I just booked travel for next week – Vancouver to Kelowna, Kelowna to Penticton, Penticton to Nanaimo (by way of Vancouver), then Nanaimo to Vancouver. Four days. Four meetings. But if I make it through they will be my last ones so I don’t even care enough to moan about it anymore. Four meetings this week, four meetings next week. Over.
I’m struggling right now with issues of bullying and violence – bullying as it relates to my experience in my union, violence as it relates to something that happened to a friend on Friday night. Both scenarios involve people “ganging up” in order to shore up their courage, in a “might makes right” way of winning an argument. Depressing how often this tendency shows up among people really.
What I do know about it though, from having witnessed mob violence in my younger years, is that after the fact people rarely feel good about themselves for participating in it. Whether that’s verbal bullying and shouting in a meeting, or physical attacks involving more than one on one. In the moment, it feels righteous, but in the days or months afterward (if you have any human compassion at all) it starts to wear pretty crappy – and pretty soon you wish it had never happened at all.
Why? Because deep down we know it changes nothing to respond in anger and with force to other people in our community. And if we grew up right, we also know that more than one on one is simply not fair. I have noticed a tendency in my own union experience for people to vent and then apologize or shake hands immediately afterward which I think is some of that self-awareness in the moment – that it’s better to reintroduce ourselves than go away feeling blackened by the experience.
It is true that there are some who inure themselves through repeated exposure (either aimed away from or towards), or who can handily set aside their individual intellect long enough to go along with the group time after time – and if you stay submerged in that world, then it is true that you might never re-grasp the common humanity that binds us. But most people find it difficult to stay in one sub-culture forever, in one core group of belief – and if we grow, then our past is something we have to reconcile in that process.
And trust me, I know a lot about reconciling my past with myself and the people who I care about. All the losses, all the love, all the arguments that didn’t mean anything in the end anyways. They sit with you, show up in the middle of the night, inform every decision you make forever after. Fortunately, what I have learned from this is that I am not afraid to draw a line in the sand and move towards a healthier place – refocus my activism away from the negative forces and towards the positive ones – create safety as much as possible using the means at my disposal to do so.
I am not going to waste my time and energy crying at the door to be let in. I am not going to live my life cut off from my higher purpose (which in various forms I believe to be service to my community). But I am starting to feel exhausted from it, you know? And when we look at this nonsense from any type of analytic perspective, it becomes so clear why we are not winning. What exactly is the inspiration in this?