Power Failure - Alternative Conformity – Sexuality in Flux - How New the New World?
Empowerment is defined as the process by which we effectively gain, or hope to gain, control over the factors and decisions that shape our days.
‘Power’ in all its shapes and forms, the stem word in empowerment, does not come imbued or infused with true Happiness, Contentment, Bien-Etre or Joie de Vivre. To earn that for ourselves, we need to operate from our inner, most authentic self. We need to better understand and work with the correct, all-encompassing meaning of two action words: Nurture and Protect.
Yet, sadly, when it comes to the education curriculum for ‘modern’ children, though blackboards have been replaced by screens, notebooks by portable devices and textbooks by apps and pdfs, the overall content in mainstream classrooms has not changed much over the past 30 years.
We have yet to come with a model that will educate the whole being because our children are still being trained to seek ‘power’ outside of themselves and, just as we and generations before ours have, they already aim to find an elusive power through the merry ka-ching! of money piling in their bank account.
Ironically, even before entering the workforce, young people already dread finding themselves trapped in the cycle in which they see their parents, relatives and older friends trapped into: work is a necessary evil. Work is necessary to get a salary that will fund their chosen lifestyle. They must get the salary that will afford them a happy life.
So, serious questions for the youngest 'almost grown up' generation: how to upturn the apple cart ... how to shake things up? How to mix it up so as to not to lose themselves, emotionally, as their parents, relatives and older friends have? How to enjoy life today as if they knew they were to die next month?
R&B, a music genre rich in history and talent, is currently being reshaped and quickly moving in a new, relaxed, deconstructed direction. Any music genre that leads to greater introspection, atmosphere and perspective, and away from old classical ideals, denotes an emotional evolution among artists and, ideally, among the fan base. Spontaneous peaceful deconstructing of the status-quo followed by bold reconstructing is an invigorating proof of growth in any industry - in any nook and cranny of any society.
A direct effect of far-right opinions and policies linked to religious intransigence is that, off from the left, a stronger breeze is being generated under the sail of Omnism – the recognition and respect of all religions. Any degree less of separation and any degree less of Me/Mine against You/Yours amount to that many degrees gained in favor of social evolution.
Any societal and political moves that acknowledge and protect individuals’ dignity and personal worth reshape to strengthen community values, bringing us so many degrees closer to cohesion.
Also ushered from the left or, perhaps, from an unlabeled side of the opinion spectrum, is the reasonably recent but persistent push to have one’s individual uniqueness validated along with their personal understanding of gender and sexuality.
If Facebook says so
Facebook has 60 options for gender identification. Tinder lists about 40 and, when it comes to the sexual expression of the self, there are more overt variations possible than Eskimos have words to describe snow.
Most of us past the age of 10 will probably agree that the topics of sexual orientation, exploration and proclivity are seriously not new ones. And let’s face it, not one day too soon, the transgender conundrum has finally become the ‘new Gay.’ Humdrum – accepted. It’s about to become passé - at least on paper.
Yet, beyond the androgynous and gender fluid hairstyles and tattoos particularly ubiquitous among the Millennial and Gen Z-ers, the acceptance of gender diversity and sexual fluidity in the classroom, on university campuses, in sports teams and nightclubs are currently providing a fair share of the social and legislation buzz, at least in the west.
From pre-biblical eras to circa 2000, those of us who were single and living ‘non-conforming’ private lives were quietly satisfied with the freedom to be ourselves, the freedom to be drawn physically and romantically to whomever we chose – protected by the proverbial ‘closed doors.’ Not being labelled was one of the main aims.
Gen Z-ers are the first generation to have lived with the internet since birth. Thus, could it be that their utter dependence on all manner of devices and immediate feedback has trained them to ‘live life and love’ as they send their comments - on impulse?
Full of genuine intent, the busy, bumble bees buzzing from one flower to the next make it seem easy to be free of constraints. No straight-jacketing decision needs to be made. No commitment except that of keeping things fluid - free to swap one ‘true’ color for another - and, as essential must-have, universal feedback that it is all quite OK. The Life!
Emotions left unchecked create thoughts that give way to feelings which lead to moods and ultimately to personality shifts. Is the cumulative end result of the ongoing, largely unaccountable, decade-long flurries of comments left on countless sites and messaging apps absorbed as tacit permission to express one’s self without lingering?
That possibility might go some way towards explaining a personality shaped by the impulse to hop from one idea to the next, from one fear, from one yearning to another - to sample - to experiment - to keep moving while seeking empowerment through the eyes of the observers. By being accepted as a unique individual.
Generally speaking, how truly ‘unique’ can a person’s individuality be within his or her [alternative] sub-group? What is the likelihood that any one of us, regardless of age, gender and lifestyle preferences has ever been truly unique in any way?
Today, in a bid to test their right to freedom of expression, the ‘new kids’ on the generational block want the right to label themselves.
Alternative conformity is not a societal abnormality. Age-old, widespread and public, it is always characterized by a desire to be seen as unique and, most importantly, as for each one of us, to be loved and cherished as a unique being - just as we are - warts and all, as the expression goes.
Sure, now as always, there is family resentment or rejection. There is ostracising and bullying from peers. There is hurtful rudeness from strangers. There is all of that, but the fashion, music and film industries are loving this and are encouraging a hugely creative mix of this and that.
With their chosen style of quirky uniqueness worn as a badge of courage or a badge of defiance, these 30-somethings and teenagers seek to find acceptance and solace first within their family – then, within the greater sub-community of their choice.
The French have two words that are appropriate to this conversation: Paraitre [appear/appearances] and its opposite, Etre [being/being authentic] with which it rhymes – and currently, the ever-evolving and involved art of Paraitre, at the expense of Etre, is definitely in vogue.
Wear Your Lifestyle on Your Sleeve
The range of body enhancements and gender-blending hairstyles intended as much as personal statements as hints as to one’s lifestyle preferences fit in with trending trends. They also double-up as jabs in the ribs of mainstream observers, many of whom tend to stare a bit too long, gawk or look on disdainfully, if not aggressively.
Also refined to the beat of rising trends are vocabulary acquisition and a manner of speaking, the choice of skin tones on the makeup palette, the use or avoidance of eyeliner, lipstick and nail polish.
Prescribed, too, are essential variations in clothing arrangement, color and style, along with the must-have type of footwear. Of course, music playlists, issue-based forums and celebrity ‘likes’ are to be congruent with the projected persona.
Why, Oh Why?
Regardless of the sexual or gendered tendencies embodied by those in the throes of self-discovery, they yearn to be labelled, loved and cherished - not only in their home but in their place of study, work and play.
Might it be that, in their view, the epitome of freedom is to publically, however briefly or enduringly, slip-slide and pose on the double helix of gender and sexual preference according to mood and opportunities?
Does that make them braver, stronger than previous generations? Or does it position them as emotionally needier? If the latter seems a possibility, then, as part-and-parcel of the current culture, as parents, siblings or relatives of these [young] men and women, we should ask ourselves why it is so.
Asexual, female, genderless, gender fluid, genderqueer, male, transgender, simply gay or straight, each with its healthy or kinky preference for this or that when it comes to the expression of sexuality, any number of possible combinations are acceptable.
Authentic Is As Authentic Acts
A few more questions arise.
Is these generational movement calling for cultural shifts happening now because stereotypes in matters of sexual orientation or preference and gender binarity have finally become too restricting for those born to explore beyond known boundaries?
Does it stem in part from Gen Z-ers fear of missing out on the buzz of discovery, excitement, freedom – and acceptance?
Could it be because the Gen Z-ers’ idea of ‘empowerment’ is to force the mainstream to give them a formal blessing and an almost natural ‘right of passage’ into the fulfilment of their needs and aspirations?
Where will any of the possible combinations picked from the smorgasbord of possibilities position these [young] men and women on the continuum of Nurturing and Protecting?
Will they be so empowered as to input from their authentic selves, as needed/when needed, in the family home, in their school, in their workplace, in night clubs, in the sports fields - and in the streets?
Is it Possible or is It Likely?
Equally to the point, would the freedom - or the right - to experiment openly or to simply be themselves at any given point of the gender and sexuality continuum, help make that cohort any less aggressive, less abusive towards girls, women and children when ‘under pressure’? Will they be less ‘bitchy’ or ‘snarky’? More Nurturing? Less ego-centric? More Protecting? More genuinely authentic from the inside-out?
Most western world democracies have an anti-discrimination act. It is unlawful under federal law to discriminate against a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.
So, should each specific position on the spectrum of gender and sexuality be, one day, added to the anti-discrimination act, then ... what?
Will our teenagers and adult men and women be any freer to be of service to others because they will be that much safer in the home, safer in the streets? More respected in their workplace? More at peace? More fulfilled? More aware of the difference between Paraitre and Etre? That much happier than the rest of the unlabeled, anonymous population that stands anywhere between the two poles of hetero/homosexuality?
Rules Are Boring - Bring On The Revolution
Serious questions: Male dominance and heterosexism are neither natural nor normal nor necessary to the good function of our human society, but is this cultural shift, be it merely allowed or embraced, likely to be for the greater good of the community as a whole? How likely is it to be for the greater good of the self?
Are these people freedom fighters, rebels with a cause or are they seeking nourishing love and acceptance in all the wrong places? Both?
Depeche Mode, an English electronic band formed in 1980, have just released Spirit, their 14th album. So, what better way to close this mind-meander than to briefly return to music, the topic of the opening paragraph and, specifically to the lyrics of Depeche Mode’s lead single entitled Where's The Revolution. How timely!
You've been kept down You've been pushed 'round [...] Who's making your decisions? You or your religion Your government, your countries You patriotic junkies
Where's the revolution Come on, people [ … ]
You've been pissed on for too long Your rights abused Your views refused They manipulate and threaten With terror as a weapon Scare you till you're stupefied Wear you down until you're on their side
Planning a Better Future?
Bottom line: before we can handle the future – we must handle the present. And the future depends on how well we manage the present.