The Imperative Assumption
Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”-Mark Twain (brought to my attention by [Visual Noise])
Do you ever get that feeling that you’re alone? I don’t mean alone, as in, not loved, or without friends. That’s another problem entirely.
It was while reading Martin D’Arcy’s “Thinking Union,” along with Michael Newman’s “The Third Contract” that I felt a little bit more at home. The two authors are both in the field of union education. I’ve never even been to a union meeting, yet I find comfort in their rhetoric of the union culture, challenging the established authority. It’s not usually that I set about at something because I’m out to get someone. That’s an important note. Given that there are so many people out there who want to start shit, I see no reason to look for fights with people. There are more than enough who are going to come to me. Why not enjoy the home front advantage?
Being confrontational isn’t just a personality trait; it is a live-in-philosophy of applying agression frequently. I’m not confrontational. I do, however, have ideals, passion, and agression as part of me– they are ressources, and almost boundless ones at that. They’re also highly pollutant, and as a fuel, overuse will have a corrosive effect on your body and spirit. The trick is to harness them for the right causes, surgically. I beleive that I should get what I’m asking for if it’s what I’m owed, and that nobody gets to step into my space and leave things there or take things out unless I let them. If someone gets in my way– there will be conflict. And I will draw on those ressources to get what I want. However: one has to manage the big picture.
We are to learn, not just to accumulate knowledge, but to culture a lifestyle of wisdom for whatever we chose as important in our lives. Who decides what to learn? You do. Who polices that? You do. Simply put: at some point, you just need to decide to believe in yourself, and accept responsibility for making your dreams for yourself come true. All growth comes out of that– all risks are weighed against that imperative.
We can’t just be scholars, coming up with opinions in a vacuum– in the application of wisdom comes conflict, and thus, we need to also be prepared to fight for what we believe in. We need to bring what we imagine into the real world, and that doesn’t just mean the products we dream up– it also means the self-identity we dream of ourselves.
We need to keep a fed-back cycle of that which we produce– we cannot succeed simply by being extroverts unless we learn to exude our introvertedness as well– that is to say, to be social, while still being ourselves.
Warrior scholars are the class to be. Culture a personality of forwardness that is measuredly prepared, if necessary, not if provoked, to fight back.
I think that one thing that people overlook though is that you don’t always have to fight other people to get what you want. A lot of the times– most of the fighting is against ourselves. And in an ideal situation– you acheive a state where you don’t resist yourself at all, and can simply be, and become, who you are.
When I was in high school, I remember getting in trouble because I would sneak into the music room at 7AM so I could play the drums. I got a lot of ridicule when it was discovered that I was practicing the first chair’s snare drum solo, while I was someone who had failed the band entrance test once, only made it in on the second try, and was now fifth chair out of five positions. When I started doing martial arts, I remember people telling me that I should wear running shoes instead of wearing chinese slipper-shoes (“kung fu shoes”), because I was always slipping. When I was in college, and the MAC was first officiated, the athletics council and the Karate program were constantly trying to run us out of town. They told me they didn’t like our ideas, we should shut down. When I worked at the library in LaSalle, I got in trouble all the time for tinkering too much with the computer systems. They told me if I caused too much trouble, they’d find someone else to do the job. When I started RsM, other clubs understimated mine in the municipal championships, because of our strange membership base of rejects and vagrants. In fact, even people in my own club questioned my management philosophy when it came to pricing, the tournament, the involvement with the LBA. Other clubs started rumors about ours, and attempted to steal our membership base to bury us. When I worked at my first hospital, I got in trouble by someone who saw herself as my boss, who thought I was roaching in on her territory, and she got me in trouble with my actual boss on unrelated issues. When I worked in Korea, not only my Korean liason consellor (all 4 of them, since nobody wanted to work with me for too long) but also my branch manager were getting on my case all the time about what they thought were my unsound teaching practicies. And just a couple of weeks ago, someone in a department that I’ve never heard of (neither the person or the department) sent me an email demanding, basically, that I work harder.
That’s a lot of people telling me that I’m wrong. So, what is it that I read in those books that made me feel so better?
The simple fact is, when people tell you that you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing, even if you’re determined to do it, even if you get it done, you start to get tired of not getting any encouragement. When you fight people for what you beleive in, and nobody else beleives in what you believe in enough to fight with you, but they just settle in the trenches that you’ve dug, you wonder– no, I wonder– why do I bother?
That’s where books come in.
Several months ago, I got an email email through the corporate intranet. For confidentiality reasons, I’ve removed the names of the involved parties and departments, but this is a copy-paste of the email.
Hi, […] data to send to the [X] clerks needs to be finished validation in the post-op register. Would it be possible to implement a system where email could be send at the end of the week – giving the dates where post-op data are all entered and validated? Example : I just sent an extract covering the dates of July 21st until August 4st; however I had to remove the incomplete dates of : July 23, 27, 29, and August 3rd. It would help [X], [Y], [Z], etc – by having a confirmation email stating which dates are complete at the end of the week.
The person who sent me this request is the person who is the interim in-charge person of the system upgrade that we had a little over two months ago. In case you didn’t hear me talk about that upgrade, here’s the summary: our systems were down for 4 working days, necessitating doing everything by hand, and resulting in over a week of papwerwork backlog; the new system added no features for us; the system includes extra fields of data to be filled out per patient (translation: more work); the new system introduced at least two crash-inducing bugs, messed up the functionality of data entry in two ways, and disabled two perfectly useful functions.
Basically, the establishment had introduced a new piece of technology that we were expected to use. We didn’t know that it wasn’t to make our lives easier. The main purpose was to modify the system by which we gather statistics about operations. On a practical level, that means more time spent on data entry per patient. On top of that, the system is so buggy, that we spend more time working per patient than we did before, due to crashes. And now, someone in management was wondering why we had a backlog of post-operative reports on patients, and wants me to compile for them weekly reports of a checklist of which reports are complete, and which aren’t. When you think about it, the reason why I’m delayed is because management introduced a system that, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t work. And now they want me to spend more time telling them just how far behind I am by compiling weekly reports.
In theory, all these things make work easier. Practically? We know this not to be true.
When I first start work in a new department (happens pretty often in my line of business), it’s a lot like going into a new country. You you have to learn the local language, experience some of the culture, figure out who are the movers and the shakers and just, in general, get a feel for the place. You don’t rock the boat on your first day. So, while I learned the ropes, I did what I was told. I followed orders, got a feel for what it is I was supposed to be doing. People take advantage of that. You’d think that in a hospital, where we’re all here to help sick people, that everyone would cooperate. That’s simplistic though– a hospital is in the business of caregiving. It has a corporate structure that simply redifines patients as consumers, and there are people in all departements muscling for turf and advantage just like in any corportorate political environment.
That said– it’s not enough to preach healthcare in the abstract sense of helping people. We need to be willing to step on some toes in order to do it practically, and do it right.
The basic premise of the union is to help the lowest common denominator of a functioning society– the worker. Thus, anything that that has to do with educating the worker with the tools to ear a fair day’s salary for a fair day’s work, that’s the union’s job. The books I’ve been reading center on this, and focus specifically on not only how to fight back, but also why society needs us to fight back against the establishment. So, rather than doing as she asked of me, I wrote her an email back. The technical aspects are boring, I think, but to paraphrase, here are the key points:
You guys field tested the prototype of the new system for months before intranet deployment. Either you found the bugs, and ignored them, or you found no bugs altogether. Either way, when the new system was implemented, I went out of my way to send you detailed bug reports of the new system, including how to reproduce each systematically. I pointed out that the bugs had a critical impact on the speed of postoperative paperwork. Nothing was done on your end to either address the bugs or compensate for the added workload on clerks to maintain the same amount of output. If you can tell me which dates are incomplete, you can obviously see this data, and you can compile your own reports and assume responsibility.
Key line: Assume responsibility.
So the question is: what’s the right way to do it?
Well, that’s the thing– people can tell you what’s right, but ultimately, it won’t be right until it feels right.
In order for that to even be a possibility– you must assume responsibility, and see where your beliefs take you.