As I was watching TV last night just after 9 pm, I reflected on the injustice that is in the world and how we all keep waiting for ponies to appear from under piles of manure.
Optimism is a great quality. Sometimes it’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. I wish I had unbounded optimism like the little round guy in Monsters, Inc. It made him look a little crazy but it sure took a lot to bring him down.
The feeling I had last night was like a feeling I had several years ago: now they must see, now they must do something about this terrible injustice, soon the suffering will stop. It’s the same feeling that women who have been sexually harassed at work may feel. It’s the awful knowledge that a horrible situation is beyond your control and the belief that, surely, someone in charge somewhere must do something about it.
And they don’t.
You watch the evidence pile up and the examples become more and more obvious. Now, you think, now someone will act. And they don’t. You play by the rules and take whatever action you can – sometimes not much – and nothing changes. Those who can do something do nothing. You watch as you and those around you suffer as a result: they complain, they endure, they report, and finally they detach themselves with a gentle popping sound and float away, quickly receding into the distance, as you do when you, too, detach and float away. Out of sight, out of mind.
We like to believe that we control our worlds, a little holdover from when we were small children and our worlds ended with what we could see. Once something moved out of our frame of reference, it no longer existed, and we felt separation and loss. Perhaps that’s why babies cry so much – the amount of trust they must learn, the trust that mom will come back, that when she leaves the room to get more diapers or a bottle, she will come back. I remember babysitting a niece when she was maybe 2 or 3. Her parents couldn’t afford daycare, so mom had stayed home with her, and – until her brother was born later – she had never been separated from both her parents for longer than it took her to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. Can you imagine that? Once when I was visiting, her parents took the opportunity to leave her in my care for a morning while they went to the bank to reorganize their mortgage. She was excited to have me there and didn’t notice as they left, and I wondered how long this would last and soon enough it came crashing down. At first, she raced through the house searching for them and calling their names. Then she settled down for a cry in my lap but that wasn’t good enough. She separated from me and curled up on their bed, inconsolable. I tried to distract her by offering to read her a book – even then, she was a big reader – and she wouldn’t even answer me. Finally, I sat down on the floor next to the bed and began reading the book out loud “to myself.” Finally, sucked in, she crawled into my lap and joined me. When her parents returned home three books later, she ran to them, and her mother comforted her. “Did you think I had left you forever?” Mom asked. “I may have to go away from time to time, but I will always come back.” A hard lesson for small children to learn, trust. And even harder when you grow up and discover that there will be a day where that promise must be broken. And, wow, that got darker than I was planning.
Anyhow, we like to believe we can control our world, but the truth is, the only thing we control are our own actions. We can’t force the world to comply with how we believe it should be. We can’t force an HR Department or Congress to take action when they are clearly invested in the status quo and looking out for their own self-interests.
My husband reminds me that, eventually, evil people get found out and action is taken. I reminded him that the evil person I was referring to didn’t get “found out” – their actions were obvious and there were many complaints to HR. This person didn’t get fired because of the bullying and abuse and clear incompetence. They were given the opportunity to leave (they weren’t “fired” – it’s not on their record) because the person at the top of the food chain had given them a direct order and, in their hubris, they thought they could gaslight the head honcho the same way that they had gaslighted the rest of us – oh, and they got shiny golden handshake. And meanwhile, how many people suffered?
So we look at the news, listen to the mounting evidence, and practice patience.
But not hope. Just patience.