Pandemic Isolation and Solitary Confinement

Connection Aug 23, 2023

Replying to @misfitdolly video not directed at comment/commenter. Solitary confinement is a uniquely brutal experience. As a white person who hasn't experienced incarceration or institutionalization, I won't use that term when speaking about isolation from the pandemic. I think we have to be careful to not use terms that other severely oppressed people need to describe their unique experiences. vd: white nonbinary person with short red hair in pony, glasses, and cutoff black t shirt

♬ original sound - Cakelin Fable

I made a few intentional choices in this video.

Before I share them I want to remind people there's no right way to do things. We misunderstand evolution when we say "survival of the fittest". Evolution is about many ways to do the same thing (survive), not the best way. Or we would only have one super-species. I hope nobody wants that for humanity.

We all have this intention-action gap, where we struggle to follow through on our best intentions. This is so human. Mistakes are human and I will make them.

I am speaking out of my depth of experience, so I took a pause for a few days and drafted the video. There's no rush. It takes the time it takes.

I led with humanity. I didn't share Anthony Ray Hinton's race but you could guess it from the story. Psychological research is flawed, but some studies have shown stories can decrease bias when you share the oppressed identity at the end. They can increase bias when you lead with it.

Similarly, I try to avoid heavy language. Like jargon, which is kinda silly because jargon itself feels like a rarely used word. I'm a former academic and I also grew up rural and working class. People don't respond well when they feel like they can't understand or that they are being talked down to. This is one of my biggest issues with the left.

Academics are trained, for example, to write in a very dry, passive, and jargon-filled way, as a sign of our intellect and seriousness. Because it is hard to understand academic writing and it’s only really taught within the academy, being able to follow it becomes a sign you “belong.” But hard-to-understand writing is, by definition, less effective writing. Similarly, the business world relies on hyperspecific jargon and a variety of sports metaphors, which can leave those unfamiliar with its macho culture and communication style quite excluded. Tearing down barriers like these is essential to building a diverse, fluid community that is capable of evolution and growth.
Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity by Devon Price

I use a lot of words that center choice or I directly ask questions. My sankalpa or life intention is "I am a question".

I am trying to build my capacity for potentially looking worse but doing better. It feels good as a white person to call yourself an ally or to lead with pointing out white supremacy in others. You can feel right. And being right is comfortable. Being uncomfortable is an invitation.

I felt uncomfortable making that video about solitary confinement, because I did not lead with anti-racism. I was worried people would misunderstand my intentions. I can work with that discomfort.

Namely, false accusations of harm are used to avoid acknowledgment of complicity in creating conflict and instead escalate normative conflict to the level of crisis. This choice to punish rather than resolve is a product of distorted thinking, and relies on reinforcement of negative group relationships, when instead these ideologies should be actively challenged. Through this overstatement of harm, false accusations are used to justify cruelty, while shunning keeps information from entering into the process. Resistance to shunning, exclusion, and unilateral control, while necessary, are mischaracterized as harm and used to re-justify more escalation towards bullying, state intervention, and violence. Emphasizing communication and repair, instead of shunning and separation, is the key to transforming these paradigms.
Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair by Sarah Schulman

I don't think most white leftists or white anti-racists are ready to discuss how we use anti-racism to shame and shun other white people instead of doing the work together. Sometimes we overstate harm so we can feel more protective or victimized. This is existing on the drama triangle of rescuer/savior, perpetrator or victim. We cling to victim and rescuer so we can avoid ever seeing ourselves as perpetrators of harm. Casting ourselves in these roles limits everyone's agency. It keeps us stuck.

Part of feeling uncomfortable is identity. I'm not an ally or an accomplice. I don't use identity labels like ACAB or BLM. I call myself white in my profile. It's a shared responsibility for white people to do better and to help each other do better. So I claim whiteness overall. I think terms like abolitionist need to be continually earned through action.

In most situations I do not think Black, Indigenous and other people of color need me to lead with protection and violence. They don't need me to "help" them. It is better to work on or with other white people and white systems.

Similarly, I don't share details about solitary confinement to show how different it is from pandemic isolation. Because that is not my trauma or story to tell.

One of my theories is that pointing out deeper patterns to people would help them drop defensiveness and become curious about why we act and think the way we do. That's why I am making diagrams about cognition and exploring stories.

I'm trying to do this without ignoring context, so I am using different kinds of stories for the same concept. I also use my personal affirmations within videos like this because context helps affirmations take root.

Our memories are tied to context because human memory retrieval is heavily dependent on the quality of the cues we have available. Cues can be anything: a smell, a sound, a particular object, a thought, or even another memory. Once active in mind, these cues will elicit retrieval of a memory associated with that cue. From an information-retrieval perspective, this is your brain’s bet about the information that will be useful in this context. The better and more specific your cues, the more readily the associated memory will come to mind. In this way, your context can control memory retrieval and make information remembered in that previous context available to you again.
On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done by David Badre

Most recently I talked about mental predictions in the context of covid, if you have experienced health issues. A lot of people can relate to that and disability and chronic illness are lived experience for me. But the underlying concepts still apply to other forms of difference and division, like racism.

Our very perception of the world is affected by context, which is why the rational attempt to contrive universal, context-free laws for human behaviour may be largely doomed.fn2 Even our politics seems to be context-dependent. For instance, ostensibly right-wing people will engage – at a local level – in behaviour that is effectively socialist. A Pall Mall club in London is typically full of rich, right-wing people, yet everyone pays equal membership fees, even though they use the club in wildly different ways. Goldman Sachs, as the author and philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out, is surprisingly socialistic internally: people distribute their gains among a partnership. However, no one there proposes a profit share with JP Morgan; in one context people are happy to share and redistribute wealth, but in another, they definitely aren’t.
Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don't Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

There is some research that shows this indirect approach can also decrease bias, most notably with sci-fi and fantasy.

This video shares a lot of white supremacy characteristics, but it doesn't label them that way. How many can you count if you watch the video again?

I am going for cognitive or mental flexibility. The ability to take in multiple perspectives. I do that at the end of the video, when I mention immunocompromised people being isolated and when we judge others for getting covid because they didn't take precautions. Those aren't equivalent, it's just a perspective shift for different ways we judge each other. That's the common thread I talk about finding.

This has a term, integrative complexity. Again I don't lead with that.

This is why I am openly analyzing my own video. Because we often don't know our own intentions or reasons until afterwards. A practice is just a collection of moments where we try something, it does not have to rule you. And I can see how my practice and exploration from the past few years shows up here.

You might think this strategy is manipulative. I view it as a choice people are making to be influenced. We are currently being manipulated far more by algorithms and systems that profit off our division and hostility.

We need to take that power back.


Cakelin Fable

Polygon gargoyle. Spicy scientist, engineer, artist, and entrepreneur. Disabled, nonbinary, and bisexual. Host of Defective Detective podcast. Buddhist into books. Service dog pup Pepper Ann.

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