The other day I was in a café sitting with some friends. Nearby a local trio of street musicians were playing music. It was louder than was necessary and people in the café became annoyed, complaining amongst themselves, muttering and shaking their heads. After some minutes I looked around and nearly every table in the café was muttering with frustration at the loud musicians. Yet no one bothered to simply walk up to the three men and ask them to turn down their amplifier. I was amused at the situation, as it was an interesting example of human nature and our particular culture of “politeness.” Politeness masks our fear of confrontation, our unwillingness to stand out. It can be a way that we blend in so as to shirk responsibility. Often, when being “polite,” what is actually happening? A dynamic is set up where someone is the victim, in this case, the people subjected to the loud music. Then there is the so-called perpetrator, the musicians. The victims complain of the music amongst themselves, but by not directly confronting and inviting the musicians to lower their volume, they allow themselves to remain victims. We could also say the victims were the musicians, victim of the crowd’s angry comments. Either way, the same dynamic of victim/perpetrator ensues.
There is an interesting side to victimization. It has an aspect that is righteous. When we have been “wronged” that automatically puts us in the higher moral position and the perpetrator in the lower moral position. Hence, victims can keep themselves in higher moral righteous positions by not allowing or permitting the perpetrator to right his wrongs. As in the café, people preferred to complain and make the musicians wrong, keeping their higher position, than to be straight with them. Useful information is being withheld. Had they done so, the musicians would probably be happy to comply (as most people prefer to be enjoyed than to be disapproved of) and then the whole paradigm would have shifted to a win/win scenario. Straightness allows for the possibility for the right/wrong polarity to vanish replacing it with freedom. Freedom is the ability to move forward and expand.
I am posing that our will to remain righteous victims is part of what is perpetrating the troubles we find ourselves in today, as parents, partners and as community. Obviously there are victims in the extreme sense, victims of war, victims of fire, violence, poverty and drought. I am not addressing that, but rather an overarching chronic victimization in our daily lives that stems from our need to be righteous and also blend in.
“We see it everywhere. Often as parents, we would rather complain about our children’s school amongst each other than to dare to speak to the administration about our concern. We worry we might be criticized, judged or not heard. So rather than create an opportunity whereby the school receives valuable feedback and then all thus children served, we would rather say nothing, or worse put our children into stress by changing schools. In this case, not only does the school miss out, and perhaps one’s child, but also the other children in the school.
As customers to our local grocery store, rather than speak to the manager about the plastic guns in the Easter Baskets, we gripe over coffee to our friends. “How dare they?” we shriek. Like this we see it everywhere in our lives: wife to husband, customer to business, friend to friend, people to government. But the irony is this: by not being straight, we indeed become the ultimate perpetrator. We, being privy to information that could liberate both parties but instead choosing to maintain the victim/perpetrator paradigm, deny both parties the chance for freedom. We have chosen instead to enslave the other into the lower moral position. Many around them suffer the consequences as well.
As parents, we protect our children from straightness too, fearing conflict and their disappointment. But also, and we have to admit it, we get to feign victimization to their demands. I notice, that when I am straight with my children we all feel happy, respected and free. But when I put my agenda of avoiding conflict ahead of being straight, I end up exhausted and ultimately taking it out on the kids. My sole concern for my children needs to be for their freedom. Straightness keeps the victim / perpetrator game well out of our lives.
With my lover, if I value keeping everything nice between us over being straight, again it puts us in the same game. Straightness is a way that who I really am can show itself to the other. It breaks the boundaries where politeness keeps a safe but false sense of unity. It is a gift and a revealing. It comes as a result of trusting that one is really OK as is. It also is a sign of respect to the other. It is the risk of moving beyond the borders of you and me and into the realm of we.
Being straight in my opinion is under rated. I find it one of the most liberating experiences one can have. But it is scary. Once you decide to be straight, it means that you open yourself to criticism, judgement and abandonment. You are no longer playing the game and it will threaten many. It also means that you get to make mistakes publicly because sometimes you might be straight with someone and then find out you were wrong. But we have to remember that it is not in being right that the gift of straightness resides, but rather in the courage to show up and say something.
We seldom reward those who are being straight with us. A school sees a parent’s courage to be straight as a threat rather than a gift, they brush them off or meet them with hostility. We become easily defensive when it is wielded our way. That we are protective against it is understandable, however, given the rarity of compassionate straightness and thus our ability to deal with it. Perhaps we could all, gently, practice the movements in both the giving and receiving of straightness. We have to learn to be straight in a way it can be received. This requires putting our judgements aside and letting the straightness speak through the sincere love of honesty and freedom.
The global atmosphere, as well as being challenging and daunting, is also exciting, full of hope and vision. People are becoming informed and a global social movement constituted by the ‘will of the people’ is being heard over the drum of the corportate and political agendas that threaten the wellbeing of our children. Many are answering this call in all kinds of spheres, educational, political, environmental etc. There is much talk about getting political, getting involved and making a difference. We can start with something simple and easy … being straight. My family and I live in a neighbourhood where practically everyone around us is in construction mode. Sometimes the saws and machinery begin at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday. One particular neighbour seems to have a knack for this. One early Saturday morning my partner awoke to chainsaws, “I am getting some spray paint and spraying nasty words on their wall,” he grumbled over the whole day. Given that he was close to serious, I told him it would be much better if he called the owner directly and told him that we would prefer it if he could start the loud activity later in the morning. “It is so much better to be straight with him,” I said in my overly-chirpy instructive manner, reminding him that everyone in the neighbourhood was annoyed but probably no one would be honest with him. As predicted, the neighbour, upon receiving our phone call, happily agreed to comply to our wishes. For a couple of mornings it worked, then, it was back to mayhem at 7 a.m.
I rolled over one morning, the pillow wrapped around my ears, “Hey, sweetheart, where did you put that spray paint?”
Editor’s addendum: Byronchild is growing and evolving to meet the diverse needs and interests of our readers. This issue we are introducing four new exciting ongoing departments as growing reflection of byronchild magazine: Relationship, Education, Activities and Games and Global issues. We hope you enjoy!