“When the enemy advances, withdraw; when he stops, harass; when he tires, strike; when he retreats, pursue.” -Mao Tse-Tung
Recently I was discussing observations a friend and I have made over the years, which I call our “social experiments.” We were talking about how some communities or groups require that you go through a type of hazing in order to “belong.” We both feel this is a bunch of “bunk” and it’s about the desire for power and/or the feeling of being powerful over others.
For instance, allowing ourselves to be treated without respect and/or harassed in order to become part of a community. We both have heard and dislike “We went through that.” or “You need to pay your dues. I did.” as an excuse or reasoning. Have we not grown as individuals, people, or even communities? Apparently not. History shows that harassment can lead to false power and war.
How do we stop it? Do we step up and speak out? Not if it’s considered cool, funny, or an expression of power. Even worse…if there’s fear of losing our jobs, no one speaks up and no one wants others to speak up. Our choices can include enduring the behavior and treatment, walking away, or taking action.
How do we know hat the best course of action is?
A few days ago an acquaintance approached me about her situation. She’s feeling distressed from living in an environment that she feels is filled with harassment, prejudice, and disrespect. I pointed out that she has choices – she can be silent and endure it, walk away, or speak up. A young woman, I also suggested that she look at the situation she is in and to think about whether or not she has the energy to take it on and if she really thinks she has the power to make change. I suggested that she look at history and the community itself.
Community. The best definition I found is this: a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule. In her situation, rules include harassment, abuse, prejudices, and disrespect.
I went back to her after thinking about the situation and told her that I felt that the situation was bigger than her – that she wouldn’t be able to fight it or change the culture. But, I pointed out that I also believe that sometimes we can make change by simply being a “beam of light” in a dark situation, until we are called to move to our next “assignment.”
My advice to her was given to me many years ago when I was just a little older than she is. With each “assignment” I accepted, I understood that piece of advice a little more.