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individual versus(?) collective

Did you watch this? Please do. This is absolutely what happens when you “act up” in a way that isn’t part of the sheeple social contract–you know, the one that you actually didn’t participate in creating but seem to be expected to follow?. I was once making sidewalk chalk drawings of hearts and the words “love” and “peace” on a private corporation’s “property”. A private security guard didn’t see me but later saw me running my hands in the water of the fountain and asked if I was drawing I said no (because I wasn’t in that moment). I asked why and he said someone had been defacing their property. I actually had no idea it was private property because, as the guy in this video points out, it looks public and the public is welcome there as long as they follow the unposted rules.

If nearly everything is “owned” by a tiny percentage of the world and they get to tell the rest of us that we aren’t allowed to be there unless we follow their rules (which are enforced by security), we are indeed living in a police state. Living in a society with this kind of oppression makes me feel afraid and vulnerable.

I have been thinking a lot about this topic of oppression of late. We have people occupying Wall Street in protest and people seem to feel powerless against this huge machine of corporations, globalization and colonialism. People who are comfortably residing under some sort of paternal umbrella (like working for Microsoft,the government or being married) feel a sense of “freedom” that is completely false. They get what they get as long as they follow the rules. Freedom doesn’t come from a paycheck or even a roof over your head. It comes from a sense of sovereignty.

So what does THAT mean? It means supreme, independent authority. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I frequently write about boundaries and sovereignty. There are reasons for this.

My father once hit me with a belt. I refused to cry. He said, “I am going to keep hitting you until you cry.”

He did.

I did.

Did he win? No. But then again, neither did I. That’s the problem with trying to break someone’s will: It only creates more pain.

I was in a relationship with a man who had a hard time with boundaries. He would wake me up in the middle of the night, petting my back because he couldn’t sleep. I told him I need to sleep and asked him why he did that. He said, “Because it makes me feel better.” I responded that it was keeping me awake and I needed to sleep. I asked him to stop and rolled over to go back to sleep. He got angry and left. I was glad to see him go. I deserve to have my needs and my body respected. I am indeed the sovereign queen of my world. My life, my body and my heart is much more peaceful without that kind of disrespect. I made the right choice to say, “Get off my property!”

This brings me back to this video. Is it okay for these private organizations to say “Get off my property!”? It seems that there is an inherent tension between collective responsibility and individual liberty. If I want people like my ex-lover to respect my body, my needs and my boundaries, shouldn’t I be willing to respect the boundaries of a private organization? In theory, I would say that the answer is yes. However, when there is an imbalance of power, sometimes there needs to be a revolution in order to get things more balanced out. While I’m not sure we have the right to intrude on the rights of others in order to get our needs met, whether it’s a church’s staircase, the Apple store, or my body, we clearly need to keep a sense of revolution alive.

I truly believe that the real revolution lives in my own heart. After all, this is all I can control. I believe my part in this is holding myself fulling accountable and not blaming some external entity for my life. It also means not taking on a sense of responsibility for others and letting them blame me for their plight. Choosing to be an agent for peace means seeing the world as a whole system and considering everyone’s needs in the mix. This takes awareness and deep listening. It takes caring for the well-being of others. It takes owning our power instead of giving it away and, more importantly, it takes sharing power with others. If agreements are truly co-created, we can all honor them. If boundaries are known, we can honor them or decide we need to take our own sovereign selves elsewhere.

On the individual level, I am still learning how to assert my needs while also being tolerant of difference. In my own psyche it’s sometimes fear that makes the “police” come out but it’s also a need for respect. That seems reasonable to me. The guy with the megaphone makes a good point about it not being illegal to talk into one but imagine if everyone in that square was talking on a megaphone. It would be an unruly, cacophonous mess! Law and social contracts exist for a good reason. The agreements and boundaries we have both collectively and individually help us to manage that tension between individual liberty and collective responsibility.

As I watch the protesters and the police around the world, I am looking into the police state inside my own heart. I believe I have a right to having boundaries and to having them respected. If I am in a shared space with my children and their needs conflict with mine, I believe I have a right to ask for what I need but I believe I have a responsibility to listen to their needs as well. If I believe I get to have the final say about how things will flow because I am the “owner”, is that fair? The point that the man in the video is making is that we only truly own ourselves. I agree. Because of that, I am looking at what it means to be 100% responsible for myself and the myriad ways I have been waiting around expecting someone else to either take care of me or define boundaries for me so I don’t have to take responsibility. I have often not used my voice and moved from my own core truth. I haven’t said “no” when I should out of fear of loss or punishment.

When you’ve been beaten until you cried or had someone get angry when you ask for your body to be respected, it becomes scary to self-advocate. We have to do it anyway. We have to be courageous enough to stand our ground and own our power and we have to allow others to do the same. We also have to let peace live our own hearts.

I want to be able to honestly look in the mirror and say I don’t want to control someone else because I feel completely in control of myself. I suspect the world will look much different when I reach that level of awareness. In the meantime, like the world outside, I am a work-in-progress and I learn a little bit more about respect every day.

What do you think? Where do the police live in your own heart? Where do you keep yourself bound out of fear? Do you believe we can have explicit agreements with one another that can be maintained and honored without punishment?

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