Friday, March 16, 2007

Pins and needles + other thoughts

Editor's Note: I actually started writing this last Friday. Updates are in italics.

I’m anxiously awaiting my grade on the 3rd paper for class – I REALLY think I bombed it. HA!

But then, I thought that with the others too.

And they were A’s. Minuses, those A’s, but A’s nonetheless, and a feat to be proud of.

Update: I got another A-, but one point higher than the first two! Comments:

Heather, In this essay, you display very good critical thinking skills -- you see issues in every one of the conventional ideas of participation, representative bureaucracy, and accountability. (No mention of workplace democracy, though.) I liked the way you organized the essay, too. Probably the only reason there's a "minus" after your "A" is the omission of some key elements of the material in this unit, and also, perhaps, that you could have squeezed in a bit more explication of your critical assessment under each heading.
I'm still not sure about how I could have achieved "more explication" as it was a 2-3 pg paper and I closed on the last possible line of the 3rd page. C'est la vie, though, right? I am more than happy to roll with an A, minus or not!!

In the meantime, though, I have some thoughts that are nagging me for expression.

In my last unit, we were supposed to read a journal article called Lipstick and Logarithms; Gender, Institutional Context, and Representative Bureaucracy.

It was FASCINATING – to this nerd anyway – reading about the idea of passive representation, i.e. a person with a particular identifier (gender, race, orientation, age, etc) employed and/or appointed in leadership positions, leading to active representation, or the implementation of policies to benefit the larger populace with the same identifiers as that of the representative. That’s the VERY bare bones of it. Particularly of interest, though, was this statement:

According to Ferguson (1984, 18), hierarchy and roles in bureaucratic settings cause bureaucrats to de-emphasize their multiple identities and to increase the importance of their identity as members of the organization.

And it got me to thinking – dangerous, I know – that I’ve certainly seen this phenomenon occur...

For example, a neighboring city also has CDBG and other grants to administer to their community. Instead of primarily identifying themselves as community members working for change, they see themselves as city employees. This sometimes works to the disadvantage of the very agencies, which trickles down to their community members, that they are purported to help.

In Christianity, instead of people identifying themselves as followers of Christ, they get caught up in the organization of their church and just where they fall in that hierarchical system. Then we see the promotion of the church they identify with, instead of the principles of whom the faith is built upon, Jesus Christ.

We need to think more seriously about who it is we're representing, because the person/cause/organization we identify the most with is the one we will cater to in problem solving, advocacy, and promotion of interests.

For me, it makes me want to do away with all of the layers of my identity, and remember my core: I am the girl from the wrong side of the tracks that most everyone (societally speaking) gave up on. I am a woman who has had to fight for her position in life. I struggle with a mind-numbing depression that has made my life hell at times. I am a follower of Christ, and believe in befriending those given up on by society, whether they are addicts, Mexicans (or any other ethnic immigrant in the political spotlight), welfare moms, or a middle-class, white soccer dad who's gotten caught up in consumerism - they are all worthy of my love and reservation of judgments.

And remembering those things, I want to embrace them, proudly, and actively represent those who share my demography (or those who are the objects of my attention) such that their lives might become healthier and happier.

(I shudder at the possibility of becoming so rigidly bureaucratic that efficiency and order become my idols. May that never happen.)

That is the kind of transparency and urgency that I want to see in my elected officials - but it will never happen, for they fear alienating a portion of their constituents with such openness, and think that they will lose votes for it.

Ironic, isn't it?

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