November 04, 2008

I would like to suggest that your words and your actions don't add up. I believe, that if you had disengaged, you would have pulled away ... I think the fact that you still write to them means that you care more than you apparently want to.

I hope I managed to neutralise that e-mail enough from its writer to be able to quote that part without breaking confidence. If it were an open post, I would not hesitate even so much. Because, completely unknown to that writer, a point was brought up which I take very seriously: and so I must think about it more carefully, understand it, see what the mirror reflects of me.

Probably as good a starting point as any is that elsewhere, on an open board, that same writer had called me "passionate". But, as it happened, it was about a cause I had already de-invested in:
I am not about arguments, let alone winning them. I am about growth. Change in itself is not necessarily growth: for there is nothing easier than to change along the path of entropy to suit what people think they want. I think that true growth hurts, but that the person or organisation that ceases to grow, dies.

What you currently see as passion is actually me no longer caring. I invest in those things of which I am a part and to which I think I can contribute -- and I de-invest when it becomes apparent there is no interest in growth.
Yet I guess it must have seemed passion still, because I remain active within that business structure in ways that do not involve policy, and so I obviously still care enough to try to understand a recent change of policy -- and to say, exactly once, precisely what that policy really accomplished, and to add that I still detested it. It is true enough that understanding is important to me in all things, and to that extent I definitely do care. I think maybe that level of caring (which I would call questioning and a seeking to understand) has become unusual in the world; but for me, if I ever lost it, something would have died inside me.

Yet if passion it be, that part of it has no goal beyond the understanding only, and the shape it helps to outline of a larger world. This writer had not looked at all at how I had been writing, before when I had thought the organisation capable of growth, before I understood that those parts which restricted true growth were also a priori for that company. That writer had not read those earlier posts. Nor had the writer looked at the links I offered -- and as it happened those links were not about that particular issue at all, which perhaps says something in itself.

Yet what had originally caught the writer's attention was that I continued to participate, even though I came across as "extremely negative". Why should I continue to participate in something with which I obviously so strongly disagree? (The writer went out of their way to specify that this was intended as a genuine question and not confrontational, and so I treated it as exactly such.) I tend to be hardest on my friends, but this holds nothing of that. I re-read what I had written, and I suspect that the perception of negativity was largely based on that single uncompromising clarification I mentioned earlier. Agreement blurs invisibly into the traffic flow, but satyagraha makes an unexpected speed bump.

Ah, and there it is: I can work with the business organisation as a business organisation -- but I won't ever pretend its ethics are not based solely upon its profit margin. Because of the nature of this particular business, both its contractors and those who sit around its boardroom table seem determined to see it as somehow caring and benevolent -- but I see it only as a business, and its actions and choices make sense to me only in the context of a profit-oriented business.

It did have the potential to become more, once. It chose not to, and when I realised how deeply-rooted the self-image was, I chose not to force its executives out of it.

As a business relationship, I can work within this. It does not bring about harm to others, and there can be a business benefit to participants who are willing to understand that it is a business. And so occasionally when the cheerleading gets too strong, I speak up to clarify what a specific business policy actually does, if only to hold up a mirror so that others can see, and sometimes also so that others do not assume my support. Others may trust blindly in its benevolence, but I trust a business to look after its own interests.

So while I know that once again an opportunity to become something more has been lost, it still leaves me with an effective business relationship. (I would have said "regret" rather than "know", but I reserve that word for things within my power: and because I try to go into things with my eyes open, I have yet to run into something significant that I would have done differently. I have no nostalgia in me.) But at least as relevant is that I have come to know a few of the other contractors who share that business framework with me. For me, unless they themselves choose otherwise, individuals have always been distinct from policy. Among themselves they are a mutually supportive group, so I hold myself aside from deep friendship -- as already stated, I am hardest on my friends, and that is not what is sought here -- but I do wish them well.

I think that my own words didn't add up. After reading this post, I realized that what I was really talking about is the underlying feel of betrayal and hurt I sense from you. You mention the earlier posts where you have so much hope and now it is different.

I admire your dedication (and yes, passion) to speaking your mind and calling attention to something you view as wrong and detestable. It shows that, even though you have withdrawn your emotional self from the organization, you still have the energy to do something about the injustice you see there. I don't have that kind of energy.

Peace always,


PS - I give you permission to use my name and the whole email and anything else you choose to from our exchange.
Ah -- as a rule, I don't do that, not with private communications. I linked you so you would know, and could tell me if you found it inappropriate.

Nor will I add more specifics, since the point is to understand what underlies an observed discrepency, be it in my actions or another's. There happens to be a second general case in the other part of our discussion: that the larger and more secure the institution, the greater the risk it is capable of absorbing (and thereby encouraging growth among those who constitute its many parts); yet the less risk it personally is willing to take. The consequence is that increasingly it seems to be left only to the individuals who can least afford it to take the risk: pointing to those few who succeed against all the odds as a success story, and pretending that the others don't exist.

At least, until it is thrust into our face and the consequences are no longer ones we can overlook.

I do hope. I have to always hope, for to live without hope is to despair, or (perhaps worse), to cease to do anything other than maintain existence. I don't know how it is generally, but for me, in the past, I have only ever felt betrayed where I had invested myself emotionally in a greater thing outside my control, before I learned how to recognise a fundamental unwillingness to risk growth. That, more than anything, did sap energy and will.

The balance is that institutions, like our own bodies, continually change in their elements. (Usually that type of change is only a superficial thing, maintaining the existing inertia of the institution ... but not always.) For every entity that is determined to find safety in stagnation, there are always new possibilities.

But where actions don't add up, especially my own, it needs looking into. You drew attention to that, and for that I thank you.
Anytime, my dear. I aim to please!


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