Sunday, April 2, 2017

Chapter 3-5. Social and Institutional Betrayal

A lot of us know the story well.  Little Red Riding Hood is on her way to Grandmas.  She's innocent, vulnerable, carrying a basket of goodies and skipping along. She really could be any of us trying to find our way out of the woods.

Maybe she's poor, maybe she's trans, maybe her skin or race stand out.  Maybe she was born female in a man's world.  Maybe she skips a little too bouncy or or hums a foreign tune as she goes.  Maybe she paints her basket a bit too bright or packages her goodies differently than Mickey D’s, Burger King or KFC.

There are a zillion possible ways that she could stand out.  But we know for sure, from the perspective of her dominant surroundings, she just doesn't fit in. You can feel in your gut what easy prey she is:

This is not her forest.
These are not her People.
She is unprotected.
This not where she belongs.

In ages past, we used to worry about wolves, big cats, bears.  But the predators of the modern world are mostly of human conception.  As a society, we are largely cannibals once removed.  We don't feed on the flesh - but rather on the vulnerabilities - of our own kind.  Entire industries stalk us, hungry for new needs to entrap with their wares. Always they are helping you, even while researching how to ensnare.

By and large, these industries operate in the free market, and therefore at least have to convince you to buy.  But a lot of social 'service’ enterprises work quite differently.  They tend to market indirectly. They convince insurers, governments and the public at large that certain of us need what they sell. Then they look for ways to scoop us up and impose the sinister pre-made deals.

You can probably guess the horror awaiting at Grandmas.  Red had a hard, scary trip that pushed all her buttons.  Maybe she dropped the basket, wet her pants, ran the last several miles.  She couldn't wait to escape the woods.  She couldn't wait for the refuge, safety, protection, the big warm welcome, the full-bodied embrace, the pot on the stove or Grandma's home cooking.

Like most of us, she probably knew early on that something wasn't right. Appearances can be misleading.  But eventually we figure things out.

The wolf might be wearing the right clothes, saying the right words, making the right faces. But this isn't how being with Grandma actually feels.

The same is true with the Wolf of social protection.  Yes, a great show may be made of looking the right part, saying the right things.  Best interests, care, individualized, person-centered, consumer-driven... needs-based ...  public safety ...  criminal justice ...  health and welfare ...  danger to self or others...   this will only hurt a little...  We need to help you calm down...

If you've lived the drill, you know the drill...   The reality is that Grandma got eaten, and you're in line to be next.

This happens a lot when you set up a system to reward predation. You make it safer for wolves and encourage their breeding.  What passes for care depends mostly on how hungry the wolf is and what serves it most to feed on next.  You end up with more and more wolves eyeing the possibilities for expanding the pack, thereby requiring more and more meals.  The wolves get bigger, fatter, ever more bold, ever more confident as they learn to hunt with increasing stealth and deception.   (And to create increasingly vulnerable, increasingly isolated, socially voiceless victims...)

Before long, it turns out the predator has managed deeper penetration than anyone would have guessed. These days, the wolves of social protection seems to be everywhere.  At work, in our homes, families, neighborhoods, schools, organizations, communities, governments, healthcare, police and prisons. They've made every kind of personal or human concern, literally, their business. You can't sit down for a meal or turn on the TV without hearing about the social ‘problems' (and, by implication 'problem people') they feed on and why, as a country, we need to send them more food.

Red, her family and grandmother's cottage are just the tip of the iceberg.  A lot of us have been taken in by the modern-day wolves that pass as socially legitimate systems of ‘care.’  The results have been painful, if not devastating.

This is often compounded by the fact that everyone in our lives thinks these people are helping us.  According to popular belief, these 'service' workers are 'heroes' of modern times. They devote their lives to interfacing with the social 'garbage' so that the rest of society doesn't have to dirty their hands by touching us.

When we try to say these services aren't helping, no one believes us.  When we say these institutions are hurting us or making our lives worse rather than better, people blame us for being 'unmotivated', 'entitled' or 'dramatic.'  Often, the only story that is believed is the story that these institutions tell about us without us - how much trouble we are, how ungrateful we are, how hard we are to work with.   

Any legitimate for-profit business that treated its clientele this way would go broke in 10 minutes. No legitimate for-profit business would be allowed to label itself the expert on the services it delivers, while actively disparaging its regular customers who disagree.  A major reason this is tolerated is the high level of pre-existing discrimination against those of us who need what these institutions claim to offer and/ or those of us who are required by law to co-operate with them.

Extent of Social and Institutional Betrayal

If this has happened to you, you are not alone.  Below are some of the social institutions that can violate our trust or make things worse rather than better.  Also listed are important social roles where betrayal of trust can be particularly painful.  Your trust may have been violated in other ways as well.  If that is the case please let us know in the comments below so we can make this list more accurate

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