Let me tell you a story:
A couple of years ago I was heading up to the school for a school event (maybe Christmas Carols) late in the afternoon, probably about 5pm. I was walking behind an old Bloke who lived near the school and two grandparents of a student. Anyway Old Granny & Grandad had a bit of trouble finding a park. Swimming lessons were still on and there were a bunch of parents waiting to pick up their kids. So the old Bloke and old Granny & Grandad started chatting to each other as we all headed in the same direction. The three of them decided to have a whinge about the parking. And the old Bloke reckons, 'well you know, its the P&C, they changed the signs and they always get the good parks first. You know how it is.' Old Granny and Grandad agreed with what he said, 'we know how it is'. They all nodded to each other, 'typical' they said. How confident they were and pleased with themselves, with their ability to see past the veneer of the P&C, to see the real 'truth' of power.
As a member of the P&C (at the time and ever since), I couldn't believe the garbage these three silly old buggers had constructed for themselves.
Somehow, they believed that there was this little autocratic group of parents running around the school abusing their power all over the place. Abusing their power to the point where they could get the Brisbane City Council to change their street signage. Abusing their power so they all other parents wouldn't park in the P&C spots (never mind that there were no line markings & no reserved signs). I had this laughable image of a school-yard-type-bully group of tough-guy parents, pushing the other cowering parents out of their way and getting whatever they wanted (I reckon this lot would make a great set of characters for Summer Heights High.)
This story has always stuck with me (nearly a decade later). It got me thinking about us as a society and about cynicsm and distrust.
Have you ever said:
'typical' or 'that'd be right?
It's my experience that if you actually know how things are run (whether its a P&C, sports club, or an artist group), there really is no 'typicals' and no 'that'd be right'.
Most of the time groups are run by PEOPLE, people getting on with the task at hand. There are very few Machiavellian characters at play in life. Most folks are just doing what needs to be done, taking opportunities when they are presented, or trying something new if we have the time.
If you are sitting on the outside, looking in, and you're prone to saying 'typical', it may be because you're not a 'handraiser'. Handraisers are the opposite to 'typicals'. A handraiser is the kind that when someone says 'who would like to help with/have a go at/be part of/I wouldn't mind trying that/ .....'; the handraiser will raise their hands and have a go. Handraisers are generally not people trying to take over the world or to increase their own personal power. They are just the type of people who get on with the doing in life.
If you are sitting on the outside, looking in, and you're pissed off. Then first have a look at yourself. Are you sure that the barriers stopping you from participating appropriately are real or just imagined?
This is how I'm feeling after the meeting tonight. There is this perception that we are all knowing; all powerful. That we abuse our power. That the P&C apparently are in control of something that you want or need and that in our abusive way, we are withholding it from you.
Well guess what. You can have it. You can come to every meeting and take the minutes and send them out. You can come and do the books every week and be ready to write the cheques and balance the books for the auditor. You can go to the office every couple of days and check the correspondence and distribute it. You can turn up and buy the sausages for the sausage sizzle. You can come and and make cakes and write the letters and make the decisions. You can come to the meetings and contribute your ideas, thoughts and opinions. YOU CAN PARTICIPATE!
Or, you can stay on the outside, whinging and whining, fostering distrust, giving that distrust to your children.
So before you say 'typical' next time, take a minute to think about yourself, what you're really committed to before you decide to abuse people who are just getting on with getting on.
Image (taken by me) is by Owen Cutbush at the State Library of Queensland's installation of Student Designs for ICOGRADA: Design Week of the theme 'Words of Optimism'.