I was recently triggered by a dear friend. He had no way of knowing – I don’t talk about these things, and on the rare occurrence that it comes up in any context, I take care of it myself. But we’ve been close for awhile now, and he deserved some sort of understanding as to why I nearly walked out, no reasons, to clear my head and calm my breathing.
10 years after the abuse, still finding pockets of fear. Trust, & the ability to speak of its breaking, as minefields. <3 to patient sorting
— Willow Brugh (@willowbl00) March 9, 2014
My tendency is to not talk about things until I have both a clear understanding and a clear action to take. If understanding is all that is needed, I sometimes keep that to myself, unless it benefits everyone to express it. Mind you, with a high emotional metabolism, these processes can take from minutes to hours – rarely on the scale of a full or multiple days. But I suppose it’s important to talk about abuse, especially as someone who apparently seems functional.
Corey used to leave me places. We lived in a bad neighborhood in Suffolk, and I was new to the area, and I worked doubles at an Applebees a few miles from home. The one time I tried to walk home late at night, a car stopped to proposition me, and became quite angry when I didn’t accede. I was 19 at the time. I didn’t have a phone – we only had one, and Corey had taken it, but wasn’t answering. Being that poor also meant I didn’t have cab fare, there were no buses, and my new coworkers were uncaring. I didn’t have my car – he had taken that, too. To do… something.. while I worked and he didn’t. After that, even when I couldn’t get ahold of him, I would wait at the restaurant, sometimes for a couple hours, until he would come to get me. He would then “tease” me for how often I had called or texted him.
When I would insist on taking my car with me, it became an argument about trust. Why didn’t I trust him to have the car? It was just going to sit in the parking lot all day, whereas he could use it. Didn’t I trust him to come get me? Did that mean I didn’t trust him at all in anything else? I was a horrible person! He was simply absent minded. My lack of trust was undermining the relationship.
Later, things slowly escalated. We would get into regular yelling matches. He broke his hand from punching the floor when I stated my intentions of leaving, permanently and immediately. I drove him to the hospital instead of driving myself to my cousin’s, crying because I knew the ensuing hospital bills would threaten the move back to Indiana so I could return to school (my parents’ sneaky trick to get me back into a social safety net). I still don’t know the laws about physical abuse if you hit back. It wasn’t pretty. And always the underlying thread of distrust. Any fight always came back down to my not trusting him. I finally left him after 2 and a half years, discovering that the problem was not my lack of trust but his untrustworthiness. We still had to live together for awhile, again from his financial insolvency. There was a final morning with him not letting me leave the house, my finally calling the cops as he slammed doors back shut and then stood in front of my car.
Recovery takes time, and I’m still not done with it. I reflect less often, but more publicly. But it’s important to know that even badasses like me have baggage. So do others.
- 2007 : http://willowperson.livejournal.com/129303.html
- 2008 : http://willowperson.livejournal.com/167449.html
- 2009 : http://willowperson.livejournal.com/197463.html
- 2010 : http://blog.bl00cyb.org/2010/09/diaf/
- 2013 : http://brainmeats.net/ep8-social-scripts-for-abuse
When an ex-lover in Seattle had pulled my motorcycle battery to get his own going, I lost my shit. In his excitement over mechanical triumph, he tossed his feature phone towards me to gain my attention while stopped on the curb. He had just removed both the ability to communicate and my transportation. Of course he had no idea why this would be so bad. Nor could he, until I expressed it.
The thing that makes emotional abuse difficult to overcome is that erosion in the baseline of trust. The initial giving of trust is still pretty easy to me, it’s the response to being in an iffy situation and determining how to navigate it. My attempts to vocalize about being uncomfortable in the past meant all the structure of the relationship was torn away (not by me, I know that now). So my knee-jerk response to situations now is that of having to choose to quietly deal with the feelings that I’m having, or having trust itself questioned. My heart doesn’t understand there can be an third option between stoicism and complete tear down. And I like the trust established with the Boston Sweetie (who I’ll note wanted to be called the Boston Strangler here, that is how awesome he is).
But now I have space again to ask questions and think through things safely, I don’t have to have a rational reason for feeling the way I feel. Maybe someday I get to be rational about all this again. Maybe. In the meantime, I just have to accept that the people around me might actually want to help, not take my need for help as a personal affront. All I have to do is be brave enough to explain what’s going on in the tumult of feels, even if it doesn’t yet make sense. Especially if it doesn’t yet make sense.
It’s important to know that even the ability to speaking about the abuse is what is ripped away. This is why it is difficult to speak out. The podcast, listed above, has some pretty heart-felt conversation from a variety of people in it. Worth checking out. And speak out. It helps. Even a decade later.
What a crazy week. This has mostly been typed on a plane back to Boston, where I get to be for a few days before heading to DC and then home to visit. When I landed to SF a week ago, I had plans to see friends, to lounge a bit, to enjoy a city I love so much. Instead, and just as happily, it was a whirlwind of jam-packed braining and action around user rights and the methods and tools to support those rights.
With the Codesign Studio I TA with the Media Lab, a series of Discovery Technology (DiscoTech) Workshops were put on. The ones in Bangalore, Ramallah, Mexico City, Boston, and San Francisco were all inspiring. You can see more about the projects, art, and progress over on our hackpad. Some examples were stories from Venezuelan activists, face painting to deter facial recognition (so hard!), long-time surveillance on poor communities in America, and spoofing DNA.
And seriously. Take a few minutes to go through the partner pages for this. Need a bit of morning outrage? Think everything’s going pretty ok in the world? Nope!
UI/UX for Crypto Tools Hackathon
The second usability hackathon with OpenITP went incredibly well, and repped as the San Francisco DiscoTech as well as its own thing.
It was utterly luxurious to work on large team of people. Ciprian had logistics covered, solidly. Gus knew the projects inside and out. Bex had notes and tone in beautiful competence. Anytime I would think “oh, we should..” it was already in progress. All I had to do was herd the kittens, which was absurdly fun.
It was really nice to completely surrounded by the people I usually see when we all jam into the one or two sessions at any tech or policy event which involve both. But that overlap was the whole conference, so we were able to dive in much deeper, see more nuance, and see next steps. I learned about funder motives, and the initiatives which backed tech in atrocity prevention/detection/accountability, and about many many tools used to amplify the voices of marginalized people. I drew a lot, and I hugged even more.
Full set on bl00viz.
I typed notes for two interactive sessions for sake of formatting. One was a review of the the UI/UX hackathon the weekend before, the other was stories from the field and suggestions for how to be better trainers. Those can be found over on the Civic blog.
Responsible Data Forum
Thursday I trekked out to Oakland to participate in Engine Room‘s Responsible Data Forum, as hosted by the inspirational Aspiration Tech. Again, I was spoiled by being surrounded by an impressively diverse set of people interested in the same fulcrum of concern and change. We skeletoned out plans for checklists before collecting data, and workflows that include project death, and illustrated how data moves through a company. We talked hosting and coercion resistant design and informed consent. We also talked about context-based privacy in disasters. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of the day.
My most recent hex tattoo says “throw away the scabbard”. The full meaning is that when the time comes to fight, you draw your sword and throw the scabbard away. Because you either face a foe you are unlikely to beat, or that you will not be forgiven, or that there is no going back. It’s also a quote attributed to Stonewall Jackson. Who was a right git. But the quote is thus both a reminder that I get to make a choice, once, to draw my sword; as well as that those I rally against have conviction to rival my own (as well as some things to say that I do believe in).
It’s a manifestation and reminder of the ongoing battle within myself between the desire to fix what we’ve got, and the desire to build something alternative and independent while tearing down the current structures. I mean this for education, for economies, for law, and for societies. It’s a constant balance, and one I’m lucky to be surrounded by individuals and groups in both extremes as well as others also balancing. What I hope for are more people I can share nuanced views with – there are a few, but it’s been an alienating experience to examine possibility between these two worlds. I hope this post can help open up that conversation. And I truly feel that, with enough understanding and allies, it will be possible to both do damage control with the current system by creating where we want to be – either with existing or with new.
Here’s the main strain between the two sides for me :
The master’s tools will never dismantle
the master’s house. – Audre Lorde
At the same time, those who are harmed most in
tumultuous times are those already most at risk.
Scaling is hard, and we have a responsibility to the people who already exist on the planet in whatever actions we take to make a better world. Is the suffering caused by the current set-up greater or lesser than the process of shifting to a less damaging system?
One of the reasons I sit in this balance is because of my work with Geeks Without Bounds on humanitarian and disaster response work. I see how amazing groups of people can be if you just get out of their way. Social media in response is not about a curated format for intake for FEMA or OEM or even Red Cross. It’s about a group of people (in this case, in an affected area) that already know how to talk to each other, and who know what they need, finding a new audience of people who want to help them. It’s about mutual aid. But FEMA and OEM and Red Cross have a place in this system, as experts and as providers of specific and prolific resources. And that sort of interaction needs people like me, at least right now, who can talk to both sides about how to get what they need and how to avoid being trampled on.
That bridging requires a lot of talking and trust building. Neither of these sides is especially fond of the other – the formal out of confusion and fear, and the informal from righteous indignation and historical awareness (caveat caveat caveat on both parts – most individuals I’ve met do not fit these descriptions, but as collectively held viewpoints, it holds depressingly true). On rare occasion, such as in response, both sides end up being both hard-pressed but hopeful, forgetting to be wary.
Running with these rare moments has changed things. But it requires being open to possibility, trusting in good will, and standing strong with your source and vision. It requires seeing what people want to offer, and what is non-negotiable. And it does require the understanding that at any point, this balance might change. While I might trust some of the people within it, I do not trust The System, while it sure can be useful.
So when a chance to possibly tweak a part of our executive branch came up recently, but in a way that is daunting and consuming, it caused a lot of internal angst. Here’s a 5-minute explanation, to be watched before the rest of the post is read:
Yes, their goal is that of recruitment. But this is where shared vision can come into play – the world where any of the folk I love and trust would be willing to recruit to this group is also a world in which external oversight is fully supported and embraced. Hopefully, it’s a world in which such a group wouldn’t even be needed. And I’m willing to work towards that world with many people. Our inputs and outputs may be different, but it all starts to look the same the further towards our core it goes.
But! Even if the gents we are entertaining the thought of talking to might have the best of intentions at heart, and a vested interested in making it work out well for all parties involved, it might not be safe to do so. Even if they work to protect a spark of understanding and collaboration, to fan it towards making their organization one worth working for, anyone else from within that organization might ensure information from interaction snaps into the proscribed uses – that of targeting and undermining dissidents. The whole path and system of interaction is not safe, the architecture is lacking for intentional systems shift. Which means the tiny, squishy people not protected by that system will be severely damaged, and in a way that continues allowing the current track of harm. No martyrdom here will work.
That is why so many things have been allowed to get so messed up. There’s no self-referential nor -checking mechanism for our systems. There’s no pause [wait, are we sure this is where we want to be?] function. And that is simply ridiculous. Ridiculous because it is simple, and it makes everything better and easier, regardless of where you’re wanting to go.
So what’s to be done? I can do small things, and so can you. Make sure the organizations you associate with, the social interactions you are a part of, and even your self have self-checking mechanisms. Meditate. Do not-project-focused gatherings where folk say, without fear of firing or abandonment, how they think things are going overall. Where you don’t have direct influence to make such things happen, find allies and work towards it together. And if you have the chance to talk to someone from the Other Side, be sure they can actually follow through on what they’re going for. Help them understand why it’s vital, and help get there, if you can.
So much love to all the folk who listened to me parse through this incessantly for the better part of a few weeks. Their hearts and minds are folded into this world view, and I could not be the person I am without them. You know who you are.
Annie and I were fighting in that way you can fight with people you’ve known for awhile. She thought I was blissfully optimistic and, in expressing that, was disrespectful of people in difficult positions. I was also not good at being a friend at a distance. I thought she was being overly rash and weird. She was upset that I thought her that un-self aware. We dropped it when my dad went into surgery, and we didn’t bring it up when I offered to help pay for a medical visit when she collapsed recently. I thought it was anxiety. She refused to get treatment because her insurance wouldn’t kick in until today. Today. She disliked this country, for the same reasons she died in it. It doesn’t take care of its people.
She was the lynchpin of our sharebro group, bringing together these strange collections of people around long-form analysis and banter. And when Google Reader went away, she was the one who pushed to find a new space, and brought us back together again on The Old Reader. In all these deep conversations, Annie was still hard to know. Intensely private. Irate when images were captured without consent. Always interrogating the blasé assumptions of sharing, preferring it as an act of intentionality rather than of status quo.
I met Annie not too long after moving to Seattle, a long-time friend of some of the Bloomington Diaspora. She was this persistently present enigma in our shared social circle that I didn’t take the time to get to know more. She didn’t take on casual friends, and I have trouble interacting with people unless it’s on a project. We talked about ideas and society on Reader, but never really got to know about what was in our ribs, sticking to what was in our skulls. Annie was an intimidating intellectual sparring partner, steadfast in her outrage at The Patriarchy and Capitalism.
Some rant she went on about if games were useful for things other than play, and about gender, and about all sorts of other things sparked a “what would it take to fix this?” conversation. We met at Jigsaw, a block away from us both, for what we thought would be a few hours of talking. Instead we launced GameSave together. For 3 months, we shared a project. We lived across the alley from each other, and I would walk up the appallingly uneven steps to the back door of her building, she and Gretchen just back from their walk. She would make eggs and coffee, her apartment in the colors I now recognize as the Icelandic pallet. She conceded to playing my “fairy glitch” as opposed to her preferred metal, sitting for hours at a time on her awful futon. We talked through what was possible in disaster and humanitarian response, and what was people-dependent, and what large-scale logistics supported through crowds and gaming structure would look like. We took on a seemingly impossible project, and pulled it off. I was proud to live up to what she saw as possible.
And one night, tired of working, we binged on YachtRock and Aquavit, and actually opened up to each other. She was a person, and she was my friend, and she was utterly, utterly stubborn. I didn’t know her nearly as well as some of the other Seattle crew, but I knew her more than most, and that was an honor to hold.
I bought a plane ticket when Lindsay called. I didn’t know if I’d be taking a watching round at the hospital or holding people’s hands, having mine be held. It’s the latter.
So I’m sitting in the last Seattle coffee shop I saw her in, wondering what of our shared experiences are for my public tendencies, and what are to keep in my ribs, strangely territorial of the the grief I feel for this intensely private person. I hope to help make the world that wouldn’t have let her die for lack of money. I hope to not alienate the people unlike me by failing to include them in that language. I hope to live up to what she saw as possible.
Sitting at lunch with SJ, he starts giggling about some Liz Phair song on the radio, and then launches into this Explain-Like-I’m-Five-Esque breakdown of his reappropriated lyrics. I started drawing. All was well.
In talking to someone I would rather see as both infallible and immortal about going under the knife, I lightened the situation by telling them they could be altered within several deviations of themselves and still be tolerable. Bantering with SJ around what are organs even for, if you don’t need entire parts of them, lead us somehow to my drawing this image.
Thank goodness for humor.
<3s to cohorts Charlie (@cdetar), Fin (@fin), Drew (@hornbein), Laurie (@pennyred), Oakwright (@oakwright), and Tom (@mathpunk) for the checkins and the help in writing this post.
Most of the projects I work on involve me holding myself accountable. I don’t have a boss to fire me, just the possibility of losing gigs and support. I don’t have relationships with people that require certain actions from me. The side projects I tend to take on take place over a long period of time and involve many parties.
Checking in regularly with a number of people I trust, but am not accountable to or for, helps me stay on track with (and realistic about) my workload. Especially related to side projects.
Not Your Usual Checkin
These are people you are not directly accountable to. They are people to whom you strive towards being socially accountable. This mainly boils down to working with people you desire the respect of, but are friendly enough with to fail in front of. No part of your livelihood should depend upon your honesty (obviously, I hope this would be the case in any job, but the dream is not yet the reality).
Tom sez: The Table is Round : There is no project manager. Rather, participants ask one another about their projects. “So Tom, how is ‘Writing a cover letter’ going?”
Fin sez: I really like the informal and casual tone we keep.
Have a Regular Call Time
You might tweak this regular call time to later in the day or that week occasionally, and let people know if you won’t make it or need to reschedule. Some weeks everyone will miss together. Just keep going. Assume it will happen the next week at the regular time. If people consistently miss, ask them if they mean to make it. Remove them from the workflow if they can’t commit on at least a semi-regular basis, welcoming them back if they are able to prioritize it again.
Have a Place to Meet that Doesn’t Rely on Any One Person
Charlie set us up with a persistent Unhangout. No invites, no person flaking preventing an easy join, just. showing up at the regular time. The code to set up such a thing exists here. It can be a little intense for someone to install and run on their own, so if you’d like to use the hosted service for a permalink, do so here.
Choose a Platform
We use Trello. Generalizable enough to make sense for various projects, public, low barrier to entry. Especially useful with its API so some of us plug into our more finely detailed project management software.
We use the following Columns:
- “Backlog” for things that may or may not happen
- “ToDo” for things yet to be worked on, or that have stalled out
- “Doing” for things that are in progress & are being actively worked on
- “Done” is the high-five column, which gets emptied every check-in.
We also assign tasks to ourselves, so everyone can have an overview of what others are doing – and thus can take over “moderation” of the call.
You’ll slowly start to notice that some things you meant to do just… aren’t being done. Put them on a back burner. After awhile, either admit they’re not going to get done, or restructure them to be approachable and actionable.
Generalities, Not Atomized
All of our participants have personal task management on various platforms. This is about what we’re generally needing to get done, not the granular aspects. We each have our own systems for those more specific aspects (I use OmniFocus on my desktop, tho thinking of switching off, and TeamBox for GWOB).
This has been super useful for me in staying on task, delivering on long-term projects, and in feeling connected to a group of people even when my work isn’t. Hope you find it useful, too!
Being in Berlin reminded me that I haven’t been around the hackers I know and love since my last round of gadget aquirement. A lot of conversations have been happening recently around the usability of crypto-aware tools (including an event in DC on Jan 11th that GWOB is doing with OpenITP – you should go!). What we fail to talk about are how easy many existing things are out there, and what they are. Here are some things we did:
Encrypt all the things!
Why this matters: when interacting with law enforcement, you can plead the 5th around your password, but the hardware itself can be seized, albeit sometimes for a short time. During this, they can take an image of your disk, IE, scan and copy anything on it. By encrypting your device, all they will see is adsfliu9p8aerkadfov8c79234hfgia etc instead of “ohai.”
- A Mac. It’s not as hard as you think. With a solid state drive, it takes about 45 minutes. Let it run tonight while you head to bed. For a Mac, plug it in, launch System Preferences > Security and Privacy > File Vault > Encrypt.
- An Android. Also not difficult. Settings > Security > Encrypt Device. Again, you’ll need to leave it plugged in and have a bit of patience with it.
Why this is important: helps you not fall into password reuse issues by allowing you to only remember one strong password, and loading in non-human-memorable passwords.
On Mac, I went for 1Password. It costs some money, but it’s hella easy to use, and I can share an encrypted file via dropbox between my multiple devices so I can still access accounts. While I’m plugging in these accounts to 1Password, I’m slowly changing all my less-secure passwords for randomized ones.
Why this is important: While we’ve achieved HTTPS in most places, within and between larger “clouds” data is not actually sent encrypted. In order for you to maintain your privacy, it’s important for anything you send to be encrypted. All of these are usable in the exact same way from a user standpoint as the things they replace. They just also encrypt the traffic. Try them out.
I already use Adium for Off The Record (OTR) and Thunderbird for Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) on my Mac. I’d use Jitsi but it crashes anytime I’ve tried. Waiting until it works. That said, I also want the messages I send on my phone to be encrypted.
- ChatSecure : chat on phone
- TextSecure : already installed, but worth mentioning
- Threema : also encrypts images etc! Let me know if you’re on it, definitely needs critical mass in order to be usable. I’m K69NNHXE
- Orweb : Tor browser on phone
- Orbot : Tor node on phone
Why this is important: you control your data. Or at least someone you can go punch in the face does. I am also incredibly hungry at this point of writing this post and thus this section lacks detail.
Uberspace : I like this group out of Berlin. They’re pretty great.
Ownweb : All the functionality of calendar, contact storage, etc. Works beautifully on Uberspace.
edit: Make that OwnCloud. Thanks, Natanji! Also, hosting on your own of course requires the mental and technical to maintain those servers.
Is it safe?
When is the last time you ran a backup? Why not right now?
<3 to all the fine folk who helped out with this : Tomate, Herr Flupke, Morgan.