Subversion is the only path to true empowerment. Let me repeat that—because it bears repeating: Subversion is the only path to true empowerment. Quite simply because it’s the only path that is cognizant of and utilizes the context in which the trauma—or disempowerment—was created.
Take my work, for instance. I work in branding. I’m an expert on branding for spiritual entrepreneurs. And that term ‘branding’ has become so ubiquitous and trendy. We all have our idea of a pretty little website and some beautiful logo and maybe even some solid messaging.
But do we understand the context around that word? The energetic lines upon which we’re drawing? Because branding—quite literally—means ‘to burn.’ To brand cattle. To mark as an object.
It doesn’t escape me that this word—which has become a battle cry of empowerment for many business owners—is strongly linked with arguably the most objectifying memory of the last century: Jewish people being branded during the Holocaust. Reduced to numbers.
Because branding is really about burning as a means of reductionism. Objectifying. Stripping away Divinity and reducing a person to a thing. A number. Maybe a public persona. Or a beautiful website. But a container, nonetheless. A container devoid of essence.
That’s the context in which ‘branding’ exists. And it’s one I’m very, very cognizant of. Because if I were to use branding outside of its own context—as is often the case—I’d miss a huge opportunity for empowerment. In fact, I’d just be unknowingly reiterating a cycle of disempowerment. No wonder history always repeats itself.
We can’t take something out of context and assume everything is better just because the one offender is gone. It’s like taking a gallbladder out of a very unhealthy person and expecting them to be 100% healthy. Sure, the most apparent offense is gone. But the context in which the offense was created is still very much alive.
And yet this is something we try to do all the time. We try to say, “Hey, that’s the bad guy. That’s the killer. Without him in our society, we’re safe.” Except we completely ignored the context that allowed this man to become the offender we all point to.
Everything exists within a context.
So, when I do branding work, I’m very aware of its context. And I’m aware that reducing all a person is, was, and ever could be down into 5-6 words is ironic. It’s intentional objectification. But it’s actually subversive.
We are intentionally reducing ourselves to a few words. Words that were condensed through the process of subjectivity. To allow objectification to become subjectification. And therefore empowerment.
We’re reducing ourselves to 5-6 words that have personal and subjective meaning to us so that we can expand into all that we are. It’s subversion of the objectifying context of branding. And that’s why it’s so goddamn empowering. That’s why people’s lives often change immediately after understanding their words.
Because all things exist in a context. And it’s only by working with and changing that context—subversion—that we can truly reach empowerment. Otherwise, we’re just trying to isolate particular manifestations of a pattern rather than the root itself. And that’s a surefire way to allow history to just keep on repeating itself. Because the underlying pattern was never dealt with.
In the same way that arresting one man for sexual assault doesn’t end the entirety of rape culture, we can’t just pretend that any situation is created in a vacuum—isolated from the context around it. Use and subvert the context, and it will create real, powerful change in the world.
Change devoid of context is escapism. Change cognizant of context is subversion.
How can you subvert the most disempowering aspects of your life to change the world?