May 25 2013

European_Douchebag and the Bearded Sikh Girl: When Cyberbullying Goes Terribly Right

I’m not sure how much attention you’re willing to pay to the ramblings of a Reddit poster named “european_douchebag,” but the guy has sparked a conversation that has led many, myself included, to examine the impromptu judgments we make about how other humans choose to present themselves to the world—and about how the concept of “beauty” so effectively divides us.

Balpreet Kaur, “a baptized Sikh woman.”

It seems “douchebag” caught sight of the young lady pictured here and, without her knowledge, snapped this photo of her. He proceeded to post the photo on Reddit and tagged it “funny,” along with the caption, “i’m not sure what to conclude from this.”

On the cyberbullying meanness scale, I’d give douche’s caption a 2.5, but the message he not-so-subtly conveyed about his photo’s subject was, What’s wrong with this picture? The photo elicited hundreds of responses, many of them considerably more cruel than Douche’s original caption.

Of course, with the virtual world being as small as it is, a friend eventually alerted the photo’s subject that she was being ridiculed online, and, well,  I’ll give you four wild guesses how the “victim” responded:

A. She contacted an attorney and issued an immediate cease and desist letter to Douche and Reddit.
B. She combed through Douche’s Reddit ramblings and found several posts with which to embarrass him.
C. She took the high (ignore that insensitive jerk) road.
D. None of the above.

The answer is “D” —and then some.

Against the advice of cyberbullying experts, who warn bullying targets to “never reply to cyberbullies -even though you may really want to,” the young lady posted this response to Douchebag’s photo share: (The paragraph breaks are mine)

Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn’t know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I’m not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am.

Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will.

Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us.

By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can.

So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I’ve gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this.

Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.

*blink*

Ahem.

Can we say SCHOOLED?

Geez.

Balpreet really took it there. And by there I mean LOVING, PATIENT, COMPASSIONATE WISDOM.

Did she really say, “By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions.” ?

Well, damn. I’m so humbled by that line (and simultaneously knocked back into my own history to examine the many many many apparel and grooming choices I’ve made in my life that in NO WAY added value to my life’s purpose, and probably inadvertently  (?)  created a carnal distraction for some poor soul struggling to stay on a spiritual path.)

But, I digress.

So,

I’ll give you four wild guesses as to how Douche responded to this very (clearly) loving message Balpreet directed at him which was the essence of peaceful, thoughtful, kind, and mature.

A. He photoshopped the picture with creative cruelty–ratcheting up the ridicule factor.
B. He responded to her message with vicious insults.
C. He shut down his Reddit account and disappeared from the conversation.
D. None of the above.

The answer is, of course, “D” —with an unexpected twist.

Douche apologized:

I know that this post ISN’T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.

/r/Funny wasn’t the proper place to post this. Maybe /r/racism or /r/douchebagsofreddit or /r/intolerance would have been more appropriate. Reddit shouldn’t be about putting people down, but a group of people sending cool, interesting, or funny things. Reddit’s been in the news alot lately about a lot of cool things we’ve done, like a freaking AMA by the president. I’m sorry for being the part of reddit that is intolerant and douchebaggy. This isn’t 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did. It’s fucking reddit. Where some pretty amazing stuff has happened.

I’ve read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.

So reddit I’m sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity.
Balpreet, I’m sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am
Sikhs, I’m sorry for insulting your culture and way of life.
Balpreet’s faith in what she believes is astounding.

“Balpreet’s faith in what she believes is astounding.”

I concur.

And, I would add that she stands as a magnificent role model for those who would be victimized by cyberbullying–not necessarily in her amazingly humble and instructive written response (which not everyone is mature or literate enough to effectively pull off), but in her INTERNAL response to the criticism itself. She decided not to be embarrassed or humiliated, and she clearly wasn’t, because she knows who she is. She knows where her value lies. And since that value is not related to anything material, nothing material can touch it.

Love that.

I can only honor Balpreet for how far ahead of us she is in recognizing how so-called physical beauty (determined by whom?) is a stumbling block to spiritual evolution and often impedes us in living a life that adds true value to the world, though I must admit I won’t be letting my body hairs have their way in homage to her.

Having been raised in the Baha’i Faith, with “unity in diversity” as the watchwords for human interactions, it is not difficult for me to admire Balpreet and respect her choices.

On the subject of dress and appearance, the Baha’i writings advise:

“Let there be naught in your demeanor of which sound and upright minds would disapprove, and make not yourselves the playthings of the ignorant.  Well is it with him who hath adorned himself with the vesture of seemly conduct and a praiseworthy character.”  (Bahá’u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶ 159 p. 76)

Who, exactly, possesses “sound and upright minds” raises a deeper question, of course, but the concept makes so much sense to me that any extreme in dress or grooming that provides fodder for “the ignorant” can turn one’s own individual freedom of expression into another’s spiritual, emotional and moral distraction.

Some folks reading that are like, “So what?! I’m going to dress however I want to, and how it’s perceived by others is not my problem.” Which is how you might respond if you don’t believe the spiritual lives of others have anything to do with you, and if you don’t believe that cause and effect carry any significant consequences.

I am still pondering this incident and the conversations it has inspired, and I am still deciding how it applies to my own life and choices.

No, I won’t be letting my body hairs do their own thing, but I will be asking myself in what ways my individual freedom of expression is impacting my own spiritual growth, and how it might impact the spiritual lives of others.


Jan 3 2012

Inventor Develops Procedure to Permanently Turn Brown Eyes Blue

“It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights — if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different.”  –Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

An  inventor in California says he has developed a new 20-second laser procedure that will safely turn brown eyes blue…for around $5,000.

Gregg Homer, founder of Stroma Medical in Laguna Beach, Calif., says the color switch is possible because all brown-eyed people have blue-looking orbs under the layer of dark pigment that covers the iris.

Homer  has conducted preliminary testing of the irreversible procedure on a dozen volunteers in Mexico, and plans to test the full procedure in both eyes of volunteers in about a year.

Stroma will first market the treatment outside the U.S. — probably Mexico, Canada and Europe. Homer said he has “no doubt” he’ll get FDA approval in the U.S. in about three years.

“People like the depth of a light eye,” says Homer. “Eyes are the windows to the soul, and a light eye is like an open window.”

Oh, really?

Not so fast, Homer.

This story reminds me of one I posted back in August about a “Pupil of the Eye” conference Bahá’is held in Los Angeles to celebrate the spiritual contributions of people of African descent:

“Bahá’is believe in the oneness of the human family, but discourage the kind of “color blindness” that leads to the glossing over of critical issues those committed to racial unity must be willing to address.

The Baha’i writings metaphorically compare black believers to the “pupil of the eye surrounded by the white,” explaining, “In this black pupil is seen the reflection of that which is before it, and through it the light of the spirit shineth forth.”

Young people today are already bombarded with media messages that tell them they are not perfect and beautiful exactly the way they were created. Breast implants. Butt injections. Skin lightening. Permanent eye color switch?

Have mercy. It seems Pecola Breedlove’s misguided survival strategy may soon become all the rage.


Dec 23 2010

Rainn, Rainn, Goes Away…

Forgive me for the drippy headline pun, but it has rained so much in Southern California this week, some of us damn near needed a rowboat to get our holiday shopping done.

Rainn Wilson, I forgive you for abandoning us to the floods, but I gotta ask you why a rich and famous mega TV star like yourself didn’t go straight to the Bahamas or BoraBora or some other peaceful, sun-drenched destination. No, you get a break from filming The Office and you pack your bags and head for Haifa, Israel? Isn’t that, like, one of the stormiest (politically,  that is) places on Earth?

Well, since you and I aren’t BFFs like you and, say, Andy Grammer or Devon Gundry, and you’re not going to be receiving or answering any tweets or emails on “the internets” until next year, I’m not really going to get a response to my question, am I? So, I think I’m just going to eat a Soul Pancake and write about what I’m guessing you’re up to for nine days over there in the Holy Land.

In recent weeks, Rainn has been on every major media outlet in the country talking about his non-Office related project “Soul Pancake,” an interactive website and bestselling book that attempt to, in Rainn’s own words, “de-lame-ify talking about God and religion.”

Religion is a subject close to Rainn’s heart and he is very open about his belief in the Baha’i Faith, a world religion whose prophet-founder Baha’u'llah professed in 1863 that he was the return of the same Divine Spirit embodied by every other major religion’s founder including Buddha, Moses, Christ and Muhammad.

“The Prophets of God should be regarded as physicians whose task is to foster the well-being of the world and its peoples, that, through the spirit of oneness, they may heal the sickness of a divided humanity…”

“That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled — what harm is there in this? …Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the `Most Great Peace’ shall come…” -Baha’u'llah

The Holy Land for Bahai’s is on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel near where Baha’u'llah is buried. Baha’is are obligated to visit the Shrine of Baha’u'llah at least once in their lifetime if, according to the teachings, “one can afford it and is able to do so, and if no obstacle stands in one’s way”.

The nine-day pilgrimage also includes visits to the seat of the Baha’i administrative body, the Universal House of Justice. Baha’i Pilgrims (who travel to Haifa from every country on the planet and are a striking example of unity in diversity) also visit the Shrine of the Bàb, as well as other sites precious to the faith’s adherents.

The Baha'i Shrine of the Bàb on Mt. Carmel

Ever the comedian, Rainn’s first tweet from the Holy Land was a commentary on the hotel accommodations over there:

Rainn, as you travel to that historically blessed, yet volatile region, be safe, sleep tight and don’t let the bed…oh, uh, never mind. I hope your trip’s amazing. We’d love to hear all about it when you’re back home.

http://news.bahai.org/story/548 <more from Rainn about the Baha’i Faith