power dynamics and personality — all you ever need to know about someone

Karl Johanson and I have a relationship based on mutual respect and the principles of academic freedom. We could not fundamentally disagree on several core components of societal concerns vital to our identity as political creatures. We have clashed several times in the past in comment sections. But it was always done with a core or respect that truly tried to at least understand where the other person was coming from.

I deeply respect Karl as a professional in my field. He’s been doing what I’ve been doing for a few years for decades and believe me, I understand the sheer amount of unpaid work and dedication that requires. When I got a notification from Karl that he’d posted under this meme, I stopped to read it because I respect his opinion on numerous other core issues that matter more to me than the ones we don’t and we’re in 100% in agreement on them.

Karl pointed out in his comment that the fact waiters aren’t servants doesn’t mean that it’s okay to treat servants poorly, either.

Because I ask questions, I’ve never been a person who expects the benefit of doubts from people in positions of authority who are more threatened by their lack of answers than they are curious to find out the answers. But it just shows the way we treat anyone with less power than us when we think we can get away with poor behaviour absolutely shows who we are as a person when it matters. If one of the faces we wear is a mask, it will be the one we wear when around those who have more power.

The first time I realized this, I was in a busy London Drugs over Boxing Day. I had a lot of generalized anxiety back then — anyone with my medical conditions at the time walks around with a resting anxiety level of 9.5 — so the slightest inconvenience feels to us like a last stand insult. We had been told by one of the workers to go wait by customer service and someone would be there shortly.

So we did. But it took a long time for the worker to stop what they were doing and come to us. I was about to open my mouth to say something I shouldn’t have because I was hot, shopping was stressful and Christmas was my most triggering time of year before I sorted my shit out, but the poor worker croaked their apologies.

They were blazing sick. Called into work by their boss under dire threats to be there and they had been taking their time to keep from falling over. I realized had they not apologized first, I would have yelled at them after doing all that. That alone made me realize…damn. I really need to sort my shit out.

The last vestige of being raised by narcissists was truly believing if I was wronged, I could react negatively to it. It was also the last step of my healing to realize if someone wronged me, I had better be absolutely sure it was on purpose before seeking meaningful redress for the actions. It made ignoring the first few deliberate insults so much easier. I’m a professionally easy-going person. I will do my best to do whatever *I* can to make sure we can work well together, and I can do a lot.

You think that’s something most people think they could do. After the second time the piece of furniture caulked up (sic), I contacted her personally and said hey, let’s have a direct line of communication so that there’s no misunderstandings between us.

What I meant was, the next time she broke policy, she wasn’t going to ask another member of her staff to break policy and then have that member of staff be the one who put in writing they were breaking a policy. If the Chair was going to break another policy, it would be to me directly.

Old me, old, this person has wronged me, would have told the chair in very simple language (but with somewhat run-on sentences) that was exactly why I was doing it. The new me just made it seem like this would just be easier for both of us.

At almost every point of contact, the UBC disappointed my expectations of minimal professional behaviour. The great insult that caused them all to abandon any sense of duty to their office and their institution was a student asking questions about a methodology.

A minister listened to a conversation in which her secretary had just lied to a member of the public. This was despite the obligation all BC workers have to provide courteous, professional and effective service. The letter that she wrote outlining the next step for reporting an entire institution’s institutional breakdown had been dated four full weeks prior. Basic CYA means going back and changing the date IN THE DIGITAL DOCUMENT you controlled to the point of sending it to say gee, we just made this decision yesterday.

But nope. They even insulted my intelligence. That might not be against policy but it is perhaps the reason I’m talking about them now.

This entire thing was a failure on the UBC’s part to communicate from the very start. When one instructor finally asked me why I always asked such difficult questions, I just made my questions much more black and white so my instructors could see that a program that couldn’t teach what a learner needed to learn to learn what they needed to learn couldn’t be a good program.

I hadn’t realized they meant, no really. Stop with the questions.

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