Time flies fast enough without a weird, two-year normalcy-suspension.
In that time, we have experienced tough individual and collective journeys which – in addition to the viral threat lurking in every corner of the world – included many types of mental health challenges.
Some of these challenges exposed the many ways we humans have of dealing with an enormously disparate range of freaking out – by ourselves and others.
Our mental health challenges also included trying to make sense…of the world at large, of our individual world, of the people who are close to us and/or who impact our lives constantly, and of the talking heads on the flat screen.
Mental challenges have recently surfaced from people’s reluctance to ‘return to normal’ as they are now more cautious, and stay away from others. One of our most basic, fundamental needs for mental and physical health, however, is a sense of belonging.
Fake news and polarization adds additional soul-crushing factors that push people toward distrust and suspicion.
A frustrating result of our situation is that it is becoming increasingly controversial to even ask questions about the weird state that we are in. “Why?” has shifted from a question expressing curiosity to a challenge of disbelief; tottering on the verge of disrespect.
And we certainly can’t talk about morality.
Never mind the fact that moral issues are at the very foundation of the issues from which we are suffering: such as the fact that we are not able to talk about how we can pursue – together – our most precious values, including care, freedom, decision-making, fairness, self-determination, belief, judgment (including questioning both the ‘smart’ and the ‘fake’ things) and, of course, of all things good, worthy and right. These are all moral considerations, and most of us have deep feelings about what we believe and why we believe it.
The environment is so tense that we can no longer share information that could expand our view, improve our ability to make sense, and relieve our suffering!
Instead of talking through the hard questions of building civilization together, we now turn to ‘experts’ to answer our civic moral questions, even though every type of authority or expert – medical, religious, corporate, scientific, governmental, academic – has shown us that there are no types of experts that are either all-wise or incorruptible. Which ‘experts’ are trustworthy?
It’s no wonder we are not feeling well.
Clearly, it is important to pay attention to how we feel, as well as how – not just what – we think.
Philosophy is at the foundation of morality; which involves most things that we do and decisions that we make…yet we do not study it in school throughout our young lives, like we do with math and testing. Even toddlers grasp the concept of fairness! Philosophy and emotional intelligence studies are vital to learning to live in civil society; they provide the tools we need to build successful relationships and communities. Combining our cognition with our feelings and our beliefs – while also learning how to communicate with care and attention – will give us a well-rounded and ever-expandable toolbox with which we can build a future that works for everyone’s mental health, physical health and community health.
We can see, all around us, what shirking from conversations about morality has rendered.
It’s a critical time for us to talk about how we can keep our children safe in an increasingly scary world. Safety is a moral issue. It is a form of care. Philosopher Nel Noddings argues that care is the foundation of all morality.
We want care, we expect care, we demand care. But how often do we care about care? How often to we offer care? I receive letters and email messages asking me why people don’t care about folks in prison. I also receive requests for me to continue to expand the care that I offer. We can expand care together.
I believe that care is the most precious – yet endlessly renewable! – resource necessary for healthy humans. It can only be created by giving it t others.
What we do next is up to us. We’re in a terrific position for innovation!
After two years, I’m beyond excited to get back in my truck to travel around the country and enjoy stimulating and enlightening conversations…where we can ask all kinds of questions as we explore and discuss the ways that we can build a bright and successful future together.
The ‘care energy’ that we create together energizes me, and drives my determination each day!
Thank you, Fair Shake donors (most of whom are incarcerated ~), for making all of this possible!
UBUNTU! ~ sue
The big COGNITIVE BIAS sign in the front window of the Fair Shake HQ – >
PS: For the readers who have been keeping tabs on my Adult Basic Race Education, I’m happy to announce that the winter was great for ice racing! The-#63-bee-and-me (see below) took first place for ‘fastest time’ on the course twice this year! ~ : )
PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS!
I hope, incarcerated folks who are reading this on tablets or computers, that you will share your reflections with me. Your perspective is very important! (Fair Shake, PO Box 63, Westby, WI 54667)
I also hope, people who are no longer incarcerated, or who have not been incarcerated, that you, too, will share your reflections. Your perspective is very important, as well! sue(at)fairshake(dot)net
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger…right, Mr. Nietzsche?
I’ve really taken on a lot in the past year (2019) and I’ve noticed that, since about May of this year (or maybe my 55th birthday?) I’m starting to get tired.
Running Fair Shake by myself is a lot of work! Adding my school studies to that schedule is almost over-whelming and leaves little time for a personal life that includes a lot of auto care for my older cars, including my little race car.
Thankfully I have constant support from people who are committed to bolstering individuals and groups to improve opportunities, capabilities and possibilities for people inside and outside of prison! The support comes from several stakeholder groups including currently and formerly incarcerated people, dedicated and motivated staff, families and friends, employers and, of course, active citizens!
It sounds like a pretty rosy picture. I love all of those aspects of my vocation. Unfortunately, I run into all kinds of challenges from many directions! I will write more about that soon, but for now I want to stay focused and upbeat and very grateful for this privilege to serve our society in this way.
Thanks to the generous donors, I get to promote freedom all day, every day. The curriculum I will start developing this winter will be 100% dedicated to exploring, finding, accepting and experiencing freedom, wherever we are. It will be available for free, of course!, to anyone and everyone to freely engage with in whatever way they choose!
I receive lots of “thank-yous” for what I do…but I can’t accept all the credit! I have the ideas, the tenacity, the dedication, energy, etc to do the deeply heartfelt busy work, but I know that I would not have this enriching and deeply fulfilling opportunity with out the generous support of those who trust me to do a good job. I merely transform money energy into reentry and personal growth energy!
Thank you donors, thank you readers, and thank you to the folks who come here to get information and then share it in whatever way is right for them. We don’t need experts here, we just need committed citizens (including currently and formerly incarcerated ones!) who are ready to shut down prisons because no one goes back!
Please share that vision with me so we can make it a reality.
As the prisons close, we will find ourselves with people and money to invest in our future…our children!
Thank you all, immensely, for your support, including your faith in my ability, dedication and loyalty to do my best with this important work that I am deeply honored to do.
Ubuntu! ~ sue
Now that Fair Shake software is available in many institutions, I figured I should share a couple of pictures of the Adult Basic (dirt track) Education that I’ve been studying all summer. Like most American education settings, we have intense weekly testing. (every Friday night) Many Corrlinks readers know this learning has not come easy to my old mind! (Facing our fears cannot be addressed using logic; and there is no ‘bunny hill’ for learning to slide around on a dirt track with other cars.) But the heart is still willing and since I’m not a master, I might as well continue!
Many readers also know that I am a student involved in formal education, too: studying to become a master at Adult and Continuing Education. I’m faring a little better there even though I’m just as slow and I feel a little beat up every week. I’m reading a lot, thinking a lot and my typing is certainly improving!
Since the year (2017) began, Fair Shake has been running without any major funding. For 9 years we had a donor who made it possible for us to send out a free Reentry Packet to anyone who asked for one. We were also able to build this amazing and powerful website / software application, and their generosity provided my small but sufficient salary. I’m so honored and grateful to have this gift: a platform, a tool, a lot of confidence, face-to-face connections, and something that has value to more people than just me. I know it will continue to grow! It’s time for me to educate myself about funding a non-profit (I only have for-profit experience! ~ : ), which is both daunting and exciting.
As I write this, my mind is doing a little inventory to see if there’s anything I forgot to add before the software application ‘save’. I’m blown away that this platform, this tool, is now able to be seen and considered in many state and federal prisons around the country! Thank you, Idaho for leading the way, the BOP for giving me a chance and PA for allowing folks who are in reentry housing to access the website live. I’m honored to know that Oklahoma has found enough reentry information here that they include a number of documents, tools and web pages in their reentry preparation classes. Several states are venturing out and trying the software in a sole institution with this new version. I’m excited!
There are a lot of ‘moving parts’ to gaining the opportunity to offer my collection of ideas to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated citizens. It’s important for me to have tools and information that are important to all stakeholders, of course, but my greatest and most humble gratitude goes to the incarcerated for giving me a chance to share what I have assembled; and also for allowing me the opportunity to learn, and listen, and understand, and reflect on the incredibly complex challenges of life in prison and/or in transition away from them, as I build this information hub.
Corrlinks has certainly made it much easier to hear and communicate! The Fair Shake newsletter reader list is nearly 800 strong as of this ‘software application save’ on Aug 18, 2017. Hearing from people, especially in short and frank reflections, makes it much easier and clearer to understand people’s concerns and questions so I can build their ideas into the site. What you see in this software is dramatically different from the last save, with much gratitude to those who shared their terrific ideas! Whoever you are, reading this missive, I hope you will share your ideas, too.
Which is a nice segue to remind people of the Fair Shake Operating Philosophy, which most closely resembles the ancient sub-Saharan philosophy of ubuntu founded on the interdependence of all things.
Desmond Tutu says: “There is no such thing as a solitary individual. A person is a person through other persons.”
Nelson Mandela said: “Ubuntu acknowledges both the right and the responsibilities of every citizen in promoting individual and societal well-being.”
I think this moving Ubuntu Lesson provides an important guide for our future:
There was an anthropologist who had been studying the habits and culture of a remote African tribe.
He had been working in the village for quite some time and the day before he was to return home, he put together a gift basket filled with delicious fruits from around the region and wrapped it in a ribbon. He placed the basket under a tree and then he gathered up the children in the village.
The man drew a line in the dirt, looked at the children, and said, “When I tell you to start, run to the tree and whoever gets there first will win the basket of the fruit.”
When he told them to run, they all took each other’s hands and ran together to the tree. Then they sat together around the basket and enjoyed their treat as a group.
The anthropologist was shocked. He asked why they would all go together when one of them could have won all the fruits for themselves?
A young girl looked up at him and said, “How can one of us be happy if the others are sad?”
Desmond Tutu again: “Africans have a thing called ubuntu. We believe that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanize you, I dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.”
I am fascinated with philosophy, belief, how people live together and morality. I certainly don’t have answers, but I think if we consider the issues together we could discover the best answers together.
If you’re interested in conversing with me about it, check out these two documents and we can start from there…even if we completely disagree with them, or each other!
Since my Adult Basic (dirt track) Education season is coming to a close just as the software application is poised for distribution, I thought I better include images from the even shorter and extremely fickle rally ice-racing season so when I write those stories for Corrlinks you will be able to ‘picture’ the crazy northerners who go to great extremes to play outside in the winter. (Although the CDB (crx) is mine, the awesome driving shot below is not me; it is the former owner of #63. He’s one of my many ‘teachers’ ~ : )
I’m looking forward to continued learning on all fronts!!
As you may have read here before, my best thinking happens on my bike. I feel ‘at home’ on my bike (no matter where I am) which liberates me from the pressures of society so I can free my mind and Think For Myself! (My first ‘product’ was the DARE parody sticker you see here, which I made to sell on Grateful Dead tour in 1993). When I can let go of what think I should be doing, what I failed to do and what I could do better, I can focus on my relationship with myself and the natural world in which I am completely entwined…but from which I sometimes – falsely – feel disconnected.
I am alone on the bike trail more often than I am with others. When I encounter other riders at home or on trails all around the country, I usually see that, like me, they are very happy to be there. When we smile in passing we raise each other up! I love feeling that connection. There are areas in the country where people rarely smile on the bike trail, however, and connect with me through a stare or a scowl. I feel less comfortable around them, but I still smile.
When I get a few miles down the path and my mind can really start to wander, I almost always think about ways I can improve life. I want to improve my life, my relationships, my community, my region, my state, my country and my world, of course, but I realize none of this will happen without improving life for everyone. Some of my thoughts include: how can I get other bicyclists to smile back at me on the bike trail? Why is it that we know so much about technology but know less and less about ourselves or each other? Why is it that we accept increasing levels of stress, anxiety, depression, addiction and cancer while not studying and working to remove the factors that contribute to these debilitating illnesses? (And not just debilitating for individuals, but debilitating for our communities, our morale, our potential…) And why on earth are there not more people here on the bike trail today when riding bikes makes people so happy?
On my bike I feel like I get above the busyness of my immediate surroundings and can finally see the forest for the trees. I can’t say this in front of most groups of people, but on my bike I can heartily feel that I do NOT accept our increasing illnesses and weaknesses. I can tap in to my power and KNOW that we can greatly reduce our mental and emotional suffering if we put our (large and creative!) minds together to solve to reverse this trend. We can become stronger, wiser, more capable and more connected.
Our Choose Your Perspective documents in the Reentry Packet and Swellness area of our website are my initial efforts to challenge difficult, sticky and very human topics. Encouraging people to feel their power is very difficult. We are comfortable with the power of anger, disappointment, and expectation but we are not comfortable with the power we have to create and own our happiness including establishing clear boundaries, confronting ‘bad actors’, understanding ourselves and our society. We’re also uncomfortable with the deep and difficult power that can only come from introspection: the power to direct our lives.
How can I help us feel better? I will likely work on this for the rest of my life. I feel like what I can do in every moment of every day is to be my authentic self… tell the truth, not obsess about others’ opinions of me, lift people up and let them know I need them, and engage, engage, engage to try to understand myself and what I can do by learning more about others.
OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS:
TELL YOUR STORY!
Everyone wants to be heard. We all want to tell our story in the hopes that people will be able to understand us. Can we first give what we want to receive? Can we be the ones to LISTEN to others? Can we be the ones to TRUST others and hope our investment pays off so they can then trust us? Or can we listen and trust and care unconditionally because this is just what we do?
I believe that listening to others is the first step toward being heard by them. Our goal is to look for things we have in common; things we both care about that we can build on. Sharing stories helps us connect as humans to discover that we often have similar joys, concerns and desires. We all share many more similarities than differences. Focusing on the similarities: educating and caring for our children, creating safe and enriching environments to live in and learn in, to improving the quality of the roads and also the drivers…these are things everyone can get behind, so how about if we start here?
I want to hear your story. I want to know how we can make our lives, and the lives of others, better!
I want to tell you my story. I want you to know where I have come from so you can have a greater understanding of my drive and my belief that I am somewhat of an expert for this work. I don’t want my story to in any way draw attention away from my efforts here, however. I want the story to bolster my efforts which is tricky. I realize that how I tell the story is as important as the story itself.
It’s coming… I’m getting closer to the answer…. Every bike ride clarifies my path a little more. Just a few more rides and I’ll have it!!
The original, purple bubble truck pictured below is great. It is especially great for Burning Man, where we don’t have to look ‘professional’, but was not great for traveling to prisons. Presenting Fair Shake in institutions is a crucial part of our work. Traveling by plane/hotel/restaurant is out of the question. I need to stay healthy at work! Camping satisfies the need to get from point a to point b while living in a ‘tiny house’. I felt I had no option other than to create our new Ubuntu rig.
I have a delightful ‘ubuntu’ story from our first trip out. I lost my transfer case and water pump within 30 miles of each other and had many other challenges throughout the journey. Although we had some tough times, we also found the most amazing people who taught me a great deal about engaging the spirit of Ubuntu. They greatly raised my capabilities through their creativity, joy and dedication and I feel I have to tell the story to help our readers and website visitors understand how wide the circle of reentry is…wide enough to surround everyone in the United States! I will write the full story soon and it will be in the new software next spring. Short version: Do Not Assume! Just as we do not want to be reduced to cultural stereotypes, we cannot reduce others to the same. Beauty, richness and caring can be found in the most surprising of places.
The original bubble truck is still doing great. It is now my work truck and seems quite content hauling its owner and little1989 racecar buddy to dirt and ice race tracks.
Whether someone is blowing bubbles or making a bubble bath or drinking champagne, bubbles are always welcome. They lighten things up; they remind people to celebrate!
Bubbles are beautiful as individuals and they are also beautiful and very fun in groups!
In 2008 I needed another camper. My 1973 Volkswagen camper van, while still an awesome traveler, was not up for the extra-difficult journeys I wanted to make to a temporary town of 50,000 souls that comes alive once every year on the dusty alkali desert called Black Rock City. I wanted a pickup truck and separate camper so I could have more room and more power…and have a useful pickup truck the remainder of the year.
I found my magical truck online; the ad read: 1989 F150, 4wd, manual transmission, 6 cylinder, 107,000, runs well: $850. When I went to check it out I found out it had no brake master cylinder and the paint was peeling very badly. I loved how it sounded and I bought it when the owners said they were willing to put it on a trailer and drive it to my mechanic’s shop over 60 miles away! After my mechanic made it safe, sound and travel-ready, it was time to make it look as good as it sounded.
The interior is an unapologetic shade of red. Very few colors could stand up to that power, so clearly the truck had to be purple.
Once that was done it looked like it needed a little something more. People like to play with their trucks and paint flames on the front fenders as if they are super-powerful and rocket-fueled. I was buying this truck specifically to go to the Burning Man festival, so I thought that red, yellow and orange flames would look really great.
I asked my son if he would help me design the art and we got into a conversation about the flames and what they say. We agreed that they say the truck is generating something…in that case heat/fire/power…. but when we talked about it a little more, we realized that I don’t really generate that stuff…I’m the kind of person that tries to generate smiles, good feelings and connection.
We thought it would be fun to make the truck look like it was throwing bubbles from the engine instead of flames…like I’m out here driving around the country making bubbles for everyone!
But as we continued our conversation, we realized that bubbles (now meaning lightness, celebration, connection) just exist. I don’t make them. They are everywhere all the time and we just remind each other that they are there ~ .
When you look at the truck you can see that we painted the bubbles to look like they are splashing up off the ground…like I’m driving through puddles of them. As I travel across the country, I stir up bubbles and the truck reveals them…and children and adults smile and wave and together we all add more bubbles in the world.
The bubble truck does not generate bubbles…we just reveal them…they already exist and we all have access if only we will remember that although they are invisible, they are there!
Doesn’t that sound nice? I just love to ride my bike. Bikes are so liberating! I like to feel free to find my own deep relationship with life…under my own power…like a bike…that will connect me to my personal heaven / nirvana / inner-peace / self-actualization.
I think an awful lot about how we can create a better future for all of us living together sharing the earth’s bounty and humanity’s skills, ideas and creativity. I believe that – for how smart we are (individually and collectively) – we should be doing a much better job at taking care of ourselves than we are presently doing. I think we can expect more out of ourselves; and I do expect more.
Our number one need/goal is super-simple: to figure out how to live together more successfully! The details are many and involve all facets of life in all of cultures. The work requires dedication, tenacity, faith in each other/ourselves (same thing), and the utmost care and respect for all.
To this end, I spend a lot of time on subjects like personal transformation, values, capability, happiness and morality to address hot-button issues of rights, freedom, happiness/satisfaction with life, power and ownership – to name but a few.
The information I share on this page is not meant to push specific ideas; it is my blank canvas…my version of art…created to encourage deeper thinking and conversations to grow critical and humanitarian thinking skills. I figured that maybe a few folks might want to know a little more about the philosophy and ideas that drive Fair Shake.
(…and stop waiting for others to become more virtuous…or for laws to be created that demand we become more virtuous!)
Evaluate RELATIONSHIPS: whether they are a BOND (loving, respectful, authentic, allow for individuality, authenticity and personal growth) or a BIND (built on dependency/needs, debt, control and expectations (of individuals and society) …see
Cost / Benefit: does this relationship satisfy my belonging needs while allowing me room for my individuality? Do I offer and receive respect in this relationship?
From a song on the radio: we have an innate desire to be somebody.
(this is backed by research…our motivation is way beyond carrots and sticks)
Painted on a wall in a women’s prison: When the past calls, don’t answer; it has nothing new to say.
Speak your truth; pay the price!!! It’s important to have clear boundaries.
Ban the Box: “Green”, “Cultural Creative’, ‘Community-supporting’, etc. Corporations can demonstrate pro-social support for this initiative by creating policies NOW vs. waiting for the initiative to become law.
David Woo: People won’t remember what you say, they’ll remember’ how they FEEL…and your AUTHENTICITY.
Moral Courage = Principles + Endurance + Danger
…moral values, in many ways, are aspirational as well as normative.
“Courage, for example, has so far as we can tell, been admired in every society known to us. There are universal values.” ~ Isaiah Berlin
As quoted from Authentic Happiness (2002) by Martin Seligman – liberally paraphrased: “there is astonishing convergence across the millennia and across cultures about virtue and strength. Confucius, Aristotle, Aquinas, the Bushido Samurai Code, the Bhagavad Gita and other venerable traditions disagree on the details but all of these codes include six core virtues….”wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.”
Seven Checkpoints to Moral Courage: (liberally paraphrased)
Questions that may bolster our moral courage:
Principles: Convictions, core values, foundation for beliefs
Danger: Possibility of suffering harm or injury
Endurance: Fortitude; ability to last
Timidity: Lack in self-confidence, boldness, or determination
Foolhardiness: Rashness, incautious, reckless
Physical Courage: Bravery in the face of physical pain, hardship, even threat of death
When we think of VALUES…how can we call them values if we don’t actually practice them? Aren’t they then just called wishes or judgements?
How is it we can be morally courageous in some areas and weak in others?
To muster moral courage (or emotional courage) can we tap into the power we feel about things we easily defend, protect or otherwise take a stand about? Make a list of things I would, absolutely, take a stand about…even in a crowded room of people. Would I protect babies? Kittens? Elders? My best friend? Myself?
PRICE: I might find myself alone more often. Am I okay with this? (bond/bind? indy/belong? this is intense stuff and not many people are on this path ) Observation: although we are encouraged to live authentically, most people just want us to just agree with them, do what they want us to do and buy stuff like the stuff they buy.