The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

We don't need another hero

I've been thinking a great deal of late about the culture of martyrdom in political movements and organisations, particularly on the Left.

It seems to me that we are too hard on ourselves, and each other.

I remember realising I was a workaholic and control freak at university, and consciously deciding to thus pursue options that I could work incredibly long hours at, like politics (which I was already involved in), law, and the like. But I'm not one of those people who can get by on 4 hours sleep a night, so my endeavours were doomed.

Why do we do this to ourselves and other people, in particular those who are on the same side as us, and frequently our friends? Why do we snap at others when they leave at 5pm, or take decent lunch breaks, or commit that heinous of all crimes, actually go away for a break at Easter?
It seems to me that many of the left groups I have been involved in which have had unhealthy cultures have shared this feature - the flagellation of others, and ourselves, when we turn out to be less than super-human.

I look forward to the day when we can all just work out paid hours and no more, and go home without guilt. I've learnt the hard way that there is no point trying to kill yourself for the job - the kind of work I do (paid and unpaid) will never be finished. But I could be.

I wonder too if this is more prevalent on the left, and/or more common amongst women?

Thoughts, dear readers? (I'm more interested in comments from those of a leftward persuasion.)


stef said...

Now that I'm literally 1000s of miles away from all that stuff I don't know why I let my health suffer for something that right now doesn't seem so important.

I suppose my story reminds me of a famous proverb in North Asia that says a frog in a well knows nothing of the ocean. There's so much more to life than politics and your politics will be improved by getting more perspectives than spending your time hanging around at the bottom of the well.

I will be involved in a project or two when I go back, however I will not push myself into situations where politics becomes my whole life again.

Maria von Trapp said...

Span I could have written that myself..........and now it's off to another meeting.

backin15 said...

I have to say that the non-government sector is the worst at exploiting the desires of its workers and that this leaks over to many lefty organisations. When I worked in parliament, both the Labour and Alliance (that's all there was back then) researchers worked the longest hours (and didn't have the worst addictions, they seemed to be shared regardless of political views).

Family slows you down... bigtime. Having a member of the family wake regularly and howl persistently encourages you to leave work early whenever you can (kinda moderates the additictions too but not always).

Span said...

Part of the problem is that when you are paid to do it you feel a whole lot more guilty than when you are not - you are the one who has been chosen from the people who volunteer their time, to actually receive moolah for your efforts.

Some people think they own you, once you are paid, and can get very nasty and insist you are thus available to them 24 7. I frequently do work out of hours, but we do not offer a 24 hour help service. I have finally worked out how to change my phone settings so that on the weekends and in the evenings only family and friends will create an audible ring. I'm getting better at creating, and sticking to, boundaries.

And to be honest my organisation is quite good at respecting those. But I've worked for (paid and unpaid) too many others that haven't, and it's hard to break those habits.

I think about what will happen when I have other responsibilities, besides work, that mean I can't be the workaholic I am now.

At the moment I'm on a bit of a fitness kick. For me this means low level outside activities - I've had a bit of a health scare recently and I'm starting from a low base. I committed a while back to going for a decent walk every Saturday, and despite Auckland's contrary weather I've managed to do 10 walks in the last 11 weekends - only one rained out. It's good for the body and the mind. I went for a very short swim today, stepping inside the gym for the first time in about a month, and I'm going to try to do an actual session tomorrow.

Of course while I'm doing it I'll be tense, knowing that I should be at work. Forgetting that the reason I have the morning off is because of that overtime I did.

When the work stuff is mounting up once more as it has been in recent weeks, and I suspect will again next year, I'm going to struggle to remind myself of my limits, except when my body forces me to think about them. I'd quite like to avoid the migraines, extreme fatigue, brain fog and depression if I can. Any tips?

Gerrit said...

What I suggest is you develop outside interests that you can really get into away from home and work.

It is important though that these interest are purely personal and dont involve others.

Start with thoughts of when you were a child. What grabbed your interest?

I think the biggest trap we fall into is one of dependence. So that before long we are co-dependent. (as it sounds like you are already with work)

Have a think about when your working life is finished. How will you lead your life and what will you do to keep the brain in gear?

Looks like your photography is a hobby. Ever thought about what else you would like to photograph that you can't currently? Friend of mine sets a new project every year to photograph. Each project requires her to learn another skillset. Like photographing the Wanganui river required her to learn to kayak.

While all this sounds selfish it isn't becasue you become a better person as you explore yourself (and much more interesting to those around you).

Span said...

Thanks gerrit, I know you mean that genuinely, even if it reads a bit like me ol' da telling me how to suck eggs! ;-)

Unfortunately some of the things that grabbed my interest as a child are not regularly available to me now - sailing in particular. But you are right about the photography - I don't know the technical stuff and have no intention of teaching myself, but I like mucking around and taking snaps of things.

To counter the unrelenting negativity of being a left wing blogger in a right wing dominated blogosphere I'm thinking I might post photos for a while and only write about politics when I feel particularly moved - a way of avoiding blog death whilst also not fighting a flood of troll comments. I don't mind all the right wing commenters, far from it, but I do find the ones who just come here to fight and slag, rather than discuss, a pain in the arse. I'd like to delete their comments but for some reason I can't quite bring myself to.

Anyway, I'm rambling.