Years ago, I did a study that involved watching a lot of footage of diagnosed psychopaths, cult leaders and child m**esters.

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When asked how they had managed to ensnare and fool so many people, their answers were all the same:

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“If you want people to follow you, you just tell them that they’re smart and make them feel special”. One guy added “most adults are just kids who weren’t loved enough and are dying to hear something good about themselves”.

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Think about that.

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I find it incredibly sad that in 2020, so many of the “spiritually awakened” community have become avid, obsessive conspiracy theorists. In the same breath they’ll tell you that racism/sexism/pollution isn’t real, but that the former President is a lizard with a microchip in his brain and that YouTube Agents are out to get them personally. They’ll ignore the signs of abuse in the young people in their community, but tell you about a celebrity cabal of p*****philes (especially among the LGBTQ+ community and including everyone from Hilary Duff to Michelle Obama) that can only be taken down by one Tonald Drump (Despite his own s*xual abuse allegations).

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But at the same time, I get it. Because a huge amount of adult “spiritual” folk WERE those children once who went unloved, who didn’t feel smart, were divorcees or corporate burnouts who came to spiritual practice for solace & guidance. And when someone (psychopathic) comes along and says “Oooh THIS is SECRET CLASSIFIED INFORMATION JUST FOR SMART PEOPLE!”, they fall right into it. It feels good to be special and know “secret information” for once, right? It’s nice to feel clever. It’s even nice to feel like you have some powerful supporters when you’ve previously felt weird or alone or bullied.

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So it doesn’t matter how horrible, how outrageous, how inhumane or totally disproven the conspiracy is, these people will CLING to it and defend the person that made them feel special, with their LIFE. Because what they’re really clinging to is the belief that finally they are special, smart and they’re in on the secret for once in their life. Which is why they don’t respond like adults.

I asked one “if you are so obsessed with this elite p*****phile ring, why don’t you turn in that p*****phile neighbour of yours? Why don’t you become a children’s social worker & help them? Or maybe a fundraiser for a children’s therapy clinic? Or join the Emergency Services?“


They weren’t interested in doing any of those things other than telling me over and over again that “they knew the secret!”.

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But I realised it wasn’t about saving children, to them. It wasn’t about anything but *their* wounded inner child howling “pick me!” which was a red flag to a bull for those who would take advantage. And when left alone on the Internet, without the constant schooling that explains how things like algorithms, Internet safety, advertising platforms, clickbait, non-peer-reviewed-sources and how bots work... well, down the rabbit hole they go and out they come as a hardcore, extremist conspiracist. And there’s so many in the spiritual community because it IS a haven for the vulnerable.

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I don’t know how to cure that generation of conspiracists. But I do know it’s incredibly important in the spiritual community that we address our own inner child, our own childhoods, fears, traumas, neglect (even privileges) so that we remain grounded, healed adults who can’t become weaponised for our vulnerability & technical lack of know-how.


Self-care is PARAMOUNT. Not just bubble baths & pedicures but real, deep, self-loving that repairs the soul. Therapy, journaling, volunteer work, accountability. We will create a spiritual community of humans that can heal themselves and each other more effectively.

Let's talk about a word that gets really misused and misunderstood in dialogues about equality. The word is:

"OFFENSIVE".


One of the easiest ways to parlay a request for justice into a no-holds-barred comment section whinge-fest, is to describe a group as 'easily offended' or a perpetrator as 'offensive'.


Offensive, as a word, says a whole lot of nothing. What it does connote, is privilege. If you are offended by something, it doesn't actually cause physical or emotional harm so much as it does displease your finer, less-urgent needs such as the need for recognition or friendship.


What a lot of people misunderstand is the difference between what is 'offensive' and what is actually, quantifiably racist, sexist or abusive.


The answer can be found by asking a question: Is this comment or action, systematic? Do I (or the person making the gesture) hold a higher level of historical, hierarchical power than the person on the receiving end?

When something is offensive, it is unpleasant, hurtful and may be gross or cruel behaviour. Where it becomes racist/sexist/abusive, is at the point where the offensive action becomes part of a system of unpleasant, hurtful, gross or cruel behaviour towards a group of people. Racism, sexism and abuse have scientifically, quantifiably measurable results on the groups that they effect. So the weight of an 'offensive' comment or action actually has the force of that system behind it, to harm or even kill a person.


Let me give you an example.


I could call our Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, a bone-headed doofus with a face like a dropped souffle. Offensive? Yes! Hurtful? Yes! Gross and unpleasant? Absolutely.


However, despite the 'offensiveness' of my comment, it does not have any systemic weight behind it. That is, the Prime Minister holds much more power than I do: He is a wealthy, white Christian male and therefore, statistically, in the top 2% of privileged groups in Australian society. He has a full-time security team, he has legal and social support that I don't have; and in effect, a comment like this would not in any way restrict Morrison's access to healthcare, employment, money or safety; nor would it incite others to violence toward him.




So that's an example of something offensive.


I reference now, the people who called Aboriginal sportsman Adam Goodes an 'ape'. Historically, and until very recently, BIPOC in Western countries were medically and legally considered to be 'sub-human', 'flora and fauna' (that is, animals) or 'cattle'. These medical and legal classifications were used to systemically kill, torture, enslave, rape, steal land, humiliate and decimate Indigenous communities, people, languages and practices as well as colonise their native land.


So already, the word 'ape' has huge historical weight. What we also know is that BIPOC (epecially Aboriginals in Australia) suffer from police brutality, reduced access to quality education, price-gouged food, poorer healthcare, little to no mental health support or reparations made for two full centuries of trauma. So not only has that word 'ape' been used as a weapon for over two centuries, it had the power to strip an Indigenous person of their social support, their home, their family or even their life. The systems in place that equated Aboriginals with 'apes' were the ones that murdered and displaced them. The football fans that called Goodes this slur are among those whose money goes into funding the game of football: so, by dint of being Anglo-Australian and ticketholders, they hold power and influence over Goodes livelihood, along with the historical and ongoing trauma of the colonial Australian legal and medical systems I've described.


In more complex social hierarchy, the 'face' of the 'Ape incident' was shown to be a young white female, who - while no doubt having learned the phrase from her parents - historically, takes precedence in social hierarchies over black males. For more information we can look at the case of teenager Emmett Till and others in the USA, who were brutally lynched on false testimony of white women. Studies in the US, UK and Australia show that in perceived social hierarchies, white men occupy the top role and power positions, while black women - followed by black men - occupy the bottom. So in public opinion, the words and privilege of this white female child are seen to be more valuable than of the Aboriginal man, adding even more weight and systemic cruelty to the slur, along with putting Goodes at risk of losing his income and danger of incurring violence if he were in any way to respond.


That isn't merely 'offensive', it's racist, abusive and injust. Because the word 'ape' is part of a centuries old system to kill, starve, harm and abuse Indigenous people.


Can you see the difference?




An easy way to derail conversations about anti-racism, and funnily enough, one employed by racists, is to suggest that survivors of racism are 'feeling offended'.


Likewise, its an easy and dismissive cop-out to apologise “for causing offence” when the person has actually committed harm.


This is important: When you read this, correct them.



When a person or group ask for justice, they are not asking because they are 'offended', or because what was said or done was 'offensive'. When you write about survivors of injustice, don't write 'they were offended', write that injustice occurred against them. If you are in a position of societal privilege (note I said societal privilege, not how privileged you consider yourself to be; it's not a statement on your own personal struggles or a suggestion that your life has been easy), then understand that your words have more weight and multiple systemic powers against people at the other end of the privilege spectrum


In short: Offensiveness is just you, on your own, being a dickhead. Injustice is when a whole system is behind you, enabling you to cause harm to life and livelihood.



For today's homework, let's have a look at what is commonly called 'cancel culture'.


Cancel culture is the new name for the wave of firings and cancellations of significant executives and celebrities when evidence is found that they have been racist, sexist or abusive. Think Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, R Kelly, Iggy Azalea, Lana del Rey, Alison Roman and various powerful editors (I almost wrote 'idiots' which may be more apt) of the New York Times and other publications.


I've seen a lot of powerful people recently talking about how afraid they are of 'cancel culture', how scared they are of 'making one tiny mistake and losing everything they've ever worked for'.


Cancel culture, however, is a myth, and it's important to understand why.


There are statistics to show that less than 20% of racist incidents at work are recorded (despite being reported). When studying prominent corporate executives that have lost their jobs in 2016-2019 from racist incidents, each executive had an average of three unique prior complaints made before action was taken. There are statistics to show that it takes approximately eight reports of domestic violence made before charges and a conviction will be made. There are statistics to say that of every 1000 sexual assaults reported, four thousand sexual assaults were actually committed, only three perpetrators will be convicted, only one will serve more than three months jail.


Anecdotally: Every single woman I know, for their own safety, has quit a job, avoided a job role or left a community place (such as a gym, library, medical centre or tertiary class) because of unavoidable verbal, sexual or physical harassment.


Every single BIPOC (that is, Black and Indigenous People of Colour) that I know, for their own safety, has quit a job, avoided a role, or left a community place because of unavoidable racism, ostracision or discrimination.

Every single LGBTQI+ person I know, for their own safety, has quit a job, avoided a job role or left a community place because of unavoidable homophobia, discrimination or harassment.


In short: The victims, not the perpetrators, have been forced to 'cancel themselves' out of income, promotions, education, and opportunities, for many decades, in order to escape abuse and mistreatment. I have, more than once. (I would stretch this too to include BIPOC and minority allies who often become targets for abuse after supporting victims).


Cancel culture has been running rampant and unabated for a long time in our offices, our classes, our creative industries. The only thing that has changed in modern 'cancel culture' is that it is the people that have, statistically, committed multiple acts of racism, sexism or abuse before being caught, are the ones losing their immense and not-deserved privilege.


There is a saying 'to whom much is given, much is expected'. It's not unreasonable that an editor (on a salary of $163,000 p/a, more than six times the average national salary) in charge of a newspaper that reaches 130 million people monthly, should be held to a reasonably high standard of fairness and behaviour.


Cancel culture is not to be feared. For every op-ed bemoaning 'cancel culture', there are thousands of BIPOC or LGBTQI+ or female journalists with skills and stories to tell. There are thousands of musicians, thousands of would-be politicians, businesspeople, interns, singers, dancers, yoga teachers, sportspeople, writers, hospital staff, retail workers, chefs and every type of human being that is more than qualified, capable and ready to step into those roles without being abusive, racist, sexist or discriminatory.



© 2019 by Kelsey Avalon. All Rights Reserved. All medical, financial and legal enquiries must be directed to your prescribing medical health professional or legal representative.