Saturday, June 12, 2010

Arugula Activism

As a sort of extension of my Join or Die post, and my never published post about why good people do bad things (aka: WTF was I thinking when I joined the government school PTA and town green committee?), I shall herein discuss being cured of my desire to attempt to change the world around me through proximal channels of opportunity I have heretofore misconstrued as open to me.
That’s a lot of hooey for “I quit.”
I quit. I quit. I throw dog-poopy on your shoe!
I can’t discuss the particulars, nor would anyone want to read about them (my husband will be canonized next week), however, I can discuss my rediscovered wisdom about spending my time exactly as I wish to.
Me, me, me.  Mine, mine, mine.  There. That feels better.
As my time volunteering in local groups (from a few months to three years!) and events dragged on, I became very, very bitter about the fact that I was somewhere I did not want to be doing something I did not want to do, for a cause I did not want to support.  How the hell I got there would be a mystery except that I did it to myself.  The mistake I made was in thinking that if I were somehow able to bodily volunteer my time and effort where I saw there was a problem, I might be able to become part of the solution.  
It didn’t work out that way.
At first, I was temporarily overwhelmed by the unquestioned convictions held by my kind, but wrong, neighbors.  In neither group did I find people who wanted to examine the principles involved so much as blindly follow our collectivist cultural ideology. These people who proudly proclaim “We could get some government money for that” and “Mandatory community service is a wonderful idea,” help to elect our leaders! As I watched and listened to these folks discuss the minute details of other specifically limited tasks, I could not keep in my head that it is exactly their acceptance of the wrong premises from which our cultural problems arise.  I allowed my reasons for volunteering, to combat such wrong-headedness, to be blunted by the earnestness and generosity with which these folks focused on the minute details.  They were simply wrong, not evil.
As time went on, I found that I could no longer participate in the particulars of group discussion, but sat mostly quiet until the opportunity to speak about principles arose.  In both groups, my rather frank statements (e.g. about the nature of government funds in one, and the morality of servitude in the other) were met with confused stares and silence. Despite my own earnest and generous efforts, the only thing I managed to persuade anyone of is that I did not belong among them.
Clearly, I was unprepared and had chosen the wrong forums for my activism.
Happily for me, though, in both cases the would-be leaders eventually showed their true colors during our time together landing an awakening slap across my face which cured me from my stumbling about. Had I not seen so clear a picture, literally, of the power-lust of the local administrator, or the overt ingratiation of the sycophant, I might have felt compelled to stay and try harder to steer the course of these volunteer ventures.
I see that each group is rather insignificant and will certainly remain ineffective under its own corruption.  I guess that's the best I can hope for.
Still, I’m left feeling like arugula in that while I’m bitter, my spiciness and pepper are still intact, perhaps even sharpened a bit.  I am wiser and will continue to fight a good fight, just no longer among the groups of folks whose foregone conclusions are that we have a duty to serve our community under the guidance of those who are happy to harness our efforts to further their goals of personal power. I have concluded that the only person who can waste my time now is me!  I will continue to fight the good fight in attempting to reach the minds of people regarding the virtue of selfishness, the morality of capitalism, and wisdom of individual rights—from home.
That is until the next time I think it’s a good idea to throw my body into the mix.


Deb said...

Your post leaves me wishing I had something kind and wise and optimistic to say here, Lynne.

I'm glad you were able to extract yourself. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy the new ME time and the weight off your shoulders.

Lynne said...

Thanks for the comment, Deb.

There was really no weight, just disappointment. As for ME time, even with plenty of it left, giving up any of it for the wrong reason did not sit well with me.

HaynesBE said...

Someday I would love to hear the details. But later. And when you can just tell me. I won't ask you to write about it.
I can see myself in that temptation to join, be part of the community and try to steer things in a different way--but already my LTEs for the local paper (arguing against taxes and government schools)has marked me as an out-lier.
And be careful--even from home you can "get into it." Right now I am trying to decide if it is worth it to continue a dialogue with an anonymous commenter on my blog. I vacillate from enjoying the challenge to feeling "why bother, he's hopeless."
Being selfish is hard work!

Prometheus said...

I really liked your post. I thought it was a good thing that you wanted to help change the world around you and joined in. I cheered when you realized that the group you joined did not have the same values as you, so you left. Selfishness really is a virtue.

David McBride

Lynne said...

HaynesBE, it's a date. I'm usually so good as being selfish, it was a little shocking to feel trapped!

David, thanks for the comment. I knew going into it that it was likely no one would share my particular values. I was just mad that I wasn't able to extract anything but experience from my experiences.

Steve D said...

Good post.

“were met with confused stares and silence.”

And if my experience is any guide probably changing the subject as well.

This I think is proof that most people are down deep good people who simply have no idea how to think properly. To paraphrase a common saying. “it’s the epistemology, stupid” (I think the original was “it’s the economy stupid” but its really the epistemology.

“Right now I am trying to decide if it is worth it to continue a dialogue with an anonymous commenter on my blog.”

The main purpose I think would be to reach other people who are reading it. In both cases it is possible that someone has been reached. You may never know when you do. Keep up the good fight. (but pick the battles wisely).

Kim said...

Good warning for me as I contemplate joining two!! PTA groups next year.

Lynne said...

Steve D., thanks for the comment. Picking your battles wisely is key to keeping frustration at bay.

Kim, of course, your mileage may vary. Good luck with that.