24 APRIL 2020
Thank you to those who have been attending our weekly online webinars, and a big welcome to new visitors! In this week’s newsletter we touch on content that was discussed during this past Monday’s webinar by our global and growing GEM community.
The aim of these online community spaces is to encourage critical thinking, getting in touch with your emotions, and, more importantly, providing a platform where you can express your inner voice in a safe space!
Our topic this past Monday was about the importance of being able to trust oneself, especially in times where trust in our global governing systems and leaders are shaky at present due to events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Self, Systems, & Joker
To assist with delving into this important topic with our GEM community, we chose to recommend and discuss the recent Academy-award winning film Joker, as well as the philosopher Plato’s famous Allegory of the Cave. To remind our readers again about Joker, George Ioannides, GEM’s Operations and Curriculum Lead, here presents his apt synopsis of the film:
“Joker (2019) is a film that, on the surface, highlights what could happen when the disenfranchised and marginalised in our society – particularly those with a mental illness (in the Joker’s case, a neurological disorder as the outcome of severe childhood trauma) – come to resist the structures that oppress them. These structures include a stringent class system, lack of social services and welfare in our age of neoliberalism, cost-cutting for greater economic productivity and lesser psychosocial wellbeing, and the supremacy of the gospel of prosperity through consumer capitalism.
The violence at the film’s heart is one that may lie dormant within all of us; one that can erupt if sparked by violence that is constantly enacted towards us – physical, emotional, and psychological. The Joker wishes to disassemble these structures of oppression and enact bloody revenge on those who prop up these systems – he wants us to laugh back at them in the process, especially at their comic stupidity.
At GEM we of course do not condone the film’s message of retributive violence and justice. We choose to instead view this film as a vehicle for awareness of the violence undertaken by those structures towards us, and as a cautionary tale for those that choose not to become awakened to the madness that threatens to envelop our societies as we speak. The Joker takes back his agency in a way that is not conducive to the loving kindness he initially wishes to see in the world. But can we utilise our own agency in ways that can?”
Illustration by Carlos Rex Estrada
To build on George’s comments here, Maria Flood, Lecturer in Film Studies at Keele University in the UK, states that Joker presents what the US Sociologist Michael Kimmel refers to as “‘aggrieved entitlement’ of the white American male, where the failure to procure the social status and goods you believe you deserve (money, employment, property, sex, family), leads to anger and violence at groups you blame – women, people of colour, sexual minorities.” This is an important statement considering the world in which we find ourselves today, where we are all being shaken to the core by the changes in our social and economic structures unfolding due to COVID-19’s emergence.
Trust, Awareness, & Plato’s Cave
We then moved on in our webinar to assimilate our findings from the Allegory of Plato’s Cave. Together we Gems referenced the notions of what the ‘shadows’ represent in this allegory, and how the held prisoners are constantly being exposed to information they ‘believe’ to be the truth. We discussed whether we can trust the information disseminated to us daily in the media and elsewhere, or whether the leaders presenting us with this information were based on such depictions where the truth is obscured, and why this could be the case. (Notice how the rabbit in the illustration below is ‘chained’ to the shadow in front of her!).
Illustration by Åsa Lucander
We then importantly got into a group discussion questioning if, by casting blame for misrepresentation or misinformation on such systems or leaders, we are removing our own agency and choice to seek out the truth in the process. Some may argue against this, postulating that our agency is constrained by the environments that shape us (and this itself is a wonderful topic for a webinar!).
Turning back to our webinar’s theme of trust, another angle of questioning was presented in our discussion: how can we learn to trust ourselves and, in turn, not give away our freedom and power of choice to such external systems? The Gems came up with the following thoughts and replies:
- When we become complacent, we stop thinking and being critical. It could be argued that, like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave, we humans don’t want to be taken away from our ‘sleepy’ and comfortable existence.
- Being creative enables us to remain present and in touch with a reality that is more true to our nature.
- Developing a strong personal identity, one where we are brave enough to face the world by constantly asking questions, critically evaluating the source of true information, and seeking pathways to such sources, helps us to become more aware of our surroundings and their structures.
- We should remind ourselves to remain fluid and in our flow; like a work of art, we can be more open to a new sense of self and how this self is expressed in the world.
- We need to question whether empathy for someone who has directly or indirectly chosen the path of violence is ethically and morally sound; violence is only one outcome and paths amongst many that exist, and we can choose differently.
- We need support because of how much of an impact our socially constructed world can have on our sense of being; we need to speak more about our mental and emotional states with others, more often.
- Let sleeping dogs lie! Work on your inner states, as there is no need to convince anyone of anything; rather seek support and gain insight and awareness yourself. Walk the walk!
The list goes on, and more can be heard in the webinar recording which will be sent to those who registered for it. It is apt to end here with the following words by Michel Foucault (1982) (and thank you to the new guest to our webinars who contributed this!):
“Maybe the target nowadays is not to discover what we are, but to refuse what we are… We have to promote new forms of subjectivity through the refusal of this kind of individuality which has been imposed on us for several centuries”.
The key questions raised and discussed during the webinar were:
- Does a film like Joker reflect current social conditions or do they, in the end, help create them?
- If such conditions are playing out as our collective unconscious, what hope do we have to bring about any kind of change (for a more compassionate and just world)?
- What kind of leaders can steer a society away from the negative outcomes the film depicts through the playing out of repressed emotions?
This was such a wonderful event! Thank you to everyone who participated in the debate and for being brave enough to express yourselves. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here. What matters is that you get to ask our host(s) and your peers the difficult questions about events and people that impact your day-to-day feelings and thoughts.
Monday 27th April 2020, 6pm AEST
Jennifer Murrant, Nutritionist & Somatic Experience Therapist, Australia
Jennifer Murrant is passionate about helping empower people to take more charge of their health in terms of understanding the way in which our interconnected systems work together… from immunity to gut health to blood sugar and ways in which our dietary and lifestyle choices can support these systems. Like the GEM coaching team on its topics, she offers a voice of reason and a sounding board on important themes in her field, such as nutrition vs. calories, the body’s natural immunity, food production, food processing, and more! Jen will be presenting her topic this Monday on ‘Building Immunity for yours & a Healthier Community’. Also, she will be offering more information on how a nutritional diet is more important than calorie counting to maintain your wellbeing.
Jennifer is the Founding Director of Healthy Luxe, a boutique wellness brand in the health space. Healthy Luxe was established in 2014 by mother-daughter duo, Jennifer Murrant and Hannah Singleton (pictured above). The platform evolved from a shared love and appreciation for health, food and travel.
In the last four years, these two ambitious women have worked with some of the leading brands in the health and wellness industry as well as fitness, lifestyle, and travel. During this period they have manifested a highly engaged following of over 100,000 on Instagram and over 22,000 on Facebook. They were also awarded a badge for the top 50 influencers in Australia!
We have a jam-packed schedule of webinars lined up for you over the next couple of months! We are mindful that our Karachi Gems start Ramadan from this week for a month, until the third week of May. Please note that if registered attendees cannot attend our webinars, the recordings of them will be accessible to you for later viewing.
Some of our forthcoming speakers on the topic of emotion include Dr Saima Qureshi (see below); Dr Waseem Alvi, Forensic Psychiatrist, on how dysregulated emotions can turn a person’s life into one of crime but how they can also turn things around with community support and connection; and David John, a former drug and alcohol counsellor and now wellbeing healer who teaches with natural medicine, meditation, and yoga, on helping us to learn more about our emotional states.
Also soon to present is our very own Gem from Karachi, Ushna Siddique (pictured above at the GEMAH KB 2019 Biennale event!), who will take us through calligraphy as an art form. Here we will discuss how such ancient art forms can enable the imagination and allow us to meditate and access such deeper insights. Stand by for forthcoming dates!
Importantly, all of our guest speakers invited to host our GEM webinars are sourced because of your pressing questions on topics that you don’t often have the chance to discuss in person with experienced individuals and simultaneously with your peers!
Monday 25th May 2020, 6pm AEST
Guest Speaker: Dr Saima Qureshi, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Pakistan
Dr Saima Qureshi from Dow University of Health Sciences, Pakistan, will present on learning about the differences between mood states we all have from time to time (such as anxiety and distress), and how pervasive, prolonged mood states can lead to a mental illness such as Depression and other more severe health problems such as cardiovascular disease, and vice versa. Dr Qureshi (pictured above) is in charge of the inpatient ward at a Karachi hospital and also leads a wonderful team of up-and-coming young clinicians in their postgraduate and clinical training.
Good news! Due to our ongoing lists of recommended readings, we are putting together a stimulating resource library using Amazon’s fulfilment services to make accessing such material so much easier for our readers. This link will be available soon.
To align with some of the critical points raised during our past webinar, here are some authors we would like to recommend to you in the meantime. For those of you new to philosophy, some critical thinkers to read are listed below, especially on the philosophical concepts of violence, art, culture, and the influence of these factors on the individual having to face such challenges in each Zeitgeist.
One of the most controversial philosophers on this topic is Walter Benjamin (1935), who said:
“The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being embedded in the fabric of tradition. This tradition itself is thoroughly alive and extremely changeable.”
- Plato, The Republic
- Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
- Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction‘, and The Arcades Project
- Slavoj Žižek, Disparities
- Ethan Watters, Crazy Like Us
Illustration by Lincoln Tapsell, our GEM extraordinaire!
If you would like to chat with Angé, GEM’s Founder and Lead Coach, or one of our coaches who offer peer-to-peer insights and support, GEM has a decision-support service called ‘Post Your Question’ as part of our coaching bookings. If life is pressing hard on you right now, you can book in this session for a reduced service fee on our website here, and you can have a 1-on-1 chat with us to help you clarify this pressing state and provide the necessary insight for support.
We are here to also provide recommendations for professional mental healthcare service providers in your area (even if you live outside of Australia); please email us to let us know if you’d like such a recommendation. If you find yourself in a situation where you require more immediate mental healthcare support, please visit our support page on our website here.
REMEMBER TO REGISTER ONLINE!
For those Gems that registered for our first and second webinar, your registration now applies to all GEM future webinars. The Zoom link and passcode for our next webinar will soon be sent in a separate email.
For those Gems that have yet to register, and would like to attend our future webinars, please register here. You and your friends are most welcome to come along!
We look forward to seeing you all next time!
Stay safe and stay healthy.
The GEM Team
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