Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Transforming Power
of Life's Russian Roulette:
You, Me, Chris Brown and Rihanna

Life can do unexpected beat downs on your azz. So can people you care about, live, work or go to school with, and that works both ways.

Getting - or giving - a beat down is sort of like Russian Roulette. You wake up and everything is normal. By nightfall something has happened to change all that.

Or it can be more insidious.

An issue or series of events develop. It could be anything, from your habits to your health, to your lover, your work or school environment, the neighbors, community, or nation.

You let it go, because you'd be an idiot and drama queen to fight every battle that falls in your lap. A bad day work is usually just bad day, a sneeze just a sneeze, a slight or insult something to be ignored, or not taking a loved one's unusual quietness or bad mood personal.

Some things really do work out themselves by simply not reacting. These beat downs may hurt, but they're rubber bullets that sting but don't harm.

There may be a situation where you don't see the warning signs pile up. You are partially or fully blind and deaf to them. Someone around you usually has a clue and may try to let you know, but not always.

These warning signs could be in yourself, or another person, or a thing, or event. If you look at what and how you were doing in life a year or five ago, and measure it against all of your habits, the kind of people you chilled with, your health, income, and other resources, and if you're a parent, the difference of your child then vs. now, you'll have an idea whether you're getting the kind of beat down that chips away at you slowly.

Whether in slow motion before it explodes, or unexpectedly sudden, a beat down is inherently traumatic. Something in your world has collapsed.

These traumas can be physical, emotional, mental, financial, and spiritual. They can result in a 'pseudo-death', or death of the spirit, in any of those categories, but except for the first one, can also result in Transformation.


I thought of this after seeing Chris Brown's new video, "I'll Transform Ya" (see below) It was released today, and his first since being released from jail for assaulting his now ex-girlfriend, Rihanna.

A few days earlier, I listened to Rihanna's newly released song, "Russian Roulette" (also see below). Her video hasn't yet been released, but I can't wait to see it. It was also her first release since receiving a beat down from Chris Brown.

In case you don't know, Chris Brown watched his mother get beat downs from his step-fathr as a child. This was the Russian Roulette which Life played on him - to be born into a family where this would happen, and that he'd be around on the days and times to witness it.

Seeing your mama get her azz whipped ain't easy to watch, in case you really never thought about. I think these incidents not only did a beat down on his semi-conscious psyche, but also transformed him. A new dimension was added to his character as a boy by the very man he despised.

The thing is, nobody knew, not even him. Years ago when he was innocent of the bullet within his soul, he told Oprah about the what had happened. Having seen domestic abuse against his mother, he couldn't imagine doing it.

I don't know what kind of childhood or young adult emotional baggage Rihanna has, but since everyone has some, let's assume one reason these two were so attracted to each another is because they had matching suitcases.

On that fateful night, the long dormant psychological bullet was in the chamber. The way they handled their feelings triggered it. Few know the full story, and the Internet rumors of her part are ugly and unconfirmed, so I'll skip spreading them. However, she did get really pissed off when she saw a text message on his cell phone - not hers - from another woman.

This suggests issues with trust, which may well have been warranted, but also possessiveness. The latter is kind of sticky issue since most lovers are somewhat possessive of each other, and when not, usually the connection is not very tight.

Whether he was cheating on her or not, having his privacy violated and whatever she said to him really pissed him off. He had possessive issues too, based on his gut reactions of what he felt entitled to do. Intellectually he surely knew better, but as a detached and distant observer, I think his feelings short-circuited his judgment.

Instead of expressing his anger verbally, or shutting down emotionally and driving her home until he cooled off, his childhood psychic bullet fell into the chamber, and he snapped.

I think the two were playing symbolic Russian Roulette.

They both lost.


With non-physical death, comes the opportunity for transformation. To be what you were not before, or before Life corrupted or harmed an innocent piece of you.

Life's Russian Roulette hands you those opportunities whether you want them or not. Shit happens. You get a beat down. You either stay beat down or get up, only to get beat down from the same shit or in a different way, and pull yourself up on another day. This is because nobody, but nobody, wins all the time. You do this until the day you die.

Neither Chris nor Rihanna wrote the new songs they're singing. Call it coincidence, but there's something almost mystical about those two doing those songs with those lyrics, and the timing.

In his brilliant, artistically made video, Chris Brown featuring Lil Wayne and Swiss Beatz, symbolically are the cars, motorcycles and tanks. They ooze of power as they transform into them and back again.

The message is that they can transform a woman's life as providers of material comforts. It's an old value that's been around since time began.

In Rihanna's musically mezmerizing and thought-provoking song, she sings about the mad love of two lovers. The woman follows his lead in proving her love in a game of Russian Roulette. After his turn, her mind and heart won't let her back out. As he implied when they began, we're playing for keeps, baby, and this is a test . She pulls the trigger. You hear the bang.

We can assume that crazy love, the thing that made them both feel so alive, killed her.

The new video not released yet,
but this one has the song & chilling lyrics.

And yeah, it's not lost on me how easy it is to crack jokes about these new songs/videos, and the recent history of the two people singing in them. The challenge is to also think from a sociological perspective, to see the forest, not just two of the trees. Their music is what it is: an extreme of what many of us go through or put each other through.

I personally like power and crazy love. I won't lie, and you shouldn't either: they feel good - while it's good. Having power minimizes the beat downs even when you got it coming (I'm speaking figuratively, not literally, of when you azz up), and mutual mad love is just great.

For many folks, however, it takes trial and error to learn when the transforming power in their relationship and mad love for one another has gone too far, and into the hellish realm of self and other-destruction.

It's all about balance.

Chris Brown hints of this in his second released song, Crawl. His history of watching domestic abuse, then having adult power plus too much pressure tipped him off balance and he fell to his knees. I take it he's learned a few things; he's certainly had enough time in jail to reflect.

Can't wait to hear Rihanna's social commentary other new songs. Although Ne-Yo wrote Russian Roulette, I can't help but wonder if she sees herself in that song, and learned that that game is not for her.

I won't judge if they get back together, or remain apart, but I'd hope both remain in counseling either way. Him, so he won't repeat his aggression, and her, so she won't enable him or be attracted to the next guy with that hidden issue.

Learning to balance is also about developing the ability to not let the downside of either power or passion transform you to your demise.

To get the hell up and transform for the better, after Life's Russian Roulette game shoots you down.

To not make excuses for yourself if you do harm, or for the other who to did harm to you.

In other words, to learn and grow without succumbing to bitterness and hate, which is a form of death.

When I look in the mirror at myself and the reflections of everyone I've ever known, I think to myself, easier said than done.

This has been installment #9 of my long-running Hard Rocks Love series.

Addendum, 11/07/2009

Fascinating interview - Rihanna speaks out for the first time on Good Morning America. She states toward the end that love is blind, but note that it is her altruism for others that gave her insight into the game they played.


  1. Wow.
    That's all I can say. I definitely felt like "Russian Roulette" had some implications about their relationship, but I didn't think about "Transform Ya" in the same way. That being said, I think your analysis was pretty spot-on.

    You should write a book. I'd buy it!

  2. Trill,
    Ok. I am here and I like what I see. I apologize again for not coming y sooner, ut I won't make the same mistake twice. I agree with you. My nephew is going through this same shit with his mother, my sister in law. She is in an abusive relationship. Her "boy-man" is currently in jail for slapping her to the floor, but she is steady pawning shit in the house to make his bail. My nephew has been in trouble in school for hitting girls. My sister does not see the connection. My other nephew is 2 years old and he already loves to fight. Again she does not see the connection. We get both of them once a summer but the 2 months they are here does not make up for the 10 they see the shit they see. But you can't help people that don't think they need it.

  3. It's amazing where we can find lessons.

    Generally, I don't give a darn about pop singers, but shared experience can always be real.

    I went through this with my ex. I still am amazed at how long I put up with it (although compared to some it wasn't that long--I left him when my baby was 7 months old).

  4. You know, there is something mighty powerful about abusive relationships. Not so much the fear of your lover but the intenseness of that love. It is not a healthy love by any means but a kind of whirlwind, your own personal storm. And who isn't in awe of powerful, all consuming storms? No matter the damage they bring, you have to respect the magnificence of their power.

    My exhusband was my own "Perfect Storm", exciting and powerful but who wants to live where it rains everyday?

  5. Dirty Red, Wildflower/admin, TriState, I'm glad this post is stimulating thought and sharing ideas among you. I wasn't sure how people would react to it or get the points I was trying to make, and felt a bit insecure posting it. I hate to sound sappy, but I am deeply appreciative of your feedback.

  6. Wow, what an excellent observation. I thought Rihanna song was pretty depressing, but never thought it had a connection to what the two have been through. The cycle you talked about is true. I am really enjoying your blog.

  7. Man, this was such an amazing analysis of the CB/Rihanna situation! I'll admit I was scared to read it b/c everyone & their mom has been running their mouth about the situation, but, you took an entirely different approach & I admire you for that!

    I'm here via Rippa's blog. Thanks for that post, it was also a great read. Definitely coming back!

  8. Amen--say it! I'm looking for your short story, but I got caught up in this post.

  9. I appreciate your broader and deeper perspective of this forest and these two trees. I'm of the opinion that these two are VERY YOUNG, and are just discovering that fame and money serve to magnify the best and worst of who you are.

    As it applies to Rihanna, I saw the interview this morning and I can't shake the image of Ri's glassy-eyed admission that she realized she couldn't stay with Chris because of the message it sent. To whom? Young girls? Or Corporate sponsors??? It seems a bit hypocritical for Rihanna to feel so responsible for the young girls whose lives could end because of her celebrity influence...and then turn around and sing a song (whether she penned it or not) that could entice some impressionable young person to play a game that results in death. Young listeners often don't have the sophistication to recognize metaphor, and songs become mantras that are repeated over and over daily!

    Though I'm sure most of what Rihanna told Sawyer is spot on, the interview, the song (and the timing of its release) reek of saavy PR designed to protect Rihanna's self described "empire"

    I appreciated Ri's comment at the end about Chris needing to grow up and stop feeling sorry for himself, but I couldn't help but wonder why she didn't walk on through that same door Diane opened for her when Sawyer questioned Chris previously breaking the window of Ri's SUV and the prior pushing...clear signs that the capacity for violence was there. That is where a responsible woman would have said "Had I been mature enough (and not lugging around my parents baggage), I would have paid attention to the signs and ended this relationship (or demanded counseling w/him) long before it came to blows." But, again we are talking about 19 & 20 y.o. "kids" here.

  10. MizRepresent & Loud Pen, You know, I almost didn't publish this post, wondering how folks would take it. Thank you.

    Hathaway, I think the PR interview makes sense in light of her new song and soon to be released album. Speaking of the song, yeah, the music is hypnotic. It ends with a bang, though, leaving an "oh shit!" lesson at the end.

    I think Rihanna's lesson was not "I'll avoid him b/c he might do it again", but as she said, "Even if he never hits me again, returning to him could influence other girls to so with their abusive boyfriends, and one who looked up to me was killed, I couldn't live with that."

    Love makes ya crazy. People in love often take chances with their abusive partner that it won't occur again - until they see the effects on others, especially their own children.

    While her fans aren't her kids, many are like her children, and maybe I'm wrong, but I thought they led the way for her.

  11. I'm not saying women don't leave for the sake of the kids (though Chris and Ri's parents didn't), but of the several women I know who were in long term abusive relationships and finally left (including my own mother), not one of them said they left because they were afraid of the mental health impact on their children (though it was always a concern, it was never THE deciding factor in getting out). Their children were exposed for years to the violence and the final reason for leaving was they either 1.finally got fed up with being hurt 2.were afraid they would eventually be killed. It seems that like drug addiction, addiction to a man is a difficult one to overcome.

    I'm not one of those who blame Rihanna and want Chris to catch a break. I think he got off pretty lightly considering the extent of the violence against her (although factoring in his age, I wouldn't want jail time for him either)

    I wish I believed Rihanna ended the relationship for the sake of other people's kids, but I sincerely don't. Watching the interview, I find there's something missing in her affect. I think her handlers made it clear to her that she would lose all of her endorsements and her career would suffer greatly and she even says in the interview she wasn't sacrificing the empire she worked so hard to build.

    My point about the song is that if you're so concerned about the danger to young kids, you would never sing a song about russian roulette that says over and over "I’m terrified but I’m not leaving Know that I must must pass this test"

    A dear friend of mine lost her son to a game of Russian Roulette (his 1st year in college)She later found out that he was severely depressed and took the opportunity to die without the "shame" of suicide. I guess I'm pretty biased by that... I pray to God no teenaged Rihanna fan commits suicide with a handgun, because the media won't miss the opportunity to debate causation.

  12. Hathaway, Rather than rehash what I've already said, I'll only address one thing, and it ain't about Chris & Rihanna.

    Re: losing a friend or loved one to suicide. Those left behind are in terrible pain. The passion you express belies this. I don't doubt that you are still hurting, and that this song is a painful reminder and a focal point of this pain for you.

    I couldn't listen to it either if it happened to someone I very close to me. Nor could I probably enjoy some of the rap songs and mainstream movies I do now if a loved one went down in a deliberately self-destructive police or gang shootout.

    I don't think taking up a cause for censorship is the answer. That's a slippery slope, and can bring on bitterness because you'll never win that battle. It's too much like book burning.

    In addition, the entertainment industry - music, movies, art, and even politics, you name it - makes it bread and butter selling human tragedy.

    However, some people find some peace through volunteer or paid work at a suicide or crisis hotline, because altruism can be healing.

    Counseling or therapy for mind-boggling events like you described has brought relief and/or closure from that pain for many.

    Before I go, here's a site which has some incredible videos, including one with Mary J. Blige talking about her past abuse and suicidal thoughts in five short segments, and also watch the video by a young woman named Alexandra, who lost a friend to suicide:


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