Sunday, January 22, 2017

Project(s) Update: Exploring Nuances of Kindness and Appreciation within Our Power Dynamics


I had minimal concrete progress in my projects this week:

The end of my week got a little unproductive, though, as a I had a small bike accident. Thursday and Global Warming gifted Chicago with a beautiful warm and little wind day. As I turned off the bike path on way to work, I didn’t pay the best attention as the beautiful weather had it all. The lack of wind also didn’t slow me down.

I hit a patch of ice, back wheel slipped away, then I found myself trying to roll into a defensive ball to avoid hitting my head against a stone wall. Didn’t get close to the wall, thank goodness. Instead, I hit my knee cap and the elbow from the arm I used to break my fall rammed into a rib, two, or three and now feel bruised and a little embarrassed internally. Overall, though, it happens, time to rest a little then move on with life. Thank goodness for OTC painkillers like Ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

My internal debating has had an active time, though. Riding the bike, commuting, and doing some fairly repetitive health insurance service and analytical work allows the ruminating mind some time to think. Same with ironing, laundry, eating, and plenty of life reproductive maintenance activities.

This week, I’ve done some analysis of the language I’ve used in last week’s update and some of my social media updates. I specifically refer to my statements about being kind and compassionate to each other. As a white cis-male who identifies with a heterosexual lifestyle, I fear these words may come off as condescending.

It’s one thing to encourage people that they need to engage in self-care and show themselves kindness and compassion. Many of us feel disappointment in ourselves, frustrated with ourselves, and may see ourselves as failures, mainly because we have the imagination to see where we would like to be, what we would like to do, and even how to get there. Often times, however, we have yet to accomplish our goals, for whatever reason.

I have no problem supporting people by encouraging them to show themselves kindness and not beat themselves up. Life has difficulties and puts barriers in our way. Most of us have had pasts that have beaten us up. Many of us probably go through things everyday where we get beaten up. We want to do everything, but if we keep beating ourselves up for not accomplishing anything and thinking we can’t do anything more, we’ll likely never accomplish anything because we won’t have faith in ourselves. We are our worst critic and enemy.

So, please be kind and compassionate to yourself. Do more than just care for yourself. Let yourself know that it’s OK to have these thoughts, acknowledge them as a part of our automatic mind routines, let them flit and and process through our mind. The more we fight them, the more they will fight back and stronger they will get. Research techniques for working with them, if you don’t have any. In the end, though, we all have the strength and ability to accomplish the things we need and want to do. Acknowledging our urges to beat ourselves up is the first step to letting go of it then learning how to let it pass will help a lot to moving onward onto the things we want to do.

However, I feel my urgings to everyone to “be kind and compassionate” to each other comes off as problematic. First off, many people, whether as individuals or as a group/community, exist in a problematic state where showing kindness and compassion to their abuser or oppressive force will only enable and encourage such horrible behavior. Such behavior and actions might be required for survival, depending on the status of the individual or group, but that behavior and actions should not have the intention of kindness and compassion.

The oppressed and marginalized must remember they only act in these ways for their survival, so one day they may find an opportunity to get out, to fight, and reach a point of independence and health. No one should have to accept their oppression as natural, whether they oppress themselves or someone else does it.

And for those who have broken free of their oppression and marginalization or fight the good fight, they need not show kindness and compassion to those who seek to minimize them for the first time or again, whether consciously or not. No one should have to deal with that shit. At this point, maintaining integrity and dignity is a point of survival, much like maintaining life and health by passive aggressively fighting oppression and marginalization when under another person’s or group’s heel. When coming from below, those on high must be held accountable to human dignity and must earn any kindness and compassion from those below.

I need to use the Explanatory Comma more to clarify with whom I’m directing my words. I direct these words to the people and community with power, privilege, and representation. More specifically, I need to make apparent that I aim my words at other cis-white straight males and those who align with them for the privilege and representation, even the hard-working white people of Middle America and Coal Country.

It comes down to the fact that we hurt ourselves and prevent ourselves from growing happiness and joy in the world and for ourselves. I have no problem making a selfish argument for kindness, compassion, and happiness. I don’t mean just a show of it, either. I mean genuine, sincere kindness, compassion, and appreciation for those unlike ourselves. Such expressions and behavior can even mean learning to shut up, sit back, listen and watch. You can learn a lot by just observing. Heck, even among our own privileged community, we can stand to be quiet and observe each other.

And while sitting back, watching/listening, showing kindness, compassion, and appreciation, doing so in a genuine and sincere fashion means not patronizing, not fetishizing, not putting people unlike yourself on a pedestal, and other ways of making others The Other and/or a Thing, an object. These are people, like yourself. Even saying treating people with “kindness and compassion” feels like patronizing them.

At the same time, care, dignity, respect, integrity, rights, and other words we use everyday feel too status quo, just another way we can sweep things under the rug. . .especially since we can then feel like putting things into a perspective of tit-for-tat. Those with privilege feel attacked when they don’t feel like they’re being treated with dignity, respect, and integrity when they’re being treated that way because they’ve treated marginalized people this way for centuries.

They (we) are receiving a quid pro quo treatment. We treat people like shit, those people will treat us like shit back. And hey, I may even get treated like shit. I may receive it collaterally or, even in this essay, I may say something stupid. If that’s the case, I hope to listen, take the reaction seriously, and adjust my thoughts and behavior.

Honestly, I like seeing happy people, I like seeing all people happy, healthy, receptive, kind, and compassionate. If those with power, privilege, and interact from on high, can gather more enjoyment from propping others up and supporting each other, especially those who need it most, they can get it back, whether it be in kind or by seeing that real power comes from helping, encouraging, seeing the growth of others, and learning from them.

Heck, who knows? Maybe if we all pitch into appreciating each other, we don’t have to work so hard to convince ourselves that we’re worth being appreciated, too.

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