Thursday, July 30, 2009

Departures, Part 2: Let's Revisit Natalie White's Success In South Korea

Now's a good time to revisit an earlier post from April 2009 that discussed a sister named Natalie White.

Ms. White has been in the news, including one news story that was featured on the South Korean government's official website.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Al-Walaa Wal Baraa, Part 2: Why People Betray Their Own Values

Counterintelligence agencies have discovered that there are several basic reasons why people engage in espionage and treason. Security officials often use the acronym MICE as a summary: money, ideology, compromise and ego.

It's interesting to note that these same motivations are the reasons why everyday people act in ways that betray their own values.

I would add "Carelessness" and "social Coercion" to the above list of MICE factors.

There's a science to betrayal and enticing people to act in ways contrary to their values. This science applies to all sorts of seemingly different situations. Those of us who are serious about maintaining our own values, and raising our children to maintain their values need to understand this science.

Strategic Forecasting, Inc., more commonly known as Stratfor, is a private intelligence agency founded in 1966 in Austin, Texas. Barron's once referred to it as "The Shadow CIA." George Friedman is the founder, chief intelligence officer, and CEO of the company.

Here's some background reading I'd like people to keep in mind as we continue to talk about our values. The following article is from

"Security Implications of the Global Financial Crisis
March 4, 2009 1813 GMT

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

As anyone with a stock portfolio knows, it is a rough time for the markets. With many portfolios down 50 percent or more, this large loss of equity and wealth has been very difficult on individuals and corporations. The problems, of course, have not been confined to the stock markets. With property values plunging and variable-rate mortgages ballooning, many homeowners are also caught in a bad situation — the number of homeowners behind in their mortgage payments has been increasing and the number of foreclosures has grown.

Unemployment is also an issue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January 2009 there were 2,227 mass layoff actions in the United States involving 237,902 workers. Significantly, the financial crisis is not just restricted to the United States — it is a global event that is also having a severe impact on economies in Europe, Asia and the developing world. Things are tough all over, and this financial strain will create some large security problems for corporations and governments.

Threats to the Bottom Line

During times of financial hardship, companies often have to make cuts like the aforementioned layoffs. When companies plan cuts, they often focus on eliminating those corporate functions that do not appear to be contributing to the company’s profitability. And one of the first functions cut during tough times often is corporate security. A security department typically has a pretty substantial budget (it costs a lot for all those guards, access-control devices, cameras and alarms), and security is usually viewed as detracting from, rather than contributing to, the company’s bottom line. The “fat” security budget is seen as an easy place to quickly reduce costs in an effort to balance the profit-and-loss statement.

This view of security is due to a number of factors. First, it must be recognized that there are certainly some security programs that are indeed bloated and ill-conceived that have consumed far too many corporate resources for the results they produce. Furthermore, there is a long tradition of corporate security directors who are not good communicators and who do not take the effort to educate upper management about ways their programs contribute to corporate goals.

However, even when a security director has an effective program and is a good communicator, it can be very difficult to quantify the losses that the corporation did not suffer due to the presence of effective security measures. The lack of losses and incidents due to a robust security program can be interpreted by some to mean that there is no threat to guard against. Indeed, effective security can make it appear that there is no need for security, a paradox we have also seen in the historical pattern of U.S. government security funding — a pattern that has resulted in a number of disastrous attacks against U.S. embassies.

In times of economic hardship, the relentless focus on operating expenses and even corporate cutbacks can lead to definite security challenges. As we discussed last November, one of these problems is
workplace violence, but during times when people are hurting financially, issues such as employee theft, fraud and product theft by non-employees must also be carefully monitored.

However, while the theft of a tractor-trailer full of computers or flat screen televisions can quickly get someone’s attention, there is a far more subtle, and no less dangerous, threat lurking just under the surface. That threat is espionage — both corporate and state-sponsored.

The Human-Intelligence Process

Espionage is always a problem corporations must face. Competitors, criminals and even foreign governments often seek ways to gather proprietary information from companies, sometimes to boost their own operational capacities (e.g., to apply critical or emerging technologies to their weapons programs) and sometimes to sell on the open market.

Once a company has been identified as having the information sought, the first thing the human intelligence practitioner will do is look for weak links in the targeted company’s operations. If the required information is readily available, there is no need to undertake a time-intensive and costly operation to retrieve it. Indeed, it is shocking to see the amount of sensitive and critical information that is openly available on the Internet and in research libraries, or that is freely given out at technical conferences.

When open source collection efforts fail, more invasive measures must be employed. Sometimes the required information can be obtained via technical surveillance. A faulty information technology system, for example, can expose the company’s secrets via remote electronic intrusion conducted from a continent away. Other times, information can be obtained by eavesdropping on telephone calls made by corporate leaders or by using other technical surveillance measures.

However, technical surveillance has its limitations, and sometimes critical information must be obtained through human intelligence, which means obtaining the required data from an employee working within the targeted company. Due to human nature, human-intelligence practitioners use the same time-tested principles in the recruitment of corporate sources that they use when recruiting sources in the government sector. (The risks associated with obtaining unclassified proprietary information from private companies are often far less than those associated with obtaining classified information from government agencies or national research laboratories.)

The first step in the human-intelligence process is called spotting. This is when the human intelligence practitioner attempts to identify those workers who have access to the required information. Then the practitioner conducts a thorough examination of the backgrounds and situations of the employees who have that access in an effort to determine which employee is most vulnerable to exploitation. Employees who are in dire need of extra cash to maintain extravagant lifestyles or to support drinking, drug or gambling habits, or those who are hiding extramarital affairs or other secrets that can be used for blackmail, make prime candidates.

A background check might also reveal that a certain worker is angry with his or her employer over issues of salary or placement in the company. There also are employees who disagree ideologically with the product their company makes or the process the company uses to produce it. Finally, there are the employees whose egos are so big that they might be willing to risk committing industrial espionage just to prove they can get away with it. Robert Hanssen, an ex FBI special agent accused of selling secrets to Russia, was motivated by the belief that he was above the system and could commit espionage without being caught.

Of the four major motivations for committing espionage — money, ideology, compromise and ego (known to security officials as MICE) — money has proven to be the No. 1 motivation, though two or more motivations can be used to turn an employee. More often than not, simple bribery is sufficient to obtain the desired information, especially if the employee is living beyond his or her means for one reason or another. Outside agents looking to turn an employee can also use blackmail (“compromise” in the MICE acronym).

Demanding proprietary information in exchange for not exposing a personal secret, for instance, is a cost-effective approach that also allows the agent to return again and again to the same source. This method is a bit riskier, however, since it can cause more resentment than other means and make the source more likely to rebel. However, sexual entrapment and blackmail is still widely used as a recruitment tactic, one that has been used with great success in recent years by the Chinese government against targets such as Japanese and Taiwanese government officials, FBI special agents — and foreign businessmen.

Emphasizing the ‘M’

Once the practitioner has identified the weakest link, decided on the approach to take and made a specific plan on how to proceed, the next step in the human-intelligence process is to actually approach the employee and “pitch” him or her. This step is often a gradual effort to establish a relationship of trust between the practitioner and the employee, and contact can begin gradually with requests for small, seemingly harmless bits of information such as internal phone numbers. In this approach, known as the “little hook,” the employee is offered “gifts” in exchange for these favors.

The requests gradually become greater in scope until the targeted information is obtained. Other times, the pitch is far more blatant and the human-intelligence practitioner does not take the time to establish a relationship or gradually recruit the target. Instead the practitioner makes a flat-out cash offer for the required goods or shows the target the evidence that will be used for blackmail.

In the current economic environment, with many 401(k) plans now more like 201(k)s, stock options severely underwater and homeowners facing foreclosure, cold hard cash — the M in MICE — is an even more attractive approach. In fact, with employees seeing their investment accounts decline dramatically, and perhaps even facing the possibility of home foreclosure, it is not at all unreasonable to anticipate that companies and foreigners will face a windfall of walk-in sources who will volunteer to sell critical information — and in such a buyer’s market, information can often be bought at fire-sale prices.

Employees attempting to sell proprietary information are somewhat common; one of the most publicized examples of this in recent years was the disgruntled Coca-Cola Co. employee who was arrested in July 2006 after attempting to sell Coke’s recipe to rival soft drink company Pepsi.

Mass layoffs also complicate the equation, especially when some of the employees being laid off have access to critical information. If measures are not taken to ensure that the information is protected, the information could easily find itself in the hands of competing companies or even foreign intelligence services.

Not Just a Corporate Concern

The current financial crisis — and vulnerability to espionage — is not just confined to the private sector. There are many federal government employees in the United States who have watched their investments in the stock-based funds of the government’s Thrift Savings Plan wither on the vine over the past two years, and judging from the performance of foreign stock exchanges, the investments of employees in other governments have followed suit.

Additionally, government employees tend to live in places with very expensive real estate, like Washington, London, Paris and Tokyo. This means that a foreign intelligence officer armed only with a briefcase full of dollars, euros or yen can make a killing. With many corporate security departments being cut to the bone, many internal security services focused on the counterterrorism mission and many law enforcement agencies chasing white-collar criminals, it is a good time to be in the intelligence business.

One day we will look back on this time through a counterintelligence lens and see that, although it was a time of bear stock markets, it was a tremendous bull market for practitioners of human intelligence.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Al-Walaa Wal Baraa---Allegiance And Aversion Based On Values, Part 1

In preparation for the discussions I hope to begin in August, I've been asking the audience to reflect on what values they're taking with them into "the lands of the living." However, I haven't given any concrete examples of why I believe this is important. I also haven't mentioned any of the angles I want people to consider in reference to their values. I hope to rectify that omission with this post.

Next month, I would like to have a series of conversations about what we draw close to (and why), and what we distance ourselves from (and why). These two factors determine the course (and sometimes the duration) of our lives! In terms of Islam, the concept is called in Arabic: al-walaa wal baraa.

For this series, let's work from the specific out to the general. In this post, let's first look at some specific incidents and I'll review them in light of considerations that are part of my particular faith tradition.

I. Preliminary Matters: Why I'm Using Traditional Terminology

For this conversation, I'm going to mostly use traditional terms to describe certain concepts. When discussing matters of faith, I try to stick as close to possible to the terminology used in the Quran, and by traditional religious scholars. I believe that it's dangerous to deviate from the clearly-defined, known earlier terms.

Let me give a secular example. "Messence" magazine has started doing an apparently yearly feature on what it calls "Do-Right Men." Well, the more this was discussed on various blogs, the more people realized that there didn't seem to be any real criteria to being referred to as a "Do-Right Man." From their interviews, these men did NOT sound as if they were ultimately looking for wives. Nor did they even sound as if they were looking for "serious" relationships. Some of these men apparently already had girlfriends.

But yet Messence was encouraging Black women to celebrate and respond to these men as if these men were eligible bachelors. I realized that Messence had done yet another "bait and switch" on its readers. It was encouraging Black women to respond to these men as if they met the criteria of being eligible bachelors (men who are called such because they are interested in and eligible for marriage), when these men never verbally signed-on to the "eligible bachelor" package.

With this verbal bait and switch, Messence was encouraging its readers to pin eligible bachelor hopes onto men who were just looking for a good time (some of whom were already hooked-up to somebody else). This sort of "bait and switch" is often what happens when we get away from traditional, known terminology and start using new terms.

People are then free to define these new terms however they wish. Such as so-called Do-Right Man versus what it takes to be an Eligible Bachelor. So, this Messence example is one reason why I believe that it's safest to stick with the already clearly-defined and known terminology when discussing certain things.

II. Preliminary Matters: Glossary

Fiqh: Muslim jurisprudence. The science which deals with the observance of rituals, the principles of the Five Pillars [the fundamental tenets or requirements of Islam which are accepted as such unequivocally by all branches], and social legislation. The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, pg. 126, 132.

Al-Walaa Wal Baraa: "Al-walaa means loyalty and al-baraa means disownment. In the context of Islaam al-walaa is loyalty to Allaah and whatever He is pleased with as well as friendship and closeness to the believers, whereas al-baraa is freeing oneself from that which is displeasing to Allaah and disowning the disbelievers." Al-Walaa' wal-Baraa, pg. 3 Shaykh Saalih bin Fawzaan al Fawzaan.

The point is for Muslims to draw close to that which is pleasing to God, and to distance themselves away from that which is displeasing to God. Unfortunately, extremists tend to reduce the concept of al-walaa wal baraa down to "loving and hating for the sake of God." {shudder}

Since I'm speaking to a mixed audience of Muslims, non-Muslims, believers and non-believers, let me put this specific concept into a more general context: I believe that it's essential that we draw close to that which supports our deepest values; and that we distance ourselves away from that which is opposed to our deepest values.

A large part of the reason why the African-American collective is in a state of free fall is because most of us don't have any clear values. Those of us who do have values generally fail to integrate these values into the fabric of our everyday lives. Such people only pull their values out for "special occasions."

Most African-Americans are not grounded in anything at all.

Our lack of basic, firm grounding is also the reason why we are so easily deceived and pulled off course.

III. Preliminary Matters: The Fiqh of Balances

"When interests conflict, an interest of a lower status is sacrificed for the sake of a higher interest, and an interest of a private nature is sacrificed for the sake of a common interest; and the owner of the private interest is to be compensated for his loss. Also in cases of conflicting interests, a temporary interest is forsaken in favour of a long term or permanent interest; a superficial interest is disregarded for the sake of a real interest, and a definite interest is given precedence over a doubtful interest." Priorities of The Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase, by Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, pg. 48.

"If evils conflict, and some of them are indispensable, then one should choose the lesser of the two evils and the smaller of the two harms. Muslim jurists have prescribed that harm should be eliminated as much as possible. A harm should not be eliminated with a harm of the same nature or with a greater harm. A minor harm should be tolerated if such tolerance would make it possible to avoid a major harm; and a specific harm should be tolerated if it alleviates a general harm.

. . . If interests and evils conflict, they should be examined carefully in terms of their size, effect and duration. A slight evil should be forgiven for the sake of realising a major interest. A temporary evil should be forgiven for the sake of realising a long term or permanent interest. Even a great evil should be accepted if its elimination would lead to a greater evil. In normal conditions, the avoidance of evil should come before the realizing of interest." Priorities of The Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase, by Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, pg. 49.

A word about weighing evils: It's extremely dangerous. Especially for confused people. Confused people like most African-Americans who are NOT firmly rooted or grounded in any clear values whatsoever. I've made the following comment on other blogs:

"What people don't seem to comprehend is that by presuming to weigh evil, you are putting your hands on it. The taint rubs off and seeps into your skin. It's dangerous to try to weigh evil. Evil must be fought, NOT measured! I believe this is why those people who have settled for so-called "lesser" evils get so angry with people who refuse to compromise their principles. They are usually angrier with the non-compromisers than they are with the so-called "lesser" evil. They are envious of how the non-compromiser stayed clean of the "lesser" evil they compromised with."

There are many times when we have to try to weigh evils and harms in assessing various situations and how we will react to them. However, we must always keep in mind the dangers involved in this process. We must continuously check back with our various touchstones---our scriptures and anything else that we use to guide our actions.

When we don't continuously refer back to our touchstones---or even worse, don't have any touchstones to check---we set ourselves up to be played and to do great harm to our own interests.

This sort of self-inflicted damage to our own interests is the general behavior pattern for most African-Americans. We don't react to events based on clear, firm values. We react based on emotions.

Let's examine some recent events in light of the above concepts. Keep in mind that I'm talking about examining situations based on values. I'm NOT talking about what specific legal concepts (such as due process, etc.) require various officials to do in a particular scenario. Legal codes do NOT necessarily reflect the ETHICS of a situation. Many of us lose sight of that.

[For clarity, I'll add that I support ideas such as "the rule of law," "due process," etc. That's why I started doing defense work. But that's not what I'm talking about here---I'm talking about values. So, let's keep that separate for this conversation.]

IV. The Prof. Henry Gates Incident

Is this a matter of public or private interest? Matters of public interest usually involve concerns greater than avenging a single wronged person. Let's first look to see how the purported "victim" in this situation, Prof. Henry Gates, is treating the matter. This should give us an idea as to what the person directly affected by the situation feels that it's about.

If this was about a principled stand against injustice, one would expect Prof. Gates and his supporters to be critical of everybody involved in the injustice. That's not happening here. The only person that Prof. Gates and Cheerleaders seem critical of is the White, male police officer who arrested him. Not the White female neighbor who made the call to the police department. One might expect her to recognize her own neighbor during the afternoon when the sun was shining. Not the Black male police officer who was present during the arrest. One might expect a Black officer to refrain from aiding and abetting racist police misconduct against other Black people.

Here's part of a comment I made at another blog [Acts of Faith in Love and Life; it's on my sidebar]:

"Another irritant is that we never address the fact that there are often Black police officers present during this type of misconduct. On what basis do we focus ALL of our rage on the White officers present?

I tend to be angrier with Black officers who collaborate with racists. Historically, AAs protested to get more AAs hired as police, and THIS is what some of them do?

IIRC, I saw a Black-looking officer in the foreground of a video still picture of Prof. Gates being arrested. Well, who was that colored boy in uniform? Are any of the outraged AA voices talking about that particular individual? Is there a local Black police officers' league? If so, is this group talking about/to that individual? Are any of these outraged AAs talking to the local Black police group about that person (if such a local group exists)?

The presence of Black-skinned officers during racist police misconduct incidents is not rare. This sort of thing raises the question of whether or not it makes sense for AAs to continue to clamor to have Black-skinned police officers. Maybe we need to find some other criteria to use for lobbying for various people to get hired. Skin color alone is obviously not it.

. . . Faith, yes, from talking to relatives who are in law enforcement there IS what I'll call a "Serpico Effect": Any cop who is not down with the program (be it racist, or simply corrupt) can find themselves without back-up if/when their life is in danger at work.

From what I've been told, this isn't always the case. But it happens enough to keep most people in check.

However, going along with the program is no guarantee of safety at work for Black officers. Even if they 'go along to get along' with racist coworkers, Black officers are still much more liable to be shot BY OTHER OFFICERS when working in plainclothes or undercover. Despite police protestations that everybody's "blue," a BM is a BM is a BM to racist Whites. And if they mess up and shoot a BM who turns out to have a badge...oh well, ooops.

I've heard similar "Serpico Effect" tales from several WW I've known who are in law enforcement.

On a non-life-threatening level, similar career pressures often apply to Black prosecutors---the Christopher Darden Gambit---where they dig a Black prosecutor out of the basement office to be a Black face prosecuting high-profile AAs.

But all of this brings into question one's personal integrity and how cheaply one is willing to sell oneself.

My refusal to be used like that is one of several reasons why I quit my first job as prosecutor after about a year; and it didn't take long for me to see "what time it was" at that office. The crazy/dishonest/racist officers quickly learned that they could NOT trust me to blindly buy into whatever they wrote in their police reports. They also knew that they couldn't "joke" about "testi-lying" in my presence. Unfortunately, there are PLENTY of colored prosecutors that entertain that mess.

Nobody is REQUIRED to keep a job where the work environment demands that you collaborate with evil. Most jobs are not the Mafia---you CAN quit. You can look for another job that doesn't require you to be an accomplice to evil. And I don't believe people who claim that it took them many years to figure out what was going on at their job. NO! They knew. They just didn't care until something happened and they were exposed as the ultra-cheap prostitutes that they are."

Prof. Gates is responding to this incident as if it's about some personal grudge against White, male authority figures. That lets me know that this is primarily a private interest that does not require public intervention from others. Prof. Gates can seek redress through a lawsuit or an administrative complaint against the officer.

What's the size, effect and duration of the harm(s) involved? Is somebody seriously wounded or dead as a result of wrongdoing? From my earlier comment:

"Another irritant is wondering how long will it take for AAs (of all economic classes) to get it through our heads that it's NOT a good idea to have a direct confrontation with racist police out in "the world." By yourself. Where it's their word against yours. Where they could shoot you dead and be done with it.

Why is it that so many of us (who should know better) have not considered how critical it is to keep our heads in such circumstances? Why is it that so many of us (especially so-called "prominent" Black folks) haven't thought through what they're going to do when something like that happens?

Whatever the possible strategies might be in such circumstances, trying to fuss at armed yourself...with their word against NOT the move to make.

Prof. Gates was blessed that they didn't just put a bullet hole in his head. And lay a "drop gun" (or something else metallic) beside his dead body. These things do happen. And most of us know this. When faced with these situations, why do so many of us still respond as if we don't know this?"

Prof. Gates could have been killed. He wasn't. Prof. Gates could have been beaten. He wasn't. He was blessed that the only injury was to his pride. It could have been much, MUCH worse. Serious injuries and/or fatalities weigh in favor of making the matter one of public interest that requires public intervention.

Serious injuries and fatalities can also weigh heavily against someone who was otherwise a victim in the particular incident. Victims whose inappropriate behavior or bad choices cause death or serious injuries to themselves or others lose much of their entitlement to support from others.

In any event, serious injuries or fatalities didn't happen here, thank God.

Is dealing with this particular incident going to damage a long-term or permanent interest? Let's examine this point in terms of the Black people who were calling for Pres. Obama to speak out about the Prof. Gates Incident. Let's look at what this means in terms of our long-term interests as African-Americans. From my earlier comments at Faith's blog:

"Yep. As I've stated before, this 'racism is officially over because there's a Black president' meme is part of the price tag of having the Obama-ssiah in the White House. One of MANY, somewhat-hidden price tags that AAs have ignored while enjoying our Obama-ssiah-induced-delirium.

. . . Yes, there's going to be various forms of blowback for our Pavlovian, knee-jerk whining about this incident. Blowback that we haven't bothered to consider, much less calculate.

For just one example, the Obama-ssiah has chosen to expend a bit of his "non-threatening Black male" currency with Whites over the Skip Gates Affair. The President (who has to maintain favor with Whites) is NOT going to readily do this again...if EVER again. His statement about the Skip Gates Affair is the only bone he's going to throw to AAs for a LONG time. It might be the ONLY bone he throws us throughout his term.

Since Pres. Obama has only budgeted about 1, maybe 2, "bones" specifically for AA concerns, did we really want to spend one of these bones/crumbs of Presidential attention on Skip Gates? It's one thing if we had decided that the Skip Gates Affair was worthy of using up our 1 scrap of attention/input from the first Black President. But, we didn't make that calculation. Even worse, we're not even aware that this sort of calculation is being made by the Obama-ssiah!

We're too silly to comprehend that Pres. Obama's statements about Skip Gates means that when the next 'Katrina'-type thing happens disproportionately to AAs, then he will feel that he CAN'T afford to respond to our concerns.

In terms of the next 'Katrina' to hit AAs, Pres. Obama is going to respond with the same empty platitudes that Bush used. He will do this because he already spent that 'I'm going to anger White folks' chip on the Skip Gates Affair."

Just based on this one angle, it was NOT a good thing (in terms of our long-term collective interests) that Pres. Obama commented on the Prof. Henry Gates Incident. That's not even factoring in the damage that's done by Pres. Obama saying something, and then diluting or retracting his statements. It's usually better to say and do nothing than to say and do something weak.

Many of us enjoy "sticking it to" White men, or wealthy Black folks, or whatever targets we choose. Or we enjoy giving knee-jerk support to the poor and other people that we've decided are "underdogs." I'm not immune to those considerations. It was a large part of why I enjoyed the political career of former Congressman Gus Savage. He had a real talent for making local, racist Whites VERY angry. It's part of why I've been deeply amused by many of the public statements of a local (White) Catholic priest, Father Michael Pfleiger. Father Pfleiger has a similar talent for infuriating racist Whites. So, I can relate to indulging in these sorts of pleasures. However, NOT at the expense of other, more serious considerations.

I can think of some other angles of analysis about the Prof. Gates Incident (important questions like reciprocity---does Prof. Gates have any personal history of speaking out against injustice, etc.), but you get the point.

V. The Chanequa Campbell Incident at Harvard

We talked about this during some earlier conversations. and I won't repeat my detailed thoughts about that situation. But you can run through the partial checklist of considerations that influenced my thoughts about that situation.

Is this a matter of public or private interest?

What's the size, effect and duration of the harm(s) involved? Is somebody seriously wounded or dead as a result of wrongdoing?

Is dealing with this particular incident going to damage a long-term or permanent interest?

You might draw conclusions that are the opposite of mine! *Smile* That doesn't bother or concern me. What does concern me is the widespread African-American mental habit of making knee-jerk, emotion-based responses to anything and everything.

VI. Summary

I would like you to reflect on your deepest-held values.

Where did you get them?

What are they based on?

Do you frequently refer back to your touchstones---your scriptures and anything else that you use to guide your actions?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An Invitation To Pause, Ponder, And Reflect

It feels like we've covered a lot of ground in the past couple of weeks. I see that I've written more than my usual number of blog posts for the month. Much of this was prompted in response to some truly outstanding essays by other bloggers such as Faith and Blue Butterfly.

We've talked about some extremely important matters that deserve further reflection. Let's pause to reflect some more on the things we've recently discussed. I've decided not to write any more new posts for the rest of the month. Let's continue to consider what's already on the table.

I had already planned to study the Quran in search of more guidance regarding the truly unprecedented circumstances that we're facing as African-American women at this point in history. I would ask you to also take some time to read and reflect upon whatever scriptures you rely upon for guidance.

I would also ask you to prepare to turn the page when (inshallah--"God willing") I get back to writing some new posts in August. We've been talking about a lot of dead and dying things lately. This has been necessary in order to warn people about the various tricks and snares used to keep them trapped in the dead zones.

I hope to shift our focus back to our plans to survive, thrive and enjoy a 21st century renaissance in the coming days.

CW, blog host of The CW Experience, has an outstanding post up about the importance of cutting the dead loose. Among other questions worthy of reflection, she makes the following points:

"Probing Question: Can the refusal to break ties with The Dead here on earth cause us the same misery (of not more) as attempting to contact The Dead who are already long buried and gone?

. . . The Bible admonishes us not to communicate with “familiar spirits”…Again this results in death…The living who refuse to heed this commandment are also doomed to be deceived…The above passage refers to someone trying to connect with the dearly departed…I ask the reader to go one step further and consider the outcome of those who consistently remain in the presence of The Dead walking on earth…

-Death only wants access in order to constantly influence the living from the grave…By communicating with The Dead in either case, we are opening doors for confusion and negativity…

. . . There are startling parallels in relation to handling both the physically & mentally dead…In both instances improper handling of The Dead can lead to undesirable results…The implications are clear…In both cases a line of separation needs to be made between the living and The Dead…" (emphasis added).

So, as we depart from the lands of the dead and the dying, let's consider what we're going to take with us on our journey into better days. Let's take the time to reflect on what values, ideas, and things are really important to us. I know that my various Quran translations, my iPod, and a kettlebell are definitely coming with me. I have to sift through the rest of my various types of intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical belongings to see what else is really important to me.

What values and ideas really matter to you? What are you going to take with you into the land of the living?

Departures, Part 1: Seeking Our God-Given Rights

It's always annoying to hear (sometimes confused, often oppressive) Black people claim that any African-American (especially any African-American woman) who wants a good life is somehow "acting White" or under the influence of Whites.

That's crazy. And shows that the person saying this madness has never been exposed to actual Black Nationalist thought. To mention just one example, Elijah Muhammad promised to help his followers acquire "money, good homes, and friendship in all walks of life." Here's a modern, current example of one of his followers describing what we are entitled to. Unlike orthodox Islam, the Nation of Islam has female clergy. Over the years, I've always enjoyed hearing lectures by Sis. Min. Ava Muhammad. She's an engaging, dynamic speaker. And it amuses me to be able to relate to her as a fellow former prosecutor and attorney. Don't assume that everybody in the Nation of Islam is a down and out former convict. They're not. [Audience note: I've never been a member of the Nation of Islam. I'm a Sunni, "orthodox" Muslimah.]

Here's the link to a video of Sis. Min. Ava Muhammad talking about what we are entitled to (among other topics).

My favorite portions are the following:

She starts talking about what we're entitled to at around 1:51 into the video: "We have a right to have good health, adequate nutrition, good shelter, to be able to avoid unnecessary and non-beneficial pain. To have pleasurable experiences in life. These aren't things that come from a program. These are your natural, human right(s)."

At around 3:36 into the video: "We have got to stop allowing people to teach us that poverty and deprivation is righteousness. That's how we were kept in chains for 400 years."

At around 4:05 into the video: "You have a duty to yourself, your family, and your community to be all you can be and to get all you can get morally in this life. We have to want more and stop teaching ourselves to be satisfied with nothing."

Alhamdulilah! [Praise God!]

We're going to have some specific conversations about making our various departures into better lives. Have you picked a destination? Have you packed ONLY the things that really matter to you? And ONLY the things that are actually helpful? Are you ready to go?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The End Of The Road For African-Americans, Part 2: Generation(s) Apathetic

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

Friday, July 17, 2009

The End Of The Road For African-Americans, Part 1: There Is NO "Black Community"

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Get REAL With Scripture: When Properly Used, It Can Save Your Life

Faith, blog host of Acts of Faith in Love and Life, linked to this AMAZING blog post in one of her recent comments at another blog. It's a MUST-READ-right-now sort of post that shows just how relevant and real scripture can be when properly explained.

Too many of us read our various scriptures as if they were fairy tales with no relevance to real life. And that's the handful of us who bother to actually read the scriptures we claim to believe in. Most of us don't read, and depend upon our various ministers, imams, etc. to spoonfeed us their understanding of God's Word. Here's the part of the post that sent shivers down my spine:

"One of the worst things that can happen to any woman is to get involved in any way with an Ahab.

. . . The Ahabs are mind bending, heart breaking, and soul eroding opportunists. Ahabs can spot your low self-esteem in high heels from across the room. Ahabs can see beyond the make-up, weaves, highlights and fake skin tones. Ahabs can see the size 22 mind inside the size 2 mini. Ahabs can see all those things and will use them to their advantage. Ahabs will use you to kill off your support system and kill off his enemies."

This behavior pattern is REAL. The same way God's warning to Lot and his family to NOT look back at Sodom and Gomorrah as they were fleeing was real. These are stories about humans that describe various types of human behavior patterns. People haven't changed; and their behavior patterns haven't changed. These are repeating patterns.

The point of relaying the stories of past people(s) is so that we'll recognize the patterns when we see them play out in our own lives. If God made the scriptures a catalogue of all the various past, present and future manifestations of various human behavior patterns, these books would be endless. Those who read and believe the scriptures are expected to use pattern recognition in their discernment.

This is what I hoped to remind people of when I went on a rant during a previous post:

"I was amazed by the 'shocked, shocked I say' outrage about the latest atrocity on Black Exploitation Television. I hesitated to say this before for fear of giving offense, but I feel compelled to say it openly now: I feel that this particular outrage (the apparent airing of child pornography during the 2009 BET Awards show) was yet another sign.

There were those people who could still be lured to turn back and look upon Sodom/BET. Just like Lot's wife looked back at Sodom in the Bible. She was supposedly running from the impending destruction of Sodom to save her life. But then she looked back; and was turned into a pillar of salt. I guess the point of that story is that, in order to survive, she was supposed to run away from that place and NEVER look back.

I believe that the disgusting spectacle that BET tricked these folks into watching (with false promises of some sort of tribute to Michael Jackson) was a warning that God gave out of His mercy. One of the FINAL warnings that will be given about the folly of continuing to "look back" and consume popular "Black" culture. For ANY reason whatsoever.

. . . I would strongly urge folks to STOP looking back at "Sodom":

Don't look back at BET-Sodom.

Don't look back at the "White Girl Song"-Sodom that Sara talks about in her latest post.

Don't look back at the Internet Ike Turner's blogs-Sodom or YouTube-Sodom.

Don't look back at entertainment products from DBRBM-Sodom.

Stop looking back at Sodom! God has let you slide for now. In His Grace, He has granted you a few more moments to make it out to safety. A few more moments to get clear of Sodom. But eventually you will be turned into a metaphorical pillar of salt if you continue to look back at what He does NOT want you to take in. You can't run forward while looking backward!"

I've been amazed that more people haven't identified BET, "Messence" magazine, and the rest of that material by the labels used in scripture to identify their prototypes. The only thing that's new about these modern negative messages are their formats. The message these entities are promoting (calling people toward abasement, degradation, and ultimately death) is NOT new. It's a very old message modeled on a very old template. And from a very old source.

Believers: Are you ready to stop being a passive spiritual consumer? Are you ready to read and study God's Word as an active student who's looking for the parallels with modern circumstances?

Are you ready, willing, and able to get real with your faith tradition's scripture?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Let's Revisit An Earlier Conversation: "Why Black Women Should Save Their OWN Lives By Leaving The Helping Professions"

After prayer, the idea came to me that now would be a good time to revisit a couple of our earlier conversations that reviewed the MANY reasons why any African-American woman who wants to have a good life needs to leave the helping professions:

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Standing Ovation For Faith's 2 Most Recent Posts

Faith, blog host of Acts of Faith In Love And Life (which is on my sidebar blogroll), is holding it down! With some help in the comments section by some of her astute readers like Anna (tertiary#anna), Felicia, and Brother Omi!

Please check out these two posts. And, since one of the individuals responsible for the dreadful Raising Him Alone {shudder} program is listening in to her blog discussions, consider sharing your thoughts about that program.

As Faith correctly observes, "Telling women to expect to and prepare for raising children with no man present and no backup is like telling a five year old it's ok to go play in traffic."

It's a shame that most African-Americans have lost the ability to comprehend this very basic idea.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Sojourner's Path: Find And Embrace The "Market" That's Best For YOU

Let's get back to our "regularly scheduled programming" about personal transformation, and practical steps toward living out our Wildest Dreams. I've been reading a fascinating book titled How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World by a Libertarian ideologue named Harry Browne. The book can be found at

I generally don't care for Libertarian politics or ideology, but after reading several references to the book I decided to check it out for myself. I'm happy I did. The author talks about a lot of things that are easy to forget under the constant barrage of dysfunctional, mass African-American, "new-school" culture.

Mr. Browne talks about what he calls "the despair trap" versus "the general market." My comments are in blue:

"The Despair Trap is the belief that other people can prevent you from being free. Despair isn't hard to come by. . . [i]f you've been trying to convince your friends and family to accept your way of life, you probably feel very misunderstood and unappreciated by now. [Khadija speaking: The unhappy reality is that the people around you who don't "get it" at this late date probably aren't going to make it as The Endless Night of Permanent Underclass Status For African-Americans becomes entrenched. Grieve for them---but not for too long. You have to keep it moving in order to survive and thrive!] How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World, Amazon Kindle Locations 1117-26.

Despite these kinds of problems, the goals of freedom and happiness are totally realistic. If they aren't being achieved, it's the method that's wrong, not the objective.
[This is a critical point. There are so many vampires screaming at African-American women that it's somehow "wrong" for them to seek happiness and fulfillment. The vampires say this even though they are busy doing whatever they want to do. The vampires are typically NOT making the sacrifices that they demand of African-American women.]

You have to accept the world as it is. But that doesn't mean you should look at the people who oppose your ways and conclude that there's no chance to be free. The world includes much more than just the people you've been dealing with.

There are undoubtedly many, many people with whom you have nothing in common.
But there are also plenty of people who see things in much the same way you do. If you haven't come in contact with them, it may be because you've unnecessarily confined yourself to those with whom you've been associating.

And it may be that you haven't discovered ways of finding the kinds of people who could add to your life, instead of detract from it.
How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World, Amazon Kindle Locations 1126-35.

[It's impossible to overemphasize how VITAL it is for African-American women to STOP socializing in all-Black circles and settings. These are radioactve settings filled with degradation and spirit-breaking despair for any Black woman who goes there. I know that for many of us, these all-Black settings are all we know. And I know that many of us figure "better the devil we know."

I'm saying NO! The Damaged Beyond Repair (DBR) African-American males you encounter in all-Black settings are orders of magnitude WORSE than the general population of men in the outer world. Just open your eyes for a moment and look around. Look at how other ethnic and racial groups of men generally protect and provide for the women of their group. Look at how these other women and children are living. And then look at how totally unprotected African-American women and children are. I'll make it plain. At this point in time, things have deteriorated to the extent that: All-Black Settings = Death For Black Women. On many levels. Emotional death, spiritual death, and in ever-increasing numbers, physical death.]

The popular conventions of society might discourage you from breaking out of uncomfortable situations to find those people. Such hallowed traditions as one marriage, one career, one employer, staying in one place, etc., can cause you to feel that you must make the best of whatever situation you're already in.

But 'making the best' frequently means either giving up your own happiness or trying to change others. Neither way makes any sense.

You don't have to stay where you are. You can look for someone who doesn't have to be forced to love you, someone who will be enthusiastic about what you have to offer, someone who will help you get what you want because it will be in his self interest to do so.

You're in the Despair Trap if you believe that you have to stay where you are and work things out somehow. Or if you believe that you couldn't be any better off if you were to change your situation. Or if you think that the government or society can stop you from being free. How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World, Amazon Kindle Locations 1135-44 (emphasis added).

The General Market embraces personal relationships as well as commercial ones. All relationships are governed by market principles as individuals come together, exchange or share as appropriate, and work toward the advancement of their own happiness. The same principles apply to finding a friend that apply to finding a buyer for your product.

Within the General Market there's a whole world of potential relationships for you if you realize that you don't have to please everyone.

If you want a marriage partner who's compatible with your way of life, you don't have to prove to everyone that your way is right. You need to find only one person who meets your needs and who wants you as you are.

You don't need millions of friends; you only need enough to provide the companionship and shared interests you'd like to have. So it isn't important what the other people are like." How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World, Amazon Kindle Locations 1144-54 (emphasis added).

A Sojourner does not cast her pearls before swine. Instead, she finds and embraces the "market" that's best for her.

Are you seeking and embracing the market that's best for YOU?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Yet Another Emerging, DISASTROUS Social Trend: Normalizing Single Adoption As "Plan B" For Black Women Who Haven't Married By 35

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Sojourner's Path: Reject False Egalitarianism And Cultivate Your SUPERIOR Traits

LIFE IS NOT FAIR OR EQUAL -- Everything And Everybody Are NOT The Same

The first thing that aspiring Sojourners must understand is that real life is not fair or equal. In fact, life is filled with naturally-occurring, lopsided ratios! In order to survive and thrive, we must position ourselves on the WINNING side of these ratios.

From The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less, by Richard Koch. My comments are in blue:

"The reason that the 80/20 Principle is so valuable is that it is counterintuitive. We tend to expect that all causes will have roughly the same significance. That all customers are equally valuable. That every bit of business, every product, and every dollar of sales revenue is as good as any other. That all employees in a particular category have roughly equivalent value. That each day or week or year we spend has the same significance. That all our friends have roughly equal value to us.

[Khadija speaking: African-Americans love to believe that "everybody's the same." And that "everything is the same," and that "things aren't any different in other places." This sort of thinking leads to our angry (really deranged) assertions that out of wedlock parenting is "equal" to married parenting. That a child having a "weekend only, telephone father" is "equal" to having an onsite 24/7 father who is married to one's mother. Well. . . umm. . . NO. This is not how real life operates. Not at all. Real life is filled with HUGE, natural imbalances. Real life tends to follow Pareto's Law.]

. . . That all problems have a large number of causes, so that it is not worth isolating a few key causes. [Oh, let's stop here for a moment. This is a critical point. This is a large part of why African-Americans love to believe that people are the same. This notion serves to obscure the TRUE source of many of the problems among us. These "people are basically the same" and "we're all equally responsible" delusions provide cover for those among us who are truly aberrant.

If we sought to isolate the primary causes of certain problems during our analyses, it would put an extremely unflattering spotlight on some of our cultural "sacred cows." Sacred cows such as the Black underclass, and the "young Black males" that we refer to in our political slogans.]

That all opportunities are of roughly equal value, so that we treat them all equally." The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less, by Richard Koch. Amazon Kindle Locations 203-14 (emphasis added).

Pareto's Law

From The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, by Timothy Ferriss:

"Pareto's Law can be summarized as follows: 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. Alternative ways to phrase this, depending on the context, include:

80% of the consequences flow from 20% of the causes.

80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time. [African-American women spend the bulk of their efforts on things and people that have the LEAST amount of impact. This is why we work so hard for so little. This misuse of effort and time applies to many situations.]

80% of the company profits come from 20% of the products and customers.

. . . The list is infinitely long and diverse, and the ratio is often skewed even more severely: 90/10, 95/5, and 99/1 are not uncommon, but the minimum ratio to seek is 80/20." The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, by Timothy Ferriss, Amazon Kindle Locations 940-52 through952-62 (emphasis added).

[Yes, I agree that in real life the ratio is often extremely skewed---95/5 and 99/1. Real life has a lot of "winner take all" scenarios. For example, in terms of income, there are many fields where a few "superstars" within the field earn millions, and those ranked just beneath them (in terms of reputation) make only a comfortable living. Think of the likely difference in earnings between the author of the Harry Potter books and authors who are in the next lower tier of sales. Real life has MANY "winner take all" types of situations!]

People Are Usually Shocked When They Open Their Eyes To This

"The 80/20 Principle also asserts that when we know the true relationship, we are likely to be surprised at how unbalanced it is. Whatever the actual level of imbalance, it is likely to exceed our prior estimates. . . Teachers may know that the majority of their disciplinary troubles or most truancy arises from a minority of pupils, but if records are analyzed the extent of the imbalance will probably be larger than expected. We may feel that some of our time is more valuable than the rest, but if we measure inputs and outputs the disparity can still stun us.

Why should you care about the 80/20 Principle? Whether you realize it or not, the principle applies to your life, to your social world, and to the place where you work. Understanding the 80/20 Principle gives you great insight into what is really happening in the world around you." The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less, by Richard Koch. Amazon Kindle Locations 214-24 through 224-35.

Real Life Also Has Many Feedback Loops And Sensitive Dependence On Initial Conditions

Real life also has many positive and negative feedback loops. The rich get richer; the poor get poorer. Furthermore, real life is often extremely sensitive to initial conditions. This means that even small advantages or disadvantages at the beginning of a process can have a huge impact on end results. Think of it as similar to a ship navigating its course with a compass. If the the course chosen is off by only a few degrees at the beginning, it will be off by many miles the further it sails.

We see many examples of this in everyday life. Those of us with common sense know that a good beginning for our children's lives dramatically increases the odds of their future success. Shrewd women know that how they begin an interaction with a man will impact the entire relationship.

1. Stop Pretending That These Ratios Don't Exist

No matter how much African-Americans weep, wail, and gnash our teeth, these skewed ratios will continue to dominate real life. Nature is filled with imbalances. Everybody is NOT the same. In any field, by any measure, there are only a FEW outstanding people. Whatever "it" is, there will be a sea of relative mediocrity with only a handful of standouts in either direction (good or bad).

A critical point about this angle is to look at what a group's "baseline" is. A group's collective baseline is how you measure that group's general success or failure. Some collective baselines are MUCH higher than others. There's the mediocrity of being a lower-middle class person when your ethnic group is mostly affluent. [Oh, you can probably guess which ethnic/religious group I'm thinking of.] And then there's the mediocrity of being a poor, fatherless, African-American person who was born out of wedlock. If the odds are that you'll be mediocre, would you rather be "mediocre" in the sense of the first group or "mediocre" in the second group?

Most African-Americans resist the reality of these ratios because we're used to being on the losing side of these numbers. In fact, we've embraced a collective "loser" identity.

It never occurs to us that we have it within us to be SUPERIOR regarding anything that matters. It never occurs to us that we can be on the winning side of these ratios.

So, we have a mindset of trying to pretend that everything and everybody is the same. Pretending that everybody's "equal." So, we have a mindset of trying to coerce the "winners" into giving the "losers" (that would be us) large slices of their "pies." We want to try to force situations into an artificial, false veneer of "equality."

This is only a temporary solution to disparities and inequalities. It will always fail in the long-run because these ratios will always exist. And unless a group raises its collective "baseline," they will always be disadvantaged relative to others. They will continue to lose. Not only have African-Americans failed to raise our collective baseline, but we've allowed it to plummet.

Over the past few decades we've started saying things like "BMW = Black Man Working." What do these sorts of expressions say to the world about our baseline? Our collective's baseline is currently at ground level. And it will fall through the floor once the Endless Night of Permanent Underclass Status becomes entrenched.

2. Understand That "Equality Talk" Is A Subtle Trap

Equality talk is actually a subtle mental trap. If you really believe that "things aren't any better anywhere else," then you have no incentive to move anywhere to seek a better living environment. If you really believe that you're "the same" as everybody else, then you're not going to cultivate those traits of yours that are actually superior to the masses. And so on across the board.

All of this stems from embracing a mass loser self-identity. Equality talk is usually heard coming from losers who are trying to convince themselves that they have some merit. Winners don't talk that equality talk. Now, gracious winners might publicly engage in equality talk so as to not upset the losers around them; but that equality stuff is NOT their self-image. People who are winning feel that they have superior skills or traits that enable them to win. Losers feel that they were lucky to win.

3. Use These Ratios To YOUR Advantage. Embrace And Cultivate Your SUPERIOR Traits!

I often praise God for my parents. In terms of raising us, they were NOT for that false equality mess. Egalitarianism was not for their children. They never wanted us to be "equal" with anybody. They wanted our points of SUPERIORITY to shine brightly!

Ladies, stop thinking like losers who have to scramble for scraps! You can position yourself to be a winner who takes all! This applies across the board. From one's personal life to one's financial life. Keep in mind the fact that some people actually made a LOT of money during the Great Depression.

There are general things about us as Black women that are actually SUPERIOR to other women. You already know many of these traits, but somehow most of you don't take these things to heart and work with them to your advantage. I don't understand this behavior.

This includes surface beauty traits. You know that we generally age better than other women. You know that our complexions usually have a glow and vitality that others admire. You really KNOW that other people admire our curves! Non-Blacks have noticed and commented on all of this. Why don't YOU seem to know this? Why don't you cultivate these advantages?

[I know. . . Lord, I know it angers some of you, but I'm going to ask: Why persist in hiding your God-given curves under extra weight? I never said that it was easy. Don't you remember me complaining and whining every step of the way during the workout check-in posts? I'm still complaining about being sore, tired, etc. I complain, but I keep working out.]

This includes inner beauty traits. Generally speaking, African-American women are resourceful. We are industrious. We are intensely loyal. The problem is that we've got all of these traits harnessed in support of unworthy causes, goals and people.

There are specific things about YOU as an individual that are SUPERIOR to most others. Are you ready to embrace and cultivate your superior traits? Are you ready to be a winner who takes all?

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Sojourner's Path: Active Instead of Passive Living

Let's talk some more about personal transformation, and practical steps toward living out our Wildest Dreams. I've been reading a fascinating book titled How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World by a Libertarian ideologue named Harry Browne. The book can be found at

I generally don't care for Libertarian politics or ideology, but after reading several references to the book I decided to check it out for myself. I'm happy I did. The author talks about a lot of things that are easy to forget under the unquestioned routines of everyday life. And that's not even factoring in the learned helplessness that has become a large part of mass African-American, "new-school" culture.

It occurs to me that so many Black women have been indoctrinated into being what has been termed self-sacrificing "gravediggers," that it might be helpful to repeat and discuss some of these ideas here (my comments are in blue). Mr. Browne said:

"I've been told so many times that freedom is just a fantasy, that you can't live that way in the real world, that there are too many daily commitments that have to be met, that in real life things are much too complicated to be able to do what you want and to enjoy yourself.

But who made your life complicated?

You did, of course. It wasn't society, the economic system, the people you consider to be nuisances, your parents, or anyone else.

Every complication in your life today is the result of something you've allowed to happen. You initiated it, or you consented to it, or you've allowed it to continue. You are where you are today because you've chosen to be there. And you can choose not to be there. [Khadija speaking: This idea is often a bitter pill to swallow. It's emotionally so much more comfortable to totally blame others. The problem with blaming others is that it means ceding control over your life's possibilities to these other people!]

You'll have to pay for past mistakes, but no mistake warrants a life sentence. You can telescope those payments into the short term and get rid of them quickly. [There's no need to accept any sort of life sentence. Even those prisoners with life sentences don't accept them. They're busy writing to volunteer groups trying to get their convictions overturned! Why should we be any less resourceful?]

You can get rid of bad relationships, meaningless obligations, negative commitments. You can do anything you want. You're free ---- if only you'll realize it. Only you can choose to make things better for yourself. You can decide to stop 'going along' with things that are handed to you. You can decide to live your life as the free person you are.

Don't tell me that it can't be done. There are too many people who've already done it.

No matter where you are now, you can unravel all the knots that you've woven into your life. [This doesn't mean that it'll be easy; but it can be done.] You can decide to be free. No one else has to be convinced ---- it requires only your decision and action." [Hear, hear!] Amazon Kindle locations 3831-41 through 3841-50 (emphasis added).

Mr. Browne talks about the various measures one can use to assess how you're spending the bulk of your time. One measure is whether your activities are active or passive:

"3. Active-Passive Labels. This approach is similar to the last one. It will help you to see if you're making things happen in your life ---- or if you're just going along with what others want. Label each activity active or passive. The active label applies to anything you have initiated, the things you do because you have decided they should be done. The passive label should be attached to those activities you do because someone else wants you to do them. [Which is the "gravedigger's" self-selected lot in life.]

. . . As you apply these labels to your weekly activities, designate passive those things you do only to preserve a relationship (even if it's a relationship you value) --- such things as conversations that bore you, favors, etc. As you look at the labels, you can see how much of your time is necessary to preserve the relationship ---- and that should tell you if the situation is as compatible as you'd thought it was. [Yes, when looked at this way, it's possible to discover that many situations we involve ourselves in are actually not compatible with our interests, values or aspirations.]

Look for relationships that don't require that you tolerate unpleasant things in order to maintain them. With the right people, you should be spending most (if not all) of your time doing things that please you, that make sense to you ---- the things you want to do. Compromises seem necessary only because of inappropriate situations. If you're involved with the right people, the word 'sacrifice' shouldn't even be in your vocabulary."

[This is somewhat extreme for my tastes. I'm willing to make non-catastrophic (and usually small) sacrifices for those I value. Although, once I consciously thought about it, I realized that I'm willing to do this about 15-17% of the time. To me, having to do stuff that you find unpleasant (but the other person actually likes) 20% or more of the time means that you're not like-minded enough to have a mutually enjoyable friendship, etc. with the person.] Amazon Kindle locations 3761-72 through 3772-81 (emphasis added).

Another thing I've noticed is that so many African-American women are literally afraid to explore activities that genuinely interest them, unless these activities are also popular with the masses of African-Americans. This is a crazy way to live. You miss out on a lot of things like that. You also miss out on meeting other Black folks who happen to share your interests.

[My ex, who is also interested in martial arts, talked about how I was the only Black woman he knew who took martial arts classes. (He's African-American.) I've heard similar comments from others. Which is strange on a practical level---considering how much physical danger African-American women are subjected to on a daily basis in Black residential areas.

Since I brought this up, let me stress the following: One of the first things you notice in martial arts classes with guy partners is just how physically strong guys are. Even the smaller men. So, be advised that Buffy The Vampire Slayer is pure fantasy. Not to mention that many predators work out every day while they are in prison. No normal person who takes time to work for a living can match that prison-level of physical conditioning. Normal people also generally can't match the "I've got nothing to lose" mindset of many ex-cons. Normal people have things that they care about, including their own lives. However, it's still possible for even small women to learn practical skills like how to get out of, and away from, various types of grabs and holds.]

This active-passive test is a good one for taking stock of one's daily life and the people in one's life. It's a good way to see if you're in a state of true fellowship with the people around you. This matters.

In fact, during the emerging Endless Night of Permanent Underclass Status For African-Americans, this will be a matter of life and death for Black women.


It's all connected. The extreme isolation of so many Black women's lives is a recurring theme and underlying factor in so many of the problems we collectively face. It's one of the reasons I've been so agitated about Black folks' prospects in the current economic crisis. During the First Great Depression we at least had strong family and community ties for mutual support. With a majority out of wedlock rate, there aren't many strong families. These women and children have NO male protectors and providers. Black residential areas have long since stopped functioning as communities. During this current crisis, many Black women literally have nobody to watch their backs.

This means that when something goes wrong, these women and their children are likely to end up in the condition that Min. Farrakhan has described as "naked, hungry, and out of doors."

Part of the reason for this is because many African-American women are investing the bulk of their energy into non-reciprocal relationships with people who must be appeased with these women's service. If these people only come around or interact with you when they want something, what happens when you have nothing to give? Answer: Silence and apathy while you transition into being "naked, hungry, and out of doors."

This is why it's important to build true, reciprocal fellowships with as many people as possible. The odds of having that sort of relationship are increased if the relationship is built around genuinely shared interests and values. You're more likely to meet people who share your interests and values when you actively pursue your genuine interests. Instead of only participating in activities that are "approved of" by mass, popular Black culture.

For further reading, see True Fellowship, Part 2: Breaking Bread.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Don't Miss Out On Marriage Due To Fighting A Cultural War That Black Men Abandoned Over 40 Years Ago

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

Friday, July 3, 2009

Open Panel Discussion: Let's Talk About Leadership, And Where Do We Go From Here With Black Women's Empowerment Activism?

These topics have come up during a recent blog discussion. I feel that they are deserving of a separate open-panel discussion of their own. So, please feel free to add your thoughts.

Here are my thoughts about this:

I feel that African-American women (AAW) don't need "leaders" in this context. We need consciousness-raising. We need to learn how to have minds that are open enough to re-think what we've been doing.

The life-saving, life-enhancing ideas that various Black women empowerment bloggers have been discussing are really quite simple, and founded on common sense. All that's required to put them into use is a willingness to reconsider some things, and change some self-defeating behaviors.

I'm somewhat confused by the mental resistance and the "stuck points" that some AAW seem to have with all of this. Especially with the weight issues---I just don't understand why seeking validation of the "pity party" is more important than life itself.

In my case, I took the time to re-examine my ideology (and what I was doing) shortly after I was presented with new information (the Dunbar Village Atrocity & Aftermath, various blog essays, etc.). After reviewing all the new ideas and new information I had come across, I decided to change course. It was painful, and I grieved over the loss of the previous ideas I had found certainty in. But I'm better off for it.

It's one thing to carefully consider new ideas or information and THEN reject them after thinking it over. It's something else to keep going around a mental "spin cycle" with the same stale thoughts---as if one had never seen or heard the new information. I don't understand that sort of behavior. Especially when the status quo is NOT doing anything positive for a person.

I think that our people's previous models of "leadership" are obsolete and frankly, unworkable in our particular context. [For a variety of reasons that we can discuss in greater detail, if anyone is interested.] In terms of our empowerment/consciousness-raising activism, I think what would be best is an "open source" model of activism.

Here are some links that explain the ideas behind "open source" warfare, etc.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Last Embers Of A Dying Flame: Will YOU Make It Out Before Darkness Falls?

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

The Sojourner-Artist: Have More Than One Iron In The Fire

I recently read the following blog post from a literary agent: Among other things, she said: "I’ve always taught that if you have made significant changes to your book for one reason or another you should definitely consider re-pitching agents. " However, she added that she often worries about how pleased many aspiring authors are to hear this particular suggestion. She went on to say:

"I will tell you right now, if you don’t learn to move on, to write the next book and query the next book and write and query the next book after that you will never be published.

No agent and no publisher wants an author for only one book, and if you spend years reworking and re-pitching that same book you’re not making yourself a very marketable or publishable author." (emphasis added)

Even though I groaned when I read this last part (after all, it's HARD work to write just ONE book), it does make sense. People in general are accustomed to perceiving their goals in a "gonna fly now-Rocky" context of the one prize fight, the one hit song, or the one blockbuster novel that will propel them to the top of their field. Very few people contemplate the sustained effort it takes to create a body of work.

So, what does this mean to me? It means that after I finish the first draft of my novel, I'll set it aside for a while and write some short stories that I can enter into writing competitions. And then I'll start my second novel after I finish revising the first one. Onward and forward.

In most contexts, it's not good to depend upon one thing. This has been noted throughout the ages. As Baltasar Gracian said in his 1637 book, The Art of Worldly Wisdom:

"Double Your Resources. You thereby double your life. One must not depend on one thing or trust to only one resource, however preeminent. Everything should be kept double, especially the causes of success, of favor, or of esteem. . . Thus as nature gives us in duplicate the most important of our limbs and those most exposed to risk, so art should deal with the qualities on which we depend for success." The Art of Worldly Wisdom, pg. 54.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tools For The Writer's/Filmmaker's Craft: "Selling Your Story In 60 Seconds"

I'm reading an extremely helpful book for the budding storyteller: Selling Your Story In 60 Seconds by Michael Hauge.

As he points out, "If you're a writer or filmmaker who wants to connect with an audience, who wants to touch as many people as you can with your work, you must devote time and energy to the marketing process, just as you do to your craft. . . You've got to get your work read, which means you've got to put yourself out there in a positive, committed way and make people aware of your talent." pg. xxi.

This principle applies to more than the arts. It also applies to entrepreneurship in general. From what I've seen and read, one of the main causes of small business failure is the lack of a (sound) marketing strategy. People fall in love with their product or service without giving a single thought to the question, "How am I going to sell this?" It seems to me that it's best to think of the marketing aspect from the very beginning.

I also agree with the author that you only have a short amount of time to make a successful initial pitch. People settle into a general attitude about things or ideas fairly quickly. I've seen this with juries.

As I mentioned in an earlier post:

"Most of the current work created by African-American women promotes the status quo ENTRAPMENT of African-American women and girls. Often, those few works that promote the freedom of movement of an individual Black female author have the negative side effect of blocking the path for others. We need Sojourner-Artists. We need art that promotes and protects the Sojourner's Path by showing the possibilities that are available for African-American women and girls. We need art that encourages African-American women and girls to seize these possibilities."

If we are going to have the African-American Women's Arts Movement that we desperately need, then we have to be at the top of our game as Sojourner-Artists.

Read, learn, and Get Busy!