Sunday, March 6, 2011

Censorship revisited, with a splash of creativity, entitlement and humility

I want to revisit my original assertions about selective censorship within organizations. Maybe what bothers me even more than the inconsistent application of policy and the mismanagement of staff and time is the idea of the organization itself, or rather, adherence and allegiance to a thing which makes rules and governs people. Can it be realistic to expect an organization to function with no rules? Or for members to be allowed to break rules with no repercussion? Should i be able to criticize parts of an organization that has been beneficial to me and still remain loyal, or humble? Maybe my rebellious attitude is a product of growing up in a free society, and the criticism is me taking it for granted. Or maybe i do have a sense of entitlement and expect too much? Can't it also just be my critical, judgemental personality which naturally questions everything and puts trust and allegiance in very little outside myself?

It is difficult to isolate the variable i this case, because my reactions and opinions are a product of so many things: my family, culture, past and current experiences, neurons, all kinds of things. I am reminded of a recent blog post from my friend Becca who talks about the South African culture of ubuntu, which is essentially all about sharing. "People are quietly loaning each other money, bringing food to neighbors, etc. People know when their help is needed, and they bring it. They aren't, like us Americans, trumpeting what they are doing for other people to everyone they know. I think that humility is a part of ubuntu because you do what you do because of the way you are connected to other people. You don't see it as a triumph but as a part of being a person." Part of some big life lessons i learned during my service in the peace corps was how to be more humble. It seems difficult to balance humility with opinion, freedom of speech, entitlement and purpose. If i express my honest (and critical) opinion, does that make me a traitor to my organization? If i see where improvements could be made, is it worth expressing, or does that just give it a more negative reputation? Why am i concerned with allegiance in the first place?

I feel a very strong sense of ubuntu between my fellow volunteers especially, because of the common bonds we have forged resulting from our experiences. We have had to battle "the man" (the organization) together, which makes our friendship stronger, but reinforces negative attitudes toward authority. This authority exists to facilitate our experience, to keep us relatively safe and healthy, and to work with existing structures. Unofficially, at times, it plays less supportive roles. Ideally, we could all work together, organization and members, as one organic, open ubuntu machine. That is a goal of a learning organization. Maybe if we possess a combination of criticism with humility, we can find a good balance.

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