Sometimes it feels like my life is simply about sitting in meetings where people tell me what to do. At work, in the union, in my community organizations – the world is full of bosses who have great ideas and just need the bodies to carry them out. And since I’m not really cut out to be a boss, I mostly (not always) end up being the worker. The organizer. The person who shows up on time. The enabler of technology. Of course I can show you how to do it, but wouldn’t it be quicker for both of us if I just did it? That person.
It’s one things when that happens at work – after all, I am paid to be there – but it really rankles me in my life as a volunteer. Even though “everyone” might say they want something – very few people feel empowered to actually do it: write a grant, book a meeting room, put up some posters, call together the neighbours. A few people do – and of course those are the ones you see doing everything everwhere – but for the most part we live in a society of people who want to tell rather than do.
I wonder if that’s always been the case, or whether this sense of entitlement (someone else will take care of it) grows out of our late-capitalist consumer culture. That same culture which tells us that we have to get whatever we can for ourselves while investing very little. That same culture that prioritizes television-watching over community-building.
Or is it entitlement at all? Perhaps it’s just a timidness, a belief that our role isn’t necessary or valid. Sometimes in the union movement I feel that way, and so I take on less and less as I edge away from feeling so un-listened to. A combination probably… as I can think of instances in which I have seen people act with entitlement and others where the lack of self-belief is evident.
It feels impossible then at times, except when I realize I’m not really responsible even if others try to make me so – and I only have to take on what I really want to.