggings. And can you even be considered to love yourself if you don’t own a pair of GooGoo Grapefruits? Order a pair online today and enter our sponsored promo code SELF17 to get a -4% discount! (One size fits everyone who deserves leggings. Opaque might be an overstatement.)

Combat anger with deep breathing!
Anger comes from many sources. You might be angry at your cheating partner, your abusive boss, incompetent politicians, or institutional racism. In any case, deep breathing is a great way to tame your anger so that it has no real-world consequences.

Just inhale through your upper left nostril until your lungs feel so full that they could explode. Now hold that inhale for 14.3 seconds before slowly releasing it through the right side of your trachea.

Before you get too far, this is a great time to look up the air quality in your neighborhood to make sure that you really want that much air in your lungs. If you happen to live in a dense urban area, within 50 miles of a factory or power plant, or in the same building as regular smokers, it’s actually probably better that you restrict all subsequent breaths to a moderately shallow level.

Try to clear your mind as you focus only on the rhythm of your inhales and exhales.

Hydrate by drinking your own tears!
Have you found yourself breaking down in tears on a daily basis? You’re not alone–it’s more common practice than you might think! But where most people go wrong is failing to replace lost fluids. Dehydration can quickly lead to dry skin and lethargy, so stop it in its tracks during your next breakdown! Collect your tears in your favorite mug, wine glass, or mason jar to sip on right away. The extra salt is great for helping your body absorb the hydration!

Run!
Running is scientifically proven to be the most effective form of cardiovascular exercise at taking you away from life’s problems fast. Run away from your joint issues. Run away from your unpaid bills. Run away from that dude on the sidewalk who just compared you to a piece of meat, which, by the way, is also something you shouldn’t eat. Run away from the future, which slowly catching up to you. Just run and run faster. And make sure you do it in air-cushioned sneakers or your tendonitis will be all your fault.

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Above all, remember that this is America where you should be able to achieve optimal health and immortality if you work hard and put your mind to it! So stop complaining and start loving yourself more!

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Note: Yes this is satire. Not that I’m against sleep or self-massage. But I can’t reach all of the tight spots either. 

So You “Don’t Agree With Their Methods” . . .

Let’s talk about what goes on when we criticize social/pollitical movements, not because of their ideas, but because of their choice of methods. There can be valid discussions on this topic, but too often, they seem to fall into this pattern:

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In other words, if you’re denouncing extreme protests, but also refused to listen to less disruptive protests, you might just be critiquing methods as an excuse to dismiss a movement you don’t want to listen to.

That’s not to say we can’t discuss the effectiveness of different protest methods and whether some choices are counterproductive or harmful–especially if violence is involved. But let’s avoid reducing it to a question of which one is right–moderate or radical approaches, negotiation or boycott, politeness or disruption–as if there was one right method that would change every mind and institution on its own.

“Moderate” and “radical” advocates of a cause–whether or not they like each other–often function as part of the same process for making change:king-remixking-remix-2king-remix-3

Sometimes “moderates” gain more traction at the negotiating table once their “radical” counterparts are camped outside the building. And that’s how a lot of change–for better or for worse–gets made.

What is Art Good For (Even Now)?

It’s been a rough week y’all.

A couple weeks ago, one of my classes was having a discussion about the role of art in society, and we wrote statements about what it means to be an artist and citizen. Now, as I see other artists are trying to figure out their position and purpose in America moving forward, I thought I would post what I came up with.

(I’ll have more to say about politics and elections later…once I get my life slightly more together.)

What is art good for?

Sometimes, I wonder how I can justify spending hours in a dance studio instead of trying to cure cancer or negotiate a peace treaty. After all, most standard economic frameworks would consider the arts a luxury to engage in once the more practical concerns are taken care of–a pleasant way to blow an excess of resources and energy–but not a worthwhile focus in a society which still has issues of poverty and disease and violence to deal with.

But if this were the case, we would expect that art only emerges from great economic conditions and positions of social privilege. Historically, that doesn’t seem to be true: music and dance and drawing and poetry have been created and consumed in palaces and cushy ivory towers, but also in war zones and prisons and plantations and deathbeds. Somehow, our hierarchy of values must have got something wrong: issues of surviving don’t always take priority over living and creating and communicating.

Art, especially dance, doesn’t always fit so well into modern capitalist society, which encourages us to value our lives according to productivity and efficiency. Perhaps that mismatch of values is what makes it particularly needed, offering a form of resistance, or at least a bit of balance. Dancing is by nature unproductive. We can refer to pieces and performances as “products,” but only in the metaphorical sense: dance rarely results in more “stuff.” To take time for dance (moving, creating, or watching) demands that we value being and doing in itself, apart from producing. It demands that we value the moments of our lives, apart from the stuff we leave behind.

Dance also has the unique ability to challenge the artificial mind/body dualism (with an assumed inferiority of the body) which is so ingrained in our culture. Dance asserts that the body is meaningful. It’s not dirty or shameful or a source of evil. It’s not an irrelevant sack of meat whose only purpose is to carry around a brain or a soul. It’s not something that needs to be ignored, rejected, or overcome to become an intelligent or worthy being. It’s not exclusively an object of sexual desirability. Instead, it can be an impressive and versatile mechanical system, a means of communication, a tool for active thinking and problem solving, a site for sensations and emotions of all sorts, and a sight that can be publicly observed and appreciated with respect for it’s owner.

But as much as I like to see the liberatory potential in dance, it would be naive to assume that all dance or all art is inherently revolutionary, or even socially positive. Art can be a powerful medium, but the direction and scope of its impact depend on how we use it. The impact of art can easily become limited and circular when it stays within a small circle of elite, educated, art people making work to impress each other according to an inaccessible school of aesthetic and philosophical values. And of course, the assumptions and representations that we bring into our art can just as frequently help to reinforce social hierarchies as subvert them: dance, for instance, can often uncritically reproduce restricted gender roles, exclusive standards of beauty, and racial/ethnic caricatures.

Thus, recognizing the power of art must mean that artists should take responsibility for the impact of their work. This isn’t doesn’t necessarily mean creating “activist” art–with a deliberate social goal at the center–but simply being a responsible citizen who considers and cares who might be affected by the images they put out into the world.

Finally, in line with the principle that the method is the message, I believe that artists cannot genuinely and confidently claim that their work offers a positive social impact, unless principles of ethics and social justice are applied in the practice of its creation. In dance, this includes prioritizing livable pay for dancers, ending the tacit acceptance of abuse in training and work environments, increasing the economic accessibility of dance education and performance, and developing more environmentally sustainable performance and touring practices. These are not easy fixes, but it is inconsistent to offer our art as a solution to problems in the larger world without tackling these issues in our own field.

So rather than argue that art is good for society, it might be more appropriate to identify the ways in which it can be good for society–and take responsibility for making this the case.

Don’t Just Vote Against Trump: Vote Against All Trump-y-ness

There’s a lot to say about Donald Trump as a person: for instance his tendency to direct aggression toward  racial and religious minorities, his record of sexual harassment and assault, his chronic lying, and his refusal to take responsibility for any of his actions. But ultimately, Trump as an individual is (unfortunately) hardly unique in being a racist and misogynistic bully with an inflated ego.

There’s to say about Donald Trump as a potential president: how–despite his big talk about national greatness–he seems incapable of developing concrete policies, or working diplomatically with other politicians to address actual problems facing the country. But ultimately, according to current polls, it’s more likely than not that he won’t get the chance. No, this isn’t a sure bet, and of course you need to vote to make sure this is the case, but at least there is a good chance that the threat of Trump as president will be over next week.

But what I really want to talk about is Donald Trump as a marker of a wider public opinion. Yes, I’m concerned by Trump as a person and candidate, but I’m even more concerned by the significant and persistent support for his campaign, what that says about our country, and what it means for elections at all levels of government.

Around 42% of Americans want this guy to be president. It’s not fair to assume that all of them support him because of his racism, Islamophobia, or misogyny, but it does at least mean that many people find obvious racism, Islamophobia, and misogyny acceptable enough to vote into the white house.

Even if Trump’s support base does not get their way in the presidential election, it still undeniably represents sizable chunk of the voting population, that will be employing the same judgement and values in voting for congress and governors and school boards and town councils.

American government is much more than a president. Consider the extent to which Obama’s initial policy plans have been adjusted according to Congressional resistance or support. Consider how much discriminatory legislation occurs at the state level, such as the recent wave of state laws legalizing anti-LGBT discrimination, or the 27 states trying reject Syrian refugees. Consider the fact that support for Trump seems to rely on a lack of education–and that public education policy is largely determined at the state and local level.

 

So yes, we should vote to keep Trump out of the white house. But it’s equally important to vote for senators and mayors and ballot legislative measures to keep Trump-y policies out of all levels of government.

These are decisions that can impact people’s lives as much as the president will. These are decisions in which principles of civil rights and responsible government are at stake. If you are not in a presidential swing state, these may be decisions in which your individual vote has a larger impact. Additionally, if you are interested in supporting the growth of third parties in our pollitical system, a local or state race might provide an effective way to do so.

I’m not so naive as to suggest that voting alone is enough to make everything in America “great”–or that it ever was–but it is one way in which we have the ability and responsibility to make it better. And it looks like America could use a whole lot of better right now.

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It’s Okay to Admit that you Try

Trying hard isn’t cool.

From what I gather, if you really want to be considered impressive, you should be succeeding without trying.

We look up to “smart” people who crank out top grades and are never caught in confusion, but not if it’s because they show up to every class and study regularly–no one likes an uptight nerd.

We like people (especially of the womanly variety) to be attractive, but not to admit to spending significant time or effort on their appearance–what could be more vain, boring, and desperate than that?

As if it’s not enough to be an overachiever, you have to be an overachiever and a slacker at the same time.

So what does it mean if I care a lot and try really hard at lots of things? What if I am able to do a lot more because of it? What if that’s the case for a lot of people?

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I sure did.

Now I don’t mean to endorse the view that hard work alone is the answer to everything. It is possible to get so wrapped up in working hard for it’s own sake that you’re not actually furthering any goals (speaking from experience). And I definitely wouldn’t be the first to point out the limitations of the American-Dreamy myth that hard work (and bootstrapping) in itself is enough to guarantee success.

But this other kind of American Dream–of cool and effortless success based on casual awesomeness–is only more exclusive and limiting. With effort and concern dismissed as desperate, the assumed key to success is inherent brilliance. And of course, whether or not you believe you have that gift is affected by things like race, gender, class, and educational upbringing.

So what are you supposed to do if you don’t see yourself on an painless path to the top? Of course one option is to give up. Another, particularly common in overachieving environments, is to fake it: downplay how long and hard you actually worked, never let them see you sweat, and shrug off your biggest accomplishments as no big deal.

While Columbia sometimes seems to be filled with enviably talented slackers who are killing it in their sleep, I’m sure this image is somewhat inflated by all the closet try-hards, putting on their very best “don’t care” face to cover up signs of genuine concern and effort.

Because trying your best and admitting it makes you vulnerable: then judgements of your work actually mean something about you.

If you show someone your work with the disclaimer “Made this an hour ago with no sleep and a serious hangover–don’t judge,” you’re safe. If it’s good, you’re showing your effortless, nonchalant genius. If it’s bad, your failures are written off as you not caring anyway.

But admit “I’ve been working really hard on this all week,” and it’s a different story. If it’s bad, what does that say about you and your intelligence? What does it mean to show that you gave your all and it’s still not enough?

Maybe it means you’re kind of pathetic–but most people are at some point, whether or not you’ve seen it (your failure isn’t all that unique). And it also means that you have the self-confidence to not let your concern with looking good stand in the way of getting better–which is no small accomplishment in world of ego-management. It means you’re poking a whole in the facade of effortless perfection, a low-key hero to other impostor syndrome-sufferers.

It means you’re more of a sweaty hot mess than a cool one. I’ll take that; we could use some warmth and energy around here.

 

“All or Nothing” is Usually Just an Excuse to do Nothing

“I miss dance, but I quit once I realized I wasn’t going to do it professionally. I’m not the type to do anything halfway.” 

“What’s the point of eating a a salad with a burger? It’s already unhealthy anyway.” 

“I would donate to your Kickstarter, but I can’t donate to all the Kickstarters.”

“Why are you spending so much effort on [activist cause] when there are bigger unsolved issues in the world?” 

Whatever the context, you’ll probably hear statements like these coming from self-proclaimed “all or nothing people,” or people who otherwise hold a binary view of success or progress.

In itself, this type of thinking is easy to fall into, especially for the perfectionistic-ly inclined. Under a logic of toxic perfectionism–with such high standards that any realistic effort seems pointlessly trivial in comparison–if you’re not going to do something perfectly, you might as well give up. 

But what’s especially concerning about this mindset is the way it’s glorified, as if being an “all or nothing person” is somehow heroically intense or extreme. In it’s worst form, the phrase “I’m an all or nothing person” is used to imply a superiority in standards over people who are merely doing something.

In reality, however, is doing something incompletely or imperfectly really the worst outcome? There are a few exceptions here: cakes don’t taste good half-baked, and  if you’re wondering “should I buy that pair of pants,” I don’t recommend half-assing it. In most other cases, though something is better than nothing. And lets face it: when you treat progress as a binary decision, you usually end up choosing nothing.

Maybe there are some people whose declarations that they “don’t do anything halfway” are immediately followed by them running a marathon, writing a novel, becoming fluent in Italian, obtaining a PhD in physics, and starting a charity which decisively ends global poverty. (If you’re one of those people, stop reading this blog and go back to doing you.)

But for most people, most days, in most areas, the realization that you can’t or don’t want to do it “all the way” ends up with you giving up and watching Netflix instead of going on a jog, writing a blog post, keeping up with your online beginner Italian practice, signing up for Physics 101, or making a donation to a food bank–any of which would have been way more impressive and productive than nothing.

In theory, an “all or nothing person” is an intense, extreme person who settles for nothing but the best. In practice, it’s more often someone currently sitting around in their bedroom, who also has a catchy self-description. (And there’s nothing wrong with sitting around in your bedroom whenever you need or want to–but please don’t feel obligated to justify it as a of sign of badassery.)

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Aside from the rarely attained “all,” “all or nothing” is basically just an excuse to do nothing. My preferred replacement catchphrase: “Just do something.*”

*(Unless you really truly want to do nothing, and in that case, go for it–no excuses needed.)