Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The shell of the old

Katie comments:

[M]y reasons for being politically engaged in a different way than many politically engaged men include:

-Finding "male egos" in activist groups tiresome. I think this relates to the way men are socialized to have their personal worth conflated with roles like leader or expert. These are things related to the emotional aspects of gender roles. I've seen dudes repeatedly have this emotional need to have social status in the group. I just find it an uninteresting and time consuming distraction from the work at hand, when anyone of any gender brings their ego needs to an activist project.

-Another turn off for me has been that males in a group or in political circles will actually not include me in conversation unless they find me sexually attractive. It's the "be desired or be invisible" thing.

-Things I'm turned off about when it comes to left wing political subcultures in general which are perpetuated by both women and men are: rigid, inflexible thinking, an uncomfortable emphasis on political purity, judgmental attitudes towards ourselves and others on degree of purity. That has been my experience over 15 years of association with left/progressive/activist realms.

All of these kinds of things are reasons why I now participate only very selectively. These things have just not made it very appealing to be involved.

Katie is a good example of someone who shares the values of IWW-style organization (i.e. non-hierarchical direct action) but nevertheless finds herself estranged from initiatives of this sort.

This is significant because lots of people likely share these values and would jump at the chance to pursue them in a constructive way. But more often than not, the obstacle to lasting involvement in such organizations is an internal culture which does not adequately anticipate the needs of its members, who aspire to something positive when so much of their lives is spent navigating the negative.

In my experience, it is too often the case that progressive political organization is in fact much more negative than even the sort of nonsense I have to tolerate on the job. At least on the job there is some coherent structure of expectation: I know how to avoid drama if I want to. But bring a group of people together on a voluntary basis around purportedly social objectives, and it seems there is no limit to the ignominy one party will resort to in asserting its dominance over another!*

Working class organization could benefit by administering to itself a simple working class test: After a long day at work, do people want to invest what limited time they have in our organization? Or do they purposefully stay away?

*Notably true when it is done in the name of non-domination.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Hey, wow! You wrote a whole post responding to my comment!

I actually was a dues-paying member of the IWW 15 years ago. I would consider joining again, but it is rumored that I have to back-pay since I stopped back then. I wonder if this rumor is true. Maybe someone here can tell me?

I am actually doing a little volunteering on a campaign with a local union right now. But I'm super protective of my time and energy. I say things like "give me the task. I'll do it and email it to you. I'm not coming to any meetings." And things like that.

In former groups I was a part of I would have been accused of being "uncommitted" to the cause because of this. And I agree. I'm more committed to myself than to any group, although I would like to be committed to a group if I could find one I could stand. It's like wanting to be in a relationship but not finding anyone who knows how to treat you right.

I think radicals could take a few notes from the business world in terms of gathering data on what it takes to recruit people and get them to stay. Aside from them being desperate for a job. Or pressuring/manipulating them into staying. What makes someone want to do something completely voluntarily without coercion?