Friday, January 10, 2014

Appearances Are Everything

I gave birth to my children in the infancy of women’s and other civil rights enforcement.  Strange as it may sound to Millenials, when my children left home there was no way to track them or intervene if they were in trouble. (There were no personal computers or cell phones back then.) My children were at the mercy of strangers, which was one of my greatest fears. Too many strangers prey on the vulnerable, especially the children. It was difficult keeping them safe from predators, and I may never know if I was wholly successful, but here are the things I learned, in my 62 years about staying safe:

We like to say that people should not "judge a book by its cover" but that is exactly how our animal instincts decide what we want to give our attention to. What else do we know about anything when we first encounter it than how it appears to us, and whether the appearance is included in our worldview of shoulds. We cover our scents with all manner of decoy aromas, so we even handicap what is a basic bonding ingredient in other animals.

In small communities, shoulds are based on what is available within the community. As we have become more global in our access to others, the boundaries have become increasingly blurred. This seems to have made people more, not less, nervous about each other. "Declare your clan," groups all seem to be saying, but declaring your clan can seriously limit your opportunities to expand your experience. People will automatically assume many stereotypical things about you.

It is interesting and enlightening (sometimes even dangerous) to enter unfamiliar communities without a guide to run interference for you. In small towns the tribal lines seem to be drawn around family, school, and church affiliations. In any given city, there are many tribal lines that one doesn't want to cross without an interpreter, and possibly a posse, for protection. The higher the profile of the visitor, the less likely that the visitor will be viewed favorably. 

High profile indicates to the animals instincts of others that we are in competition with the reigning leaders. This may be why famous people are always seen with a group of seeming acolytes. The Jesus story is a prime example of this phenomenon. He was simply not willing to act the way a Jewish man of his group and generation should. In a backlash against feminism, many men are increasing their efforts to behave as their most animal instincts dictate.  High profile women, especially, must take proper precautions.

It is easy to get discouraged when attempting to bond with others when most of the others look at you as if you have three heads. Often, you have to simply put on the costume of the community and hope that nobody notices that we are only pretending to know their songs. This really doesn't work well for high profile “foreigners,” so it is always best to walk with others who have your back.

What's a wanderer to do? 

Dress like the "natives." Whoever was on the turf first, "owns" the turf, even if only for that minute. It is up to the one entering the area to put the "owner" at ease. It is important to ease your way into new situations by allowing people to relax upon first encountering you. 

Animals in the wild often have camouflage for just this reason. What you wear is not who you are. It is of utmost importance that we understand that in order to not create fear in those we encounter. No matter how sophisticated human society gets, we are all animals underneath our human camouflage. Fear creates anger, and anger creates violence. Once people get to know you, you can appear any way you like.

Make sure you live only with those who have your back and will advocate for (protect) you. Put on your emotional body armor before you leave the house, no matter for how short a time you'll be away. Do this by insisting on daily affirmations from those with whom you live, even if your only housemates have four legs. Take a talisman that represents your safe place, pets, or people with you to hold when you feel afraid. Stay in communication distance with someone you can count on when in trouble. 

Hikers and boaters file plans for their trips with people who can come rescue them if they don't arrive when they say they will. It is always good to have others know where you plan to be and when to expect your return. Paying for a service, such as AAA, is a valid measure for self-protection. Social media is great for staying in constant communication with allies when on the move. 

In order to make a difference, we must stay alive. Keep yourselves safe.