When you fight a police state, there are no safe spaces

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This image can be seen in many civil society organizations created in the 1990s, where a leader, or group of leaders, still sits at the helm all the time, working 20 hours a day without a personal life, on weekends. and vacations, building predominantly authoritarian structures that have no room for other people, who may be able to work more effectively.

At the same time, the two sides are making a number of claims. The older generation believes that young people do nothing and are exclusively engaged in “finding themselves” and self-preservation. And the youngest perceive the demands for results as violence. All this is compounded by a constantly changing and extremely aggressive environment, which, on the one hand, deprives both parties of the possibility of agreeing on the risks and volumes of work proposed and, on the other hand, obliges each to constantly defend their personal limits.

Thus, we see a growing demand for transparent agreements on working hours, wages and employment risks in Russian civil society organizations. However, these demands are being made in an ever-changing environment, where in a single day a completely respectable public organization can become a “foreign agent” or an “unwanted organization”, or be liquidated, or have all of its bank accounts blocked. . The form, method and volume of work can change in the blink of an eye, not only due to poor planning, but also due to the absolute unpredictability of the situation in which we are working.

Is care a privilege or a necessity?

There are clearly other elements at play when it comes to issues of respect and consent. Some types of activities – such as professional sports or dancing – have few elements of self-preservation. Both are about pushing yourself to trauma and pain. The dancers stretch until they cry, bruise themselves every day, tear their muscles, starve and train until exhaustion.

Of course, a large number of people who are not athletes or professional dancers also find themselves pushed to their limits. For many, poverty and circumstances make this possible. For them, taking care of themselves is the privilege of the rich, and they will never be able to enjoy it.

Friends who work as housekeepers climb through the windows on the 20th floor, have to use dangerous cleaning products and, of course, work around the clock. The woman who sells fruit in a store near me works 12 hours a day. at 2 pm a day, with free weekends “when she can”. And the girls in the downstairs nail salon work 13 hours a day, five or six days a week. On their days off, they look after their home and their children. These people are not talking about personal care. They mainly talk about how to improve efficiency, do more things, and have more time. Words like “burnout” or phrases like “work-life balance” just don’t exist for them.

From a class perspective, it is clear that at a certain level of poverty there is no possibility of self-care, and the question does not even arise. But for the class of Russian citizens with more resources, a tension linked to the goal Self-sacrifice emerges: The idea that for some goals (eg, achievements in sports) you can push yourself to breaking point, but for other goals you cannot.

The tension here lies in the question of who owns the results of the effort: if the outcome or potential success belongs to whoever makes the effort, then pushing yourself is okay. But if the beneficiary is not clear, then the value of selflessness and surpassing oneself is not clear either.


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