To start 2010 on a positive note – given that we learn more from failure than success – I advocate looking at the debacles of the Decade of the Aughts as a series of Hard Lessons Hard Learned and puting them to work improving the upcoming Betwixt and Be-Teen Years.
Who among survivors of the Aughts can’t cough up a couple Hard Lessons Hard Learned? Who among us, just for example, hasn’t learned a financial lesson or two?
Something else I learned about the Debacle Decade was that seventh grade girls and fifth grade boys ran it. This seems to me to be an obstacle to getting the job done. Whatever the job is.
The labels are neither age nor gender exclusive. My debacles of the past decade include old men back-stabbing on a caliber unequaled by anyone less than a seventh grade girl and young professional women beating their chests like fifth grade bullies atop whatever mound on whatever playground happened to be designated top-of-the-hill. And I saw -- and participated in -- all manner of behavior in between. My lesson hard learned? I'm still a seventh grade girl.
I was in student council in 7th grade in the mid 1960s. Back then it was called junior high, as though the adults were merely prepping us for the Real Thing. I also wrote for school publications – writing being my single gifted talent. I received recognition for writing, but since competition was sparse – a lot of people actually don't like to write – I was dismissive of those recognitions; but I was very proud to hold the popularly-elected council seat. Winning that seat displayed a second-tier of popularity.
In junior high, first tier for girls was cheerleader, a competition I lost annually.
In junior high the tiers didn’t apply to the boys – whichever boys the first tier girls went steady with were the first tier boys. But fifth grade boys were still king of the hill. Girls weren’t yet of consuming interest. Holding one’s own in the playground was paramount and could still be achieved by fairly blunt force. Fifth grade is pretty much the end of the pushing and shoving games permitted children – tag, snowball fights that deteriorated into faces in the snow, war. Fifth grade, at least for boys, if you ran fastest or climbed highest or pushed to the ground the most other boys, you held a place on the hill.
My Debacle Decade was populated with both those seventh grade girls and fifth grade boys loosed upon the playground without an adult in sight.
Everything from a neighborhood association meeting about where to locate the fire hydrant to a council discussion regarding where to place the line to the hydrant to a state legislature debating how much water can be allocated to the line to proposed federal guidelines to assure the water is safe – everything I could see during my Debacle Decade was conducted by seventh grade girls and fifth grade boys.
No matter the stated mission for the gathering, the energy was spent positioning and assessing ourselves in relation to everyone else who was also positioning and assessing.Seventh grade girls. Fifth grade boys. A lot of energy was spent but not a lot got done. The mission itself lent little more to the effort than a title for the agenda:
Wednesday Night Association Meeting about Fire Hydrant Location.
Proposal to Extend County Water Line.
Legislation to Withdraw from State Aquifer.
Health Care Reform ... I’m just saying ...
The world as we know it is crumbling about us and we’re worried about how we look and where we place within an imagined hierarchy. We worry about how it plays to the folks back home; about the next election; about who on the committee can help pull us farther up the hill. We’re so worried about these things we have become unable to get done even our most basic agenda items. These behaviors – just as in fifth and seventh grade – have become not merely a collection of human impulses but ends unto themselves: becoming the most popular; becoming the most important.
So that is one of my Hard Lessons -- being the most popular still doesn't get the job done. So what to do with the Hard Learned to address the Betwixt and Be-Teen approaching? Maybe reduce my craving for popularity. Get back to the business of writing. Since not that many people actually like to do it, maybe some of it is being left undone.