Sunday Love Letter by Kelly Diels | May 19, 2019
pssst…this tool I’m about to share comes from the book I’m writing
about how to use your life to create a world in which we all flourish.
You know, culture making.
In my political education, I was taught to “follow the money” or ask “who benefits?”.
Both are super useful questions. They reveal a whole lotta truth.
But there’s one culture making question I’ve been using to help me see what’s REALLY going on. It helps me figure out how to use my attention (attention is a precious form of currency), my time, my emotional labour, and even my money. It helps me figure out what to DO.
This question — it’s my #1 culture making tool — is “Who Gets Off the Hook?”
You know what happens when a school board cuts its budget?
Women fill in the gap. Mothers fundraise and and volunteer their time to bridge the shortfall.
In other words, governments download their responsibilities to women.
But if you’re a Mom on a PTA or a PAC, asking yourself “Who Benefits?” doesn’t help you see that the system is appropriating your time and money.
If you ask yourself “Who benefits?”, the answer is probably “The Kids.”
And of course you want to help the kids. So you’ll offer up your time, labour and money.
And the unjust funding and schoolboard slides out of the equation, unaccountable.
But if we ask ourselves “Who gets off the hook when I offer up my time/energy/money to fix this shortfall?”, the answer is clear: the trustees we elect who didn’t think playground supervision or resources for autistic kids or librarians (or or or) were important enough to fund.
And now the systemic, structural issue and the REAL root of the problem are revealed to you.
Which means we’ll probably show up differently. Yes, you might still volunteer at the school to raise money for books for the library (and that’s valuable); but you might also start saying at PTA/PAC meetings “I can’t help but notice that 90% of the people in this room are women…the school board knew they could get away with making this cut because mothers would fill in the gap. We’re being used.”
And maybe then, because of your revelation and that rising consciousness, the PTA/PAC will get mobilized as a GROUP — which is where power becomes a bloc and a force to contend with — to push back on the trustees. Hold them accountable. Make them realize that they won’t get elected again if they keep taking money away from sex education or keep insisting on sexist dress codes and so on and so on.
They’re using women and mothers as a resource to fill in gaps; which reveals that we have a huge amount of power. We can use that ‘resource’ — our time, money, labour — and consolidate that into collective power. Hold the powers-that-be accountable. Consciousness-raise. Write letters, show up at meetings, call the media. Define the agenda for the next election. Run for office ourselves. Be the power they already know we are.
‘The System’ is like Wonder Woman’s invisible plane. You can’t see it, but it’s there.
Asking ourselves Who Gets Off The Hook? gives us anti-invisibility goggles.
It helps us see the plane and structures that were previously invisible to us —
and then we can navigate around them, change our course, and change the course of our culture, too.
When I ask myself “Who Gets Off The Hook?” and the answer is “Mark Zuckerberg” or “The lawmakers in Alabama”, then I see the invisible plane and aim at THAT. I use my social media attention and energy for that…instead of squandering my precious time and attention protesting the business and platform of a woman who has 3,000 followers and 30 customers.
She’s not an institution. Let’s go after the unjust institutions.
Asking ourselves who gets off the hook reminds us to use our lives to change the institutions and the system.
That’s why I love this line from R. Eric Thomas so much: “Don’t @ me. @ your representative.”
All this to say: the culture making question “Who Gets Off The Hook?” renders the invisible visible and helps you figure out how to ‘grasp things at their root’ (Angela Davis).
It helps you figure out how to solve the REAL problem instead of coping with the symptoms.
It helps you figure out where to invest your attention, who deserves your attention, and what to DO with your time, money, emotional labour — and your one wild and precious life (Mary Oliver).
I’m using my life, my time, my volunteer hours and my voice to change the system.
All those bad actors who were getting off the hook and downloading their responsibility onto us?
We are the culture makers. They already know it and they’re hijacking our time, attention and labour for their purposes. It’s time for us to use our lives and culture-making power for OUR purpose — to grow a future where we all flourish.
love + justice,