Archive | Jesse’s Personal Viewpoints RSS feed for this section

The answer is no.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 11.58.46 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me clarify our organizational position on something:

Don’t ever ask us if you can have a survivor speak at your function.

Our answer will be no.

Don’t ever say “but I’m sure we can get you a bunch more donations if our people can hear a survivor speak”

Our answer will still be no.

Don’t ever respond with “but if the audience can hear about the abuse, and the horrible situations that person has gone through, they could really relate more”

Our answer will yet again, be no.

You can beg, you can plead, you can curse us. We will never ask one of our clients, one of our friends, to stand alone in front of an audience and entertain them with stories of “the life”.

Why do you need to hear a survivor speak? Is it for them, or is it for you? Is it so you can put up a great FB post “wow, just heard an amazing survivor story, so sad, how do people do that to each other”.  Because for you, it’s an interesting evening. For them, it’s reliving their lives, experiencing the triggers, putting themselves out there in front of an uncertain & uncaring world.

Here’s a better option, because we as an organization, as a movement, have no time for hashtag activism, fair-weather friends or armchair quarterbacks: Get off your duff & actually do something.

Donate, fundraise, volunteer, help.

If you really want to hear a survivor speak, help them develop their voice, one-on-one. There are a number of programs to do it, ours included. Help them get a job, get their kid back, get their felonies expunged, cover up their tattoo’s, find a place to live, write a resume, pick out clothing. It’s dirty, it’s gritty, it’s hours & hours of boredom combined with minutes of sheer terror. It’s real & it doesn’t make for a good FB status update (partially because most orgs won’t let you post about it on FB).

Survivors are special. They’ve gone through shit that would have killed a normal person. They’re not to be gawked at, not to be referred to as “sex slaves”, not to be put on a stage for FB status updates. They are people, they are survivors & more than anything they just want a chance at a normal life with the same opportunities that everyone else has.

So go ahead & ask if you can have a survivor speak. We will say no & then we will walk away… sometimes we will laugh as we do it :-)

- JB

Comments { 0 }

So… what’s your deal?

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 5.31.01 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At a recent talk, I was asked a magnificent question by a young woman who had just learned about human trafficking. She stated, “So… what’s your deal?” It was such an excellent question, it warranted it’s own blog entry.

So here’s our deal:

We’re not anti-sex, we’re pro-consent

We’re not anti-consumerism, we’re pro-ethical spending

We’re not a political organization.

We’re not a religious organization.

We’re a human organization.

We are The Imagine Foundation & if you’re reading this, you’re an integral part of our work. The simple fact of the matter is that people are being bought & sold, they’re being abused & exploited. There are questions regarding the breadth & depth of the situation as well as some of the semantics. But human trafficking is an unfortunate fact of our neighborhoods, our economy & our life. At The Imagine Foundation, we’ve agreed to no longer be passive witnesses of the problems around us, but rather, to take action to build a more free world.

At one of our training seminars one of our trainees summed it up perfectly: “So you guy’s are like the ninja turtles of the anti-trafficking world. People may have never heard of you, but you’re always there in the background ”.

So, that’s our deal. We’re anti-trafficking ninja turtles.

Comments { 0 }

Why I won’t try to see Jennifer Lawrence’s stolen nudes—A dude’s perspective.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 3.27.04 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the outside, I am a 6’ tall, 350lb bald, pierced, tattooed, bearded—bear of a man. On the inside though, I am a little 5th grade boy who still laughs at burps, farts & whenever somebody says boobies.

This morning on the news I heard that someone from 4-chan hacked into Jennifer Lawrence’s computer & stole some personal nudes that she had on there. For a split second the 5th grader inside of me giggled with delight. Then the adult me stepped up & got ticked off.

So let’s hash it out here:

Jennifer Lawrence is not property. She is not a commodity, she is not a way to make money. Jennifer Lawrence is not a female existing in a male world, she is a human existing in a human world. Even if she has an amazing physique, that is no excuse for people to oogle over it and see only the person on the outside.

Jennifer Lawrence has the right to take all the photographs she wants, clothed, unclothed, and even dressed as a cowgirl riding a sloth. She also has the right to dictate which photographs are for the general public, and which are private. So don’t even think for a minute of saying “she took nudie pics, she deserves to have them out there” because that my friend, is rape culture plain & simple.

IT’S ALL ABOUT CONSENT

Consent is a magical thing & attractiveness or celebrity, or sobriety, or length of skirt in no way influences or alters consent, ever!

Jennifer Lawrence did not consent to have her private pictures stolen or released; it is not a scandal, it is a crime! The coward from 4-chan stole them, & released them because he saw Ms. Lawrence as property, as belonging to the public & to him. She does not. Ms. Lawrence belongs only to herself & she gets to dictate her life.

So even though I think that Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actress and a beautiful, intelligent and wonderfully sarcastic woman, I, AS A DUDE, WILL NOT ATTEMPT TO SEE HER NAKED!

SHE DID NOT CONSENT TO IT.

I’m hoping that many other people join me & say NO. Because it’s contributing to rape culture, it’s contributing to the exploitation of women & we as humans are bigger than that.

Ms Lawrence, I am sorry a coward stole your private photos & released them. I am even more sorry that our society accepts it.

- JB

Comments { 2 }

Why do you want to help someone like me?

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 9.42.53 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are three types of people in the world: those who take, those who give, and those who remain indifferent. The third type is without question the most devastating & I fear that they are making up an ever increasing portion of our amazing world.

I had the honor of meeting a new survivor recently; I am looking forward to working with her. She thinks that she’s a victim right now & I can understand that viewpoint. For much of her life she was viewed & treated as property, nothing more than a commodity to be bought & sold.  She is more powerful than she realizes though. Think about it for a second, she survived situations that would kill a normal person. She lived through beatings, abuse, drugs, arrests and all the rest of the crap that life could throw at her; but she is beginning the long road to starting a new path.

She asked me a question though & it’s really resonated with me over the last few days. She wanted to know why someone like me wanted to help someone like her. At first I was a bit taken aback, but the more I sit with it, the more pissed off I get.

It’s really important to note that I’m not pissed off at her, not in the least. I’m pissed off at the rest of us. I can’t even comprehend a world where a young lady who has been repeatedly victimized would even question why people would help. It’s common human decency, it’s what we are meant to do, and it’s how we as a human civilization have to exist.

As I stated earlier, I look forward to working with her. The road will be long, and there will be stumbling blocks, and difficulties. But in the end, she’ll get to where she wants to be. Free.

- JB

Comments { 0 }

I promised.

I normally don’t write from an emotional standpoint. I find feelings troublesome in this line of work. Sometimes though there’s a trigger & long past experiences start bubbling up.

I just watched Sia’s Chandelier video. It triggered some long suppressed memories.

Years ago I met a female reporter/author overseas. She wanted to learn more about sex trafficking. I told her that I would show her where kids were being bought and sold but only if she agreed to run if things went south and never turn back. I would protect her.

The brothel was at the end of a street. It was hot, muggy, and dirty. It was advertised as a “dance” club, & in the front it was. In the back though, it wasn’t. I amazed the girls there; I was white, huge & incredibly rich (in their eyes at least). The bouncers, security & club owners we’re intimidated by me. I was at least a foot taller than them, and at least 200lbs heavier. I ordered a beer. The reporter was nervous.

The thing about brothels isn’t the sight, or the feel. It’s not the stickiness when you sit down, or the lights. It’s the smell. At first it’s hard to place, a mixture of many different things. I can smell it right now as I write this. It took years for me to identify. It’s the smell of tears and condoms, salty plastic, blood and urine. It’s nauseating. It’s horrifying. It permeates my being; I can’t get it out of my nose. Every once it a while it’s triggered, it comes back, it’s on me & I can’t shake it. I guess that’s why I’m writing this right now; to try to get rid of it.

Sia’s video was the trigger, actually the stain on the floor of her video was the trigger. It looks like this place smelled.

The owner sent an adult female over to talk to me. I can only assume she was an adult; she looked about 17-ish. She put her hand on my leg & asked if I liked her. I told her that I was just there for the beer. The reporter was starting to panic, her eyes were wide. The girl leaned in & said if I didn’t like her that there were much younger in the back. She gestured towards a door where streams of sweaty men were exiting. The smell was stifling.

We left right after that. I could tell by looking in the reporters eyes that things had just gotten very real for her.

I was unable to do anything for those children that day.

I hate traffickers with every fiber of my being. I wanted to go back & rip them apart. I could have, it would have been nothing. They couldn’t have stopped me. I was able to chat with a friend back home that evening. He was able to talk me down.

I promised myself that day that I wouldn’t kill them; that wouldn’t solve anything. I would instead spend every waking moment of my existence working to destroy their way of life. I would learn how to break the system.

I promised.

- JB

Comments { 0 }

An amazing conversation

 

IMG_1658

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently had an amazing conversation with a stripper (her description of her job, not mine). She was in her early 20’s, heavily tattooed and one of the nicest people I have ever had the opportunity to speak with. She wanted to know what she could do to help end human trafficking.

It was a very cool moment.

Now you’re probably thinking that I tried to convince her to leave stripping, or to make impassioned speeches to others, or to completely change everything about herself. If you thought any of those things you’d be wrong.

I adhere to a strict code of “judge not yet ye be judged”. I do prefer if people leave the commercial sex industry, not because of the moral or ethical conundrum, but because it represents limited opportunity. You see, basing ones income on attractiveness is not a wise move as good looks are a depreciable commodity. In time, appearance decreases exponentially, therefore it is a poor choice to earn a living with and puts one at-risk for sex trafficking. Basing ones income on knowledge however represents an appreciable commodity as intelligence rarely decreases over time… I digress…

Her life experience and circumstance puts her in a very unique situation to work with others who are at-risk for sex trafficking. Think about it, who better to work with and understand sex workers and the victim/survivor, than someone who has lived it and worked it.

I told her that when she was ready, to track me down & I would find a place for her in The Imagine Foundation. I would love to work with her to emulate the work of Ink 180 (Learn about them here); they are a tattoo shop specializing in removing gang tattoos and the brands of sex trafficking victim/survivor (I also got a super sweet new tattoo with them).

I guess the whole moral of this blog entry is that the people who are going to end human trafficking aren’t necessarily the suburban, educated and well-adjusted people of the world. Sometimes they’re just a 20-year-old exotic dancer who wants to make a difference.

So, what are you doing to build a more free world?

Peace

- JB

Comments { 0 }

Breaking the system

IMG_1641

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just spent the last 32 hours on my laptop, typing chapter 3 of my dissertation on sex trafficking. Just a forewarning, I want to smash my computer into tiny pieces then take those pieces and smash them into slightly smaller pieces. All I can think about is breaking technology (like the guys from Office Space), so this blog entry comes from a bit of a weird place…

Recently somebody pretty much insulted my life’s work & stated “human trafficking has always happened, and will always happen”. I politely stated that I disagreed (even though privately I wanted to punch him in the nostril) and kept on walking in the opposite direction.

I do honestly disagree & here’s why: I’m really, really good at breaking things.

Honestly, I haven’t lost it; bear with me.

I have broken no less than 5 motorcycles, 4 cars, chairs, tables, dishes, a waffle maker, a ton of bones, a television (fell out the window), multiple windows, an elephant, dozens of pairs of pants and a quite a bit of weight lifting equipment. I’m good at it!

The people who are closest to me will often hear a crashing sound followed up by a loud and disingenuous “oops”… breaking stuff is what Jesse’s do best.

Now let’s look at human trafficking, it’s a system—no different than anything else & it can be broken. If we break the system, HT ends. All we have to do is figure out how to do it. I know that might sound confusing, but it’s the one, singular idea I’ve spent the last 4 years on (earning my PhD.) We just have to figure out how to break the system & then make sure it is never rebuilt. If we can do that, we’ve altered the course of human destiny (no pressure, huh?).

So how do we break the system? Simple, figure out its weak points and then direct the full force of every human rights advocates towards those points. It’s like toppling a little kids game of Jenga (I’m not proud) figure out where it’s weakest & remove the supporting structures. So far in my research I’ve found a few of the weak points but in no way all of them. Lots more work to do.

Here’s to many, many more 32-hour marathon sessions on my laptop… as long as I don’t break it.

Peace.

If you have ideas on how to break the system, let me know

- JB

Comments { 0 }

Hunger Games & Human Rights

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 3.27.17 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahh… the demand of human trafficking; that’s a rough one. Sure, we like to think that someone else is responsible, some un-named other, some bad guy, someone who sits in a dimly lit room, brooding over ways to take over the world; but we’d be wrong. We, the normal, the hideously average, we are responsible for human trafficking. As much as it hurts to think about, its us.

Lets have a bit of imaginarium here, you’ve watched/read The Hunger Games right? I love that mischievous scamp Katniss, not just because she’s amazing with the bow & quick-witted with the put-downs, but because she really puts domestic human rights abuses in perspective.  When you read/watched her life, in her universe, who did you side with? I bet if you’re like me, you sided with Katniss & friends, you saw the poor town, saw the oppression & you related to it. I bet at one point you even thought “man, I’m just like her, everyone is always trying to keep me down”. You probably related to the government oppression, the abuse etc. I bet you thought that you were like Katniss huh?

Then you saw the opulence of the capital, how clueless people were, gallivanting around in their expensive clothes, throwing away food, flaunting their good-fortune, and really using the people from the districts as a commodity, a means to an end, rather than viewing them as human beings.

I bet you identified with Katniss, but if you’re reading this we’re (myself included) more like the people in the capital. We’re often clueless, we use people, we view them as commodities, and we’re the reason that human trafficking and the majority of human rights violations occur. It’s rough to handle, to go from feeling like you’re the oppressed, to realizing that you’re the oppressor. I’ve had numerous people flip out on me & tear me apart because of it (don’t shoot the messenger)

Human trafficking occurs because of demand. It is a crime of economics and human rights violations. If there was no demand, there would be no supply.

So where does demand come from?

Us, the global consumers of the world!

We demand inexpensive commodities; manufacturers are more than willing to provide us with that. If things can’t be made cheaply enough, off shore it where people can be freely exploited and few say anything about it. Don’t even think about justifying exploitation by saying “we’re helping them out”, Nike sells shoes for hundreds, how much of that goes to the teenager assembling them?

We demand inexpensive and exotic food: growers are more than willing to provide us with that. For domestic food, we can import & exploit workers, for exotic food, we can exploit them in their lands.

We demand cheap, meaningless, sex: traffickers are more than willing to provide us with that. If you want to spend $300 an hour to sleep with a kid, you better believe that there is someone willing to come up with that kid.

It’s rough to think about, that we, the fairly affluent are responsible for travesties because of our consumer tendencies. But, unfortunately we are.

So how do you reduce demand? We’ll, you’re going to have to decide if the human factor is more valuable than your everyday luxuries. Can you live with ethical shoes? Can you pay a bit more for ethical chocolate? Are you able to control yourself & not buy commercial sex?

It’s a rough question, are you willing to give up a bit of your comfort for someone else. I know some people are, some aren’t.

 

Look what happened in The Hunger Games when the oppressed finally realized that the capital was living fat off of the districts…

Food for thought

- JB

Comments { 1 }

Survivor.

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 12.28.12 PMSurvivor… that is one powerful word. Think about it for a second. The word survivor means that you made it through something that should have killed you. You should be dead right now but you’re not. You’re here. You persevered. You made it. You’re a survivor. Sure, you might be a little worse for wear, you might be scarred up, dragged through the mud, tired, hungry, scared, confused; but dammit you’re alive & that’s something that you can work with.

Survivors of anything are special because they’re alive.

Do not ever, ever call a survivor a victim.

A survivor isn’t a victim, they’ve overcome or are in the process of overcoming such adverse situations that it would make Johnny & Suzie Normal lose control of their bowels. A survivor has been on the lone path to eternity and has smacked life in the face & said no! I go on my terms! A survivor has made it through to the other side.

Survivors deserve respect. 

- JB

Comments { 0 }

Remember Dr. Martin luther King jr.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 1.36.47 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Martin Luther King jr. was not just a man; he represented an idea. Ideas cannot be killed with bullets, ideas can’t bleed. They live on forever in the memories of those who follow. Ideas only die if they are forgotten, if they are left to wither.

Although Dr. King is most remembered for his work regarding race relations, his greatest efforts went towards equality, freedom and economic stability for the average person. Today is his day. As school children, we’ve been taught about his life & his death but very few of us have ever learned about his actual work. Dr. King lived his life as an idea, an example. He believed in what he could do for humanity above and beyond his own life. He knew that he would never get to see the Promised Land but he knew that his existence could be part of the foundation for future generations.

Every MLK day I am saddened, because so many of us have allowed Dr. King’s work to fall by the wayside. We have forgotten what he stood for by relegating his memory to only one day of the year. His story should not just be for some day in January.

Dr. King did not give his life to get children out of school, or have free museum admittance. Dr. King did not allow himself to be jailed to have streets or statues erected in his honor. Dr. King did not remove burnt crosses from his front yard so that news stations and radio stations would recite the I Have A Dream Speech once a year. Dr. King did not stand in the face of tyranny and oppression to have his life’s work cast aside!

Dr. King gave his life to build a more free world.

If Dr. King were alive today, he would be ticked off that we have allowed his work to fall into disrepair. We have allowed ourselves to profit at the expense of our brothers and sisters. We cater to the strong and the rich in our society while ignoring the poor and the weak. Our elected officials look at their constituency as a means to an end, and the people we look to for honesty and service give us anything but that.

Dr. King’s legacy has been corrupted as he is too often only remembered as a strong leader in the black community, as a leader who worked only for positive race relations. Dr. King needs to be remembered as a strong leader in the human community, as someone who stood for peace, and freedom and equality. Dr. King needs to be remembered for the controversial work he did in life as much as he is for being involved in the civil rights movement.

Dr. King’s life needs to inspire generations of peaceful revolutionaries, the ones who will see past the story of his legacy and into what his legend actually represents. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably read I have a Dream, and you may have even read the letters from Birmingham but take a moment and read what he was killed for. Read and listen to his last speech.

This is the Dr. Martin Luther King jr. we need to know. This is the peaceful revolutionary. This is the friend, I never had the honor to meet.

I have been to the mountaintop via American Rhetoric

I have been to the mountaintop via YouTube. 

The cry is always the same. “We want to be free”.

Peace

- JB

Comments { 0 }

The most precious gift of all.

 

IMG_1401

I will not be going shopping today, or tomorrow, or even the day after. In fact, besides gas for my car and food to eat, I hope to not buy anything for the next thirty days; its just stuff. If you really want to show someone how much they mean to you don’t give them some stupid present; some piece of disposable garbage that will get shelved 24 hours after its receipt, spend time with them. Look at it like this, money is replaceable, most of us get more of it every two weeks. Time though, time is precious and you only get that moment once in your life. Sure, someone will argue with me and say that old adage that “time is money” and by spending money on someone ergo facto you are spending time, but I say a big EFF That!

I’ve lost people in my life, and I would give all the money I have ever earned, I would give all of my possessions for the opportunity to eat just one meal with them; to be able to hear their stories, to laugh at their jokes, to make eye contact and smile. I would give up everything to spend time with them. Would you?

We’ve screwed up the whole gift-giving thing. The act of giving presents isn’t about the actual commodity, the act of giving presents was originally an excuse to get everyone together and spend time with one another. That message has somehow got lost. It’s no longer about the people; it’s about the presents. In my small group of friends (I have 3), we do in fact exchange presents. They are usually stupid, embarrassing presents involving t-shirts with a fighter-pilot eagle on it, or a ninja costume. The point of our gift giving isn’t about the gift though, it’s to humiliate each other and laugh. It’s about spending quality time together.

So the point of this blog is to convince you to reframe your ideas, rethink what the point of giving presents is all about. While you’re focusing on getting that perfect gift for someone, reconsider your stance. What do they really want? Is it a plane ticket home to see their family for the holidays? Is it a dinner where all of you can re-cap old stories. Is it just a moment where they can look into your eyes and smile? Is it the gift of time?

Gifts are cheap and quickly forgotten; time is precious and will last forever.

Spend wisely.

 

-       JB

P.s. this holiday season I’m going to be writing a lot about fair trade, refurbished, locally produced, recycled, upcycled and all of the other wise spending choices. If you don’t like that kind of stuff, too bad… it’s my blog.

Peace.

 

 

Comments { 0 }

Happy Thanksgiving.

We will not live to see the Promised Land, but does that mean that we shouldn’t try?

The day will come in human history when all beings will get to live happy & free. Unfortunately that day is not today, but it will eventually happen; it’s a mathematical certainty. You see, in a chaotic system such as life, small disturbances magnify exponentially and in turn the system will follow or fail. There are millions of people around the world working for peace, love and freedom on a daily basis; these people are the small disturbance, and they are permanently altering the system.

Even the smallest stone causes waves in the largest ocean.

Everyday on this earth is an amazing experience and as we’re inundated with negative news and stories, we sometimes miss the small miracles that are around us. I’ll be the first to admit that the world has problems, and that there are some horrible people in our midst; people who use people and love things when it is supposed to be the other way around. The beautiful thing about our lives though is we come with an expiration date. Every few generations, our species gets to reinvent itself & we’re slowly and begrudgingly headed in the right direction.

This is the season of Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for the path I have been put on. I never expected to be here, and at times I’m horrified at this work; but I’m thankful to be able to do it. I’m thankful for my family, and friends. I’m thankful for the team that is helping me to demolish cancer and I’m thankful for the people that I am given the opportunity to serve. I’m thankful to be here and to be able to do what I can to help us get where it is that we’re going.

Don’t let Thanksgiving end with today though. If you’re reading this, you’re doing so for a reason (more of that mathematical certainty stuff). I mean think about it, of all the ways that you could be spending this moment right here & now, a moment that you will never get back and will never occur again in space/time, you’re reading the ramblings of a fluffy (but incredibly handsome) feminist/biker/teacher/dude. Why are you here reading this?

Sure, you can pass it off as coincidence; but I don’t think so. I think you’re here for a reason, and I think that you know it too. So what are you going to do about it?

Be thankful, stop whining & kick some ass to make the world a better place.

 

Peace.

Happy Thanksgiving IMG_0009

-       JB

 

P.S. if you’re curious and want to see what we’re all about and where you fit in, shoot me an e-mail jesse@ imaginefreedom.org

Comments { 0 }

Ethical choices.

 

IMG_1401

Being responsible is a massive pain in the ace…

 

It’s currently fall in Cleveland, which means yesterday it was 75 and sunny; today it’s 35 and raining. I don’t have anything warm to wear and my new hoodie hasn’t arrived yet. To give you a little background, I order one hoodie a year. It’s black, 4xl and made by Dickies. I buy one every year, wear it daily until it gets warm enough to not wear it and by that time it is a tattered, worn piece of garbage. I buy this exact hoodie every year because it fits, it lasts, it is relatively inexpensive & Dickies is compliant with the California Transparency in Supply Chains act meaning that I can be relatively sure that no kids were forced to make my stuff.

As I said, my hoodie for this year hasn’t arrived yet and I’m currently in my favorite coffee shop writing this and shivering my ample posterior off…

This is no fault of Dickies, I ordered it yesterday… I could easily go to the store & buy another brand, but the thought of some kid being forced to work on the other side of the world is too much for me to handle anymore. I will only buy clothes made by responsible manufacturers.

I decided a while back that I would do my best to live as an example, admittedly its a huge pain but last night, for one person I saw that they understood.

I was in a think tank meeting for The Cleveland Freedom Center, a live-in human trafficking treatment center that meets three distinct precepts. The center has to be completely ethical, economically sustainable, and repeatable. The ethical part is the most difficult, because we can do no harm to any human or animal in anything we do (from the food we eat, to the products we buy).

One of our think tank members, a newly retired, old-school business man didn’t understand the need for ethical behavior on our part. After all, in the business world the ends often justify the means.

I listened as one of our think tank members, relayed perfectly the need for global ethical behavior to the old-school business man. She said that we can’t do whats right by doing whats wrong, that helping one person can not harm another.

I have never been so proud, to hear the words & ideas I’ve worked for so many years to relay, come out of someone else’s mouth. Our think tank member constructed her argument perfectly and concisely. It took her about ten minutes to tell the old guard about why we had to do our work this way.

After the lesson in ethical justification, the old-schooler walked me to my car and said “well, I guess there is some hope for this world after all”. I looked & responded  ”thanks Dad, see you next week”…

We have to always remember that our planet, a small blue spinning marble is tied together in an immense system of interconnectedness. Every action elicits a reaction in our tiny-big world.

Violence won’t ever end violence, hurting someone won’t ever bring and end to pain, acting unethically won’t ever bring about a free world.

Do something every day to make the world a better place.

- JB

 

 

 

 

Comments { 2 }

Own the failure

I have attended the funerals of murdered students, and have watched the young dragged away in handcuffs. I’ve mourned with families of children who have killed themselves and have found kids being bought and sold like slabs of meat.

I fail constantly.

All too often we are quick to share our successes and just as rapidly discount our failures.

Like I said, I fail constantly.

Our failures make us who we are, they shape us and they teach us, and we can’t remove ourselves from them or forget them. We learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. Screwing up hurts, and is devastating, and it’s unavoidable.

So we face a choice do we forget and remove ourselves from our mistakes or do we own the hell out of them, learn, and try to never repeat? It’s a rough question and an even rougher answer.

To own your mistakes, you’ve got to confront who you really are. Let’s clear this up right now; you are not your possessions, you are not your income, you are not your employment position, you are not your facebook profile, you are not the face you put on in front of others. You are a living, breathing, soulful, conscious bag of meat. You are the culmination of a near infinite number of variables interacting with each other throughout time, you are made of the same bits and pieces that make up stars and planets and if you are so inclined, you are an afterthought of a supreme creator. You are you. Deep down inside of you is who you really are, removed of the makeup, and the distractions, the music and the economy and inside of you, is a small, quiet, nearly unrecognizable person quietly milling around and waiting to come out.

So why am I writing about this? Failure after all isn’t something we like to talk about. We prefer to talk about successes, happiness, and brag about our accomplishments.

IMG_0040Failure is an extremely important part of the learning process.

Right now we as a people are failing our brothers and sisters. We say we care about the well being of others as we walk by the homeless veteran on the street. We say we care about human rights as we purchase products that support oppressive regimes. We say we care, but we fail when it comes to caring. We are failing. Now here is where most people will begin to cop an attitude “I’m not failing, I don’t hurt anyone”… Wrong. Our very existence and Western way of life is built upon a model of oppression, we depend on it, we profit from it and we can’t even see its effects any longer. Even if we think we aren’t doing harm, we are.

Thinking we’re not doing harm, and not doing harm are two totally different things.

Our current failings however, aren’t all bad though; we have figured out how not to do things. Failing and being a failure are two totally different things.

It’s only a failure if we give up.

The world is changing, and owning our failures is a big part of it. We as a people need to admit that our current way of life is not ethical or sustainable. We have to own that failure and revise the system to make it better. We need to teach future generations about our failures so that they can continue to make the world a better place.

Someday the world will only know of atrocities through history books. That day unfortunately isn’t today.

Own your failure, learn from it and teach others to avoid it.

 

Build a free world.

 

- JB

Comments { 0 }

Will you build a free world?

IMG_0010Forget Cancer. I haven’t been able to write lately because of doctors appts & people asking in a gentle voice if I’m ok. If you know of someone who is sick, don’t precede every conversation with a gentle “How are you doing”… it’s insulting. So let’s get this out there. I’ve got cancer, it’s not cured yet and I’m going to have to go through more surgery, chemo blah blah blah… garbage. This simple fact does not remove me from my responsibilities or my passions. I’m back to work, back to the gym and back to living every breath to build a free world.

Now that I have that angry rant off of my chest, let us begin.

As of today there are more people in bondage than at any point in human history. They are just like you & I, but their ability to choose their destiny has been removed.

Now the only question that remains is what are you going to do about it?

Don’t look to the government, don’t look to law enforcement, don’t look to the church. I have directed the question at you. What are YOU going to do about it?

Ignoring the problem is easy, forgetting about these people is easy, continuing to live your life as you do is easy. Living to build a free world is hard.

What are you going to choose?

Choice is hard. Robert Frost wrote his quote about differing paths through a forest. It’s a classically misused quote about choices and choosing a unique existance. I prefer Morpheus (yes, the Matrix). “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

So what are you going to choose? I know it’s a confrontative question and I know it’s hard to answer but it is an answer that you will have to know if you are going to proceed on this path.

Are you ready to live everyday to build a free world? A world devoid of exploitation, a world of equality, a world of fairness and love?

You & I may never get to live there, our grandchildren may never get to experience it. But our lives can mean something. Our lives can be an example for future generations and we can lay the foundation for a human race that only knows of hardship through reading history books.

Live as an example & the rest will fall into place.

- JB

 

Comments { 0 }

Life 2.0

About 6 months ago I was in a doctors office when I first heard the “C” word.

I had Cancer.

I left that office and had some decisions to make, some thoughts I had to process, some people I had to tell. I remember that I hopped into my car and headed over to the gym. I really like working out. I’m not any good at it, but there’s just something soothing about lifting up heavy objects and then putting them down. I decided over that workout that I was going to OWN cancer. I was going to charge head-first into it screaming the entire way. Sure, I might not be successful but at least I was going to scare the hell out of the Grim Reaper!

Last Friday I went through surgery and I can now say confidently that I am a cancer survivor. I haven’t gotten off of the couch yet, still not back to work and I’m popping pain meds like candy, but I made it through.

During this entire experience I was thinking about my role in the world and where I fit in. After laying on that operating table, not sure if I was going to wake up on the flip side, I can honestly say I have no clue where I fit in. But I’m alive, starting life 2.0 and I can’t wait!

Freedom, without question is still my guiding principle and I will continue to work for it until my last breath.

For now, you’re not going to be hearing too much from me. I’ve got some recovery to do and have to get my strength back.

With that said, take small steps everyday to build a free world.

-JB

Comments { 0 }

Superman ruined superheros!

jpg no superman

I’m from Cleveland. We’re the butt of jokes, we’ve been called “the mistake on the lake”. Our river was once on fire and we haven’t had a winning sports team since the creation. As a Clevelander there are a few items that one must abide by without question. These include but are not limited to an undying commitment to the Browns & Indians, a love for all things Bernie Kosar, Big Chuck & Little John ultimate respect for Dick Goddard, and an understanding that Superman was born in our hometown.

I’m going on record right now, that even though I know and can respect Siegel & Schuster giving birth to a flying spandex-wearing alien… I can’t stand Superman.

I hate everything about Superman, the logo, the blue tights, the infatuation with Lois Lane… I can’t stand his alter ego Clark Kent, the bumbling reporter… Superman sucks! And you want to know the worst part about it all? Superman ruined superheros! I know that my hated of all things from Krypton will draw some ire from our supporters but hang in there for a moment with me.

Superman teaches people that to be a hero, you’ve got to be something special, or different, or exotic. You don’t!

I was in the gym today, I love lifting weights. I’m not any good at it, but I do enjoy it. I saw a couple of my former students in there, one has cerebal palsy and is confined to a wheel chair. Kid is in there lifting, working to get rid of his “man boobs” (his terminology, not mine). That kid is a hero. His brother works out with him, when moobs (again, his terminology not mine) needs to get into one of the weight-machines his brother picks him up out of his wheel chair and puts him into the machine so he can get his lift on. Those kids are heroes because they could give up but don’t. Some freaky, spandex-wearing flying man-alien has nothing on them.

It ticks me off that the normal people of the world aren’t honored for their exceptional actions and the circumstances that they triumph over.

The young girl that made me drive into the middle of our metroparks system so I could cry like a 5-year-old princess the other day is a hero, but nobody gives a damn about her because she can’t fly or battle aliens or any such garbage. She is a survivor and that deserves more respect and admiration than any stupid Clark Kent.

The way I see it, true heroes are the individuals who wake up everyday and greet adversity, hardship, and pain with a smile and ask life “is that all you’ve got”. Those are the true heroes of the world.

Forget Superman, give respect to the normal people who kick ass for the good of the world on a daily basis.

So what’s your deal? Are you a superhero?

 

- JB

 

 

Comments { 0 }

Respect.

I talk about human trafficking all the time, I’ve seen the worst that humans can do to each other. I’ve worked hard to emotionally distance myself from the situation, otherwise I can’t do what I need to do.

I thought that I had the emotion out of my system.

I recently gave a talk, I won’t say where due to safety, security, and confidentiality. After the talk a young lady came up to me and spoke with such matter-of-factness about the situation surrounding her own trafficking that I was emotionally floored. This little girl had gone through hell & wants nothing more than to go on to a career where she can help others, who are less fortunate than her. It was really rough to keep composed and not start bawling like a freaking little kid in front of her.

Sometimes I forget about the human factor in this work. I am thankful for the little girls who can bring a huge, tattooed, pierced biker to tears.

Respect.

- JB

Comments { 1 }

Never lose your optimism

What seems like a small gesture to you, can increase exponentially into a major tipping point.

What seems like a small gesture to you, can increase exponentially into a major tipping point.

Optimism is hard to come by these days. Lets be honest; the worlds got a whole bunch of garbage going on right now. Everyday we’re bombarded by some scandal or news-story outlining death & destruction. We read about disease and pestilence and hunger and famine and poverty and every other bad thing in the world. It’s really really easy to lose hope, to lose a positive outlook.

The other day, someone responded on twitter to our Things you can do to end human trafficking post (find it here)

This individual said that the list was too simplistic to help end human trafficking. While I freely admit that it is a very very simple list, if enough people start living the actions, living to be solution oriented, it will be successful in the long run.

Human trafficking is a demand-driven system with a powerful feedback loop. I’ve researched this situation for years now and the beautiful thing about these particular systems are that they are inherently unstable. Which means that small changes in the system increase exponentially which can direct the situation and/or lead the situation to failure (both outcomes inevitably end human trafficking).

Let me use an example here: the camera on the cell phone. Photography over the last hundred years has become an institution, there are schools for it, awards for it, people get paid for it, galleries depend on it, museums host it… photography is a system. The only reason photography exists is that people want to see pictures; if people didn’t want to see pictures, there would be very very few photos (demand driven system). The more pictures people want to see the more photographers answered and businesses developed (feedback loop) This photographic system brought about a huge economic enterprise. For the better part of a century Kodak made money hand over foot. Every where you looked Kodak was there, but in the long run their business was nothing more than a demand driven system with a powerful feedback loop.

One small change in the system contributed to the end of Kodak; the cell phone camera. Kodak didn’t see the cell phone cam coming, or if they did they didn’t do anything to stop it. One small change, a tiny cheap digital addition on a cell phone brought down one of the largest corporations in human history. One small change.

Human trafficking is a system, nothing more, nothing less. As a system it can be stopped through small changes, because millions of small changes lead up to one huge freaking change… So to answer our person on twitter: Yeah, our lists & tips to end human trafficking are ridiculously simple but they’ll work if people do them. Never lose your optimism.

Peace

- JB

Comments { 0 }

Why Fighting Human Trafficking Won’t End Human Trafficking

Don't fight human trafficking; End it. Live your life as an example to others.

Don’t fight human trafficking; End it. Live your life as an example to others.

Every day I listen to advocates and advocacy groups alike make statements that they’re “fighting human rights abuses”, “fighting human trafficking” “fighting this”, “fighting that”… everybody’s fighting for what’s right in the world. The problem with the word “fight” is that it implies that there is a possibility of losing, and an end to the struggle.

Words are extremely important as they frame our actions and our intentions. If we say that we’re “fighting” something, it conjures up battle imagery; we as Americans love battles. Victory is earned on the battlefield, heroes are made, lives are lost, and blood is spilt. Battles are everywhere for us.  Schools and streets are named for battles, television channels thrive on battle conflict, and students are taught our nations history not through the history of our innovations, or our goodness/generosity but through deaths, murder & conquest. Battle rhetoric dominates our vocabulary and our very cultural understanding.

To say that we’re “fighting” human trafficking means that we will overpower those who are doing the abusing and force them (most likely through violence) to be good people and to stop exploiting others. That behavior is neither ethical nor sustainable and it won’t end it. To be quite frank, there aren’t enough bullets or jail cells in the world to do so.

We can’t “fight” human trafficking, but we can end it. There is a definitive difference between fighting and ending; to fight means violence whereas to end means thought and continuous action. Ending human trafficking will require the widespread action of a great deal of the population for a length of time so as to create and institute a new thought and economic paradigm. When enough people want ethical products, manufacturers will answer that call so as to remain profitable or they will fail. Both of these outcomes get rid of human rights violations in product lines. When enough people decide that sex with kids is no longer an option, the system won’t be profitable and traffickers will no longer exist.

I keep on harping on this, but the average person is the key to ending human trafficking, not the government or the police or the military; laws, guns, jail etc. are meaningless as long as there is a demand for cheap meaningless sex with kids and cheap disposable products. To end demand means to end supply. To end supply means to end human trafficking. Ending demand ends human trafficking.

So the moral of the story here is to modify your vocabulary. You’re not fighting human trafficking, you’re ending it; to fight implies a possibility of losing and an ultimate end to the struggle. There is no way that we can lose and there will be no end to the struggle.

- JB

Comments { 0 }