Law in Contemporary Society

Escaping the Noise Through Self-Examination

-- By AbiolaFasehun - 28 May 2012


In college I created a community project to address an issue that I witnessed fester among youth- an unawareness that through self-examination they could be motivated to achieve something greater than themselves. My target was teenage women. I didn't rely on statistics from an article or the latest research to educate me on the challenges that young women faced. I knew from volunteering in the community, mentoring, and directing a non-profit, that youth were constantly being bombarded by messages industries generated to limit their ability to think independently. I embarked on the creation of my project with a belief that the teenagers I worked with had the most to gain, but eventually I discovered the importance of creating an on going process of self-examination to fuel my life's work.

Falling prey to my own message

The project focused on building self-esteem in young women. My message was simple: to reach one's full potential young women needed to stop listening to the noise. Stop watching the cable channels that told them what a young girl should look like and what she should experience. Stop listening to the music that told them who they were destined to be.

I feared my message. I feared that the young women who participated in my program would not be receptive. Who was I to dare them to recreate societal norms? To try and build each other up, rather than tear each other down?

To an outsider my program appeared to be a success, but in my mind I questioned my legitimacy. After the program, I received an email from a mother who wanted advice on how to help her daughter overcome insecurities. I responded to the email like a pro. I gave her the advice she sought and offered to mentor her daughter, but in the back of my mind, a familiar doubt arose: Who was I to offer such advice?

I didn't entirely follow my message. I remained plugged into a world which attempted to define me. A world that was orchestrated by the media, societal norms, and others' expectations of what was appropriate for a black female. A world in which I declined to be different. I was a cheerleader in college because that was how I defined the image of a fun and charismatic individual. Beyonce or any female pop star was an ideal, and I found myself emulating the vainglorious nature that the media engendered in my style, purchases, and interests.

Can we escape being swindled?

From the moment we are brought into this world, there is an attempt to define our identity. Baby girls are cloaked in pink, while boys are cloaked in blue. We get a little older and the categories remain the same- it's the mechanisms which change. Girls play with barbies. We are taught to be nurturing and to value what sparkles. Boys play with soldiers. They are taught not to cry, welcome challenges, and be physical. Once in awhile an individual may try to buck the role he or she was born into; succeeding in one obstacle, to falter in another.

In Swindling and Selling, Arthur Allen Leff describes the inescapable mass merchandising schemes which penetrate our lives. Our everyday purchases are part of the act. We buy a certain brand name because it'll give us that glorious shine that no other brand can deliver. You want to be more macho? There's a product for that. You want to wake up looking like Cindy Crawford? Surely there's a product for that too. I was conscious of the object of the game, but lacked a facility in the rules. I knew that what I listened to, read, and watched all went towards creating an ideal of myself yet I couldn't escape being swindled until I learned how to live life selectively conscious of my surroundings.

What can be gained by turning off the noise?

A few weeks after my project, a literature professor challenged my class with the following assignment: turn off our iPods and hide them for a few days. I didn't own an ipod at the time, but his point served as a jarring reminder of the challenges I faced in wanting to provide young women with an alternative message.

Forms of communication and entertainment have lost their innocence. We are at a point where the cognitive noise that is produced, limits human social interaction. Phones render human beings always available and reality T.V. dictates our lives. Music and legal drugs are a refuge, allowing individuals to escape with a quickness that rivals any transformation superman could perform. All of these modern wonders are forms of diversion which appeal to our unconscious selves. We are able to to exist without completely partaking in everyday exchanges that create a human bond, thus losing out on the ability to create real change in the lives of others. Do we have to remain conscious to everything we experience? No, but by learning to be present we can experience life fully and learn to live with empathy.

Turning off the noise to guide our life's work

Despite the maddening pace and messages we are given, we all share the beauty of choice. By limiting my interactions with electronic devices, websites, and the accumulation of stuff that attempted to define me, I was able to examine who I was. I longed to dedicate my life to something greater than myself, yet I found my motivation from within.

Prior to law school elements of my life could be categorized into stereotypical labels. These labels defined my world and helped to keep me within a mold. Upon completing my first year of law school, I prefer the labels that now accompany my identity: activist, writer, budding attorney. These labels are not barriers, but represent the motivation I gained from my own self-examination. These labels are a reminder of where I have been and what I hope to achieve. -- AbiolaFasehun - 10 Jul 2012 (999)

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r5 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:09:44 - IanSullivan
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