At a youth event, adults and youth are standing in a circle. The adults are bunched toward one end.
An adult and frequent taker of UUA workshops said, rather grandly "I don't want all the power to be at one side of the circle," and moved to the other side of the circle.
CC, who is a pragmatist when her feet hurt, turned to the youth next to her and said "I reject the notion that I'm more powerful than you," and stayed where she was. Youth seemed amused.
Hearing this, the first adult said "Well, the youth are more powerful, I meant I didn't want all of them on one side," which was a nice save, but I wasn't buying it. We all heard what she said and the meaning was clear.
CC, whose feet still hurt, turned back to the youth and said "I reject the notion that you're more powerful than me, I'm still not moving." Youth seemed again amused.
And we went on with our activity.
My question is, while being basically aware of power imbalances certainly makes us more able to work on them, is pointing them out incessantly really helpful?
As you can imagine by what I wrote, my guess is "no." But I'm willing to be talked another way on the issue.
I don't know this person's intent, but it seems that s/he could just as well have said, "Look how we've unconsciously bunched up according to age; let's see if we can't mix it up a bit," and moved over to the other side of the room. That doesn't really have any value judgments built into it.
The whole "Power" thing, let alone "Speaking Truth to Power" thing, always makes me want to vomit. The virtue of plain speaking is often missed by our over-educated, white-guilt infested UU congregants.
"My question is, while being basically aware of power imbalances certainly makes us more able to work on them, is pointing them out incessantly really helpful?"
I think that in an environment where everyone is aware of the power imbalances -- aware in a conscious, "we can work on this" way -- there's no need to point them out incessantly and doing so slows down the process both of correcting them and of getting other stuff done. It would be like playing a softball game with someone who kept pointing out that the field had litter on it. Yes, yes it does, but are you going to stand around and point, or are you going to pick it up and/ or play the game despite it?
However, I've been in very few environments like that. I find that generally there are plenty of people who don't seem to see the litter, or deny the litter exists, or who think the litter is wholly unimportant -- after all, surely we're here to play softball, not to pick up the mess -- and that you're kind of a pooper for noticing it. So perhaps out of cussedness, I do point out power imbalances when I see them, albeit with a sufficient sense of self- preservation that I don't do it if the other person is unreceptive and may penalize me for it.
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