Jul 21, 2016
A Person’s Right To Be
This is a very important episode for me, right now. It becomes about how, as a socially aware person, you stay engaged with issues concerning human rights and justice and how you protect yourself and your boundaries. It’s about the dialectic between your ability to make a difference and the overwhelming powerlessness that can be experienced. Maybe it won’t be about that to you, but that is what I took away from my conversation with Cynthia.
Cynthia describes an incident in which a male supervisor interrupts a task they are working on together to comment on her eyes. Cynthia felt very uncomfortable and quite powerless. She uses the memory of this relatively minor experience to reflect on her beliefs about equality and a person's right to just be.
One of the themes that emerges in the episode is about violating boundaries. Cynthia wonders would the male in question in this situation do this to another man? Probably not. He used his position of power to violate the boundary of the work between them. Cynthia believes that it is not right use a position of power to discriminate against others.
Cynthia believes powerfully in a person’s right to just be. She values being and equality. She sees that judgements - based on categories, such as sex, gender, race, ability - disempower people. People should not have to defend themselves against somebody who has decided they are in a different power setting and that they are going to exert that power.
What is it about Cynthia that leads her to get involved in community engagement?
“I want to contribute to make the situation better. In this story, in actual fact, I couldn’t do anything to stop that person from saying that. This sense of powerlessness. Therefore, my feeling is we can always do something to make the situation better. But unfortunately, that doesn’t always bear out. When you look at the injustices that are around us, refugees coming to Australia, even though a lot of us feel very strongly about that situation, it should never be happening to these people, the legislation, the politicians and the prejudices of other people are forcing these people to be in an untenable situation. So I feel quite…”
Fairness is important. On the one hand, a person can get involved and make a difference. And, on the other hand, it doesn’t always work.
“Over the years, that mellows a person, you have to pick your battles, work out how involved you are going to get, and how close to your boundaries these things are going to affect you.”