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Human Agency and Engaging

February 12, 2018

Anyone who has been on the internet with interest in social justice and/or social commentary must, by now, understand at least the rudimentary elements of human agency. At the risk of oversimplifying, it means to choose to act or not. That is, if you are physically and mentally capable. You have to throw in that little tidbit because there is always that one person who wants to ride in on the Obtuse Train and say, “uh, if I cannot speak and I’m paralyzed, then I have no agency.” Well, duh. The internet is one giant opportunity for that moron who never feels valued (even by the –self) to throw in a singular little hiccup. Great, now you have a triumph to relay to your great grandchildren, that is, if you can manage to procreate.

The above just to say, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Of course, if you decide to do or not to do there may very well be consequences. Yet, the risk of those consequences still do not negate the fact that you had a choice to do whatever it is you did or didn’t do. Here’s another little nugget, not everyone has the same degree of agency. First world has more agency than third world, etc. I can’t believe I have to say this, but I do, because I can hear the horn of the Obtuse Train rolling down the track as I type this. Children certainly do not have the agency that fully functioning adults have. Period.

Just like when I reached out for financial help when I forced my unfaithful husband out and we were left financially abandoned, people had a choice to help me or not. As much as it made me angry to see how many so-called feminist decided to not help, I still understand their right to refuse. What they do with their money is their choice. And what I think of what they do with their money is my choice. Just like it is my choice to share my thoughts here, where people consume them hungrily, because even though everyone else has the same opportunity to share their thoughts, many people find it easier to read someone else’s thoughts and use those thoughts for whatever than to put their own thoughts out there. There are more takers than givers. I suspect because there is more of a socially acceptable license to complain about a gift than to complain about giving.

Anyway, whatever. Today, I’m thinking about how the biggest resistance in my life has come from not engaging with people when those people wanted to engage. I’m not stupid, I understand that there are times that I will suffer consequences from not engaging. The older I’ve gotten the more selective, or I should say the more calculated I’ve become when choosing to engage or not. This can also fall in the realm of saying no. Perhaps that is why books and seminars have been written and conducted over the years focusing on teaching people how to say no. As an aside, I don’t think people have trouble saying no when what is being requested goes against the prejudices the person with the power possesses. For example, if a younger hiring agent wants to push the application of an older person to the side because he/she is prejudice against older people, then that human resource person has no problem saying no to that older applicant. And if pressed, will find excuses to justify the no. So most people don’t really have trouble saying no, they only have a problem saying no when it interferes with their impression management.

You may have guessed it, but I’ve gotten the most resistance from men. That’s right. Shocking, I know. Let me not engage with a male or say no to a male and all hell breaks loose. At this point, it’s as if I am beating a dead horse. Who doesn’t know this already? Oh, I know who,— men, young and old and women who have only experienced self-induced suffering.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to center on men, even though the following tale I am about to tell you has men in it. My first conscious moment of having my own human agency came when my older brother shared one of his therapy sessions with me. My mother’s male homosexual friend molested several of my brothers as children. This molestation occurred over years. I didn’t learn about this molestation until I was in my late 20’s. In addition to being molested, my oldest brother was repeatedly raped in prison when he was 18 years old. He served three years. My brothers have always blamed my mother. Because I used to be very angry at her for other reasons, I didn’t counter their blame. Instead, I listened. That was in the 1990’s.

My mother didn’t become anymore endearing even after my  my daughter died.  I make note of this, because I thought my sweetie’s death would at the very least bring everyone together and all of those years of pain could be forgotten or at the very least be filed as happening a long time ago.  Because if a young unexpected death can’t unite a divided family, what can? Turns out, it wasn’t until my mother’s own near death experience did she begin talking to her children better, like humans. Even though my older brother went along (chose to) with the two older men who robbed and subsequently murdered a police officer, he blamed his prison time on my mother. See, one of those horrible men was my mother’s lover. So, using my brother’s logic, he would’ve never known these men if my mother haven’t brought them into our house. The same with the homosexual pedophile. Again, when I first learned of this history I had little to say. But what has always stuck with me is what my brother told me that his therapist told him. He had wanted to approach my mother about his anger and let her know what had happened to him and give her a chance to apologize, ask for forgiveness, –I’m not sure what at that time he wanted/needed. I know that it didn’t go as planned. Instead, our mother got wind of him wanting to talk to her and she cornered him and demanded that they have it out right then and there. Because he wasn’t prepared, the discussion didn’t happen.

This is all old wounds though, and more of a matter-of-fact than painful at this point. Since he was not able to do anything but flee from our mother, he went back into therapy. His therapist told him, that the abuser does not get to decide when to engage. That’s it, that is the point of this long ass post. It’s also a point everyone should know already but I don’t think everyone does. Now, I don’t necessarily agree that my mother was the abuser, but that is a post for another time, and that conversation has been had with my brother since my daughter’s death. We have all been making efforts.

No one can make us engage. Engaging is a choice. If my engagement is not rewarded or encouraged with respect and kindness, then I most certainly will not engage. You cannot make me engage.  If experience has taught me that engaging with someone like you will more than likely end badly for me, I will not engage.

TLDR: You are not the boss of me.

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