Some thoughts on guilt and broken systems.
Something I’ve noticed over the last two years (gestures in global pandemic) is how guilty so many people feel all the time. Guilt that they’re not doing enough, guilt that they’re stretched too thin to perform well, guilt that they missed that deadline, guilt that they’re ruining their kids by giving them extra screen-time, guilt that they’re getting a booster shot when other countries haven’t even had access to first doses, guilt that they saw their extended family over the holidays even when public health advised them not to, etc…
Non. Stop. Guilt.
To them I say, you should stop.
You should stop because guilt is an unproductive feeling that an already broken system wants you to feel in order to avoid structural repair. As long as you feel guilty, the system never has to change. Its brokenness becomes your burden to carry.
Overworked employees, underfunded healthcare or education settings, unpaid and undervalued childcare, our most vulnerable populations abandoned by the system and the burden of their care falling on already burned out PCWs. These are the people (most often women) the system unloads its burden on.
Unhealthy, abusive systems thrive on guilt.
Guilt is the domain of governments who strip essential services bare in the name of fiscal responsibility. It’s the way of employers who cut costs by rewarding overwork rather than hiring more people to carry the load. It’s the weekly reminder from a church that tells you’re not giving enough, doing enough, or trying enough. It’s plastic straws as opposed to dealing with fossil fuels.
These broken systems want you to feel guilty because it keeps you looking at yourself.
If you’re looking for a more productive feeling, my suggestion is anger. Anger - directed at the broken system, on behalf of those who have been exploited and oppressed by it - is how we change things.
The system, and those who benefit from it, fears your anger because it gets you pointing fingers. And I know that many of us were raised in settings that taught us not to point fingers in blame. But have you ever noticed how often that is used to avoid critique? Also how those same settings had no problem with you blaming yourself?
The system fears your anger because it knows that if enough people get angry at its brokenness or abuses we might actually hold them accountable.
Imagine what we might build in its place.
Thanks for reading to the end.