Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Let's not be elitist, April."

Okay, so hopefully every human being in the world is on an individual path of continual growth and transformation. Soooo I'm going to share a little bit about mine. Since moving back in with my parents after graduating from college, spending so much time with them has made me privy of their flaws, just as they have become privy to mine. Today I want to talk about being elitist.

Symptoms of April's Snobbery: 
  • Biting, disdainful comments about mainstream popular culture (e.g. Dancing with the Stars, Miley Cyrus/Taylor Swift, Glee)
  • Passive-aggressive comments about people making uninformed consumer choices (e.g. shopping at Wal-mart, buying bananas and Proctor & Gamble products, "Oh, I only buy organic fair trade cocoa powder")
  • Smugly & inwardly gloating at single-occupant motor vehicles as I bike to my alternative homeopathic massage therapy appointment 
  • Using abstruse academic jargon unnecessarily (e.g. constructivist paradigm, internalized oppression, the law of diminishing returns, fundamental attribution error)
  • Being impatient with friends and family that are not progressive enough (e.g. anti-racist, feminist, body-positive, anti-oppressive and intersectional-->Subtext: "Why can't you be cool like me?")
  • Projecting (intentionally or not) a demeanor of judging and self-righteous superiority
Why am I like this? Okay, so now let's commence the nature vs. nurture argument. 

NATURE: I'll be honest; my personality-type tends to be rigid and preachy. This is "how I roll." Granted, I can notice when I'm getting way too ramped up and tightly-wound and try to "tone it down." However, it's an indisputable fact that whether or not I verbalize my harsh judgments of myself and others, I still have them. 

As a self-absorbed perfectionist, I demand a LOT of myself--spiritually, ethically and intellectually. It follows, then, that I'm also quite hard on others when it comes to their thoughts and behaviors. Ugh, and as an intuitive person sometimes all I can see are others' flaws and their selfish motivations. I am a critic and a "glass half-empty" sort of person. Tuff. That's how it goes.

NURTURE: The prevailing cultural hegemony of my generation is without doubt (white) hipsterism. As a middle class American woman, I am about 70% hipster, for better or for worse (mostly worse). Elitism is a cardinal tenant of hipsterism. Being cynical, sarcastic and holier-than-thou in general is what being a hipster is all about.  

Furthermore, as a graduate of an institution of exclusive and elite higher learning I am, by default, an elitist. The main assumption of elitism is that being "enlightened" with "knowledge" makes a person inherently better than a high school dropout or a boorish midwestern redneck (sorry to use this slur, but uh, you'd be lying if you don't use it in the privacy of your own home, too). 

All hail the king of elitism, Dr. Frasier Crane!
I apologize if that pop culture reference is lost on you. 

So. Conclusions? Yes, I am an elitist. I am a snob. I am a self-righteous, grudgingly hipster, unbearable judger of all things that can be judged. There's no use in denying it. 

All I can tell you is this: I'm working on it. I have good days and I have bad days. Ideally, I always want to be in the space of "I just love everyone and I want to affirm everyone and you are beautiful and weeeeeee! life is beautiful, the end." Until then, I will try my utmost to be more compassionate, gentle and understanding with myself and humanity in general. Can't make any promises. But I will try. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

My Answer to Your Question Would Be...

What do you enjoy doing? What would be your ideal job? Do you want to continue with social work?

These are the questions that haunt me. Even with all of the soul-searching and journaling and praying and counseling I really feel as clueless as ever. I seriously don't know what I enjoy doing. I used to think that it was "helping people" but that cotton candy cloud of abstract idealism revolts me now. I thought that being in the helping arena would soothe my sorrows because at least I would be contributing to the well-being of my fellow man but it's left me more discouraged and disheartened than ever. 

You know what sucks? Admitting defeat. I'm confused nowadays because I'm not sure whether I should just totally walk away from the social work thing or try and reframe my approach to it (i.e. think of myself less as a savior of the wretched masses). I know that social work seems like a good fit because I'm a compassionate person and I genuinely care. At the same time, it's this same deep compassion that makes me consumed with rage and anger when the people I care about are wronged. 

Let's explore the notion of vengeance. Think about superheroes--they protect vulnerable people from, like, aliens and shit. You know, big whoop. Then they have a big showdown with some nefarious criminal mastermind and duke it out until the bad guy just happens to fall off a cliff/get run over by a train/destroyed by his own weapons/take your pick. Endings to stories like these are satisfying because the cause of evil (bad guy) has been removed--may the world rejoice and good riddance!

Well, this leads me to talk about how deeply unsatisfying it is to be in social work. First of all, I don't get to carry out revenge. So, right off the bat I have to accept that I will never get to indulge my vigilantist compulsions. It's not plausible nor ethical to do so, according to my beliefs. "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:9). So basically, I have to wait until "closing time" (i.e. the final judgment of the world) for perpetrators to get what they deserve. In the meantime, the world is not going to be "made right" from the "top down"--you can't force people to be decent to each other, that's just another form of tyranny and oppression. And you can't "make it right" by just killing all of the evil people, either. Oh, ho ho. All this to say that this whole life, this whole world is going to be a mixed bag of good and evil until the day we die. See The Parable of the Weeds.

Another thing that's frustrating about social work is that you're always fighting on (what seems to be) the losing side. Right? I mean, life has not been kind to this unemployed, Latino, gay, HIV-positive, chemically dependent, clinically depressed man with a history of sexual abuse (this is literally a case I saw in a community mental health clinic). Wow, like, I want to stand in solidarity with these beaten-down underdog people but seriously, they are always #losing. For these peeps, small victories mean getting a freaking week's worth of diapers or some milk through WIC. Sometimes I just think "damn." There are so many barriers and so many things going against them. It's like, man, there's no way in hell that this is going to turn around. And yet these are the "cases" a person in social work sees day after day after day. I mean, this is plenty enough to drive anyone crazy. 

So what would it take to get me back into social work? It's been a couple of years since I've had an actually positive experience (Hogar de los Angeles in Mexico). To be perfectly honest, you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming back into the arena...

into the realm of the silent victims.

I got that phrase a couple of months ago and was like, "Oooh, that just gives me shivers." 

Not gonna lie, it is fking DARK working with the oppressed. Like, I have witnessed some serious evil. Like a ball of dread and overwhelm and hopelessness. Like, OMG this is going to swallow me whole if I don't get my shit together.

The answer, then? I will take the plunge back into social work IF AND ONLY IF it's Jesus Christ himself that invites me, and even then I'd seriously have fears, doubts and reservations. So ya, that's where I'm at.