MASTER OBSIDIAN’S KEYNOTE Beyond Leather IV 2011

As we have just celebrated our nations 236th birthday earlier this month. I’ve found myself reflecting on notions of personal responsibility and freedom with more frequency than usual. I was on my way to looking up something else and I came across this keynote address that I gave at the Beyond Leather Conference in 2011. As I read it  the thought again occurred to me how meaningful and wonderful the Declaration of Independance is – and on a personal level how vital it is to our personal mental and spiritual health that each one of us find our way to our own Declarations of Independance.

What day do you celebrate as your Independance Day, RM


If not now, then when?


MASTER OBSIDIAN’S KEYNOTE

Keynote Address to the Beyond Leather IV Conference – 2011
(Copyright © 2011 by Master Obsidian. All rights reserved. may not be utilized without express written permission from the author)

My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!



Everyone of us knows this song – depending where you are from in the US you no doubt had to sing it at some point back in the day when they used to make us sing en masse, in grade school…..which was probably an introduction of sorts for many of us into the murky waters of Power Exchange relationships. Because they didnt ask you if you wanted to sing…you just had to do it, right? Fewer still know the story that is behind the writing of these words.

Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” in 1831, while a student at the Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts. His friend asked him to translate the lyrics in some German school songbooks or to write new lyrics.Instead of translating the lyrics from German, Smith wrote his own American patriotic hymn to the melody, completing the lyrics in thirty minutes.

Thirty minutes that have changed the world.

This verse is also at the close of Dr. King’s amazing “I have a dream” speech – his dramatic address at our nations capital – much less than thirty minutes.. his address was only a few minutes long. Again, time enough to change the world.

Whether we know it or not, we are engaged in the fight of our lives – many of us dont know who to listen to, who to pay attention to in a world where everything is so important and urgent and nothing really matters – its easy to become confused. In a world where any number of talking heads can tell you on a daily basis who you are, what you want to do, where you should be going and what to do when you get there.

Sometimes its just easier to go with the flow. Easier that way – less frightening. Less scary. Less fear involved. Eat this, dont eat that.Trust this…dont trust them over there. No more sushi, its radioactive. etc

But many of you are not called to go with the flow, you arent go with the flow type people. You are walking a different path and if the road less traveled by is where you are living your life – I say keep on keeping on. I want to encourage you to keep on doing what you are doing. I see you – the world sees you and whether or not anyone likes it. Do what you do. The world needs more people like you. Fearless Motherfuckers!. Bad Asses to the last!!!!

You do your thang – keep being an inspiration.
This message this evening is not for those people. Im talking to the people sitting next to the badasses. They are sitting there hoping that I wont call them out or identify them, but they are there. Who are these people who are fearful – who are afraid? Im not talking to you – fearless ones, Im talking to the people sitting next to you. Or the people sitting in front of you – you can only see the back of their heads, or their shiny leather covers. Those folks. Or maybe theres a couple of em behind you – dont look directly at them, dont make eye contact..we will talk later….

They are in here somewhere – of course you cant readily identify em, but they are all over trust me.

Maybe some of the fearful folks might even up here on the stage talking to you this evening.

Why? Because we’ve all been afraid at one time or another. Apparently theres good reasons out there to be afraid, yes?

In the 1970’s we are all going to run out of energy resources
In the 1980’s they said “acid rain” was going to destroy the planet
And in the 1990’s the “millenium bug” was what we were afraid of. Many people thought that when the clock changed, the world was going to blow up.
And now, in the 2000’s “global warming” is to be feared, depending on who you listend to – this is now a constant pervasive threat to every man, woman and child on the planet.

And underneath all of those global issues – loomed the ugly spectre of AIDS, under all four of those decades.
 
Where we lost a bunch of folks and we buried a lot of our friends and our loved ones.

And somewhere along the line…..in our community we learned how to be afraid.

Waves of fear have cascaded through our culture and society with pretty regular frequency – an invisible tsunami of soul corrupting acid that for all its pervasiveness is no less damaging to us than the very real tsunami that hit the coastline of Japan on the 11th.

Debilitating, crippling, joy stealing, soul dampening fear.

Some social psychologists have theorized that all human behavior is motivated by the fear of something….fundamentally mortality.

We are afraid of the darkness at the end of the tunnel, the path that ends in the clearing. The cessation of breath – the thought of ‘not being’ here anymore.

The terror of absolute annihilation creates such a profound—albeit subconscious—anxiety in us, that we literally spend our lives attempting to make sense of it. On large scale this attempt is made through the building of society, religious systems, cultures and belief systems to explain the significance of life in general. On an individual level, how well someone adheres to a cultural worldview is the same concept as self-esteem; people start to measure their own worth based on how well they live up to their culture’s expectations.

Im not here to argue with you tonight about whether or not you should believe in the Divine, a Creator of some kind or an Eternal, Universal Consciousness. That is after all for you to decide.

What I am here to do is discuss what is holding you back from being as happy as you can possibly be in the remaining years, or for ome of us moments of our lives. We’d like years, maybe hundreds or thousands of them – and that would be my wish for each of you here today. But the reality of our rather fragile existences here is always a part of any gathering, according to the social psychologists. Life is somewhat fragile, yes? Because I know this for a certainty – there were people here with us at our grand kinky reunion last year, who are not among us this year.

And next year it will be the same, regardless of what you believe or dont believe.

Some of us aint going to be here next time. Big Death.

But because of our fears….some of us suffer because of our fear, little deaths all the time. Because of…
our fear of straight people
of rednecks
of black people
of republicans
of being rejected
of being unloved
of not having enough
of having too much
of being successful
of being a failure
of losing our jobs
of losing our homes
of not having retirement
of going out of business

little deaths.

fear of coming out
of loving again
of being vulnerable

of being civil
being persecuted because we are _____________ (you fill in the blank with your choice)

Im the Southwest Regional Representative for MAsT in addition to being the organizer and founder of our local MAsT chapter in Austin. During our last discussion someone brought up the topic of steath M/s: doing what it is that we do for and with each other that we can use to affirm our relationship in ways that cannot be seen by people out right.

The person that suggested it – I listened to them and I believe their hearts are in a good place – identifying those little secret ways we can affirm our relationship. But it started me to thinking about our obsession with staying below the radar, trying not to offend the ‘non-kinky’ folks, trying to look and sound like the same as everyone else.

When I thought about it though….I thought that maybe we spend a little too much time trying to be ‘stealth’…flying below the radar.

Trying to be non-offensive..
Looking familiar. Being like everyone else.

Going with the flow, not bucking the tide or the trend. Being safe.

Sort of like; not wearing your collar in public.
Or introducing your partner – who is the love of your life as your ‘friend’
Or telling people when asked that you’re going to a ‘something’ in Florida – fill in the blank. Some of you know you didnt say “Beyond Leather”.

Sound familiar?

Dont wanna offend the vanillas or whomever we are calling them today.

No, not you – someone else prolly.

So what. What are we going to do about it?

Well, this is what I believe.

First of all – let me say this – no matter what ANYONE says –

YOU. ARE. NOT. OFFENSIVE.

YOU ARE NOT OFFENSIVE.

PERIOD.

There is a reason why I opened our little discussion here with the words from that song that everyone knows. If you look into the writings and the philosophies of those ‘founding fathers’ of our nation – there are some themes there that I believe are critically important for our community. – and particularly relevant for these little deaths that we suffer. (not you bad asses – the other people next to you that are living in fear of one sort or another.)

What you will find if you do the research is a central theme of Freedom and of Liberty. The notion that in this country in particular -you have the right to pursue a course of action for your own existence that has meaning, that makes you happy and that will serve as a shield to hold up against the rising tide of fear that seeks to overtake you on a daily basis.

Why do I believe this?

Because I believe that our country was founded on this idea – that you live in a universe that is fundamentally meaningful and that your place in it is the place of someone that is valuable, that is precious – that is essential.

You are essential.
You are supposed to be here.
You have a RIGHT to be here.

This is important

Why is this important?

Because our self-esteem is a social construct. That is socially constructed and maintained – we receive validation from each other in any number of ways, some of them very small – its also the reason why civility is important in terms of how we deal with each other. The person that lashes out at or invalidates someone else in our community hurts two people – themselves and the other upon which their ire is focused. Because they take away that validation.

And as a result make it that much more difficult to maintain a positive self image within this culture.

So what am I asking you to do?

Run out and become a social/sexual advocate and or activist? Hardly.
Give monies to the NCSF, Woodhull Foundation and others – yes that’s important I would imagine, but also makes responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep and defense of our collective family someone elses responsibility in a way. But definitely useful and helpful and necessary. When you are up against it – you need someone in your corner that really knows what the fuck they are talking about, yes? You want someone to stand with you and for you. And know what they are talking about. That’s why they are there – so support them, but that’s not fundamentally what this is about.

Forget about the macro – what about the micro? Should you start a support group? Hold a bake sale? Form some kind of small group?

Or sacrifice your job to the cause by running into your office on Monday and screaming out “Im kinky as fuck and Im not gonna take it anymore?”

no, Im not asking you to do any of that.

I believe that the biggest change isnt external where people can see what you are doing. But internal, where you live everyday of your life.

See Im asking you to believe something. To believe that this is fundamentally about YOU, badass.

Because when we believe different – we do different, we act different. We exist on a different, higher plane vibrationally speaking and we have a greater impact on everything that we touch and experience.

What am I asking you to believe differently?

That when our founding fathers wrote this – they are talking directly about you and to you.

This is something that many of us have forgotten – or been brainwashed into thinking that when they wrote these sentences they are really talking about all the rest of THEM and not about YOU.

And that is what keeps us in fear…..that notion that we arent truly a part of things that short circuits a LOT of the happiness that we could be enjoying.

The sentence that Im talking about is this one…..

…“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

You are not offensive.
You are fucking beautiful.

What this sentence points to is the fact that your right to be here and to be AS YOU ARE are not given to you by the Government the State or any other third party – they are endowed by the Creator and that they are both self evident AND unalienableself evident means that you CAME here with these rights. And unalienable means that nobody can take them away from you.
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
We have to stop seeing ourselves as the outsider, as the disenfranchised, as the un wanted throwaways.

We have to Believe differently.
We have to not be afraid.
We have to Stand up for who we are, and for what we are.

So I say,
Let Freedom Ring.
Let Freedom Ring
– this weekend wherever you are.
Let Freedom Ring – in the dungeon.
Let Freedom Ring – in the hospitality suite.
Let Freedom Ring certainly around every part of this hotel this weekend and perhaps even more importantly take this back with you to wherever you came from and Let Freedom Ring there as well.

Let Freedom Ring – as you pursue your personal happiness in the ways and the forms that are meaningful to you.

Let Freedom Ring so you dont spend any more time afraid, on the fringes of society fearful of being yourself, trying to fly below the radar and not offending those that are so very easily offended.

I say fuck that.

You be YOU and do what you came here to do.

Let Freedom Ring.

Thank you.

More Thoughts on the Dialectic of Personal Responsibility

The desire to be thought well of is a very real driver of human behavior in my opinion. We want other people to think well of us, to believe that when we say ‘excuse me’ after stepping on someone’s foot that we are genuine in so doing, that our contrition is heartfelt and that we meant no ill intent. However, if you havent moved at all and someone accuses you of stepping violently and repeatedly on their foot, is an apology warranted? Most of the time, I have an almost immediate ‘yes!’ that pops up in my head. Im sorry, you must have misunderstood me. Im sorry – I didnt mean to hurt your feelings, etc.. My slave wrote a piece describing a situation in which something very similar to this actually occurred. We were speaking our truth – holding opinions and in this case using particular words like masculine and feminine for example to describe how I approach my relationship and how my slave and I interact with each other – and then we observed that someone was literally trembling with rage at their perception of the usage of those terms, they related to us that they felt sick to their stomach over our willful and malevolent usage of and obvious support of the established gender binary in their presence.

That they felt oppressed by the very words we were using.

There have been some that have read my slave’s essay on the Dialectic of Personal Responsibility and have opined that words have been used to harm and to hurt for millenia and our recent shared past is no exception. They have intimated that perhaps it is we who lack understanding, and that by continuing to use any word that offends, we somehow are giving an approving nod to all offensive speech, everywhere without regard to the genesis of said speech and the intent with which said words are used. And in using this guilt by association argument – there persists a lot of hand wringing and finger wagging and ironically hurling of precisely the sort of negativity that the writer is allegedly railing against (go figure) of the ‘you are just trying to justify your wanting to be comfortable In your boorishness’ sort. There seems to be an intentional disregard of what is actually said in order to pursue a line of reasoning that assumes that we advocate going through life like the proverbial bull in the china shop without regard for anyone’s feelings – additionally this line of reasoning seems to also read into the piece that my slave is saying that if the ubiquitous ‘they’ don’t like it, why then they can just build a bridge and get over themselves.

That’s not what was said. At all.

If in fact she was being an advocate for hate speech, the casual hurling about of invective or perjorative statements, then all the sturm und drang would be warranted. But she is not, and has not. So seriously – enough with the pulpit thumping please.

The beauty of having a dialectic – a discussion about a particular subject in which both sides present their thoughts in a well reasoned manner, is that it can be very interesting and satisfying to compare and contrast different ways of thinking about a subject – any subject. However, I find that satisfaction is very slow in coming – in fact its neatly short circuited when the first criteria for participation in the dialectic is negated by ignorance. If one cant be bothered to read for comprehension so that one understands more than the basics of the discussion at hand….why then we must ever fail to arrive at that place of comparing and contrasting our thoughts, yes?

One comment;  “I’ve survived rape, but I’m not going to tell someone to not have rape play because it may trigger memories. I have triggers based on combat experiences, but I’m not going to demand people adjust for me. I’m going to ranger up and deal with it in my way or leave the area. I choose to be stronger than those things that have a chance of screwing up my chance to enjoy life. Otherwise, I’d be an angry, paranoid mass who fails to accept responsibility for my issues, attempts to blame everyone else, and expects people to control my emotions.”

Bravo. I think I understand where they are coming from. Basically, its not everyone elses responsibility to avoid my triggers. If they appear to be making choices that I wouldn’t make for myself in a similar situation, Im not going to make that an issue for both of us. Im responsible for my own feelings.

Another commentary; “It becomes your responsibility when you decide not to be a shitty person. Triggers are symptoms of disabilities. Accommodating them is like accommodating any other disability– by not parking in handicapped parking spots, by ensuring that public buildings have wheelchair ramps. No, you don’t have to care about people who are different than you, but you’re a huge asshole if you don’t.”

Um….what?

The ‘you are just trying to make excuses for your own bad behaviour’ camp fails the test of ‘well reasoning’ because they apparently dont understand what is being discussed in the first place. What is on the table is not a strident declaration to say what I want when I want it, regardless of the impact on other people. What is being discussed is that despite all apparent evidence to the contrary some people still feel like everyone else is responsible for how THEY feel and should adjust their behaviour accordingly to avoid hurting THEIR feelings.

Despite this – I really do believe that people are entitled to be offended by whatever they want. If however Im talking about myself in particular, their offense does not imbue them with special rights that include the expectation that anyone else stop speaking their truth because the very utterance of that truth offends them. 

Which is the primary point of my slave’s writing.

We should be free to talk about ourselves however we wish. To use descriptive terms that may resonate for us with the understanding that they might not resonate for anyone else. That’s okay. But why stop there? Isnt the ability to discuss things with civility, without invective OR perjorative statements part of a satisfying social discourse? If we arent attempting to hurt, wound or otherwise be an ass in someone elses direction it shouldn’t matter if we are talking about ourselves or something/one else. If we find civil dialogue threatening or offensive, methinks some of us have our ‘moral outrage’ filters set too high.