Should I stay or Should I go?

I’m guessing when the Clash released their new-wave punk anthem that they didn’t have social organizations, governments and economic systems in mind.  Should I Exit or Should I voice?  But the entire time I ready through Albert O. Hirschman’s book on Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, I couldn’t get this song out of my head.  That probably says a lot more about me than it does Hirschman’s intentions.

Hirschman proposes that when an organization/government/economy/business etc. deteriorates in it’s performance, people generally respond in their disappointment in 2 ways:

  1. Some customers stop buying the firm’s products or some members leave the organization:  this is the exit option.  As a result, revenues drop, membership declines , and management im impelled to search for ways and means to correct whatever faults have led to exit. (4)
  2. The firm’s customers or the organization’s members express their dissatisfaction directly to management or to some other authority to which management is subordinate or through general protest addressed to anyone who cares to listen:  this is the voice option.  As a result, management once again engages in a search for the causes and possible cures of customers’ and members’ dissatisfaction.  (4)

The final part of Hirschman’s equation is a specific kind of “voice” customers that believe they have power or influence to ‘right the ship’ and not only voice their displeasure, but their attachments exhibit loyalty as a barrier to those who would exit.  “Loyalty can serve the socially useful purpose of preventing deterioration from becoming cumulative, as it so often does when there is no barrier to exit.”  (79)  Loyalty has a kind of gravitational pull to the organization and it keeps the person in the conversation seeking an alternative solution to that of exit.  It cares, it has deep attachments, invested interest, so it stays in the fight to see things made right.  It is not tempted towards exit unless it perceives itself utterly powerless and the future hopeless for the entity at hand.  Only at a place of powerlessness would loyalty break down to exit.

It would seem a great example of this with America is the strong push for a true alternative 3rd political party to the entrenched two-party system of Republicans and Democrats.  There is growing massive fatigue with gross bi-partisanship, sophmoric rhetoric, incompetent leadership and unsustainable economic decisions.  From within the conservatives up grew a loyal voice called the “tea party” movement.  Recently, from within the liberal side grew up a loyal voice called “Occupy Wall Street”.  Both are not pleased at all and are acting with fierce voices of protest, but neither are exiting the system.  They want to see a true alternative formed so that America can be great again.  They have sharply different ideas to do so, but they agree that what ‘is’ will no longer be tolerated and are ardently voicing their protest.  They believe within  democracy that they have the power to protest, gather, speak freely and offer harsh critiques of their governance.  If the established powers have any care for these passionate and loyal sects of Americans, they will listen and respect their rights of protest.  To disrespect these constitutional rights may eventually lead to the anarchy nobody wants and no nation could survive.

My fear is that the Tea Party will be completely co-opted by the Republicans and that the leadership and influence of #OWS will be co-opted by the Democratic party.  When the powers corrupt the upstarts, there is no hope for a true alternative 3rd party of loyalitst voicing their discontent.  They become a part of what they loathe, but I guess the positive is that they haven’t exited.

Should I stay or should I go when it comes to American politics?  Some days I wonder what is the best alternative, my loyalties are deeply tattered.

A Sacred Gaze

The Sacred Gaze, by David Morgan is about Religious visual culture in theory and practice.  I am a visually learner, I love to experience it all and breathe it in. Morgan ties the powerful connection between visuals and belief in history.  “Seeing puts believers in the presence of what they wish to see, what they wish to venerate or adore.”  (p. 259)  We as humans connect to what we see, it shapes much of what we claim to believe if we’re honest.

Here are a few noteable quotes from Morgan’s book:

“Vision happens in and as culture, as the tools, artifacts, assumptions, learned behaviors, and unconscious promptings that are exerted in images . . . A gaze consists of several parts:  a viewer, fellow viewers, the subject of their viewing, the context or seeting of the subject, and the rules that govern the particular relationship between views and subject.”  (p. 3)

“Images and objects can operate very powerfully in religious practice by organizing the spaces of worship and devotion, delineating certain places as sacred, such as pilgrimage sites, temples, domestic spaces, and public religious festivals.”  (p. 56)

“Communal existence is something both concretely experienced and shared at a distance over time.”  (p. 59)  Below is an experience I had where I powerfully felt connected in a visual space to it’s deep history. 

In August, 2010, I was taking a few personal retreat days in York, England before I met up with my new doctorate cohort for the first time.  One of the reasons I chose York was to visit York Minster.   I love history, but I was blown away by the presence of this place.  I felt immediately connected to every medieval worshipper whoever stepped foot in this space.  The carvings, the tombs of former cardinals, the crypt, the spires, the bells, the windows, the woodwork, the smells, the sound of a choir etc.  It all had me blown away and taken back to a time 500-700 years earlier.  People who worsipped the same God I do, working it out in their everyday and ordinary lives.  I was blown away by the perspective in my sacred gaze.  Below is my journal reflection after that visual experience:

“York Minster was as impressive a holy site as I have been to.  I was struck by the presence of the place.  It had been prayed over for hundreds of years. I was hushed to a kind of reverent silence.  The presence of God in the history of those stones was overwhelming to me.  I felt undone.  The spacious expanse, the arching buttresses, the innumerable and ornate stained glass windows, the stone floors and walls . . . just stunning to me.  The architecture all points upwards, it leads to elevated thinking and most certainly prayer.  Yesterday I went and visited, saw the crypts, climbed the 275 spiral stone stairs to the tower for the view and did what a tourist should do. Today, I went back to the Minster to be a pilgrim.  I went to pray, I went to look within.  To be honest, it was difficult.  I felt broken, I wanted to repent of everything within me that does not reflect the holiness of my God and well, that takes some time.  I went and prayed for my family, I prayed for my community, I prayed for our world.  This is the kind of place that you could sit and pray all day without any problem.  Most certainly, this was a thin place.  A place where the veil from this world and the spiritual is so thin, its almost permeable.  It’s humbling.  Very, very humbling. Then I walked out into the streets, into the world of the bustling people and I just began to ache.  I felt the longing of God for his Creation.  We, as a  people, can tend live our entire busy lives and never look up.  Never stop to commune with the One who made us and governs the universe.  I felt God longing for more of me, I felt him longing for my neighbors, I felt him longing for the restoration of all things.  I wanted to stay in that “space” in York and just pray and sit in it.  But then I heard him say “Go”, it was time to get going, get a train to Oxford and continue this pilgrimage.  It is God who says go, bring the sacred in the land of the secular, make all places holy.  My heartfelt thanks to the Minster at York, another thin place visited in my life’s pilgrimage.”