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Be Happy Self-Help

Don’t Put a Label on Me!

Don’t Put a Label on Me. Don’t put me into a box and stick a label on it before you even get the chance to know me. I am not the same person I was when I was 20, 30, 40 years old. I am the sum total of my genetics, my upbringing, but also the books I read, the countries I traveled to, the ups and downs that came on my path. I can be reliable and predictable and also spontaneous and unpredictable. I respect people and choose not to worship them. I am a giver but I need to give myself enough time and space to advance my interests too. I am nice and lovely, but I can be dangerous too. Today I can decide to be as exuberant and as colorful as I want and tomorrow, I can decide to be as dull as the grey sky if I feel like it. I don’t gossip, but I read and write. I am all of that and more and a constant work-in-progress. So please, don’t put a label on me.

Don’t put a label on me. The problem with stereotypes.

Don’t put a label on me – Photo by Yarruta via freepik.com

A stereotype is defined as a simplification of reality, a rigid categorizing – and often discriminatory – representation. A stereotype is a fixed, overgeneralized belief about a particular group or class of people. By stereotyping, we infer that a person has a whole range of characteristics and abilities that we assume all members of that group have.

Stereotypes are like air, invisible but always present.

Unknown Author

For example, saying that women have no sense of direction, that girls suck at math or that football is a man’s sport, are stereotypes. Stereotypes can be positive or negative. Negative stereotypes about women and minority groups are easy to spot, more pernicious are the positive ones, such as men are not in touch with their emotions, black people are good athletes. They don’t seem so pernicious because their content is complementary, but stereotypes are bad even when they are good.

“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

Adichi Chimaamanda

Stereotypes can be linked to any type of cultural membership, such as nationality, religion, gender, race, or age, but it is important to note that there is a difference between cultural generalizations and stereotypes. Cultural generalizations allow us to understand the patterns of cultures to which one belongs (nation, age, gender, etc…) and it provides the basis on which one can understand other cultures. Cultural generalizations involve categorizing members of the same group as having similar characteristics. Generalizations are flexible and allow for the incorporation of new cultural information. They are a type of hypothesis or guess, of what we expect to encounter when we interact with a certain culture; and this is a good thing.

Generalization is a concept that is flexible and can subsequently lead to increased cultural awareness and thereby improve intercultural relationships. Generalizations become stereotypes when all members of a group are categorized as having the same characteristics. Stereotypes are typically inflexible and resistant to new information. They can, and often do lead to prejudice and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Cultural stereotypes do not allow for individual differences and interfere with efforts to understand an individual on a personal level.

Stereotypes make us lazy and encourage nonchalant judgment because we assume things about people based on stereotypes. It drives and nourishes racism, sexism, and all form of discrimination. I have a strong aversion to labels and being put into a box and I don’t allow people to do that to me. As soon as someone puts a label on you or throw you into a specific box, you lose your identity as a unique and free individual who may or may not fit into that stereotype, and who is free to be whoever they want to be.

Don’t put a label on me. The problem with being put into a box.

Don’t put a label on me – Photo by Yarruta via freepik.com

The problem with being put into a box with a label on it is that it considerably restricts your freedom to think and act the way you want. We are all unique and different from each other. What makes us different is not the color or our skin or our geography, it is the fact that there isn’t another person like us anywhere else. All around us, there are spheres of authority always dictating what we should do, how we should act, and what we ought not to do. Aside from the formal structure like laws, there are also informal powers dictating our actions lifestyles, speech, thought patterns, education, cultural upbringing, religion, politics, etc… This invisible current forces us to travel a certain path, act a certain way, and be a certain type of person. Much of our individualistic tendencies do not develop as freely as we think because we have to conform to societal expectations of ourselves and stay well within the groupthink model.

The next question you should ask yourself is who has an interest in putting people into a box and stick a label on it? People who seek power and control do thrive on sticking a label on you. Because it is easier to control people this way. Once you belong to a certain box you are expected to walk on a straight and narrow line. Venturing outside that path is frown upon. Dissenting views and actions are not allowed because dissent is being viewed as being disloyal to the group. Nowadays if your thoughts and ideas are not in line with the rest of the group you will have to face the new social media Thought Police, because the chance is you are going to get canceled and censored. From a difference of opinion, you can quickly move to fragments of intolerance to violent factions. And just like that you have a 1984-Dystopian-type of society where it is not very pleasant to live in and where Big Brother is watching you all the time with the Thought Police ready to storm in and take you away.

This phenomenon is very much into your face in the political arena, where everything is partisan, and where groupthink ideas are shoved down your throat. The ideas of the group are sacrosanct even if they go against your personal interest because the group knows what’s best for you. When you submit to the group you acquiesce to everything that the group asks you to do. You don’t have to use your ears, your mouth, or your brain anymore. The group tells you where to look and what to see. And if you dare to look the other way and start questioning things, they tell you what you are seeing is not what you are seeing and they proceed to interpret what is going on for you.

One way to free ourselves from the shackle of societal restrictions that impede the originality and flexibility of each person would be to develop our individualism and sense of freedom. Freedom of expression is the lifeblood and cornerstone of a free society, without the freedom to think and express ourselves freely, there is no free society. So, we’d better start thinking for ourselves quickly before it becomes illegal. Don’t get all romantic about your ideas or the ideas that the group promotes. You are not married to those ideas. Some ideas are good and others not so good. Stay free to adhere to the ideas that are congruent with your outlook in life and toss aside anything that makes you uncomfortable.

People should be able to stand for what they think is right. They should be able to fight for what is honorable and acceptable and they should have the freedom to reject what is slimy and unacceptable. The problem these days is that everyone believes that they hold the absolute truth of the matter; except that no one can legitimately claim to have such clarity of mind that they know the absolute truth. Truth is a very fluid concept, what’s true today may not be true tomorrow.

Things change all the time. It is perfectly fine to have strong convictions about this and that, but you should do this with humility. You should hold those convictions and make them contingent on whatever facts, data, arguments, life experience, etc… that come your way with the result that your original convictions can be shaken and made less potent.

You can stand your ground and be open-minded enough to seek common ground. And, don’t try to put a label on me, because I won’t let you.

Joanne Reed

And this my dear friend is your Quest.

Personal Note

DDI Chat – Personal Growth – One-to-one Chat with Joanne Reed

In addition to publishing my articles on my website, I have also been publishing on Medium. I have been working closely for the past months with Data-Driven Investor (DDI) Publication.  DDI has recently launched a new marketplace/platform where people can book a paid one-to-one session with an expert of their choice.  DDI asked me to join their panel of advisors/experts in the Leadership, Coaching, and Personal Growth category.  Here is my profile. If you wish to book a one-to-one chat with me you can do so on this platform.

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com

Categories
Self-Help

Stop Asking for Permission When You Don’t Have To.

To seek or not to seek permission? I say, stop asking for permission when you don’t have to.

From the day we are born, we spend our life asking permission for everything. It starts with our parents, our teachers, our boss, our spouse, or our leader, and it goes on and on. I say, stop asking for permission when you don’t have to. We grow up with a host of ingrained ideas about what we’re permitted to do or not do. As a child, we have to ask permission from our parents to ride our bikes to town. When in school, we have to raise our hands and ask the teacher permission to speak or to go to the toilet. At work, we have to ask our boss and HR department permission to go on sick leave when we are feeling unwell.

Being compliant, obedient, and asking for permission might serve us well in a civilized society as we learn how to control our wants and desires; but the irony and eventual quiet tragedy of that is that in some instances, our wants and desires might not have a possessor, a licensor or a permit giver. It may lie outside the realms of ownership. There may be broad indifference to whether we act in some way or not. There may be no law and no one to be upset by our move. The desired thing in question might just belong to whoever dares to step forward and take it. There’s no formal procedure, it’s just the courage to imagine it could be yours. The reason why certain ideas haven’t happened isn’t necessarily because they are silly, but because there is a strong and always surprising lack of originality in human conduct.

We are creatures of tradition, systems, rules, and regulations and we are conditioned to think that we need permission for everything and to act within the confines of what is permitted. For most of human history, it was customary to believe that permission to do anything had to be sought from the gods and superior forces that governed the cosmos. We may assume we don’t share this primitive characteristic, but our underlying attitude – in its essential form – suggests we do. We don’t quite know whom we are asking, and we can’t say precisely what approval looks like, but in an archaic part of our minds, we’re still waiting to be given endorsement for our most cherished plans. I say, stop asking permission when you don’t have to.

We want to know from some potent but undefined source that if we act this way, we’ll still be good people, that we won’t be punished that this is allowed, that we won’t bring retribution on ourselves or trouble from the Universe. Our culture is fascinated by inventors and artists who struck out on their own, went strongly against the tide of current opinion, and was eventually vindicated even if only after their deaths. We get excited by the stories of their lives because we unconsciously find in them something that’s missing in us: a bold indifference to permission, a reminder of our lack of courage and timidity.

Stop asking for permission when you don’t have to. You don’t need permission to think the way you think

Stop asking for permission when you don’t have to. Photo by Wayhome studio via freepik.com

In the Dystopian Novel 1984 written by George Orwell, the Thought Police (Thinkpol) are the secret police of the superstate of Oceania, who discover and punish Though Crime, personal and political thoughts unapproved by the regime. Thinkpol uses criminal psychology and omnipresent surveillance via informers, telescreens cameras, and microphones to monitor the citizens of Oceania and arrest all those who have committed Thought Crime in challenge to the status quo authority of the Party and the regime of Big Brother.

Democratic societies assert unequivocally that freedom of expression is part of our human rights. The First Amendment of the US Constitution largely protects Americans from the creepy authoritarian systems found in 1984 and so does the Human Rights Act; Article 10 of the Human Rights Act protects your right to hold your own opinions and express them freely without government interference. This includes the right to express your views aloud (for example through public protest and demonstrations) or through published articles, books or leaflets, television or radio broadcasting, works of arts, the internet, and social media.

Sadly, the scenario envisaged in Orwell’s book 1984 seems to be more reality than fiction. The new Thought Police are Big Tech and the rise of Cancel Culture. We will have to decide as a collective if seeking conformity of thought or language through public shaming is healthy or suffocating. Condoning the censorship road that is being taken by Big Tech is likely to be the road that takes us straight to that place called Tyranny.

“When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing. When you see, that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favor. When you see that men get richer more easily by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them but protect them against you. When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – You may know that your society is doomed” Extract from Atlas shrugged Ayn Rand (1905 to 1982) – Novelist, philosopher, and screenwriter.

Ayn Rand

History is full of examples of crazy things you won’t believe used to be legal, slavery being one of them. We tend to think of the law as an obvious truth, the reality is that society pretty much makes things up as we go along. Thank goodness, we can rely on Natural Law which is a superior law to the Law of the State to save us from tyranny. Some big thinkers spent time thinking about this concept.

Aristotle is often said to be the father of Natural Law. The Natural Law thesis holds that if a human law fails to be backed up by decisive reason, then it is not a proper law at all. This is captured in the maxim “an unjust law is no law at all”. In his treatise Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes expressed a view of Natural Law as a general rule, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life or takes away the means of preserving the same. According to Emanuel Kant, in a free society, each individual must be able to pursue their goals however they see fit as long as their actions conform to principles governed by reason.

Thomas More’s refusal to acknowledge King Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon lead him to be imprisoned and put on trial for treason. During his last remarks to court – defending himself in his trial for treason and knowing in advance his fate of being found guilty for his refusal to assert in writing that the King was the Head of the Church, he made the following arguments to the jury :

“Some men say the Earth is flat and some men say the Earth is round. But if it is flat, could Parliament make it round? And if it is round, could the King’s command flatten it?”

Thomas More

What Thomas More so eloquently expressed during his trial was that the Laws of Nature will force the government to exercise a certain restraint. There is a limit to what a government and/or parliament can legitimately do. That limit is set by Natural Law. Extract from Chapters 7 & 10 of This Is Your Quest.

You don’t need permission to be enlightened or to act with reason

Stop asking for permission when you don’t have to. Photo by Wayhome studio via freepik.com

The 18th century was a period known as the Enlightenment, another term used in the Age of Reason. The concept of a social contract, limited government, consent of the governed, and the separation of power started making an impact on people. New beliefs started spreading such as “all men are created equal” and “a king has no divine rights.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right in 1762. His thinking was that humans are essentially free, but over time they become less and less free because of the mere fact that they live in a society. It is only natural in society to see a ruler emerge and to attract followers, who would happily give up their liberty to be under the ruler’s protection. The question that Jean-Jacques Rousseau asked himself was: “How can we be free and live together without being overpowered by the force and coercion of others? The answer he came up with was: “through a social contract.”

A social contract is a process whereby people will come together and agree to form a new single body called the Sovereign. The Sovereign’s mission is to act for the good of all the people and its critical element is the element of reciprocity. The Sovereign is committed to the good of the individuals who constitute it and each individual is likewise committed to the good of the whole. In the American colonies, more and more people were being influenced by this concept and started to believe that they weren’t receiving their end of the bargain and, gradually started to think that it was their duty to rebel against and disobey laws that were viewed unjustly. The American Revolution began in 1775; the root cause of the revolution can be found in the way Great Britain treated its colony, as some kind of faraway outpost, whose sole purpose was to provide for the needs of Great Britain, and for the American people to be subject to and subservient to the will and power of the Crown.

So, please stop asking for permission when you don’t have to. There is a whole raft of things that fall outside the realms of ownership. Not all our wants and desires need to have a possessor, a licensor, or a permit giver.

And this my dear friend, is Your Quest.

Personal Note

DDI Chat – Personal Growth – One-to-one Chat with Joanne Reed

In addition to publishing my articles on my website, I have also been publishing on Medium. I have been working closely for the past months with Data-Driven Investor (DDI) Publication.  DDI has recently launched a new marketplace/platform where people can book a paid one-to-one session with an expert of their choice.  DDI asked me to join their panel of advisors/experts in the Leadership, Coaching, and Personal Growth category.  Here is my profile. If you wish to book a one-to-one chat with me you can do so on this platform.

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com

Categories
Self-Help Uncategorized

A Story About Freedom Within the COnfine of Reunion Island

I wrote the first draft of this article – A story about freedom within the confine of Réunion Island – in our little hideaway cabin up the hills where my youngest daughter and I spent our week of quarantine (called septaine here as it only lasts 7 days). The year 2020-2021 would be remembered as the year of lock-down, confinement, curfew, quarantine. Never in our modern history has our freedom of movement been so restrained, albeit justified for public health reasons. This is not an article about the pros and cons of restrictions imposed for public health reasons, it is a story about freedom within the confine of Réunion Island; it is the story of some brave souls from Réunion Island who fought in the most admirable manner to free themselves from their shackles. This article is also the perfect excuse for me to introduce you to Réunion Island, where I was born and where my family lives.

A story about Reunion

Réunion island, or in French ‘Ile de la Réunion’, is a smallish island situated east of Madagascar and about 175km southwest of Mauritius. It’s a volcanic island, like Hawaii, with a mountainous interior and a population of about 1 million people. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s not unusual, it’s typically only known by sailors and stamp collectors. The island is famous for a number of things including the first Euro Transaction, occasional – but very heavy rain, and one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

A story about the First Euro transaction

Réunion Island is a French Department and because of its geographical position is the most easterly part of the eurozone. The Island was the first European territory to handle the Euro currency when it was introduced in 2002. The mayor of St Denis (the Capital city) purchased a kilo of lychees after a brief barter with a local stallholder.

A story about Rainfall

For the most part, Réunion Island has a mild tropical climate, but it is in the hurricane belt (here it’s called, cyclone belt) and when it rains, oh boy, it rains. Réunion has set a number of records for the highest rainfall measured including the official 24-hour rainfall record (1,825 mm or 71.85”) during a tropical storm in 1952 and the 48-hour rainfall record (2,467 mm, or 97.13”) at Cilaos, which has sadly – or happily- now been beaten. Have you ever wonder what is the difference between hurricanes and cyclones? It is just a question of geography. A tropical storm system is called a hurricane in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific and is called a cyclone in the Northern Indian Ocean.

A story about a very active volcano!

Life is an adventure. Out and about with an active Volcano in my sight – Photo taken by Alize Reed – Piton de la Fournaise – Réunion Island

Piton de la Fournaise, or Furnace Peak in English, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, along with Kilauea in the Hawaiian Islands, Stromboli, and Etna in Italy, and Mount Erebus in Antarctica. The volcano is a major tourist attraction and offers some excellent hiking and scenery.

Since 2010, the Piton de la Fournaise has been a member of a very exclusive club as one of the natural assets listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for their outstanding universal value. It is an honor that it shares with the island’s other volcano, the Piton des Neiges which culminates at 3070 meters and which is a dormant volcano. For the past 10 years, the Piton de la Fournaise has erupted on average every 9 months, fortunately without endangering the islanders. Not many volcanoes can boast such exuberant activity.

The latest eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise started on 9th April 2021 and is still going on as I speak. I went for a hike with some of my local friends to the volcano site to have a closer look. We saw the fumes coming out of some craters, we couldn’t see the flow of lava from our viewpoint but we were told that there was a tunnel of lava still running underneath. The whole volcano site is surreal, very out of this world kind of scenery.

A story about freedom

Coming back to the main topic of this article – a story about freedom within the confine of Réunion Island, slavery was used widely in the French colonies in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. The French slave trade began in the 15th century, not for use within mainland France, although France’s northern ports were heavily used to trade and ship slaves, but in the French colonies, where sugar accounted for 80% of exports. Slaves from Africa were brought into the colonies to cultivate sugar cane. Regulatory measures constantly governed the supervision of slaves, the control of their labor, their movements, any possible activities by them outside the plantations, and events in their personal lives.

These regulations allowed extensive freedom to plantation owners regarding the range of punishment they could administer to their slaves. Slaves were subjected to physical and emotional abuse on a daily basis. The phenomenon of resistance on the part of the slaves, individually or collectively, has been the focus of relatively little research. Yet, slaves in the French colonies resisted their plight in the most varied and admirable ways.

They attempted to escape on a regular basis (a phenomenon known in French as “marronnage” escaping the plantations in coastal areas to find refuge in the mountains where they remained hidden in the hope that the plantation owner would eventually give up looking for them. The word “marron” originates from the Spanish word “cimarron” which means “to escape.”

On Réunion Island, historical accounts reveal stories of the Black- Marrons taking great risks to escape to the mountains, preferring to live as free men in precarious conditions rather than staying at the plantation under the bondage of a brutal plantation owner. Those who successfully escaped established semi-permanent camps in the mountains. Once a small group of trusted companions had settled and had organized themselves, they conducted regular raids on the plantations to steal weapons, tools, food, seeds, and farm animals (chickens); they also brought back with them their women and children.

Eventually, the Black-Marrons successfully managed to grow their own food, raise farm animals and create a new community of free men, women, and children up in the mountains. The plantation owners were terrified of these raids which were becoming more and more frequent. They started manhunts for the Black-Marrons and offered hunters 30 Livres per “catch” dead or alive. Hunters had to bring as proof of a “catch” (in order to claim their prize) the severed left-hand of the Black-Marron they had just killed. Hunters were free to capture or kill men, women, and children alike. Despite this brutal repression against the Black-Marrons not all of them were captured or killed and the most resilient managed to keep living as free men and women in the mountains until slavery was abolished.

The Black-Marrons became legends in their own right; nowadays, if you go hiking on Réunion Island, you will come across several mountain peaks that are named after them, amongst them, Dimitile, Cimendef, Mafate, and Anchaing. One of the most notorious of those Black-Marrons was a slave known by the name of Cimendef. After his escape to the mountains, Cimendef created a new identity for himself. Originally from Madagascar, he created a name from the words “tsi” meaning “non” in Malagasy and “mandevi” meaning “slave” – so, Cimendef means “non-slave.” Through his new name, he wanted to show everyone his will to live as a free man. Slavery was abolished in France and its former colonies in 1848.

There is a policy of organized forgetfulness of the past that suits the agenda of the rulers, the people in power. History is written from the perspective of the victors and not the oppressed, whose role in their own liberation is often forgotten or downplayed. Historical accounts have found a way of denying centuries of resistance by slaves and the role they played in resisting oppression and pursuing their freedom. Historical accounts tend to attribute the happy resolution of a very shameful episode in history to a particular government or piece of legislation; while forgetting the acts of resistance that were carried out by the slaves themselves and the oppressed, who fought bravely for their inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is worth pointing out here that despite what most people believe slavery should not be automatically associated with ethnicity. Slavery has existed since the beginning of time; the color of someone’s skin was not a key factor to determine whether that person could find himself in the unfortunate position of being a slave. Those who became slaves were chosen because of their vulnerability compared to another dominant group and not because of the color of their skin. Since the beginning of times, Europeans enslaved other Europeans, Asians enslaved other Asians, Africans enslaved other Africans and Arabs enslaved other Arabs. A slave is a person who is the chattel or property of another. The etymology of the word “slave” finds its origin in the medieval Latin word “sclavus,” originally “Slav” because of the many Slavs sold into slavery by conquering people.

Of all the tragic facts about the history of slavery, the most astonishing to an American today is that, although slavery was a worldwide institution for thousands of years, nowhere in the world was slavery a controversial issue prior to the 18th century. People of every race and color were enslaved and enslaved others. White people were still being bought and sold as slaves in the ottoman empire, decades after American blacks were freed. The region of WestAfrica was one of the great slave-trading regions of the continent before, during, and after the white man arrived. It was the Africans who enslaved their fellow Africans, selling some of these slaves to Europeans or to Arabs and keeping others for themselves. In East Africa, Arabs were the leading slave raiders, ranging over an area larger than all of Europe; slavery is often and wrongly associated with ethnicity and skin color. This practice was an accepted fact of the society of the time on the basis that the strongest has the right of appropriation over the weakest.

Thomas Sowell

This article is dedicated to all the people who have been oppressed and have suffered injustice and who have found the courage to resist oppression and somehow free themselves from their shackles.

For a more detailed analysis of this subject, I invite you to check Chapter 7 of my book “This Is Your Quest.”

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

The audio version of my book “This Is your Quest ” is available. Feel free to check it out and use this special Promotion code