Doing Things for Show Vs. for Real
Too often, we'd rather not hear about it, or we choose to catastrophize as a way of protecting ourselves from the reality of what's actually happening.
Denialism isn’t a long-term strategy. Seth Godin
At the last family gathering I am talking to someone about their work.
'I love the work but I hate the politics,' he says, 'There is a total disconnect between decisions made up at the top and the reality of what needs to get done on the ground.'
I tell him that I am having the same experience in my job in public education.
'It seems that decisions are being made based on the appearance of taking action, ticking all the boxes on the latest diversity education, anti racism or mental health strategies, but it is all about appearance. And in some cases, the illusion you are doing something to address these issues actually makes the problems worse."
Racism, mental health, gender and diversity - these are challenges that are years in the making. They are embedded in evolution, culture, faith based values, poverty, power, education - in short - everywhere. Mandatory workshops, rule changes, or pronoun announcements don't necessarily change mindsets.
Performance, outward changes favour those higher up the power chain, but the work of all the day to day changes takes place with those who are most closely connected to outcomes. This most often includes those who have the least amount of cultural power and are the lowest paid in the institution or organization.
An example of this came out in a recent podcast with Sam Harris on gun violence, Graeme Wood suggests that those who make final contact with the purchaser of a gun should make the call as to whether the purchaser should have the gun. A gun sales rep or cashier making the call makes little sense when we have examples of high rigour government requirements for owning, storing and caring for firearms repeatedly demonstrating efficacy.
The work of shifting culture needs to have everyone participate and the more economic, social, political and positional power you have, the more it is your job to model and do the work. If not, you will have an increasingly disgruntled and angry workplace culture, unhappy with the changes, and more likely to feel fear or wrath instead of transformation.
Denialism is not a long term strategy. Neither are superficial changes that are all about the show and not addressing the messy reality.