Thursday, March 24, 2016

Can and will we acknowledge our full humanity....strengths and weaknesses....in full?

There  is always a real danger that comes with any attempt to elevate a conversation, a debate, or especially a social movement for change. The danger is that any such effort evokes all of the worst instincts of resistance: fear, fear and more fear.
The shape of the fears may vary, from outright resistance because...
  •  "this is how we do it here" (and I am part of preserving our heritage and tradition) to
  • "it will cost too much" (because I am the self-appointed guardian of our shared 'purse') to
  • "we tried that once and it didn't work" (so we have already demonstrated the worthlessness of that idea and we do not see any reason to re-try a failed idea) to
  • "there is no scientific evidence to support the premise of your idea" (because I am the 'realist' here and you are just a dreamer) to
  • you are new here and have not yet 'earned' your stripes through proving yourself under our terms (because our terms are what make us who we are, and you need to fit those terms if you want to join) to
  • "your expectations are way to high" for any volunteer organization where we all know that people who say they will 'do' something 'don't' and people who 'talk' too often are not 'doers' to
  • "we are doers here and resent meetings to discuss and then decide what to do" (because we have been doing it this way for a long time and there is no reason to think hasn't worked, just look at our wonderful history) to
  • that new idea is contrary to the letter and the spirit of our group....(because it does not uphold the highest standards of ethics and the principles of fair play)
No matter how the resistance is framed, it is true that the status quo always has a powerful advantage over any idea that might attempt to enhance the status who. And the status quo, which seems so 'given' and hardened and fixed in both convention and practice, is nevertheless, also always changing even if almost imperceptibly. If we acknowledge that a small change like massaging a pattern of social behaviour, while retaining the essence of that pattern is little more than a pandering to our built-in comfort zone of familiarity, and not substantive change, then, once again, the forces of the 'status quo' have demonstrated both their adaptability and their resistance to re-thinking, re-evaluating and shifting priorities that would require some turbulence, some adjustment and clearly some discomfort.
One of the more striking statements passed through my ears earlier this week. It sounded like this: "the greatest strength of this organization is__________; the greatest weakness of this organization is ____________, the same quality.
People, like organizations are, as a matter of nature, impaled on their own strength/weakness. The simple truth of the evidence of a specific quality, while not usually considered, is also evidence that the same quality impedes, constricts and subverts that organization. The more a group cheers its strengths, the more that same group is blind to how that same strength is also its greatest weakness.
And while that paradox is universal, we have not evolved to a state where conversations embrace the paradox is ways that would and could only enhance the options available.
Linear, unilateral, goal-centred, focused and ambitious commitment to success, singularly defined, in a thought and action model that has been adopted by profit-driven organizations, and then rationalized through the generation of higher profits and dividends for share-holders.  Looked at more closely, efficiencies, job cuts, replacements of people with machines, the championing of competition to generate 'best performance', time clocks from scientific management, supervision embedded in sanctions with sparse and infrequent rewards....these are the "values" that have sustained the corporate culture for at least a century. And, to a large extent, they have become embedded in the culture of all organizations including not for profits, churches, schools, universities and especially political parties.
Simultaneously, those same for-profits or quasi-for-profits are replete with evidence of broken bones, broken spirits, broken careers, and especially non-existent and broken relationships, and this evidence carries with it no responsibility on the part of those organizations. After all, action trumps thought in this universe: profit trumps stasis and loss; instant response and analysis trumps reflective and meditative response and analysis; technology and machines clearly trump the human side of the enterprise....and the human side of the enterprise is relegated to "a cost" and not a revenue or profit entry in the accounting software. Not so incidentally too, the way the system operates with impunity generates the heart attacks, the appetite for both prescription and non-prescription drugs, the ennui and angst, and the divide between those whose hands are firmly gripped on the levers of decision-making, in their respective organizations and all the way to the seat of governments.
And the higher the Dow rises and satisfies, even satiates, the hunger of investors, the more evidence there is for a tragedy of epic proportions at the level of human beings, human relationships, and human needs.
We have so objectified all people and things, and the transactions between and among both, reduced to numbers all of our transactions, and thereby spread the propaganda that we have more information for 'better decisions', as the sales pitch for the conventional practice (notice the word wisdom is absent here!)
Schools morphing into technical training institutes, from primary to secondary to university level is just one of the more obvious 'pay-offs' on this "value" agenda. Children being overwhelmed by the premature objectification of their perspective, their attitudes, and their hopes and dreams is not a development that the purveyors of this corporate propaganda wish to discuss. to measure or to even contemplate. So obsessed with the empirical short-term successes of their instructional genius merging the digital with the analogic, and then measured through more and more objective tests, evaluated increasingly by the very machines to which this space is opposed (at least in so far as they dominate both content and method everywhere) the 'educators' are today marching in the same parade.
So in championing the hard power of profits, objectification, action, short-term rewards, and dominance, (especially under the former George W. Bush administration) we are reaping the 'rewards' of our one-sided, imbalanced, pursuit of our so-called 'strength' which pursuit is also impaling us on our own sword.
Only if and when we acknowledge our "weak" side, our humanity, our need for clemency, compassion, forgiveness, and inclusion, not to mention our artistic imagination, can and will we find new possibilities for all of the shared and existential threats facing the human community. Those with the money and the power do not have a singular claim on human capacity for ingenuity, for change, for collaboration and for a balanced perspective....especially when their self-interests deny the collective, in the extreme.
Capitalism while strong, is also very vulnerable; so too is democracy; so too is digital technology. We have to acknowledge there are still important and mostly neglected forces that could be deployed for our shared life on the planet.



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