It’s been a long week, and it’s only Tuesday.
As my bio indicates, I work at a community college. I teach English and am a writing tutor in our campus learning center, which not only provides help with writing, but with math, science, and foreign languages. We are a multipurpose facility although the individual tutors only work within the areas of their specialization. It is a chaotic place in which to work, not only because of the multiplicity of disciplines represented, but because, while each discipline occupies a specific area of the large room that houses us, there are no walls separating us, and staff are forced to share offices rather than having private spaces to which they can retreat.
Or, at least that is the reason given by some of the staff for the pandemonium. What they say contains a grain of truth, but it is only part of the story, I believe. The real cause of the difficult working conditions, in my opinion, is the lack of respect for boundaries displayed by some of the tutors who behave as though no one else works in the center except themselves. They conduct loud conversations about personal matters wherever and whenever they want, gossip maliciously in front of students, crack jokes and laugh raucously, treat students who come to them for help with something close to contempt, and disrupt the concentration of everyone around them constantly. They seem obdurately oblivious to the needs of those with whom they work, including the students. They simply take what they need and ignore everyone else’s needs.
What intrigues me about this scenario is how our workforce breaks down politically. (I’m not making this up.) We are divided between Republicans and Democrats. I think you can probably see where I’m going with this. Yes, there are no Democrats in the self-centered group (although there are a couple of Republicans in the cooperative group). There are fewer in the self-centered group than in the other group, and yet they dominate. The self-centered group relies on the other group to do most of the work of actually helping students.
And, inevitably, there is political discussion. The members of the self-centered group are vocal and heavy handed with their opinions. They voted for George Bush twice, support his wars, his domestic policies, his religious beliefs. The believe in the manifest destiny of the United States. They are highly offended if someone expresses any opinion that diverges from their own, becoming strident and irrational to drown out their opposition. Even though there are more of us than of them, most in our group simply say nothing, having been effectively intimidated into silence, unwilling to create confrontation. Those of us who refuse to be intimidated maintain an uneasy truce with the bullies, demonstrating both our unwillingness to be cowed or to engage in shouting matches.
What I’m claiming here, although simplistic, is that I work in a microcosm of our larger society. It’s the empire builders versus those of us who believe empires are created by greed, exploitation and xenophobia. It’s the motorists with “Freedom isn’t free” bumperstickers versus those of us who ask in bewilderment “What the hell does that mean?” It’s the bullies versus those who don’t know what they believe and are afraid to challenge the dominant paradigm. It’s a belief in entitlement versus a belief in equity. And it doesn’t work. The bullies are not effective tutors, and their behavior prevents the rest of us from doing our jobs as well as we’d like to. Morale is low, suspicion, resentment and aggression are high.
But I’m told this is the way of the world.
It is, of course, the way of the world we’ve created, but it doesn’t have to be. We could live in a world in which people lived considerately with each other, and in which the young would not have been raised in an egocentric society that has corrupted them to such extent they believe they are unique in their entitlement. If it’s possible for individuals and family groups to operate along these lines, why is it idealistic and unrealistic to suggest it would be possible for the world to do the same?
I wish I knew how to overpower the bullies to bring this about without resorting to their tactics.
I wish I knew how to turn the tide from empire building, from willful ignorance, from self-centeredness, from malignant jingoism to the enlightened self-interest of global awareness. All I seem capable of is preventing myself from succumbing to my rage, and it takes all my energy.
Did I mention it’s been a rough week?
Stay tuned for my rant about liberal Democrats who enable.