A Heads Up

Today I will treat you to an excerpt from my upcoming memoir that will be entitled “Outside the Circle.” Tomorrow I will post my weekly radio spot/blog. So far I haven’t found a way to explain what I want to express in four minutes, so today is background for you, and also the same diagram to relate back to what I said last time. This time is mostly based on my opinions; last time was mostly based in facts. Beginning next week I will go back to the interview format to post stories of people who have been growing communities in various places in the USA and abroad. We need them.

from OUTSIDE THE CIRCLE
Lynn Lamoreux
Photos by Lynn

“If you want to lay hold of your future, you need to let go of some of the things you believe about today.” Pastor Jeff Hackleman

Why?

Once upon a time a Professor friend of my father patted me on my little blond head and said:

“I think you should major in biology. I would so much like to have a secretary who actually understands all the terms and concepts of my research. You could do such a good job.”

So I majored in biology and became a secretary.

That’s just one event, of course, in a lifetime, but it illustrates one of the many influences that condition our young years to our place within our communities. That was my place. Not only me of course – that’s the way it was at that time and in that culture. A successful woman was a wife, failing that a secretary or a teacher, in any case under the control and protection of a dominant male hero. I was raised to be a successful woman; and in our culture, at that time, women were among the designated victims. Successful women performed that role well. So that’s how I grew up to interact with the world.

121202-Clubhouse_DSC2442LSsWhen I say victim1, I do not mean that I was mistreated, although of course that happens too. When I say designated victim, I’m talking about the class of people whose function is to be rescued (saved, supported, mentored) by the designated heroes of our culture. The designated heroes of my world at that time were the men. That’s how they knew to interact with the world.

When I say interact, I’m talking about all of one’s engrained behaviors that we don’t even think about. When to lower the eyes, how to stand, how we present ourselves to the world. I reacted to the world like a victim, and that is how the world saw me, not only because I was a woman but also because of my unconscious mannerisms. So long as I stayed where I belonged, I was treated just fine. Like a puppy that rolls over when threatened by a villain dog — or wiggle wiggle wiggles and licks the face of the kindly hero dog – I was welcome within the pack.

And so I went to secretarial school after graduating with a degree in biology, and then (my father’s friend having forgotten the whole thing) I got a job as a secretary at Stanford Research Institute.

Time passed.

Eventually it occurred to me that I might be better suited to the scientist part than the secretary part of the job description. And now there were women on the television who seemed not to be designated victims. So I went back to school in Biology, graduated with high qualifications, and that was when I began to learn about the many “nice” and not so nice, subtle and brutal ways that our culture molds us or if necessary forces us into one or another of its three designated roles. I call these roles the hero, the villain, the victim.

The first difficulty I recognized was me — those victim mannerisms that I had learned from the cradle. So I set about to lose them. Losing victim mannerisms is not as easy as it sounds, but it’s possible. Watch, watch, watch, what do I do, how do they react? Learn. Try again. And what happens then? Well, eventually it becomes obvious that it isn’t only me. How many times did the good-guy heroes help and help me to understand:

“You did it wrong. If you would do it the way I do you would succeed like I did.”

An impossible requirement of course. I know of one woman who followed them all into the men’s room just to maintain her place in the conversation, but I doubt that worked well either. Suffice to say, eventually I figured out that it is most often the good-guy heroes who really keep the victims in their place because heroes tend to be so dedicated to their dreams of what the world should be like that they do not see what it really is like for anyone other than themselves. Of course it is not so simple as that. The good-guys, usually other good-guys, are also responsible for opening doors for us, but we already understand that part of the equation.

I don’t have much to say about the designated villains, because they knew what they were doing and I knew what they were doing.2 It was a very straightforward and uncomplicated relationship, or it would have been except for the heroes who won’t believe that “George” could possibly be a villain because he is their friend.

But to get to the point, after I watched the many ways in which the heroes themselves were largely responsible for my role as victim, and were keeping me in that role even though I had graduated, I definitely did not want to be a “hero” in our culture, and that of course was the role I had been training for. Victim and Villain were out of the question and now I definitely did not want to be a hero. What then? Those are the available options in our American culture.

I ended up a really odd little pup who didn’t fit anyone’s idea of how someone should behave. I wouldn’t roll over and play dead for the designated villains of the world; I wouldn’t wiggle and fawn on the designated heroes; I had no desire to actually BE a designated hero – and certainly was not willing to play the role of villain or victim. And the people around me weren’t a little bit interested in the fact that I was a good scientist, because they couldn’t recognize me. To them I must have seemed rather like an attack Chihuahua that nobody takes seriously but they keep their distance just to be sure.

So to shorten this long history, they brought out the big guns to force me into line. Unfortunately for them, they never noticed that I had all the time been doing a good job and documenting that fact. So in the end they resorted to a villainous (that is, illegal) attack method, and I overpowered the compulsively helpful advice of my good-guy attorney who also would have been happier if I kept my place (victim), so I won the case and here I am.

But I was pretty disappointed all the same, because I didn’t win what I thought I had won. Naively I believed that the women, when they were admitted to the work force, would bring with them a new and more positive paradigm of human relationships. I daydreamed about it in times of the most stress. A new social order that does not require designated victims to grease the wheels of communal and economic interactions.

But that is not what happened. Instead, what I did win was the right for women to be designated heroes rather than only victims, and they came in force, actually bringing with them less compassion than the men heroes before them.

“If you had been competent (like me), you would not have had all those problems.”

Was I the only victim of this system? Of course not. It’s fair to say that all the single women and many of the married women were designated victims at that time in the history of that institution, and most of them suffered far more than I. Many left; some were truly brutalized and retreated with medical disabilities; I won the court case. I changed the world for those who followed; but I didn’t change the system. All I did was reshuffle the designation of victim.

HeroVictimVillainSo the culture changed, but the essential cultural roles did not change. We changed the designated victims, so that women (so long as they are married) now have access to the “in” group. And blacks. That’s “blacks,” but not people who are perceived as (or think of themselves as) “negroes” or “colored.” They still are designated (or self-designated) victims in our culture. Or sometimes designated (or self-designated) villains. But we maintain our cultural trinity; we have made no effort in our culture to get rid of the CAUSE of victimization.

The driving force behind our cultural trinity appears to be our reverence for “winners.” We are deeply conditioned to believe that we are NOT OK unless we are winners, and there are only two designated routes to winning – you can be a hero or you can be a villain.

Heroes become winners and feel good about themselves by helping victims. Heroes are the good-guys.
Villains become winners in ways that victimize other people. Villains are the bad-guys.

We are proud in our culture that it is possible for people to switch roles:

“Anyone can be a winner.”

But we don’t examine the harm that is done to so many by our cultural trinity that supports the for-profit community.

The imperative to be a winner keeps the masses striving – the competition supposedly makes for a better life, but in reality that compulsion to be a winner is the very keystone that permits the reins of power to take the ultimate control over us all – designated victims, villains and heroes alike. We believe so strongly that winning = good that we are willing to sacrifice our whole lives, our selves, our careers and health and happiness to be a winner or, failing that, to wiggle wiggle wiggle and lick the face of winners. We are afraid to ask questions and even more afraid of answering and discussing, for fear of not knowing everything (and yet nobody does); we are afraid to use our God-given brains when things don’t make sense; we are afraid to turn off the TV (where the reins of power most firmly attach themselves to our self image) or even to talk to people who might be different from ourselves. All for fear of not being winners.

But only the good-guys and the bad-guys actually get to be winners in our culture, even though the designated victims are the most essential. The designated victims, as you see, are necessary so that everyone else can have someone to be better than – so they can feel good about themselves. And that is probably why Americans are so very dedicated to designating victims, either at home or abroad, rather than building a new paradigm that would include discussion of our common problems and goal-centered efforts to resolve them.

I’m not saying heroes are bad. Of course we need heroes to save us from real peril. Heroes saving victims is important to the victims they save and to all of society. But it will not stop our society from creating more victims. If the people you save have not a decent life or future, then what have you won? For you and for the people you save, we need to grow a more positive communal paradigm that does not glorify the creation of losers.

In every human culture in all of history, the cultural norms and communal paradigms have been maintained by story-telling as the elders pass on their cultural myths around the campfires or on the screen porch in the evening, or as they are working at their jobs. That is education – that is the function of education, and so it would seem obvious that we should build our new paradigm around the children, during t heir education. Many, many insightful and dedicated teachers are trying to do this; are doing it. But the power to grow and build our communities is no longer primarily in the hands of parents and teachers because it is no longer they who primarily educate our children. The corposystem media now hold the reins of power. And the power and energy to grow and drive the corposystem forward through time is generated by the push and shove of victims, villains and heroes. We the people can choose to blow it up like a balloon, the corposystem, until it pops and shatters and crashes all over us – or we can withhold our energy from our unsustainable and toxic cycle, and choose to grow a sustainable way of life that is based in genuine compassion for the long-time welfare of human societies.

Earth Systems Final2 copyTurn on the television at any hour of the day or night, turn to the channels that are available free of charge, and watch for three or four hours. In it’s most raw and obvious form, this is the culture we pass to our children. Villain, victim, and ever more brutal hero. This is the culture that can control every one of us wannabe heroes by defining who and what are the winners in our world. And setting us against each other. This is the culture of designated heroes, villains and victims. Only the players change, not the roles. If we run out of victims at home, we go abroad.

But this little Chihuahua is trying to stay outside that circle; not willing to reinforce our cultural trinity; not willing to fight over nothing, or make the earth more biologically fragile for the future generations – not willing to create more victims as a result of her contribution to life as an American, as a retired volunteer do-gooder hero, or as a citizen of the world.

I want the same thing now that I wanted when I sued our institution. I want to create a more positive communal paradigm.

Addendum: I hear that the corposystem is putting a lot of funding into studies of compassion and other innate human emotions, just as they previously put a lot of funding into various other technologies (yes I think they invest money primarily if they expect to get a technological return for their big bucks). The people doing the work believe this will benefit human kind. In this culture, I think it much more likely the knowledge will be used to make money and to prevent the people from asserting their power, and I think the greed ethic and the compassion ethic cannot co-exist without doing great harm to ordinary people. So that is another area where we must be extremely careful as we grow our compassionate communities.

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