Tag Archives: power

Entitlement and need

To be ‘needy’ is to be a problem to the people around you. We all of course have needs, many of them very similar. We need food, shelter, warmth, water.  We need to feel reasonably secure and acceptable to those we spend time with. Most of us admit to needing affection and goodwill from others. Somewhere, a line is drawn, and certain people are ‘too much’. Too needy. If a person is designated as ‘needy’ then dealing with what they need ceases to be anyone’s problem.

It’s interesting to ask who is allowed to need what. Who is likely to have their needs met, and who is not? To what degree is there exchange or barter in the mix? We may be more likely to accept the needs of people we easily empathise with, and people whose needs are convenient and do not require much effort to sort out.

Need has the scope to create a sense of social duty. This can turn into feelings of martyrdom and being put-upon. The more obliged we feel to answer someone’s inconvenient need, the more we may resent them if they cannot obviously recompense us. Much may also depend on the presence of an audience who can be impressed by how good we are. It’s always easier to be kind and generous when you can see how you will benefit directly from that.

It is worth paying attention to who we cheerfully help on request, and who we write off as ‘needy’ and try to ignore. Think about who you take seriously and who you don’t and whether you in turn expect to be taken seriously, or tend to be one of the people whose needs are not reliably honoured.

Of course there’s a political angle to this, too. A politician in the UK can expect to claim thousands of pounds of ‘expenses’ on things most of us would have to fund for ourselves. A person too ill to work is expected to live on far less. What we’re happy to accept that the Queen ‘needs’ is not the same as what we think old people in care homes need.

Often it seems to me that the scope for getting your needs met is directly proportional to your wealth and power. Of course it’s the people with least wealth or power who tend to have the most need.


Conflict and power

There have been a number of occasions in my life when I’ve found myself in conflict with someone who had considerably more power than me. That power has come from a variety of sources – it could be the power of an employer. People in leadership roles tend to have more power and influence than those who follow them. There’s a power that comes from being charismatic and socially capable. Financial power, access to resources, an able body versus a limited body – all of these things and more can create massive power imbalances between people.

Fall out with a person who has power, and the odds are it will ripple more widely than your immediate quarrel. People are reluctant to take sides for all kinds of reasons, but throw in a person of significant power, and going up against them to support someone they’ve wronged puts the supporter in a vulnerable place. It often means if you want to support someone who has been mistreated, the only vote you have is to vote with your feet, and leave. People get isolated this way, because all they can do is leave.

We are often reluctant to believe anything bad of people whose power revolves around charisma. If we’re under the spell – and I’ve seen this happen repeatedly – it’s easier to blame the victim than contemplate the enchantment. Repeat offenders using their popularity to hide their acts of cruelty and exploitation get away with it so often because we don’t want to believe that of them. ‘Pillars of the community’ who are also wife beaters, child molesters, fraudsters, thieves, can go unchallenged amongst us because we have too much invested in believing they are good.

How do we change this?

I’ve three suggestions. One is that we need to look at power carefully. When other people hold it, keep an eye on whether that’s the power to do, or it’s a power to attract. When power draws resources, energy, people, money and status towards itself, and is the primary beneficiary, be wary. Clever people in this position will make a lot of noise about community benefit, but it’s always worth asking if this is really what’s happening. Anyone spinning the line that what benefits them benefits the community is doubly suspect.

The second suggestion is to watch how we handle our own power. Can we be told if we’ve made a mistake? Can we take responsibility and sort things out if we cause hurt? Do we default to victim blaming rather than listening if someone else has a problem with us? It’s often not a simple victim/user dynamic, especially not at the outset. When things go wrong between people it tends to be complicated, and a willingness on both sides to listen and address problems is most usually what’s called for. If one person uses what power they have to silence and push away another person, that’s where the bigger problems start. If we can encourage a culture of responsibility, we make it harder for those with more power than us to hide behind their status when there’s a problem.

Thirdly, we need to look at the benefits we think we get by supporting someone with more power, such that we’ll ignore other people’s problems. It’s more comfortable not to know what’s going on when there’s an issue between people. It’s safer to side with the person who has most power. It validates our choice to have been there in the first place. We have to be able to admit pour own capacity for error. All of us, in innocence, have the scope to support a charismatic psychopath who looked like something good. If we don’t have the courage to admit that, we’ll facilitate what they do.


Politics, spirituality and personal power

I’m tapping into to a wider conversation here about politics and spirituality – with reference to a recent Gods and Radicals post about spiritual approaches that enable fascism http://godsandradicals.org/others/confronting-the-new-right/. One of the key points is that we are mistaken if we think spirituality is apolitical, and in being oblivious to the political angle, we make more room for ideas that many of us find objectionable. At the same time, wanting to keep the sacred out of the nasty, sordid business of politics is a perfectly reasonable reaction! So, how to do this well…

Personal spirituality is not political. What that means is that in your intimate moments of interacting with the divine, there is nothing political going on. It’s just you, and what you hold sacred, and whatever numinous, inspirational, challenging, demanding, peculiar things come in that space. Or, to put it another way, what you do privately is your business, there are no thought police.

However, as soon as you are dealing with things of this world, politics are involved and other people are entitled to judge you. How you choose to manifest your spirituality in the world will always have a political dimension. The person who pretends it doesn’t is reducing their own power and scope for conscious self-determination.

The environment is a political issue. If you want trees to hug, animals to bring you omens, or any other interaction with any aspect of the natural world, you have to look at the political implications of your life and practice and the politics impacting on those.

Human interaction is a political issue. Who has power and who doesn’t. Who is included, and who is silenced. Who is permitted and who is denied. How safe people feel. Who is allowed to say ‘no’. There are many of these, but you get the idea. If you have the power to exclude, silence, ignore or force someone else in some way, that’s a power you need to be alert to, and take responsibility for. If you are on the other end of this, then your right to be heard, seen, have space, be safe etc matters, and the odds are your spiritual life is being affected by politics.

It amazes me that anyone could be interested in magic and power, and not want to understand what power they have. It amazes me that anyone could set out to be a will worker and be keen not to know how their actions influence other people. ‘Know thyself’ is an ancient Pagan instruction. If you don’t know what effect you have, then you don’t know yourself. But apparently there are people who are happy not to look at the implications of what they do, even to make sure they aren’t accidentally facilitating a fascist agenda.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I want my actions in this world to be deliberate, and of my crafting. I want to be a deliberate co-creator of my reality. If I do something and it has consequences I didn’t mean or intend or want, I want to know about that so that I can take control and change it. Burying my head in the sand and assuming everything I do gets the results I intend, does not give me that power.

If I choose not to face the uncomfortable possibilities that I could be getting things wrong, I give away my power. In refusing to look at the implications of my actions, I make it easier to manipulate me. I make myself a target for people who would use me to further their own power. I become a tool for someone else to use. Potentially a tool someone else can use for oppression.

I don’t want to be that. I don’t think many people would find that appealing as a way to be.


Pillars of the community

When people in positions of power abuse others, what tends to happen is they are helped to cover it up. We’ve seen it with the Catholic Church protecting paedophile priests, we’ve seen evidence lost in a current case about child abuse amongst the high and mighty. The likes of Jimmy Saville and Bill Cosby should be on everyone’s minds. Of course it’s not just at the really top ends of things, and it’s not just those in power protecting each other.

Yesterday I had a conversation about a man who has broken data protection law, broken the rules of the organisation he’s involved with, lied, manipulated and bullied people. “But he’s done so much good,” his defender said. “And I don’t think he realises what he’s doing is a problem.” A pillar of the community, this man who has done so many things that are not ok, is defended because of his work.

We see it in the creative community – how do we judge a creative person when their lives are riddled with issues? Consider H.P. Lovecraft’s ghastly racism, consider the acting out of modern celebrities. Is it justice to weight the work someone does again the harm they cause, and to consider the balance?

I think not. I think this because it allows powerful people to get away with raping, and then silencing their victims. It allows powerful people to bully, use and abuse those around them. How much of the work that we celebrate has been achieved by using others? A self-proclaimed pillar of the community can look like a splendid achiever, but if someone is in the habit of lying and taking, there’s no guarantees they are honest about who really did the work.

Sometimes it’s because we convince ourselves that we need them – the unchallengeable pillar runs an event, or an organisation, and so we feel obliged to turn a blind eye and pretend we didn’t see the signs of trouble. We tell the people who want to complain that we just don’t want to hear it – I’ve had that happen to me, and it’s an awful position to be put in.

Perhaps we believe that people at a certain level deserve to be cut some slack. A sense that those above us are entitled to use and mistreat, so long as we can pretend we don’t know it’s happening. Feudalism is alive and well.

Of course for every rotten apple who makes it to the top, there are a lot of good folk, working with honour and integrity, and doing the right things for the right reasons, and not abusing their power or position in any way. It’s not an inevitable consequence of power. Certainly, power can corrupt, but it doesn’t have to. Every time we accept corruption and moral bankruptcy from those in authority, we’re also delivering a quiet smack in the face to the people who are better than that, and who deserve our support. Most communities have multiple pillars, after all, and if the abusive ones are supported by the community, the harm done to the non-abusive ones is considerable.

When corrupt, unethical, immoral and abusive people find their way into places of influence, we should not go along with them. We should not excuse their epic failings on the basis of ‘good work’. If something is wrong, it needs taking seriously and we all need to keep a careful eye on who we support, and what they’re actually doing.


What is it worth?

If you work a normal job, then the worth of your time and skills is decided by someone else and you don’t get much say. If you buy from normal shops, and utilities providers then the cost is equally beyond your control. In both those situations you could well be dealing with someone who needs to make a profit – so you are undervalued to create a profit margin while the things you buy will be overvalued, also to create a profit margin. Profit is the difference between production cost and sales price. On one side of that equation workers’ wages have to be kept down and on the other, prices have to be kept up or there is no profit.

For those of us who are self employed, the game has at least the potential to be very different. I don’t need to make a profit on my time and skills, I need those to be valued at a reasonable worth. I can often set my cost, and when I’m dealing with other independent people, the cost of products is also negotiable. I might make a sale or return arrangement with another trader. I might work for a profit share if I believe in the product but its creator has no money up front. Equally if I value something I might pay over the odds to support the creator if I know they could do with it.

I don’t charge for celebrant services. If I’m asked to do a handfasting or some other rite of passage, I’ll ask either that my transport costs be covered (if there are any) or that transport is arranged for me. Beyond that, I leave the issue of payment in the hands of the person/people booking me. Pay what I am worth to you. Pay what you can afford. I’ve had no cause for complaint over how this has worked out so far. No one has taken unfair advantage of me.

What happens when the economic value of an object or service becomes tied to ability to pay, and the needs of the one who will be paid? Money ceases to be an expression of power and control, where those who direct the flow are able to determine the options the less powerful person has. Low wages and high living costs create a terrible power imbalance. If ability to pay becomes a moral obligation to pay, things change. If factors such as liking the work enter the equation it is very different from a money exchange based on desperation and power to exploit.

The basis of capitalism is scarcity, and control of resources. So if there isn’t much water and you can control access to it, people will pay anything you like. Those who can’t, die. This is an ideal capitalist scenario. Greater earning from water means money for the means to protect your control of the asset. If another well opens, the good capitalist will buy it and close it again to make sure people stay desperate, thirsty and willing to pay. Money in a capitalist system is not about exchange, but power.

What happens when you deploy money in a way that is not about the power relationship between you and someone else, but some other factor? How we feel about money starts to shift – it just becomes a way to get things done, not an item of fetishistic reverence. Our identities become less tied to how much money we can earn and deploy. Our sense of human worth ceases to be about what we can be made to pay them.

It might sound farfetched, but it is happening already, on places like Patreon.com and bandcamp, where supporters can give, and pay and offer more than is asked for, more than is ‘normal’ for the products in question. It happens at events where there is no door charge but a hat is passed. It happens around crowdfunding.

We don’t have to have an economic culture based on scarcity, exploitation and money as a tool of power. We can use money to get things done, to support each other, to make real change. This is not just an option for the arty and self employed either, opportunities exist for all of us to change the money game.


The king of birds

So the birds decide to choose a king, which you might think looks a good bit like democracy. They gather together to talk about the qualities a king should possess. This seems like a good idea, because those who will be led should have a say in who leads, and choosing the qualities of leadership is very important. Wisdom, perhaps. Knowledge, compassion, generosity, problem solving skills…

Rather than thinking about the qualities they want in a leader, each bird thinks about what he or she does best, and tries to make a case for why that should be the defining factor of a king. None of them are thinking about the implications of being ruled by someone else – only their own scope for getting the title. The biggest birds who are able to shout the loudest soon dominate the debate, drowning out the smaller, quieter and softer voices. Between them, they agree that being the biggest and strongest bird is the quality for kingship. This is in no way unusual. Being biggest and strongest was often what kingship was all about for people, too.

Having decided that power and strength make a king, the biggest and most powerful birds decide that seeing who can fly the highest will be an acceptable way of deciding which if them is most powerful. Thus it has always been, where the richest decide the means by which the richest will be chosen king. Those who rule by force arrange the trials that establish their rulership by force. It is the job of those who are to be led, to watch and cheer for their tyrant of preference and generally go along with the process and never, ever to question the basis on which kingship is decided. The birds know the routine, they all enthusiastically get involved with the flying contest. Especially those who know they can’t win. Joining in makes them feel part of something, and they like that.

All except for the wren, who hides on the back of an eagle, judges the timing perfectly and when the eagle thinks it’s won, the wren takes off, flying up a few feet to win the crown. Subverting the whole kingmaking program so that wit, tenacity and imagination win the day for a change, instead of brute force.

I don’t know about you, but if I must be led by others, (and sometimes it is a useful way of getting things done) I prefer to be ruled by one who has wit, vision and ingenuity. I prefer to be led by one who cannot rely on force to back up their points, but must instead reason and co-operate. I prefer to be led by one who knows what it is to be small and vulnerable, and who does not assume that the loudest voice is the most important. I also prefer to be led by someone with a sense of humour, and the wren also wins by being funnier than anyone else, turning its tiny form into a tactical advantage to beat the eagle from within its very feathers.

Here’s a song for the Occupy movement, featuring wrens… http://youtu.be/21IbgTewrMs do saunter over.

 


Cultural power games

It can be tempting to think of patriarchy as a system that benefits all men at the expense of all women. This itself is a line of thought that benefits patriarchy, because the more you entrench ideas of gender division, the easier it is for the patriarchy to stay in place. Most men do not benefit from this system, but by creating the illusion that they could be winners, they are encouraged to play along, and have been for hundreds of years. There are also women who play along, who seek ease through complicity, seek to win on the terms patriarchy lays out, and who are happy to denigrate other women to make a position for themselves.

Patriarchy can be really shitty to many of its male participants. In unbalancing gender relationships, it undermines what relationships you can have. Just as there are limits on what you can do as a nice slave owner, there are limits on what you can do as a nice guy in a heavily patriarchal culture. If you do not match how the culture defines masculinity – maybe you are gay, non-violent, not ambitious, not hungry for power over others – then you will be labelled as feminine and the culture will denigrate you that same way it does its women. If women are cast as inferior, then a woman being better than you at something is really threatening. Patriarchal cultures put most men in positions where they do not get to feel superior, but are forever watching their backs, and are as limited in their identity options as their womenfolk are. Culture is people, so this only works because the majority are willing to participate or do not notice what they are upholding. (Consider ‘throws like a girl’.)

The important question to ask, is who wins this game? Who benefits?

Patriarchy is a system of power-over. It gives men power over women, but it also gives men power over each other. Physical power, financial power, ownership of resources, and that more ephemeral notion of ‘authority’. It is a system that encourages all participants to let the people (mostly men) and institutions (mostly run by men) that are in charge, to stay in charge, because they have authority and authority should be respected. If that upsets you, then in a patriarchal culture, the answer isn’t to challenge those above you, but to kick an inferior so as to achieve catharsis (UKIP in a nutshell, most forms of fascism in fact). Inferiority is constructed along lines of gender, race, poverty and lack of power. Only a handful of people really benefit in a system of this shape, and they get to sit at the top of the heap, wielding authority because that’s what they’ve always done, because they have more money and habits of power than anyone else.

If you like having power over people and you want the freedom to use other people as objects, then patriarchy is a system that will suit you well. If, regardless of gender, you don’t enjoy using or being used, this is not a system you are ever going to be happy in. What enables it to survive is that patriarchy does not present itself as a system, it has always offered itself as an unassailable reality. Of course it’s just natural that these are the people who end up in power making all the decisions. And now, cleverly, they have us largely convinced that we pick them by voting, and not looking hard enough at how many of them went through the same elite educational institutions.

Gender conflict is a symptom, not an underlying cause. It is a consequence of a system that fundamentally believes in power-over and the use of resources, where other people’s lives, bodies, minds, health and existence most certainly do count as a resource to be used. My feeling is that we are only going to sort out issues of gender politics when enough of us stop being enthusiastic players of the power-over game which has been set up explicitly such that none of us can win it. This is basically feudalism with a new hat, and we have been persuaded to do it to ourselves.


Practicing intolerance

It would seem more reasonable to assume that we should be practicing tolerance, with a hearty side-order of peace, love and goodwill. When it comes to recognising that something is merely different, tolerance is a great thing. However, I’ve tried being tolerant in all things, and what it got me was a lot of trouble. So I’m now studying the methods and mechanics of intolerance.

I’m not interested in drama, in upsetting people or causing offence (outside of politics!) so I am not going to manifest my intolerance in ways that will always start fights. That said, if there’s an important cause to stand up for, if I think a person needs arguing with, I’ll pile in. I’ll say what I think needs saying and then do my best to remove myself. I’m not offended by differences of opinion, but I am deeply offended by hypocrisy, flimsy arguments and people who have nothing with which to back up their assertions. “I imagine this and therefore it must be true” is not a line of argument I have any time for.

So far as I know, I only get this one lifetime. Beyond it, there are no certainties, only ideas and beliefs. I am therefore assuming this could be a one shot deal and trying to make the most of it. Time I give to being bored, irritated, upset and frustrated to no discernible purpose, is not time well spent. Every hour that I let someone else suck up with pointless melodrama is an hour I do not get back. Every day I have ruined by dealing with someone who is dependably shitty towards me, is a day I have lost. It is around these issues that I have been carefully and quietly practicing intolerance for some months now.
I’m finding it incredibly liberating. The power to say ‘I do not have to put up with this’ gives me a sense of autonomy. It is my life, and I do have some right to choose. In giving myself the power to discard that which does not suit me, does not please me, does not interest, engage or enrich me in some way, has increased the amount of joy in my life. It’s also freed up a lot of my time. One of the things that offends me is having my time wasted. If I boot out the time wasters, I have more time to deploy where I want it – time for the people who need me, for the people doing fabulous stuff I want to support, for the people I like and whose company I enjoy.

I’ve learned to shrug, walk away and say ‘not my problem’ and that’s such a lovely feeling. Not all problems are automatically my problem. I have the right not to engage. Asserting that protects me from all manner of miserable things. Most of the time I do not formally announce my intention not to participate in something. That can be a way of continuing the problem, not solving it. Time spent telling a person that they make you really unhappy and you don’t want to have to deal with this or that, is actually time spent engaging very specifically with them and inviting more attention from them. I’ve had rounds of people who wanted to spend a lot of time telling me how they can’t cope with me and are upset by me, and who wanted to hold me in a place of being the guilty, useless albatross around their necks. It wasn’t until I realised the power of walking away as a choice I could make, that I also recognised that sticking around to complain about how much of a problem I am (or anyone else), is also a choice. They do not have to stay and I would rather people feeling that way left. Staying specifically to have a problem with me is not a choice I have to respect.

Martyrdom, real or self-constructed, is not a healthy way for anyone to go. A good dose of well-considered intolerance seems to me to be the best antidote to this.


Being Offensive

This is offered as the flip side to my recent post on being offended. How and when do we cause offence? Why do it, and what do we do around it?

There are times when offending people is both good and necessary. I think that people who are stuck in a smug cocoon that makes them oblivious to unpleasant realities need offending now and then, to shake them out of their stupor. More specifically, people need reminding about unpleasant things they would prefer to pretend didn’t exist. This usually causes offense, and to do that deliberately is to be knowingly offensive.

The easiest way of offending someone is to call them over behaviour or speech that you don’t think is ok. I challenged a local politician recently because he called me ‘deluded’ for disagreeing with him. Not cool. Manifestations of prejudice need calling out, as does abusive behaviour. The difficulty is that people don’t like having it suggested they messed up, no matter how diplomatic you are about it. Taking offence is often a reaction against that which is offensive, but you can get into some unhelpful loops there.

I find if I want to get a person to rethink, it is best to call them out privately, so as not to add the barb of public humiliation. Not having an audience improves the odds of getting a rethink. If I don’t think there’s much hope of getting change but I want to make it clear that I do not support or condone, I’ll do it publically. It is very important not to let offence go unchallenged, because if we do not speak against what we find unacceptable, we are tacitly supporting it. People who behave in shitty ways are offended if this is challenged. I have no qualms about offending anyone on those terms, but it’s really important not to abuse that power to speak out.

I’m very conscious that many people who offend do so for the pleasure of causing pain, out of a sense of superiority, prejudice or just being too ignorant to realise there’s a problem. Much sexism can occur this way, with people not even recognising the inherent sexism in their assumptions. No one asks a man with children how he expects to ‘have it all’ or to ‘juggle both roles’ while working women get asked that all the time. Calling people on accidental, cultural and ignorance based offensiveness can work. The people who get a kick out of hurting people will just enjoy the attention, will claim victimhood, and keep stomping their feet.

My yardstick is this – who has the power here? Who can make choices? Causing offense is an attack on someone. Am I dealing with someone who has a lot more power than me, and who can therefore be expected to take it? Am I lashing out in anger at someone far less powerful than me who will probably be damaged and further set back by this? I am mostly likely to go on the offensive when I see someone themselves being offensive. What I get angry about is people acting offensively towards those who have less power. As Naomi flagged up the other day, picking on vulnerable, disabled people isn’t ok.

As a Druid, one of my weapons of preference is satire. I like laughter as a form of attack, not least because it’s very effective. Laughter takes away power, undermines pomposity. It is the weapon of the weak against the strong. When we turn it around and use it to trample on those we’ve already crushed, it is a hideous thing.

Of course we all get angry about things. We get angry with people. We see things that make us want to respond in kind, or go further, or do more, or worse. Two seconds of breathing in to ask what it will achieve. Two seconds of breathing out to ask if this person has more or less power than you. Are you poised to kick someone who is already down? Are you looking at the real source of the problem, or the easy scapegoat? Are you blaming unfairly? Are you holding someone responsible for something they had no power over? Are you being hypocritical? Are you transferring your own failings onto someone else? Check. Check again.

Some situations are really easy. I see politicians blaming the poor for being poor, while passing fat deals to their chums. The politicians have power, the poor do not. It’s easy to see where to stand. In less abstract, more personal situations it can be harder. One thing I know for sure is that if I’m going to offend someone, I want to do it consciously, deliberately and for good reasons. I have no desire to cause accidental offence. I want to know and I want the chances to fix it if that happens, and that means I also have to consider that other people’s offense may have been accidental, too. I find an apology goes a long way to clarifying that one.


Druid authority and ownership

On facebook a couple of days back, a chap remarked that a group we were in was not moderated and it was down to individuals using it. This made me realise that some awareness raising might be in order. Pretty much every space you encounter as a Pagan or Druid, online and in the real world, is owned by someone. Often there are layers of ownership with various different degrees of authority and responsibility associated with them.

Take this blog. I have the power to remove comments, and I can probably block people from making comments too. However, wordpress owns the site, not me, and they have the right to boot me if I do something that breaks their terms and conditions, or I do anything more generally illegal. Then wordpress are buying their website space from someone to whom they will be answerable, and that could impact on me in ways I have no power over.

Every facebook group has admins, and that’s true of any other space online. Someone has set it up, has control of it and can, at least in theory, moderate, ban, report and otherwise wield authority. Choosing not to use the power you have does not make it cease to exist. Every online space is managed by someone, and owned by a company who have authority over the space-manager, and probably owned again by the website host.

Offline you’ll find much the same thing. Every group, moot, grove, event, is run by someone. Not knowing who they are doesn’t mean they aren’t there. That person probably won’t own the space, so again there’s that second layer of authority – the pub landlord for the moot, the local council for the public land you do your rituals on and so forth.
There is nowhere Pagans get together that is not owned and in theory, managed. Some facilitators choose to be more active than others, some are better at it than others. In the best space, you don’t notice the manifestations of authority because they are good enough to be smoothly invisible.

Now, most of the time, the people who look after Pagan spaces – hold those facebook groups and blogs, run the moots and the rituals, are not paid. They put in their own time, money and energy, for the pleasure of making a thing go. I think this is worth bearing in mind. Any time you get into a public Pagan space, you are stepping into something that someone has made, put their energy into, and cares about. Think of it as walking into their garden, or their living room, if it helps. None of us would walk into someone’s house and deliberately crap on the floor, I assume, but we do it all the time in virtual spaces and I’ve seen a fair bit of it in actual ones (not literally, I hasten to add!).

We take the organisers for granted. We assume we have a right to demand things of them and that we are entitled to the service they provide, and so if we don’t think it’s up to scratch we hassle them. Remember these are unpaid volunteers, usually, and doing it for love. It is a different scenario when you are paying and someone is profiting, but it’s very easy to tell if you are paying and what you are paying for. Mostly you are paying for the venue hire. When we go into someone else’s space (and unless you are the one with the responsibility, it will be someone else’s space) and we are rude, inconsiderate, aggressive and so forth, we are not being fair to the person whose space it is. Now, maybe someone else was already being rude and aggressive, but, I go back to the pooing on the floor metaphor. The answer to someone taking a dump is not to take a retaliatory dump yourself. It just doesn’t work.

Every space, potentially, is sacred to someone. Every space, potentially, represents an act of love, service and devotion. That deserves respect, always. Not every space works. Not every space is free from problems. The question is, do we choose to trek in more muck, or do we offer to bring a bucket and mop and get our hands dirty actually putting things right again?

If you don’t support the people who run things, eventually they burn out, becoming so depressed and demoralised that they quit, and the space usually vanishes at that point. A little care of the people who are working on your behalf goes a long way, and makes more good things possible. What you do as a visiting individual really does matter.