I woke up really aggravated this morning – and not because I still had a lingering migraine from the day before, rather, my foul mood was caused by an exchange in a dream. You psychoanalysts out there can have a field day with this one, I’m sure. The dream seemed innocuous enough. I had ordered food for delivery. When the delivery boy came, he morphed into a condescending middle-aged woman. The morphing delivery person explained that I would need to return all of the serving dishes because they would be washed and reused to be better stewards of the planet. “That’s cool,” I thought. However, when tallying up the cost of the delivery, the person dropped a pen on the ground, when I stooped to hand it back, there was some cat hair on it. I began wiping it off, and mr/s delivery said not to bother – there were tons of animals in the store and, by the way, we didn’t need to clean the dishes before returning them since they would all need to be sanitized again before reuse. That brought up the next bill – for walking the dog (I guess it was a pizza parlor dog walking establishment?) In any event that was added to the bill. This is where I got upset – the delivery lady charged me for two days of dog walking. I politely corrected her, explaining that this was the first time I had used their service. She cut her eyes at me, contemptuously sneering and hissed, “I expected as much.”
She was angry at ME for not wanting to pay twice for a service I had only used once. It was one of those “How dare you stick up for your rights” moments. When I worked in the city, the kids had a saying for this – “I’m not staying’ hit from you.” In other words – I’m not going to restrain myself if you attack me. The dream had me worked up before I even got out of bed. Stupid, right? The sentiment, however, is very real.
More and more I see or hear people on the attack, and if the one on the receiving end fights back, the attacker then shoots them down for daring to stand up. This is being played out on the street, in schools, at workplaces, in the media, and in our government – very publicly.
The problem is not that people “talk back” or stand up for themselves – that’s wonderful – the cornerstone of a republic – the kind of democracy we aspire to be. The problem lies in the power dynamic. For you economists – you know the central premise of Trickle Down Economics is that when you help out those with wealth and power financially: their bounty will “trickle-down” to those on the lower echelons of society. Regardless of where you stand on the efficacy of how this works economically (it doesn’t) – I know with absolute certainty that this works socially. My husband calls it Trickle Down Tyranny. When those in power are allowed free reign to act tyrannically, say what they will and shout down any detractors. When they are allowed to target the weak, oppress the underclass, separate and divide their charges – those under them will do the same.
When your boss’s boss is a tyrant who demands too much, demoralizes him/her, and gives little to nothing in return, s/he creates an atmosphere which trickles down to your boss and ultimately to you. It is a perfect environment for tyranny to thrive. In situations where people are discouraged from standing up for themselves or others – the narrative can be changed – distraction techniques can be employed, and the public will suffer the consequences. We need to be more aware of when the conversation is being manipulated and purposefully speak up for those whose rights are being stripped away because it’s the right thing to do. But, even if you don’t care about right or wrong just remember that one day, it might be you.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Niemöller (German theologian and Lutheran pastor who spoke out against the Nazi party during the Holocaust and was subsequently imprisoned from 1938-1945.)