Being political in your work
If you’re not the player, you’re either a bishop, a pawn, a rook, a knight, a queen, or a king.
12 years ago I went to get my hair cut. Been to the place a couple of times, getting my hair-cut. Everyone’s laughing, tv on, talking in background. It was an election year (Harper minority), signs everywhere, maybe something came on CityNews and I said “so how does this area vote?” and everybody went silent. You could hear a pin-drop.
Early this morning I watched this interview with Jeff Bezos from 1999. He obsesses over the customer experience. “The customer experience matches the sharholder experience”. It’s a toxic end-point and goal to set. It’s very western too.
Morality is right as an end goal. Principles, human rights, equity, quality of life, justice, safety, these are goals and the right thing.
How close is the purpose of our work to the right thing? Is it ever doing the wrong thing? How meaningful is your time and what you’re using it for?
Do you have politics? What are your politics? Do you talk about them outside of your political safety net? How are your politics reflected in your work, who you work for, in government and opposition. What are the social outcomes of all of these operations?
What’s change? What’s the use of saving Main Street if it holds people below an economic threshhold while they’re being eaten alive by Amazon & Loblaws?
What’s the use of Wallstreet and the TSX if they’re completely inaccessible and irrelevant as investment vehicles for normal people. Even more complictaed is everyone and their cousins’ goal in-life is to work at Shopify, Instagram, or Facebook.
These companies are political.
We can operate from within the system, silently making change without being so open about it; I used to say “Real Gs move in silence like Lasagna” until Lil Wayne shook hands with Trump (unfortunately our cultural references & mindsets aren’t our own from home, they’re from this new world we were brought to as kids).
I talk to fellow immigrants sometimes, and we remember when we first saw kids that were born here. When ninja turtles or power rangers came on, they flipped. When pizza came, they’d scream PIZZZAAAAA and get super excited.
We weren’t allowed to do that.
In the corporate, consumer, customer-is-always-right-world, Canada and America educates it’s youth from school to Saturday morning cartoons, and trains them to prepare to get that job. It’s what our parents wanted.
Though it’s not what we’re here for. It is really hard to go from a generation of revolution, communism, resistance, martydom and refuge— to be brought up on that— and then tell your kids to go to school, college, graduate, and get a job in engineering, computers or law, without dedicating their life with intense regard to issues like poverty and global warming as a life mission.
I don’t feel their sacrifices and our freedom are worth it if we’re here using Facebook, listening to Doug Ford press conferences, and not thinking for ourselves.
If there’s one thing this Global Pandemic has shown me, is that the Government is not structured to have accountability to people. Each branch of the government is at an arms-length distance from real issues and the parties operate like it’s a non-stop election cycle.
A second thing it’s shown me is that community organizations aren’t strong enough to hold it together and stand-alone independently. Especially communities of color, whose struggles, life and work is fronted by white people, systems and their poc-allies who all have different political goals.
I don’t feel that everyone has to lead with a specific way of doing good, publicly. You don’t have to explain yourself. Maybe it makes sense for you to work at Instagram or Shopify. It might even make sense for you to use these these apps, and post stories.
And it takes time to make a change in your system to move away from these platforms into other ways of operating. Maybe you’re changing the system from within, or waiting for it to change because you have hope.
I’ll leave you with this last note…
I love playing video games. I thank God(swt) that there are people inspired to create games like Apex Legends, Gears, Forza. I’m thankful for that. Look at these characters from Apex, and this is without Rampart in her Sari, and Horizon with her Scottish accent.
Apex is a political game. Your own game in life is a political game too, player.
Politics exists in it. And if you’re not the player, you’re either a bishop, a pawn, a rook, a knight, a queen, or a king. And as the poet Yasiin says, don’t get caught up in no throne.
with regard for future edits.