Saturday, January 19, 2013

Business in BJJ: Morality, Motivation and Business as an Excuse

The whole BJJ world seems to be abuzz with the DC rape. While I don't think the assault itself was anything surprising, the responses really have me fascinated. From formal ones like Ryan Hall's beautifully written, long-form letter and the Gracie brothers' thought provoking video response, to the comments of readers, the outpouring of response and immediate willingness to discuss rape as a cultural issue in the makes me proud to practice the art. That said, across the board, I've noticed a common theme...a rationale used to defend offenders and to detract from those who've spoken out.

"It's just business."

I read this in defense of Lloyd Irvin's morally reprehensible purchasing of (an effort to game search engines). I also read it as a condemnation of the Gracie video as nothing more than marketing fluff under the guise of acting on behalf of community welfare. In both cases, the claim being made is that essentially, the presence of a business interest negates the intent, ethics and morality of an action...Irvin did nothing wrong in trying to redirect negative attention away from his school--it was just business. Ryron and Rener do nothing right with their soul-soothing words--they just want your money.

I'll admit, I've become a bit of a Ryron Gracie fan-girl since interviewing him for GiFreak (the guy was cool enough to talk for a good 15 after the interview), and the fact that Lloyd Irvin chose to not only redirect attention away from two sordid situations, but also tried to capitalize on it turns my I may be a bit biased...but I will go ahead and claim that business changes nothing. It's not some sort of moral counterbalance that can change the intent, or the effect of an action. It definitely can't change the culpability or credit of one practicing.

This is something I think about a lot and am still trying to work day job is one where business and humanity are tangled and twisted on a day to day basis. Fiscal well being is pitted against human aid 24/7. I understand the benefits of business...the good capitalism and the free market can bring to people. I also know, all too well, the dangers of the free market and the siren song of private enterprise. I believe that business should exist ONLY for the betterment of humanity and never for its own sake or to satiate the vices of an individual or group. That is where I think the dividing line is. In both these situations I asked myself WHY is business being inserted...Why did the Gracie's mention their academy and online programs during a discussion of something so serious? Why did Lloyd Irvin post a page advertising a rape defense seminar? In both cases, I believe the answer is advertising...efforts to spread their product to the masses. After that, the only question is what do they hope their consumers will gain from interaction with what they sell?

I'm making a bit of a leap here, but while I cannot know, I do believe that the Gracies see their product as something meant to benefit the individual and community. Though I have a distaste for sales in general, I do not fault them for their advertising. Irvin though...I began researching his marketing WAY back at the beginning of the Branding series and...well...even the encouragement of Slideyfoot couldn't get me through the research to finish a piece. This blog isn't an academic or business blog, so I generally try to interview and review people and things that I enjoy spending time thinking about. His products...they passed that test on neither an aesthetic nor content level. The more I read about this situation, the more I realize my gut reaction was probably right.


Felicia said...

Nice post, Megan. Still, I've been so amazed that 95% of the comments on any video, blog or news story about this rape have come from men. I know there are fewer women in MA than men, but to me, this isn't just about BJJ or MA, but about our culture at large. Until we change the very idea that is it ok to question whether or not a victim of a violent crime like rape is really a victim (I mean - really - what was she wearing?How much did she drink?)stuff like the Gracie informercial waxing philosophical about the ethics of teaching MA (I'm still scratching my head over that stupid waste of 30 minutes) will continue to be the most talked about topics. I'm kinda sick of the male-dominated discussion about it, I really am, because it's not about them,really. A woman was repeatedly raped by people she knew (most women are attacked by acquaintances). Whether they all are MAs or not isn't the issue to me - but how we can societally do away with the "women as chattel that can be poked and prodded at will" mentality should be.

Megan said...

Thanks Felicia, I have to disagree on one point though...I think this discussion very much is, and should be about men.

If we're talking about a crime perpetuated primarily by men, that is encouraged or ignored within male culture, then I think it's time the discussion focused on that gender and their culture. That's one reason I'm always HIGHLY skeptical when commenters say things like "don't focus on Lloyd or the school, we should be talking about the victim!" OK yeah, but honestly, we can't do much for her (or any past victim) as an individual from where most of us sit. What we CAN do is address the culture of women as commodities.

That's one reason I do think the Gracie video and Ryan Hall letter are important (though in slightly different ways). They've resonated heavily with men at some level and that's an essential step in the process.

So yeah...I'm glad to see men discussing this incident at levels of personal responsibility that go deeper than retaliation, condemnation and justification of offenders and victim.

Georgette said...

I'm delighted to see so many men commenting. I'm still shocked that some men don't think some rapes are really rape-- but at least these guys are reading about it, thinking about it, and talking about it (though I wonder if they really listen and learn and change their minds?)

Megan said...

Yeah...I wonder about what changes are actually made, but watching this has actually made me a tad hopeful.