Freedom Challenged

camus

I recently gave a talk on human trafficking and the concept of freedom in the modern age. The following is a truncated version of that talk:

The French philosopher, Albert Camus, once wrote, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

That is an epic statement. How many of us truly know what that statement means?

You cannot truly understand the freedom you have unless you have been tested or are willing to test yourself. And to test yourself is an experiment in picking worthwhile and meaningful fights. To disrupt. To do and build things that disrupt for the greater good. To be unafraid to test the very fabric of being and sometimes taking a stand against the status quo and saying, “No”, no matter the consequences. Sometimes you will stand alone in this, but hopefully others stand with you. And, yes. Sometimes this means looking yourself in the mirror and issuing a direct challenge to yourself. It’s not easy to do. Most shy away.

However, what I just described is, in fact, a luxury. To have the choice to challenge and test oneself is a luxury.

For those who are mired in modern day slavery through human trafficking, to fight for their very right to exist is not a luxury. Everyday, every aspect of their existence is constantly under siege by the ones who seek to exploit and enslave them. They wake every morning knowing that they face incredible suffering as a slave worker or sexual slave to the most despicable of people. They know that at any moment their bodies and minds will be pushed beyond the point of exhaustion. To the point of their spirits, minds, and bodies breaking. If any one of them were to give out on any given day and pass on from this mortal coil, there will be zero fanfare or acknowledgement that they ever existed. That they mattered. They will most likely be dumped into a ditch in some nondescript, lonely place and another will take their place. For those lucky enough to make it through each day and crawl exhausted into bed, they go to sleep knowing that only the same cycle of pain waits for them in the morning.

To give you a better idea of what this looks like. Imagine you are an 8 year old child. You have your entire future ahead of you. You don’t live in lavish luxury, but that doesn’t matter to you. You just want to play, go to school, do the things that kids do, and be loved by your family. One day a stranger shows up in a van and asks to speak with your father and mother. It is a very serious meeting and your parents look frightened. At the end of the meeting, the stranger hands over a stack of cash to your parents. He then approaches you, takes you firmly by the hand, and leads you away. You pass by your parents who say to you this stranger is now your family. They may be in tears or they may be ambivalent. You don’t know what is happening, but you do know one thing. This stranger is not your family.

From the moment the stranger takes you into his car, you are threatened with physical violence if you don’t behave and do what he says. He states that you are now his property and that you will do whatever it is he tells you to do. You may kick and scream or you may sit in frightened silence. Either way, you know your life is about to turn upside down. You are being trafficked into slavery.

You may end up in some strange land mining in dangerous conditions for the silicon minerals that make up our technological gadgets or you may end up slaving away in cocoa fields picking beans for the morning coffee that we drink or you may end up in a sweat shop somewhere sewing the fancy garments that we wear. You will never enjoy the things you help make. You will be told that you must work to pay off your master’s debt. He paid for you, so you must pay him back. You will earn only 10 to 25 cents per day and never see any of it for yourself or even be able to grasp that you will never actually be able to pay off your debt to your master. You will toil away with the hope that you will one day be freed if you work hard enough, that it is possible. It is not.

If you don’t end up a slave laborer somewhere, then you face a life of sexual servitude. You will be forced to have sex with total strangers. Sometimes as much as 30 times a day whether you are a boy or a girl. Your innocence completely lost to the ravages of human decrepitude.

This is your new life and you will most likely die between the ages of 15 – 18.

What I just described is the stark reality of children who are sold into slavery by families living in impoverished regions. Many are sold willingly by their families or outright abducted. Adults are equally at risk. When a person is faced with few economic choices they may find themselves coerced into slavery situations or they may become low level traffickers themselves out of desperation. And don’t think for one second that this is just a foreign issue. It is globally systemic and has reached the soil of every nation. These people fight for their very right to exist. And if they make it out the other side, they are the ones who’s very existence is an act of rebellion. They have been tested and survived.

Here in America, we enjoy many freedoms that we take for granted: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of choice, among others. What we do with these freedoms will continually define us and determine if we truly become a free peoples. Do we overly concern ourselves with obtaining these personal freedoms at the expense of others? Do we end up using these freedoms that we take for granted to oppress others? Or do we insure that those around us are able to enjoy the same freedoms?

My personal conclusion is that the only true freedom is the ability to free others. By doing so, you confront your very own concepts of freedom and fight for the rights of everyone to exist freely. This fight will test your resolve in an unfree world.

There are many among you who consider yourselves peaceful healers and that is a wonderful thing. You facilitate the healing processes of the body and the mind. The concept of fighting is often times antithetical to your thinking. However, I ask, in an ironic way, to stop fighting that notion. Our bodies and minds are constantly under attack, be it by mental, spiritual, and social pressures or pathogens of the body. When we heal, we are fighting back. As healers, you facilitate this process of the body’s and mind’s ability to fight back. And in order to heal the world, you must become a fighter in your own respect. You must become the antibodies that society needs.

Do not just be concerned with healing what you see or feel before you. You must dig deeper into societies woes and demand healing justice for those who are invisible and do not have a voice. You must become healing warriors and fight for the right of all to exist freely. True healing is a journey in struggle. It is a test.

Of course, you are free to believe you don’t owe anyone anything. And that no one owes you anything. However, if we are to talk about creating a better and free world, a more compassionate and progressive world, then you and I owe everyone everything.

I don’t believe this sound unreasonable. Let us not save the world or change the world, but free the world. I ask that you all rise up to face this challenge for we are not yet all free. In this grand experiment in freedom, we must finish what we have begun.

Always fight on. Never settle. Live so that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

“Damned is the man who abandons himself.”
These words show that the worse the situation is,
never should a man consider it lost. – The Conditioned

– Rebel Rabbit

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Coastal Craving

Last Light

Outbound Ho!

What? You thought I was talking about prostitution? You have a dirty mind. However, I will say, lately, I’ve felt like a prostitute to the city. Last week I just needed to get away from my abusive pimp called San Francisco and liberate my mind from the trap factory. I took a trip down to Santa Cruz and found some loveliness here and there. There was life, a little death, and even some weird parrot/pug art. All beautiful in its own way. I came back to the city feeling a little more present in myself again. So do the same for yourself when you feel like an exploited slave to the grind.

– Coastal Rabbit

The Bucket Man’s Pursuit of Happyness

 

Happyness

One Man Against A Rising Tide

Larry “Bucket Man” Hunt is a famous fixture of San Francisco and a good friend of mine. He has been a street performer on Market Street for as long as I can remember and usually can be found hanging around the corner of 4th and Market in front of the Old Navy slinging mighty drum beats. He’s been in two films (The Pursuit of Happyness and Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House of God), commercials for Intel, done a TEDx talk, and is even sponsored by a German bucket company.

And, yet, he is living life on the streets.

He has made his living as a street performer for going on 20 years, but lately I haven’t seen much of him performing. The city has suffocated his livelihood and source of income. This infernal city, that no longer appreciates the very culture that makes it a meaningful destination, has determined Larry to be a public nuisance and has used its bureaucratic arm to force him into producing unneeded performance permits or risk having his livelihood stripped away from him. It only took a handful of unappreciative businesses to complain and force this situation on him. These businesses that have cropped up all over the city without any allegiances to the local community have begun to dictate the landscape of the city. Money that these businesses bring in has influenced the politicians of this city and given rise to a culture that seeks to disassociate itself from anything that doesn’t resemble ‘refined’ art or as the techno elite calls it, ‘great design’. Shame on you, San Francisco, for allowing a lack of balanced growth and muting of our artistic culture. A great artist, among other great artists, is now struggling even more due to the city’s myopic strong arm tactics, war on the poor, and misunderstanding of what a grassroots art culture really is about.

The city has even tried to confiscate his drums and buckets. The last time they did this, they lost some key pieces of his drum set and, instead of paying him for the loss, they are making him jump through hoops to officially ‘sue’ the city for reimbursement. This process will take weeks and in the meantime he is making due with what remains of his drum set.

I ask the powers that be: Is it not enough that Larry sleeps in an alley behind a garbage bin? Must you pummel him and others like him further until they have nothing left but shattered hopes and dreams?

So much for the city of love.

A few weeks back, I met with Larry to take him to an event centered around homeless outreach. He was to play and speak at the event. I rented a nice car to pick him up and gave him first class treatment. As we neared the event space out in the Sunset district, I mentioned that we were near Ocean Beach. He was ecstatic! In the twenty or so years he had been in the city, he had never seen the ocean due to his struggles and daily need to hustle as a street musician in order to make a living. 20+ years of never seeing an ocean vista that is only 7 miles away!

We parked the car and stood across the street from the ocean side. A sand dune obscured our vision of the wave crested waters, but it would only be mere moments before the wet expanse revealed its majesty to us. I could feel the vibrancy of Larry’s excitement. It was infectious and, though I had seen this view hundreds of times in my life, I couldn’t help but feel like a child in the moment before experiencing a new wonder for the first time. Such was the effect the giddiness of Larry had on me and when the oceanic horizon finally peeked over the crest of the dune, we stood in awed silence together. Larry in stupefied wonder. I in respectful repose for this was his moment in time and it was not for me to interrupt.

We stood there admiring the glistening of the sun bounce off the ocean waves. As I watched the scene unfold and this beautiful tide touch Larry’s soul, I couldn’t help but think of the crushing tide of city bureaucracy that he would have to go back and face. The heart of the concrete jungle that is merciless and become without heart or soul. And I could feel my eyes begin to slightly fill with that sadness that refuses to show itself in the face of such a glorious moment, yet was still there if one was to look hard enough. When Larry finally turned his face to me, it was with the face of one who had seen the unforgettable, those moments that forever sear themselves on our minds. Only two words came forth from him, “Thank you.”

I swallowed any lingering sadness before my eyes betrayed me, placed my hand on his shoulder, and simply smiled. Today the tide and swell of joy and happiness was all that mattered for my friend. We would battle that other rising tide together another day.

– Tidal Rabbit

The Beast And Beauty

Finger Peek

Sometimes San Francisco Is Beautiful To Me

What a strange title? Most people who know me understand that I’m not a diehard fan of San Francisco or any major city for that matter. I find it quite ridiculous that we build towering skyscrapers to block out the sky and then spend our energy working to get to the top of the skyscrapers so that we can see the sky again. It’s absurd. The city has become a beast of a playland for the elite, but there is still beauty to be found in quiet moments here and there.

 

Final Thoughts On New York

Cyclops

New York In Stills

Here’s the last of my New York street life series. Rather melancholic, but that’s how I like things sometimes. The world isn’t all roses and laughter, but sometimes real and dirty. It’s good to see all sides and not become oblivious to one or the other.

– Real Rabbit

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Sky and Ground

New York Street Scene

Villainous NY

Walking The Streets Of New York

Another short post from me. One thing I love to do in cities is walk the streets and look at the walls, in between the cracks, and hidden nooks and crannies to find gems of street life and art. This is from my recent various hikes in New York. And enjoy the high five sequel video!

– Street Rabbit

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An Artist’s Playland

Sunrise and Sunset in Brooklyn

Simple post today. Just getting to uploading photos from my recent NY trip. Enjoy the pics below (more to come) and please check out the time lapse vid I made of this gorgeous sunrise.

– Sunny Rabbit

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Sunrise Over the Brooklyn Bridge

I had to wake up at 4am to capture this. Totally worth it!

Sunset Over The East River

Since my sister lives in Brooklyn and sees this all the time, she was quite unimpressed. 🙂

 

 

In A High Five State Of Mind

I was recently in the Big Apple for my sister’s graduation from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Woohoo, Sis!

While I was visiting, I vowed that I would involve myself in some serious shenanigans. I was only in town for 10 days, so time was limited to the amount of mischief I could get into. So I thought and I thought and I thought until I exhausted all of my precious few brain cells…then, voila! I did a high five video in San Francisco a few years ago, so why not another one in NY? Coast to coast high fives!

Pretty self explanatory. Watch the vid. Get big smiles. Go high five those around you and spread some happy.

– High Five Rabbit

Love Ascending

Sunrise Over The Brooklyn Bridge And A Treatise On Love

I recently spent some time in New York City to attend my sister’s graduation from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Congrats, Sis!!!

I also took in the vibrancy, culture, and general environment conducive to artistic endeavors. On my final day, I woke up at 4AM to trek to the Brooklyn Bridge to watch the sunset. As I sat there and took in the splendor of the morning dawn, my thoughts turned to those who fight everyday for the freedom to enjoy these simplicities, the marginalized and downtrodden. Those in captivity serving uncouth masters as slaves of labor and sexual exploitation. As the sun rose above the Williamsburg Bridge and city skyline, I renewed my vow and dedication to correct the iniquities in the world, fight human trafficking, and end modern day slavery. All of us should be free to witness majestic sunrises like the one that I had the privilege to witness.

This video is dedicated to those who are hidden behind the veil of darkness fighting for personal freedom. It is my hopes that you also enjoy this sunrise and think of those who require our care and love and dedication to freedom.

– Ascending Rabbit

My treatise on love was first published here. 

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The Land Untread

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I seek a land touched by few

Where from the sky I do not see the trails of man

Only the endless, endless underneath white puffs gliding

And I know in this place I will never place my modern feet upon

For if I do, then I will know a man has tread where no one has before

And left the refined dirt beneath my shoes upon the free and pristine wild

So if I find this land I will tell none

And sit with smile wide because I hold a secret touched only by sight

A secret that whisks over my heart with ache

Displacing my mind in yearning to become that distant spread unknown

Yet, I find myself here

In metallic, sleek flying tube soaring high above the jammed earth

Still searching

Still seeking always

And now I almost land on tilled asphalt, handmade world of my brothers and sisters

This concrete, sky-blocked place

Where I do not belong

– Lost Rabbit